Great Series from Elyse Fitzpatrick

This is a radio series listed on Biblegateway.com, where author and biblical counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick ("Love to Eat, Hate to Eat") discusses the reality of food bondage and how to live a life focused on God alone. The series, "Revive Our Hearts", first aired in 2004. Click title to take you to the page, then right click the links to download each individual talk. I'm far too lazy to embed each link individually.

Elyse Fitzpatrick is who I want to be when I grow up. :)

Radio Series: Love to Eat, Hate to Eat

Food is a major source of frustration and defeat for many Christian women, whether we eat too much or too little. Nancy welcomes author and counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick as they speak candidly about their own struggles with food and strive to help us understand this area from God’s perspective. Through this series, you’ll find hope, encouragement, and practical steps to developing a life that is focused on glorifying God and living free from bondage to food.

* Oct 27, 2004 - Is It an Illness or Is It Sin?
* Oct 26, 2004 - Food and Besetting Sin
* Oct 25, 2004 - Q and A About Eating Disorders
* Oct 22, 2004 - The Thankfulness Diet
* Oct 21, 2004 - Matters of Conscience
* Oct 20, 2004 - Hope After Failure
* Oct 19, 2004 - When Is It Wrong to Eat?
* Oct 18, 2004 - A Matter of Worship
* Oct 15, 2004 - Appetites and Answers
* Oct 14, 2004 - A Healthy Heart
* Oct 13, 2004 - More Than a Diet
* Oct 12, 2004 - Do You Need This Series?
* Oct 11, 2004 - Are You Preoccupied with Food?


Did You "Try to be Saved", but "It Didn't Work"?

If so, my struggling sister, this message is for you...from the heart of God, through the quills of the Gospel and Epistle writers, from the lips of Tim Conway - may the freeing Truth set you free and go straight to your heart:


Ashley Weis: Breathing In Life

Ashley Weis: Breathing In Life

A friend of mine here in cyber-space has a wonderful, edifying Christian blog in which she shares many devotional insights. Ashley has a particular burden for women involved in or affected by the porn industry, and ministers to them through her writing in much the same way I long to help women with eating disorders.

Please read this brief entry....I read it last night and immediately thought of it's relevance to the lives of struggling bulimics. Knowing you are really, truly loved by the God of the universe...the One Who died for this sin, too....makes a difference in how you view repentance.

I love the way she articulates this:

Breathing In Life

What would it feel like to breathe in the love of Jesus? To inhale it and let it course our bodies and seep into our bloodstreams.

To love Jesus is one thing. Many of us can do that without question. But to realize how much Jesus loves us is another thing entirely.

Jesus loves us. And that is not something to be taken lightly. He loves us more than anyone ever will. When we feel alone and lost... JESUS loves us.

Sometimes the darkest moments in life are used to bring us back to this truth - He loves us.

We can forget. We can get busy. We can say, "I love you, Jesus," 500 times a day. But sometimes it feels good to step back, rest, and let His love seep into our veins.



Review of HBO Documentary "Thin"

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to watch Lauren Greenfield's film "Thin", which is available through Netflix. (You can watch a portion of the movie online at the site I just linked). The documentary followed, without narration, four eating disorder patients at the RenFrew inpatient facility in Florida. It was a sadly realistic picture of inpatient therapy, and through interviews and observation of the women's behavior, gave insights into the mindsets of young women with bulimia.

The film is, to my knowledge, the only one of its type - the camera follows patients at the facility to daily weigh-ins, is present during group therapy, and is even rolling during patients' private consults with staff nutritionists and psychologists. Although Renfrew is not a locked facility, this portrayal is much more in-depth and nuanced than a day program or outpatient meeting could be.

After a few statistics on the screen, alerting us to the fact that 5 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, the camera pans to the facility's nurses' station, where "meds" are dispensed in little paper cups to each of the patients, who dutifully shuffle up to the window. Next, we see a nurse handing two cigarrettes each to patients (presumably their daily "smoke ration").

Since Renfrew is not a Christian or even integrationist center, I need not critique too thoroughly the obvious differences between secular psychology and the biblical worldview present in this one simple scene. I will note, however, that psychtropic drugs have no effect on eating disorder patients, other than to make them dependant on the mood-altering effects (well-illustrated in the film by the character Shelly), and using tobacco to stuff one's feelings or "deal with stress" is simply swapping one chemical dependency for another. I have written many thousands of words on these from the biblical position, and will not re-open the issue now, as Renfrew does not claim to follow biblical principles. I only cite the obvious.

