by Donovan Westbrooks correspondent
Food is integral to humanity. It sustains us. It delights us. It brings us together.
But it also destroys us.
It is at the heart of mankind’s rejection of our Creator. The first rebellion was through the act of eating (Genesis 3). Today we may not be tempted by the offering of luscious fruit from a serpent, but we have created our own versions of this temptation in our own destructive eating habits.
The American Psychological Association defines eating disorders (ED’s) as “abnormal eating habits that can threaten your health or even your life.” These abnormalities can reveal themselves in various forms, including binge eating disorder, characterized by recurring, compulsive overeating; anorexia nervosa, characterized by self-starvation and strict eating habits; and bulimia nervosa, characterized by self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives.
Beyond these three most common eating disorders, there are many others that are less common or consist of a combination of one or more specified ED’s. “I struggled with a distortion of bulimia and anorexia,” said one Moody student, who asked to remain nameless. “I ate as little as possible, then would go straight to the restroom and throw it up.”
No eating disorder is isolated; each can result from many different catalysts, and most are accompanied by other forms of mental distress, such as depression;
negative self-worth or image; feelings of lack of control, anxiety, trauma or abuse; or social and cultural pressures.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).”
These disorders cause significant health problems including the risk of heart failure, reduction of bone density, electrolyte imbalance, tooth decay and even gallbladder disease.
Maybe it’s easier to pass over a number like 10 or 20 million than it is to realize that eating disorders are not just a major epidemic in the United States; they are an issue on Moody’s campus.
Last spring at the Can You Relate Too? event put on by The Vine, many students were shocked by the number of hands — both male and female — that were raised at the question, “Do you struggle with an eating disorder?”
Eating disorders don’t come with an instruction packet; each is different and has its own noticeable symptoms and habits. But common symptoms include skipping meals frequently, overeating when homework or relational stress increases, going to the restroom immediately after meals or smelling of vomit.
Unfortunately, many of us miss these signs because of the busyness of college life or the inconsistent interaction we have with one another.
Bringing up questionable eating patterns that you may have noticed in someone is very difficult, especially when you don’t know the reasons behind it.
NEDA states that there are many reasons people delve in abnormal eating habits. Is she trying to feel better about herself? Does he use this negative eating pattern to punish himself for something?
On the other side, no one wants to admit that they have an eating disorder. As a woman, you’re immediately labeled as having self-image issues. As a guy, your disorder might be labeled “un-manly.”
In either position lies a great temptation. “Just be silent.” “Let it blow over.” “Someone else with help her.” “I can work through this on my own.”
According to NEDA, eating disorders offer a release for anxiety or conflict; they provide a false sense of control; and they allow for what many consider to be a “justifiable” form of self-harm. They are, in essence, a result of muddled truth. Like the lie of the serpent so long ago, these too bring destruction, pain and separation.