You understand anorexia and bulimia. But what about “disordered eating”? Yes, it’s an unhealthy relationship with food, but do you recognize the signs in a friend or loved one? Disordered eating may never be diagnosed as a full fledged eating disorder.
But to the person who lives with it, they live with ongoing internal struggle and pain. When food ceases to be nutrition and fuel for the body, it warps into something else. Whether it is an eating disorder, or disordered eating, the individual suffers.
Do you recognize these common characteristics of someone who lives with disordered eating?
Engaging in Battle
This person engages in an unceasing battle over what she eats. She struggles every day, at every meal, with every mouthful. There can be constant guilt about what has actually been eaten. Every meal is entered into reluctantly, with no real expectation of victory. Because she so rarely wins, she worries about food, weight, and mealtimes all the time. While she thinks the battle is with food, the real conflict lies within herself, and not on the plate.
The Defense of Dieting
If a diet has existed, this person has tried it. In fact, this person seems to always be on a diet. The only problem is that this person never really loses any weight. If fact, they likely have gained a few pounds each year. How is that possible? Their diet actually consists of following only the enjoyable parts of the diet.POH while also incorporating a consistent reward system.
Adhere to the diet all week? Enjoy a reward of a favorite cookie – okay cookies – on Friday after work. Cheated a couple of times during the week? Encourage yourself to do better next week with a motivational bowl of ice cream on Sunday night. For this person, it’s about what they think, not what they do. And this person thinks they are on a diet, with the expectation that some day he or she will actually lose weight.
Balancing The Scales
Eating isn’t about food or nutrition for this person. For them, it’s a numbers game. Most meals are about counting calories, a means to an end. It is a constant balancing act. One day she will starve herself, so the next day she can eat what she wants. On Monday, she gets an invitation to go to a chick flick with her girlfriends on Friday. And she loves buttered popcorn and chocolate covered raisins.
Starting Monday night, it is lettuce with a squeeze of lime and a few carrot sticks. Same for Tuesday, and Wednesday. She doesn’t eat it because she believes it healthier. It is a means to save up the calories that she will need Friday night at the cinema. And this behavior goes on and on. Eating is a way of keeping score, of tallying up “good” and “bad” behavior. As long as she can tally up more points on the good side, she can continue with the bad behavior. And that’s really the whole point.
The Casual Restrictor
Twelve hours of no food is simply the price to pay for a frothy caramel double mocha. This person convinces themselves that in order to enjoy special foods or treats, an appropriate number of fasting is required. A chocolate sundae may require a full day of restricting. A handful of potato chips, maybe just lunch.
The Scale Balancer eats what they don’t want in order to eat what they do. The Casual Restrictor doesn’t even bother. She just goes without as pittance for what has been eater, or restricts in preparation for an anticipated treat.
This person has no real awareness how small their list of acceptable foods is. It’s because it is hidden amidst all the other food they get for their family. For this person, food isn’t about nutrition, calories or weight. It is about fear.
Eating the unknown produces severe anxiety. Anything in the past that has proven unsafe–in actuality or perception–is unthinkable.She only eats what she believes is safe. This provides relief.
The Obsessive Organic
Not only does this person obsess about eating organic, they need to convert everyone around them. Only knowing something is organic can prevent unwanted pesticides. Grilling the waiter about the contents of each course is required to ensure purity of food. Watching online videos to learn more about organic food is a required ritual.
Only by focusing so much on food does it begin to bring relief. Food is not enjoyed or thought of as nutrition. It is a potential source of evil that must be strictly evaluated and screened to ensure its safety…and to provide relief.
The Ritual Eater
Food can be a battle for many. To cope, some people create very rigid rules regarding their meals. Where can she eat, when and even how can food be consumed. A truce with food is never easy and must be tightly managed. This can manifest in taking an inordinate amount of time to prepare a simple meal. This person may require different foods be served on different plates and not touch each other. Portions may need to be cut is a precise way, or prepared to exact requirements. If not, the meal may need to be started over, or perhaps halted if a process or procedure was done incorrectly.
By following the rules, this person feels safe about their food. In reality, they need to control this aspect of their life so they can feel safe in general.
