Identify a Target Weight
- It is important to identify an ideal weight and target weight. Ideal weight refers to the best weight for the person when the person’s height and body type are taken into account. The body mass index (oft en abbreviated as BMI) is the most accurate measure of ideal weight, but few persons can easily work with this index.
- A target weight is the lowest safe weight; it is the bare minimum you want someone with an eating disorder to be at. Target weight is calculated as 90 percent of midpoint of the ideal weight. It is best to have agreement on a target weight with a doctor or dietician because persons with eating disorders oft en try to negotiate this number.
Focus on Relationships
- You will want to build a positive relationship with the person. Those with eating disorders tend to have a very hard time being open and accepting help. You will need much patience and you will need to be willing to speak the truth. Let the young woman know that she must be willing to hear the truth.
- Encourage family members to show unconditional love to the eating disordered person. Do not criticize or compare or ask questions in a manner that causes the person to feel condemned.
- Healing relationships with people and with God are essential to the recovery process.
Take the Focus Off of Food
- Unless the girl is in immediate danger from starvation or electrolyte problems, examine what weight loss means to this person, what eating stands for, and what she most fears about eating.
- Help the family to take the focus off food at home. They need to see that focusing on food is part of the disease, not the solution.
Watch for Triggers
- Help her to see what triggers her bingeing behaviors and try to identify situations that aggravate it.
- Help her to see what is behind her actions. Chances are, some kind of anxiety and stress is driving these actions.
Change Thinking Patterns
- Gently question the girl’s thinking. Help her begin to see the lies behind the behaviors that are trapping her.
- Examine her perfectionism. Chances are she holds herself to standards to which she does not hold her loved ones.
- Help her to examine these standards and how they square with God’s truth revealed in Scripture.
Keep a Journal
- Encourage the person to write in a journal about her feelings and the events of each day. She may have difficulty identifying feelings. Help her to view her feelings as normal and acceptable.
Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:4-6
Preoccupation with food can indicate an eating disorder. When people become overly focused on food, their dependence on God suffers.
The Israelites, while not having an eating disorder, did experience a “perspective disorder” because of their focus on food. Their preoccupation with foods they did not have caused them to lose sight of God’s miraculous and loving provision of manna.
When people become preoccupied with anything other than God, they can lose their perspective of God’s care for them. People with eating disorders need to refocus on their worth in God’s eyes and be thankful for God’s provision.
Put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite.Proverbs 23:2
Some people attempt to fill the emptiness in their lives with drugs, alcohol, sex, money, or even hard work. Others use food, and such people find themselves trapped in emotional eating—leading to such problems as obesity and bulimia.
There is nothing wrong with food. There must be a balance, however, between enjoying what God has provided, and using food to meet emotional needs and thus allowing it to control one’s life.
The fruit of the Spirit called self-control applies to many areas of life, including eating. God desires to fill any emptiness, helping us to lead balanced, healthy lives.
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:12-13
Some who face a difficult eating disorder—whether it be an addiction to food, or an addiction to going without food—understand the power of that addiction. God provided food for the animals and people He created in order to sustain them. Food is meant for sustenance—”foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods.”
A food addiction takes the focus off God and puts it on one’s food or stomach— both of which will eventually no longer be needed.
People who struggle with eating disorders should seek Christian professional guidance to gain a proper perspective and pattern for eating.