"Normalize" Bulimia? Heaven Forbid...

Dr. Ed Welch has an excellent post on the pervasiveness of bulimia and the nature of "control" its practitioners experience over at his blog. (Ed Welch, whose excellent study on repenting from addictions, "Crossroads" I reviewed here, is one of my favorite authors and biblical counselors. He is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation, aka CCEF. I am currently working on a review of his new book, "What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?").

Welch compassionately addresses the secretive nature of the bulimic behavior, and puts his finger right on the question a bulimic believer hates to ask herself:
First, if you have any interest in God, does the secretive essence of this behavior concern you? Secrets separate relationships. They separate friends and spouses, and become a private place in which you hide from God. 
 Second, has it improved your life? The answer to that is easy: no. But you say: “So what? It works for me.” Perhaps you feel as though nothing will improve your life so you might as well be thin while you go through the drudgery and misery.

Consider this from another angle. If you are a near-daily practitioner of purging, you are saying much more than “I want to be thin.” The word control is almost always a part of bulimic vocabulary. You have been controlled or dependent on the whims of people who treated you poorly, and you are sick of it. You live with incessant self-loathing and suicidal hopelessness and bulimia gives you some sense of control over this darkness. Its benefits, however, are ephemeral and fleeting.

So what is the answer? How are we to face a God, when we feel He must be "disgusted" with us? Oh, how I wish someone had shared the Good News of grace with me back in 1989! Go read the rest of the post here: http://www.ccef.org/blog/bulimia-new-normal


Want to Mud-Sling? Sorry...I'm Too Busy to Accomodate

Dear Readers:

Due to the unusually high number of abrasive and straw -man argumentative comments I have been receiving lately on this blog (most apparently from the same "anonymous" user,) I feel the time has come to clarify a few things in a post, since I have no intention of engaging the same red herrings over and over again in the meta.

First of all, anonymous comments are fine. When I set up the comment box for this blog, it was with the expectation in view that many eating-disordered young women would prefer to share their thoughts privately. Most who have chosen to communicate with me have done so through e-mail, and that is also welcome (in fact, I wrote my book "Redeemed from the Pit" after years of explaining the principles of overcoming eating disorders through e-mail - to countless women.)

"Some people want to believe lies & no factual info will persuade them. Only the Holy Spirit can transform the stubborn heart." - Dr. Mark E. Shaw
However, recently the comment box has been used more frequently by "anonymous" users who wish simply to argue with me and tear down the premise that the Bible does, in fact, address life-dominating sin. Axiomatically, such anonymous users invariably take issue with my (and other biblical counselors'....and increasing numbers of scientists') conviction that addictions are not organic in nature. Specifically, my (factually true) statement that EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT DISEASES. Often the vitrolic (and sarcastic) comments are accompanied by links to inconclusive "studies", showing that "it is thought" there "may" be genetic predisposition to bulimic and/or anorexic behavior.

A little over a year ago, Calvary Press published a 317-page book, thoroughly researched and written by me, which addresses this question (among many others). Rather than repeat everything I wrote there and cite all of the studies proving exactly the opposite, I'd encourage the skeptic to actually read my book. Better yet, specifically dealing with the "mental illness as disease" controversy, I'd like to point the reader to the following excellent resources:

The Christian Counselor's Medical Desk Reference, by Dr. Robert Smith, M.D.

This was the main text used in the course "Medical Issues in Biblical Counseling", one of many I took during my certification program as a biblical counselor.

Another excellent resource (which I cite several times in "Redeemed from the Pit") is Deceptive Diagnosis: When Sin Is Called Sickness, by David M. Tyler and Kurt P. Grady.

Ambitious to know more about the true nature of addiction? Let me recommend one more wonderful resource, by my friend Dr. Mark Shaw of NANC and His Truth in Love MinistriesThe Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective

Now, once you have read all (or even some) of the informative books above, written by highly-educated and respected doctors and experts in the field of addiction, come back and we'll talk about your junk science links. But in the meantime, let me just quickly address some of the other red-herrings that have been thrown my way:

Accusation: "Who do [I] think [I] am anyway?"
Answer: A sinner saved by grace, who God has seen fit to use for His glory. A former pit-dweller whose  joy in freedom in Christ compels me to help others come to the Cross. A beggar telling other beggars where to find bread.

