“Please! Listen to this audiobook!” chirped my mom, “I know it could help as you try to make friends!” With my usual teenage flair, I rolled my eyes and acted disinterested. My mom had begged me for weeks to read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. We just moved to a new city, and my mom was convinced Dale Carnegie had the answers I needed. Little did I know this quest for friendship would lead to an eating disorder.
When I walked through the halls of my new school, my heart flooded with fear. Apparently, designer jeans, athletic ability, and confidence determined one’s popularity—all of which I lacked. I was wearing hand-me-downs from our neighbors. I came in last at every track meet. And I was painfully shy.
One day in my health class, our teacher weighed every student. I felt my ears burn with embarrassment when I realized I weighed more than other girls. At that moment, I began to associate friendship and popularity with weight. Surely winning friends and influencing people had something to do with waist size. Am I right, Dale Carnegie?
Maybe I couldn’t control who would be my friend, but I could control my weight. I became fascinated with health articles and soon began cutting desserts out of my diet. It felt so good to lose a little weight I cut out other food groups. And people were starting to notice! Other girls remarked on my weight success and boys were talking to me. It felt amazing.
It was such a gradual process that I didn’t understand what was happening. But as weeks and months passed, my parents became worried. Thankfully, my mom took me to a doctor who recommended immediate hospitalization. He said my heart rate was dangerously low. Later on, I learned if I hadn’t been hospitalized, I would have lost my life.
Going Into Hiding
At the hospital, I felt a strange sense of relief. “Now all my problems will go away!” I thought. “I’ll stay here for a week and then go back home to a normal life.” I didn’t realize it would take several months of hard work.
Within a few days, I became resentful of my parents for hospitalizing me. Losing freedom was painful–I couldn’t eat or walk without being supervised by a nurse. When the pounds crept back on, I started to fight back. I hid behind my hospital bed and did crunches when nurses left the room. I hid food in my napkin. I even hid dumb bells under my clothes when I was weighed by doctors. There was a lot of hiding during that time.
Coming Out of Hiding
Things didn’t improve much upon my discharge home. One night, after the usual dinner battle with my parents, I locked myself in my bedroom and sobbed. My brother quietly knocked on the door. I let him in, and what he told me next changed me. He said, “Nicole, did you know that Jesus Christ’s Atonement is not just for overcoming sin? Jesus has experienced every physical, mental, emotional, and social heartache you have ever felt. He knows you perfectly, and His Atonement can help you overcome your eating disorder. Pray to Him. You can do it through Him.”
I won’t say everything was perfect after that experience, but it did change me. From that point forward, I fought against my eating disorder. I fought against every urge to lose weight. And my power to fight didn’t come from myself–it came through Jesus Christ. Over the next year, I was able to heal and create a healthy relationship with food.
What I’ve Learned
Studying nutrition in college further enhanced my recovery and happiness. I learned fad diets, and some so-called “health” blogs are not scientifically-based or safe. Eating foods that are high in fat and sugar is all right, as long as we balance those choices with other wholesome options. Today I enjoy a variety of foods in moderation, and I no longer see foods as “good” or “bad.” There is a place for chocolate cake on my plate just as much as there is for vegetables. All food is a gift from God–it is meant to be enjoyed and not feared.
For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receives not the gift? Behold he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in Him who is the Giver of the gift.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33)
Our bodies are a gift from God! Constantly putting ourselves down, eating barely enough, and exercising out of guilt are not ways of rejoicing in this gift. We show our appreciation through honoring our bodies. One way we honor our bodies is to eat when we feel hungry and to stop when we feel satisfied. The world would like us to believe our bodies are merely objects, but they are much more. We are beings of power! And God WANTS us to be powerful. He wants us to discover this power by exercising confidence and faith in Him.
After all these years, I still have feelings of inadequacy and wish my body looked different. But I refuse to let these feelings rob me of my happiness. I’ve had the power to overcome negative thoughts as I’ve called out to God. When I acknowledge His power, the happiness, fulfillment, and friendships naturally follow. I know the power of the Atonement is real–Jesus eagerly waits for us to take advantage of it.
Also, for what it’s worth, I did end up reading Dale Carnegie’s book. In fact, I’ve read it several times. That book helped me make more friends than weight loss ever did. It turns out moms really do know best!
13 thoughts on “Finding Christ in My Eating Disorder”
What an amazing triumph over the struggles of social acceptance and allowing yourself to be humble enough to see the power of the atonement of Christ. It took me so long to comprehend that Christ had experienced all that we could ever experience in this life. I often struggle in remembering all that he endured when trials and obstacles present themselves but never forget the moment or feelings when I first realized the depth of His sacrifice.
Thank you for sharing so much and being so honest. I’m sure some other people will benefit from this.
Such a great post! Thank you for sharing your heart – I am sure a lot of people can benefit from this post
Thank you, Jenny!
What a powerful moment with your brother! You are so brave for sharing your story and I really appreciate you sharing it. My prayers are with you <3 🙂
Nicole is a very brave woman! It takes a lot to put yourself out there.
Oh wow, this is SO powerful and thank you so much for sharing your story! I think you’ve really perfectly described how a relationship with Christ can help guide and see you through so many of life’s challenges. It’s such a vital perspective to have, and can really change your outlook and the way you approach or see the problem at hand. Loved this so much!
So glad you enjoyed Maryal!
My friend just started working in an eating disorder rehab clinic and I can’t even imagine how hard it is to get past all the lies they’ve been conditioned to believe. I’m so glad you’ve taken your struggle and are using it to help others! And I hope others will find comfort in their true identity through your words.
I’ve struggled on and off with emotional eating and binge eating since I was young. The combination of books, Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst and Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig were immensely helpful for me. I needed the focus on God that Lysa’s book provided and the practical tips and how-to’s from Melissa’s book. God is so much bigger than all of our issues and struggles but we have to lean into Him in order to allow His strength and power to help us! God bless you!
What a beautiful article. The comparisons we are almost pressured to make about ourselves are suffocating. I loved reading your journey of overcoming. Very powerful. And the Atonement of Jesus Christ is a real power! Thanks for sharing, Nicole.
Wow. Thank you for sharing your journey, Nicole. My 10-year-old daughter has already started comparing her body to other girls’. I appreciate your insights and what ultimately helped you. The enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ is something I’ve been taking note of and trying to apply more lately. I appreciate the reminder to appreciate this gift that was loving created and offered to me.