Next, the camera follows two adult residents - long-time casualties of inpatient treatment - as they go out to the "smoke porch" to gossip about staff. Shelly, a psychiatric nurse in her late twenties, has been anorexic for over a decade, in and out of many hospitals, takes too many prescription meds to list, and has a feeding tube implanted in her stomach (which she uses to purge). Polly, a thirty-something bulimic, chain-smokes and seems to enjoy "alliances" and intrigues among other residents. She seems to enjoy the drama connected with her "illness" and when confronted with immature behavior, heads to the toilet to purge (on-camera) at the tail end of her treatment. The bathrooms at Renfrew are not locked. “I was counting calories and fat grams by the time I was eleven”, she reveals in an interview.

The film also follows a 15-year-old girl, Brittany, who was an overweight child and became bulimic to lose weight. Ironically, she seems to handle herself with more maturity than older residents. We learn that her mother also has an eating disorder and the two of them used to purge together. When the mother visits Brittany, we see her picking at the food on her tray and refusing starches, even though her daughter is prescribed a certain number at each meal by the in-house dieticians. We sense, early on, that Brittany's chances for recovery after discharge are minimal.

The fourth featured patient is a 30-year-old mother, Alisa, who recounts her daily fast-food run and subsequent purge ritual in an interview. Alisa truly desires to leave bulimia behind, for the sake of her children. Tellingly, she states, "I tried so hard to find satisfaction through other accomplishments, but nothing measured up to this one [being thin]. So a couple of years ago, I just thought, ‘So be it. If it takes dying to get there, so be it. At least I’ll get there."

This is a women deeply in need of Christ, but she will never find Him at Renfrew.

"Thin" skillfully portrays rehab culture without commentary. The fact that the modern "psych model" is completely entrenched in these young women's minds is self-evident. The over-arching trait that seems to define the women - who range in age from early teens to late thirties - is that of self-pity. The environment seems to foster competition as to who is the sickest – even while beseeching one another for “support" at group therapy meetings. The viewer gets the uneasy impression, especially while watching the childish, rebellious antics of the older patients, that they enjoy the attention a little too much. The very environment seems to breed immaturity by setting up parent/childlike dependence roles.

When two of the patients who have achieved a higher level of privileges are granted a day outside the center, they lie to staff about their whereabouts and head to a tattoo parlor (forbidden by the rules). Once there, they complain about Renfrew's staff "trying to make them fat" and revel in their silly antics. (These are women in their thirties). Several times, while watching these women flout the rules, smoke in the bathrooms, and criticize the staff in the style of junior-high schoolers, I wondered rhetorically, "Why are you there?"

The inherent drama breeds a tattle-tale culture. Staff and residents alike seem to thrive on drama – later in the film, after food is found hoarded and it is blamed on the wrong person, Shelly and another resident very dramatically report that they have knowledge of the two who went to get tattoes. Contraband prescription drugs are found during a room search, given to another patient by the cavalier Polly, and she is asked to leave the program. After many tears and a "revenge purge", she leaves.

None of the patients appear particularly devoted to heart (or attitude) change, although the staff, for their part, genuinely seem devoted to helping them "recover". They appear committed, principled, and compassionate - vitally important characteristics for those working with eating disordered patients (as well as all addictions). When Polly is expelled, an orderly who has come to know and care for her embraces her in the hallway and lets her cry on her shoulder - asking her to stay in touch. Polly's defiance and continual manipulation has led to her being removed from treatment; but she is not beyond the touch of human kindness. It was a tender moment, and made me wish Polly had received more hugs and soothing words in her childhood so her adulthood would not have been spent "playing" mental health staff. The RNs, nurse practitioners, program directors, nutritionist and psychologists genuinely want to help the girls, but their best efforts are thwarted by the girls' own rebellious natures. It is clear that they are offering the best they have - the world's "wisdom" as espoused by secular psychology.

When the two patients rat out their fellow residents for getting tattoes, the program director commends them by saying, "I give the two of you a lot of credit for being willing to go there, and I think you just need to stay in that space." I have no idea what that was supposed to mean, but it reminds me of what Richard Ganz would call "psychobabble".

Repeatedly, in the obligatory group therapy meetings, aberrant behavior is addressed by emphasizing the negative effect defiance has on “The Community”. The mantra of "group" is that "The Community" can only be as well as it’s members (an almost cult-like thinking); yet paradoxically, the role of personal responsibility in overcoming one's eating disorder is never directly addressed in appointments with the psychologist. They women are repeatedly told they have an "illness", and they have come to believe it. The "addict as victim" mindset has taken over. But they must not disrupt "The Community".

