Body Image and Purging: Confessions of a Purging Flunky

IMG_1221-0

I was a purging flunky.  I remember in high school when I first got whirled onto the merry-go-round called the Ferocious Foursome.

Ferocious Foursome are the gang of dieting, Bingeing, Purging, and Over-exercising.

I had been on a diet (even though looking back I didn’t need to lose weight) and the feelings of deprivation consumed me.  This led to an all-out binge, in which I ate everything except the TV.

I figured there was only one thing I could do –  throw up.  Of course!  The perfect cure-all.  I tried, but was unable able to accomplish the mighty feat.

So I tried again, and instantly remembered why I hated getting sick.

IMG_3651

At first I got mad at myself for not being able to hack the act of hacking up. It seemed like quite a few people were doing it. At the time I didn’t know that 18-20% of people with eating disorders would die within twenty years. 

I thought purging was the new ‘magic weight-loss answer’. I had no idea that years later statistics would flood in about the life-threatening health risks of bulimia.

Many would end up accidentally killing themselves due to the horrific damage on their bodies.  Bulimia would eat up the lives of many girls and women, leaving behind families drowning in tears.

As a purging flunky, I skipped level three of the Ferocious Foursome and went on to the final four. I ended up getting addicted to exercise for a few years.

Maybe you are wondering how anyone could possibly get addicted to exercise.  The biggest reason is that endorphins are produced.  Endorphins are similar to opiates, and provide a natural high.  Another definition describes endorphins as morphine-like substances originating from within the body.


The endorphins, combined with the payoff of looking and feeling superb, attract people into exercising more and more.   If you think of over-exercising in those terms, you may begin to understand how people get addicted.

Bulimia of the purging or over-exercising type often emerges after a young woman’s boyfriend breaks up with her. ( To be more precise, one form of bulimia does not involve throwing up, but is based on over-exercising.)

young woman compares herself to other young women, and starts to believe it was all about the size of her hips.

Comparing and coveting are ugly animals, so it is no wonder that God commanded us not to go there. He knows that comparing and coveting poisons our hearts.

Even so, we have all driven in the fast lane of Coveting Road, probably more often than we realize. The type of coveting I am speaking about in this case is when you see a beautiful, thin woman and you really wish you had her body.

Part of you believes this would give you the perfect life. But since we live in a fallen world, there is no perfect life this side of heaven.

 

The “stinking thinking” (this is a twelve-step phrase) that if only I were skinny, then my boyfriend would not have left me gets programmed into her heart.  So she kicks her dieting into high gear, but later on blows her diet and binges.  So she resorts to purging or over-exercising.  Either one of the two meet the criteria of bulimia if they are entrenched enough, according to the DSM-IV TR, which is the official manual of diagnoses.

Once the stinking thinking takes root in her heart, she feels that if she were thinner, she could have kept her boyfriend.  Sometimes guys throw darts of violent words about their girlfriends’ bodies, but even if they don’t, the girls are often spurred into bulimia.  (By the way, that is called abuse.)

 

The hundreds of thousands of messages in the media that endlessly echo “to be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything” shoot darts into her heart until it bleeds tears.

Since they cannot stay on the diet wagon forever, girls and women (as well as a growing number of  boys and men) quickly grasp the idea that they can throw up their food and get away with it.  On the surface, it seems like the only solution, but decades of research shows that throwing up quickly morphs into an addiction.

Bulimia is profoundly more damaging than once thought.  Those of us who were “too sissy” to purge finally realized that it was a blessing in disguise.  My heart cries oceans of tears for those who are entangled with the beast of bulimia. Bulimia is certainly a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as it seems so innocent in the beginning.

What if you could get off the dieting/bingeing merry-go-round forever? What if you could celebrate the body that God has given you, and say goodbye to the Body Image Bandit – the Father of lies? Continue in this voyage of healing as we share in the celebration of kicking the Body Image Bandit out of our lives once and for all.

Body Image and Comparison

Two teen-aged girls stood in front of me in the Costco snack bar line.  “Am I fatter or skinnier than the girl in front of the line with the True Religion jeans?”  the blonde asked the brunette. 

“Hmmm…I don’t really know.  It’s pretty hard to tell because you both look kind of about the same size,” the brunette answered. 

