Welcome back, Elyse, for part two of our interview.
Can you describe the symptoms of anorexia and bulimia for us?
Simply: Anorexia is habitual voluntary self-starvation through super punctiliousness about food, diet and exercise, resulting in a weight at least 20% below normal. Bulimia is habitual binging and purging that may also include times of self-starvation or over exercise. The binge feels like an uncontrollable compulsion to over eat usually without enjoying the food. The purge may be accomplished through self-induced vomiting, over-use of laxatives and/or diuretics, over exercise. During the beginning years of this behavior, there may not be severe weight loss, however persistent vomiting and/or abuse of laxatives will eventually cause a significant, and sometimes irreversible weight loss.
You take great pains to emphasize that bulimia and anorexia are not diseases, but “chosen behaviors.” What do you mean and why is it so important to properly define them?
When I refer to these behaviors as such, I mean that we are responsible moral beings, created in the image of God, and that we make choices everyday about how we’ll respond to the trials we face in our day. Because there is usually no bacteria, virus, or organic dysfunction that causes us to starve ourselves or vomit after we eat, theses are behaviors we’ve chosen. Of course, some of us might naturally have more of a propensity to be perfectionistic, or more of a bent to habitually over eat, but our basic personality doesn’t determine our actions.
Although it might seem off-putting, it’s actually very kind to classify these behaviors as behaviors (and yes, sinful behaviors), rather than as diseases. To tell a woman that she has a disease for which there is no cure, that she’ll never be free of, and that she has to fight against all her life is confusing at best and hopeless at worst. If we didn’t know that we had a Savior, then labeling sin as sin would be unkind. But we do have a Savior and there’s one thing that all Christians (by definition) agree on, we sin and we need a Redeemer. We live in a culture that denies sin and responsibility and classifies all sorts of sin as disease. This is just one more example of mankind’s basic desire to shift the blame away from himself and onto another.
What do you think are the most common misconceptions about anorexia and bulimia and how does the truth of God’s Word bring proper perspective?
This question goes back to the one above. The most common misconception is that these behaviors are diseases and that a woman isn’t a responsible moral agent before the Living God. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul teaches us that whether we eat or drink, in fact whatever we do, we’re to do it to the glory of God. The perspective that the anorexic and bulimic need is that all of life is lived coram deo: before God and must be lived out, day-to-day, in the trenches for His pleasure, not our own.
Tomorrow we will discuss the hope of the gospel for those who struggle with bulimia...