Feast or Famine
During the two weeks the in-laws visit, this eater is the epitome of health. Leafy greens, lean meats and no sugary drinks are the rule. When the in-laws leave, she reverts to eating her comfort food. She rallies for big occasions–family gatherings, opening day at the pool, the fundraising gala. But most other times, her eating is haphazard and undisciplined. Food is a battle that becomes harder and harder to win. If she is successful, her mood is bright. If she is not (as she more often is), she and those around her struggle. For her, it is feast or famine. And if she loses a battle, her relationship with food can become open warfare.
Do any of these disordered eating scenarios sound familiar? These are not anorexics, bulimics, or binge eaters. But their struggle can last a lifetime, and eat away at their self-worth and honesty with food. Each of these scenarios are treatable with professional disordered eating care. If you or a loved one struggle with scenarios similar to these, speak with a licensed eating disorder specialist. They can help you return to balance, honesty with your food, and enjoyment with nutrition.
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE. For over 30 years, The Center has treated thousands with eating disorders and other mental health issues. Recognized as a Top 10 Center for the Treatment of Depression, The Center utilizes the whole person approach to care. Dr. Jantz is a leading voice and innovator in mental health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.
Turning over your life to God as the navigator is not an easy task. It requires you to give up control over your life, to listen to God, and pay attention to His answer. It requires you to commit to being obedient and trust even when you may not like it or understand it.
If you are looking for ways God can speak to you, here is a list of ideas:
- Seek counsel
If you’re already doing some of these things, congratulations! Rededicate yourself to the task. If one or more of them have become stale or rote, switch it up:
- Choose a different place or time to pray or meditate.
- Try using a journal to record your prayers or meditations.
- Read a different translation of the Bible. Try one that you’ve never considered before.
- Be more structured with your study if you haven’t been studying the Bible much, or, if you’ve been very diligent, change your study topics for the next six months; be more spontaneous. Start opening up the Bible at random, and study from there.
- Find a wise, godly person who you can be open and transparent with, seeking accountability and a sounding board for spiritual matters.
- Spend some time, each day, just calming your mind, opening it up, and listening to what God might want to say that day. Whenever possible, go outside and walk in order to get out of your environment and into His.
- Pay attention to what God is saying to you. Write it down as soon as you hear it. Use your journal or keep a small spiral notebook or pocketbook with you or available so you can make sure not to lose what you hear. Make sure to put it by your bedside, as God often has used the time of either going to sleep or upon waking to capture my undivided attention.
Look over this list and make note of the things you are currently doing. Then, consider one or two you have not been doing, but are convicted that you need to start. Think about any additional ways you understand God and can speak to you that are not listed. The list above is by no means the definitive one, so if you wish, include any that are a part of your faith tradition.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, and author of 38 books. The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.
Perfectionists walk an incredibly narrow road. There can be no deviation from the prescribed path, no sidetracks, and certainly no missteps. There can be no slowing or stopping for others, who are expected to keep up and keep straight, regardless. Perfectionists understand the road is going to be difficult and take great pride in navigating it successfully. They must be constantly on guard for any obstacle in the path, any breath of wind that might knock them off their course. Vigilance and an ongoing state of alertness are key.
With perfectionism, there is no standing down, no acceptable periods of relaxation. Perfectionism is, therefore, both exhausting and unattainable. Addiction can creep in and promise a form of momentary relief from the unrelenting anxiety of trying to be perfect. Addiction can also promise to numb those times when the reality of the unattainable becomes overwhelmingly hard to bear. Addiction promises you can spend a few hours looking away from the shame, blame, and guilt nipping at your heels unless you are perfect. Addiction promises to shield you temporarily from the fear that you are, sadly and tragically, like everyone else—flawed, imperfect, unworthy.
Angela felt she didn’t deserve to be happy. After more probing, I discovered she never had. Any success she’d experienced had been a sort of “cheat,” she said. If people really knew who she was or how much work she’d put into it or any number of factors, they would know she didn’t deserve success and it would be taken away. How could anything she did be worthy when she wasn’t worthy herself?
