One girls story of anorexia and the mercy of God

“So this is my story, ongoing it is.
 How shall I thank God for this gospel of His?
A gift that keeps giving,
the gospel confers,
The bounty of heaven each time I rehearse.”
-“The Gospel Primer”, by Milton Vincent

by Eva Cochran

 

Eva Cochran (22) shares about her personal fight with an eating disorder and God's transforming grace.

I was saved at a young age and grew up in a Christian family, and involved in a great church. I believed in God, prayed, sang songs, and sought to obey and please Him. However, at a young age(despite being taught) I never  grasped how deceitful and depraved my own heart was (and is!). I was a little legalist, who knew the right answers and was proud of it. I remember distinctly as a child standing in Wal-Mart knowing that I wasn’t supposed to look at the magazine rack by the register but thought I was mature enough to handle whatever was on them. I read a line saying “cheated on her”, “murdered” and thought, “I’m so glad I’m not that bad.” Grace wasn’t amazing to me. Subconsciously, I thought sin had categories and I just wasn’t “that” bad. I really do believe I was a Christian as a child, but was incredibly proud and self-righteous. Anorexia, for example was stupid. “How could a girl starve herself?” I would ask.
However, as I grew outwardly (puberty, etc.) my craving for other’s approval and self-righteousness grew all the more as well. I believed I could control my life, schedule, appearance and approval, and I looked down my nose at others who didn’t have as much “self-control”. I was always active and thin growing up, but somewhere around 14-15 my approval craving tendencies began to see how much positive attention was received with being thin, athletic, disciplined, self-controlled, and toned. As my body changed in those teen years (hips happened), I began to workout regularly to stay in shape but a lot of it was fueled by a desire to be praised and well thought of. The possibility of being overly obsessed never crossed my mind.

As I was losing weight, a small nodule on my neck was exposed. We went to the doctors to have it checked and thought that it was possibly affecting my thyroid. My thyroid was just fine, but my heart was a mess. The doctors were aware that I was thin and asked about it, but I just shrugged it off. The weight kept coming off, and my obsession with what I termed, “healthy”, “disciplined”, and “self-control” grew all the more. I was self-righteously blind to my enslavement. The drive to workout and my anxious, angry, response when I wasn’t able to revealed what my heart treasured: myself.

 My so called control and discipline that I thought I had achieved over every one else was killing me. My “self-controlled” disciplines fueled my self-righteousness toward anyone who couldn’t be as disciplined as me. I was 5’10” and lost weight gradually over a 10 month period till at my lowest, 90 lbs. Even in the depth of my sin I was self-righteous. I remember thinking, “Who would ever make themselves throw up?” So I never went the route of vomiting but instead I would have rigorous, secret workout routines to burn off the calculated calories that I had consumed. Of course, if I missed a day or forgot a few reps, I would have to do double later or the next day. My mind and heart were consumed with what I ate and how to burn it off. My “self-control and discipline” idolatry had driven me into enslavement beyond what I could ever control. Worst of all, I was blind to it and still thought I was better than others.

My parents, on the other hand were not blind. To this day, I can’t imagine how it would be as a parent to watch your child starving themselves. But they weren’t just watching or passive in the least. They cared for me physically, took me to doctors, tried to curb my exercise, tried to get calories in me, and more. However, the thing I’m most thankful for is how they patiently cared for my soul during this time. They saw outwardly the destruction I was doing to my body, but they went deeper because they knew my problem was a heart issue. Our culture can say it’s low self-esteem or that you “get anorexia” (as if it’s a bug going around) but my parents went straight to my heart and motives. They continually pointed me to Scripture, took me to meet with a Pastor, prayed for me, and visited with other Christian girls who struggled.  The pain, heartache, and burden put on my family during this season is hard to reflect on and imagine. Their patience astounds me even today. During that season almost any time with the family with or without food was incredibly challenging because of my idolatry, and usually ended in me crying or getting angry.

Even in the midst of denying my idolatry, the Lord faithfully pursued and convicted my soul. I grew up subtly thinking that the Lord loved me because I was a good girl. Now my life was characterized by anger, lying, misery, exhaustion, striving, and slavery to my idol of control. Through a variety of people the Lord slowly opened my eyes to the depth of blindness and deceit in my own heart. Prior to this episode, I prided myself on being truthful, now my life was a lie of throwing away food and secret exercise. I thought of myself as being patient and kind, but now I would go into angry tirades if I was forced to eat something I didn’t want to. I knew these were wrong, yet I was so enslaved by my desire for “control”. The Lord in His mercy gently revealed that the god I was really serving in my actions and life was very different than what I proclaimed with my mouth. I remember being so aware that I had a choice to continue down this path or to trust the Lord. For the first time I was struck by the grace of God: why would He give me a choice? He could let me die; yet in the very depth and deceitfulness of my sin He pursued me.  For the first time I really began to see that Eva was an adulterous and hater of Him. Yet He was willing to die for me. Even though I had heard it all my life, I was really aware, perhaps for the first time, of the depth of wickedness of my own heart and how even my righteousness was filthy before Him. Grace became sweet. The Gospel became real to me in ways like never before. Change wasn’t easy, but the Lord poured out once again: grace. I discovered that He’s the only Master who brings lasting joy instead of enslavement. I couldn’t trust myself anymore. I was terrified by the lack of control that often accompanies weight gain. I feared being fat but was aware that somehow even though I wasn’t in control, there was a joy and freedom in trusting the Lord that I hadn’t known before. Gradually, within three to four months I was back at a healthy weight. My body went back to normal. My blood levels balanced and my menstrual cycle returned. Doctors were surprised how quickly that happened. Truly it was the mercy of God.

I wish I could say that I am 100% free from ever being concerned about my appearance, craving for approval, and my self-righteousness.  Far from that, there are still days I wake up and have to question my motives for eating, working out, and my works/control mentality. It’s something I will likely have to fight to some degree for the rest of my life. As I reflect on this season almost 6 years later, it’s hard to discern what I was learning then and how I see it now, but one strong cord runs through all the memories: the mercy of God toward a sinner like me.

Editor’s Note: Eating disorders affect thousands of people, both men and women. For more information on eating disorders read Eating Disorders: The Quest for Thinness by Edward Welch . You may also find more information at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, your local pastor or minister or seek other professional help.

 
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One Comment to “One girls story of anorexia and the mercy of God”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for your article. I have always been obsessed with food and exercise and my appearance and others opinons of me. I have never seen it as you have described though, an idol, as you said ” My mind and heart were consumed with what I ate and how to burn it off” when my mind and my heart should be totally consumed with Jesus and living my life for him, not myself. Thank you, this has really opened my eyes to my ways.