If I asked you to look at a group of women and pick out the person with the eating disorder, you wouldn't choose Helen. She doesn't fit the stereotype. She's a slightly overweight, 60-year-old grandmother. Surprise! Not all people with eating disorders are skinny teenage girls.
As I interviewed Helen about her knee pain on that first medical visit, she repeatedly pointed out that she was desperate to lose weight so her knees would hurt less. On the surface, that made sense. However, something wasn't right about this particular situation. She seemed more fixated on the prospect of weight loss than on relieving knee pain.
I have to admit that I was a little confused by this point in the visit. She was on the schedule as wanting to be seen for her knees. So I just came out and asked, "Shouldn't we be talking about your knees?"
Helen looked down at the ground and then back up at me. "Well, I heard you don't see just anybody for weight loss. I heard you mostly treat pain-management patients and just counsel them for weight loss on the side. I guess I figured that you could help me kill two birds with one stone."
As Helen and I dialogued in subsequent visits, I gleaned some insight into her underlying problem. As a child, she internalized lies that led her into an eating disorder in her teenage years. She believed her mother would love her only if she was skinny. Her mother had been a dancer in her youth and pressured Helen and her sisters not to eat too much or they wouldn't be wanted (by men). But Helen understood that nobody, not even her own mother, would want her if she were overweight.
Hence the eating disorder. She was trying to "works" her way into being good enough by manipulating (or trying to manipulate) her weight. Hidden lies and feelings of inadequacy, such as those Helen entertained, lead to emotional stress and strife. In turn, those lies lead to overeating and other physical manifestations, such as pain and illness. It's a common tale.
The following is a list of several fundamental beliefs that have triggered feelings of stress, depression and anxiety in some of my patients. In many cases, the emotions caused by these beliefs led my patients to reach for false comforters (food, alcohol, gambling, spending, overworking and so on).
Before you read the list, please pray. Ask God to reveal only the information that you can handle, and ask Him to reveal if you should dig through these subconscious beliefs with the help of a Christian counselor.
Keep in mind that everything on the bulleted list is a lie. Even though you see the accusations against you in print, don't be fooled into believing them.
God doesn't love you.
You're bad (or not good enough).
It's your fault your parents divorced.
If you were good, your dad (or mom) would've stuck around.
It's your fault your mom or dad drank.
It's your fault your dad abused your mom.
It's your fault he sexually abused you.
You're an accident.
You can't be forgiven for what you did.
You have to try to be perfect to make up for being bad.
God's promises aren't meant for you.
These are lies that have nothing to do with who you are.
Many factors can serve as barriers that block your reception of God's healing. For example, you may believe lies about yourself as a result of childhood events or abuse. Or may you need to repent of past sins. Maybe you need to extend forgiveness to those who hurt you.
No matter what caused your barriers to go up, asking God the right questions about the nature of those barriers can help to tear them down.
That way, once your barriers come down, you can better receive healing truth from God and, in turn, experience freedom from your emotional triggers and bondage to false comforters.
This article is an excerpt from Radical Well-Being by Dr. Rita Hancock. Copyright 2013, Personalized Fitness Products, LLC.
Rita Hancock, M.D., is a board-certified physical medicine specialist with a specialty board certification in pain management, and she has been in full-time practice in Norman, Oklahoma. She serves as the Oklahoma delegate for the Christian Medical and Dental Association, as well as their official spokesperson on matters of diet and nutrition. Dr. Hancock is married and has two children.
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