Angela grew up in a household where nothing she did was right. When she brought home good grades, it was assumed the teacher hadn’t applied the proper standards or she’d gotten away with something. Good things were suspect, but bad things were expected because of who she was. She knew who she was—the one who would “never amount to anything.” She was the one who would “never be like [her] sister.” The one who couldn’t “do anything right to save [her] life,” even though she always tried.
Angela was deeply ashamed of her addiction; part of her was also incredibly angry. She was angry because being trapped in the addiction proved she was weak and everything that had been said about her was true. All her life, Angela kept trying to “make up” for the mistakes she’d made, and the addiction kept putting her further and further behind. She’d never catch up, and with the weight of the addiction added in, catching up seemed to take more energy than she had. She’d been foolish to think she could ever do or be anything other than a failure. “What good is today,” she’d asked, “if I can’t have tomorrow?”
Angela’s addiction subverted the positive roles of shame, blame, and guilt and used them to convince her she wasn’t worth a positive tomorrow. She was especially susceptible to this tactic, since shame, blame, and guilt had always been used as weapons against her while she was growing up. Addiction strips away self-esteem. This can be particularly damaging when you started out with little or none in the first place, as Angela did.
For years, I’ve been speaking out against the tremendous damage done, especially to children, through the tactics of emotional abuse. My book Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse has been a pivotal resource in this effort for more than twenty years.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.
As parents, we need to fight against the illusion that everything is always fine with our teenagers. Teens often hide their pain behind the “Fine” sign — which is another way of saying “Keep out of my life.”
Parents can have difficulty believing their teenager is undergoing some of the most painful experiences they’ll have in life, while that teenager lives in their house, eats their food, and sleeps under their roof. How can pain be happening in a place with Internet access, food on the table, and clothes in the closet?
Here are some tips for dealing with a teenager that has a broken heart:
Pay Attention – Parents can have difficulty realizing their teenager has an emotional need. What parents must pay attention to is when their teenager’s behavior changes.
- Your kid who’s never been much of a talker emotionally vanishes for days or weeks.
- Your kid who’s a drama queen about everything flatlines emotionally for an extended period of time.
If things like this start to happen, pay attention. Check in with your teen and ask how things are going. If they don’t reply, acknowledge that they don’t want to talk and don’t push them. Instead, leave them an open invitation to talk.
Check Yourself – If your teen experiences a broken heart over a known event, such as a relationship breakup or a divorce, a death, or a best friend moving across the country, keep track of how your teenager is navigating those waters. It is possible the event that’s upset your teen has also upset you. If you’re experiencing a broken heart as well because of what’s happened, seek out help for yourself. The last thing an emotionally wobbly teenager needs is for you to start leaning on him or her for your own support. Both of you are bound to fall.
Avoid Judgement – Avoid judging what hurts your teenager. When a teen is in pain, it doesn’t help to hear you consider the reason to be stupid or meaningless or, worse, childish. Pain can be universal; everyone who hits their finger with a hammer will yelp. Pain is also personal; what injuries one person may have shrugged off, another person might feel more deeply. Even though you shrug off your teen’s pain, your teen still hurts.
I encourage you to get to know your teenager, to get beyond your irritation at their behavior, and to pay attention to what that behavior tells you about your teen. There seems to be an inverse reaction common among teens — the more they hurt, the more they hide. But pain cannot stay hidden indefinitely. Pain will come out. As a parent, you need to watch for signs of pain coming out.
- Watch for changes in behavior over an extended period of time. A couple of days of isolation are probably pretty normal for teens, but not a couple of weeks. The more significant the shift in behavior, the more you need to pay attention.
- Don’t expect an immediate response. The first time you ask your teen how they’re doing and he or she says “Fine,” don’t stop there if you suspect things are not fine. Let your teen know you’re concerned and specifically why.
- Communicate your willingness to talk about anything at any time. Then, be prepared to follow it up, even if your teen unloads more than you want to know two hours past your bedtime on a weeknight.
I can’t emphasize enough the pain teenagers hold in. They get hurt in so many ways that fly under their parents’ radar. Sometimes that pain translates into depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or substance abuse — behaviors that push the familial panic button and clearly signal something is very wrong.
But sometimes that pain is less obvious and the signals that something is wrong get drowned out by the sounds of everyday life. Slowly, quietly, that pain translates into a loss of optimism, a cynicism about life, the gradual strangulation of dreams, and a loss of hope for the future.