“Are you kidding me?  Am I really that chunky around the waist?  Maybe you need glasses.  There’s just no way you could be right!”  She rolled her eyes at the brunette and ordered a triple decker ice cream cone.  “I think you’re forgetting that I work out five days of the week!  What kind of friend are you, anyway?”  she asked, then bit into her ice cream, rolled her eyes at her friend, and walked off.

We’ve all done it, if not aloud then in our heads.  The sick little comparison game, where we envy another person or try to figure out if we are skinnier or fatter than another person.  By the age of 17, we have seen over 250,000 ads.  Most of them shout, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.”  This leads to comparison and propels our heads into stinkin’ thinkin’ in which we compare our bodies with others.  Sometimes we come out better, and sometimes we come out worse.  But all-in-all, it is a lose-lose situation. 

First of all, it’s a bad idea to hang out in your head.   It’s a jungle in there!  Hanging out in your head usually leads to negativity, and you certainly can’t be present with people if you’re hanging out in your head.  Trying to figure out if your hips or ankles or other unassorted body parts are larger, smaller, fatter, or thinner than the woman ahead of you on the hiking trail is truly a waste of energy.  Not only that, but it will eventually lead to contempt – either self contempt or other-centered contempt. 

The run-down usually goes like this:

  1.  Comparison, which leads to
  2. Competition, which leads to
  3. Contempt, which leads to
  4. Stinking-thinking, depression, and despair

 

I love what the apostle Paul said about being content with what you have:  “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”    Phil 4:11  I know he wasn’t talking about body image, but even so,  it is not a far leap to use the same principle concerning how you feel about your body.   

So how can we stop the cycle that leads to despair?  First, recognize what you are doing.  You might try to wear a rubber bracelet or something similar so you can snap it whenever you realize you are comparing your body to someone else’s.  Then you can ask God to help you to re-focus your thoughts.  Replace the stinkin’ thinkin’ pattern of comparison, competition, and contempt with healthy thoughts:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Phil. 4:8) You will note that Paul didn’t say, in this passage, to think about other peoples’ fannies and compare them to your own!  So get over it already, and stop the comparison trap before it gobbles you up.

Body Image: Stop the Negative Thinking (and heal your body image)

Featured

You’re waiting in line at the grocery store, and can’t help but checking out the fannies of the gals in front of you.  You’re in the “12 items or less” line, but the guy at the front of the line seems to have 350 items.  Man, is his gut big, you think.  He really doesn’t need those chocolate covered raisins.  Oh, and look at the next girl.  She is skinny.  Probably a size 4.  But even so, she looks kind of disproportionate.  Oh, I wonder what the people behind me are thinking about my tooshie?

You can’t help it.  Since you live in a culture in which you were exposed to 250,000 ads by the time you were seventeen, you have been brainwashed.  This sick tsunami of messages that scream, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything,” has brainwashed you and caused you to be hypercritical of your own body as well as other peoples’ bodies.

All of this negativity and comparison puts you back into the sick merry-go-round of dieting, bingeing, purging (for some) and over-exercising (for some).  What would it look like to stop the sick cycle and get off the merry-go-round forever?  The first step is to stop the poisonous habit of comparing your body to other peoples’ bodies.

But how can you do this?  It has become such an ingrained habit, it is almost as natural as breathing.  The first step is to recognize that it is doing a great deal of harm.  Women who put up pictures of thin celebrities and/or models often binge after looking at them because they feel like a failure in comparison.  The same thing happens when you compare yourself with anyone else’s body.

The next step is to picture a big red stop sign, and to picture screaming, “STOP!” whenever you catch yourself comparing your body to someone else’s.  Keep doing this over and over again.  You may even want to think of something else, such as a peaceful place like a beach.  Or else you might say a prayer to ask God to help you with your body image, or even recite a verse.

Although this won’t be easy, you will begin to notice a change from this “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” pattern.  You will notice that your eyes avert from looking so intently and judging your own and other peoples’ bodies.  Instead of feeling depressed and like your body is not good enough, you will begin to feel the truth:  You are a masterpiece – a unique and beautiful person, and you will begin to celebrate your uniqueness and see your true underlying beauty.