One of the film's most compelling, realistic look at eating disorders through the eyes of sufferers is a group scene towards the end. Fifteen year old Brittany is about to be discharged, and tearfully admits she doesn’t want recovery. A 28-year-old and 30-year-old graphically recount to her what the last decades of their lives have been like with bulimia (since they were 15), and assure her it’s not worth it to be thin. She is discharged anyway, as insurance would not pay for further treatment. She predictably began restricting again, and lost weight rapidly.

ALL of the characters followed in the film relapsed badly after discharge. Even those who were not re-admitted continued to struggle with purging and restricting. A month after leaving Renfrew, Alisa (the 30-year-old bulimic) meets up with Shelly after the latter is discharged for a celebratory meal. The camera follows her home, where she vomits. The film’s post-script says that Alisa lost 20 pounds after discharge and attempted suicide by overdosing on diuretics. Shelly, the 25-year-old featured on the film’s cover, quickly lost the 17 pounds she had gained while an inpatient. According to the epilogue, she underwent electric shock therapy to treat her depression.

The documentary very accurately showed the true picture of eating disordered thinking and the best the psych fields have to offer. Proving my thesis many times over, "Thin" only reinforced what every nouthetic counselor and every Christian set free from an ED has long known: true heart change and restoration is only possible through Christ. Behavioral and clinical psychology is the best this world has to offer, but its answer is a spiritually empty substitute and a pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).

After watching this movie, I longed to look up all of the featured patients and share the hope of Christ with them. If anyone else has viewed the film and has thoughts they wish to share, please do so.


"Free of Bulimia" Domain is Now Here

Dear readers of the former "Free of Bulimia" blog,


Yes, you are in the right place. No, your search engines didn't make a mistake. The former site has now been "merged" into this one, as I expand my counseling and information ministry to as many women as possible.

MaRisa, the author of the "Free of Bulimia" blog and moderator of the Yahoo forum of the same name (see link to the right) is taking a break after a number of years counseling and encouraging women with her testimony. Like myself, she was set free from a deadly addiction to bulimia by Christ Himself. As she moves on to new endeavors in her life, she has asked me to incorporate the original domain into my own site.

So who am I (Marie)? Like many of you, I am a Christ-follower. At the time of this writing, I am 38 years old, am happily married with 4 children, and work as a Bulgarian<=>English medical and courtroom interpreter in urban Massachusetts. I attend a wonderful Evangelical church, where I co-lead Bible studies and occasionally help out with children's ministry. More to the point, I am a former bulimic who also used to have a drinking problem. For 17 years, I was enslaved to bulimia, which I thought would kill me. In 2003, I began making tentative steps back towards God (I had been a Christian for 13 years at that point) and found Him to be faithful beyond my imagination. You can read my full testimony here.

Within 6 months, I was completely free of the bulimia and never looked back. As I began repenting, I realized that I needed to allow Christ to renew my mind and heart. Once I surrendered my idols of food, thinness, anger and control to Him, He filled me with new desires and joy I had never known. Last year, I began writing a book about gaining victory over bulimia from a Christian perspective: "Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders". Hopefully, it will be published in early 2010 (most likely by Bethany Press).

Thank you for stopping by. I hope that you will find some of the resources and insights I share on this site valuable, and I invite you to leave comments.

In Christ,

Marie Notcheva


A Few Quick Notes...

1. Who is United Cause blog, and why am I getting hits from that site, but I can't see it when I click the URL? Would you kindly enable me to? I am curious as to where and how my site is being linked.

2. I took down the endorsement of Carol Showalter's book, "Your Whole Life" yesterday after realizing her ties with Cape Cod cult The Community of Jesus went far deeper than I thought. Another woman from church and myself spent a good part of Sunday afternoon and evening researching the connection, and we did not like what we saw. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience endorse her book or small group program. Bummer, too; it seemed like a great book. I will, however, do a review of a similar book/program, Word Publishing's "Thin Within" sometime soon.

3. Review of Lauren Greenfield's HBO documentary "Thin" to come later this week. It presents a sad but true-to-life look at eating disorders and the rehab sub-culture. Sobering stuff.

4. Many people are reading this blog, but few are commenting. Please leave me feedback (anonymously is fine) if anything is helpful to you. And as always, I am available by e-mail.