Is adolescence supposed to be a time of up-and-down moods and volatile emotions? Yes, but pay attention if your teen spends too much time in the pits. If he or she just doesn’t seem to be rebounding or continually refuses to talk about what’s going on, consider obtaining the help of a counselor. School counselors can be of tremendous benefit, but realize your teen may need to see a professional counselor outside of school. If your teen had a broken leg, you’d seek professional help. Since you’d get help for a broken leg, why wouldn’t you get help for a broken heart?
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.
Evil, destructive people must be scrupulously avoided. Everyone else, including yourself, requires a lot of forgiveness. You cannot punish your abuser by withholding forgiveness. On the contrary, you can repudiate your abuser and supersede the abuse by intentionally choosing to live a different type of life, with positive responses.
Of all the ways we can respond to each other, you can choose love, mercy, and forgiveness. These will first enrich your life, then bless the lives of others.
Think about what forgiveness means to you:
- Does forgiveness mean letting someone off the hook?
- It has been said that forgiving is also forgetting. Do you believe that’s a good definition? Is so, why? It not, why not?
- Is it difficult for you to grant someone forgiveness if he or she doesn’t ask for it first?
- Do you think forgiveness involves an element of risk? If so, what is the risk?
- How many times should you be expected to forgive someone?
- Are there some people you should not be expected to forgive?
- Do you feel forgiven by God?
With negative, destructive examples in your past, it is imperative that you constantly align yourself with God’s overwhelmingly positive presence in your present and future. He will be your source of healing, forgiveness, and strength to rise above what was done to you by the sin of others.
Even more, it is his divine desire to heal your broken heart and rebuild your damaged spirit. Make your relationship with him the primary relationship in your life. Do this, and your ability to love yourself and others will multiply in the bounty of his love for you.
Please take some time to think about and answer the questions below. They aren’t necessarily meant to draw you into a conclusion, but are meant to stimulate thought:
- How would you describe your present relationship with God?
- Are you satisfied with your present relationship with God?
- Do you feel comfortable praying to God by yourself? When you pray to God, do you feel close to him?
- Do you pray because you want to talk to God or because you feel obligated to?
- Does the thought of prayer make you fearful, uncomfortable, awkward, or apprehensive?
- Do you spend time regularly reading God’s Word? Do you generally understand what you read?
- Do you read the bible out of a sense of obligation or duty?
- Have you ever felt God speak to you through what you read? If so, in what way?
- Are you a member of a faith community? If so, what do you gain from being a member?
- If you are not a member of a faith community, what reasons have you given for not joining?
As you consider your responses to these questions, here is a prayer from which to draw strength.
God, with your love to strengthen me, I can truly look at and understand how I have been hurt. Bind my wounds. Rebuild who you created me to be. Help me trust you. Help me to forgive myself and others.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.
Vented anger, because of its “out there” nature, can be much easier to identify. However, many people still attempt to diffuse it by calling it other names.
I’d like you to take a look at the following list of words and mark any you identify as part of your anger repertoire. Be honest and bold. If you have a loved one or close friend, consider asking him or her to look over the list and discuss it with you. Other people are a good barometer of what you aren’t able to recognize in yourself.
All of these can be ways of expressing anger. Look over your list and answer the following questions.
- What do you tell yourself when you feel this way?
- Does your thought life escalate or deescalate your feelings?
- How do you feel after you express these feelings?
- How do you feel about yourself?
- How do you feel about anyone else involved?
- How do you feel physically?
- How long does it take you to get over the feelings?
- Do you “replay” the event and the feelings inside your head?
- Are you ashamed of how you reacted?
- Are you remorseful over how you reacted?
- If you could get rid of one of these reactions, which one would it be and why?
Be aware of your anger levels over the next several weeks. Write down, if you’re able, what you feel and any reasons you determine for feeling that way. Note any out-of-line or extreme reactions or feelings. Be sure to write these down for more examination, thought, and prayer.
Above all, remember you have an active partner in this process. Just as God said to Cain, he says to you: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?” (Gen.4:6). There is a why to all of this, a why that can be determined and brought out into the light.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a anger issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.