Accusation: "You're ignorant. You'll be flipping burgers. You have no education." (Various takes on this theme.)
Answer: I'm neither ignorant nor uneducated, not that my ability to share the Good News is impacted in any way by my degrees. For the record, I am college-educated (B.S., Syracuse University) and have a strong background in both biology and bio-psychology. (For what it's worth, I am also multi-lingual and am employed as a medical and courtroom interpreter). More importantly, I have been studying the Word of God for well over 20 years and completed the most demanding biblical counseling course of training in existence - Jay Adams' Institute for Nouthetic Studies. Before receiving my certificate, I completed difficult courses in biblical and systematic theology, medical issues in counseling, and a myriad of other topics (see complete syllabus here.) Copies of my 75-page theology and counseling NANC exam are available upon request.

I have been counseling Christian women with eating disorders (formally and informally) since 2005. A number of them have found complete freedom in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Accusation: "You seem to hate bulimics. You tell them their behavior is a sin!"
Answer: I was trapped in bulimia for 17 years myself, so please don't tell me who I "hate". The most loving thing we can do is help a fellow believer repent of his or her sin, in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1; Jude 1:23). Which is more cruel? Condemning a person to a life-long "disease", as the psych world does; or telling her about the freedom available to her in the Gospel? How is telling someone that Jesus died for their sin too "cruel" or "unloving"?

Accusation: "Everyone knows that eating disorders are diseases. You are ignorant and it's just your opinion that they're not."
Answer: You may have heard that eating disorders are caused by genetics or some sort of non-specific “chemical imbalance”. Low serotonin levels have been seen as the culprit for bulimia, despite the fact that no diagnostic tests or tissue samples have confirmed this hypothesis. Non-invasive “brain mapping” scans point to “hot spots”, but the problem with this form of test is that areas of the brain display differently according to the patient’s anxiety level or emotional state. The theory of “chemical imbalance” has prevailed for so long in the medical community that many accept it as iron-clad fact.

Actually, in over twenty years of research, no evidence has been discovered suggesting that eating disorders are organic, and both psychotropic drugs and SSRI  inhibitors (anti-depressants) have been ineffectual in “curing” anorexics and bulimics. Renowned psychiatrists are now admitting that the chemical imbalance theory was just that all along – a theory. Be careful of words like "is thought to be" or "may be caused" in studies - they point up the fact that these hypotheses are inconclusive. (See Chapter 2 of my book and The Christian Counselor's Medical Desk Reference for a more complete discussion of these "studies" and the effect of psychotropics on the brain.)

Accusation: "You probably think that people with autism/Asperger's/depression/ADD/bi-polar etc. etc. are going to hell." 
Answer: Anyone apart from Christ goes to hell. (John 14:6). See here for a more thorough explanation, and let's keep the straw men to a minimum, shall we?

Respectfully, I am far too busy serving God by loving His people to engage each and every silly and arrogant attack thrown at me in the meta. I hope that this explanation clarifies where I stand (firmly on the Word of God) and answers any questions you may have about my biblical worldview (and subsequent approach to matters of soul-care.) For more information about biblical counseling, I encourage you to visit the Biblical Counseling Coalition's website.


Replacing Lies You Believe with God's Truth - an Exercise

From "Redeemed from the Pit"
Chapter 8 "Tempted Beyond What You Can Bear?" 

Putting On and Putting Off

As a bulimic begins to practice taking her obsessive thoughts captive to Christ, gradually they will decrease in frequency and intensity. Her behavior will begin to change. True repentance always leads to a steady (if sometimes gradual) decline in sin and improved behavior. As we turn from the old thought patterns that led us into slavery in the first place, the Holy Spirit imparts both the will and the strength to change our behavior. Paul describes this process as “putting off the sinful nature” (NIV, Colossians 2:11) or “lay[ing] aside the deeds of darkness and put[ing] on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). In Ephesians 4:22-24 he tells believers to “lay aside” (“put off” in other translations) the old self and “put on” the new self – which, he goes on to say, “in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth”. In the likeness of God? Sounds like a tall order! But remember, He has equipped us and will help us grow. A couple of chapters later, Paul twice exhorts Christians to “put on” the armor of God. Clearly, Paul originated what biblical counselors call the “put off/put on” principle. 

Likewise, avoiding old patterns of behavior (such as using food for emotional reasons) will not bring about true, inward change unless those old habits are replaced with new, godly ones. Nature abhors a vacuum. Allowing God to pull up the roots of our besetting, habitual sin is the first step – but the next is to fill in the hole that remains with Christ-like behavior and thoughts. Of course, developing these God-honoring practices does not happen overnight, but they are cultivated as the Holy Spirit changes our hearts. If you are persistent in seeking God, He will give you the strength and desire to obey Him. Our behavior changes, because God’s love has first transformed our hearts and altered our thinking.

Paul gives us concrete examples of how we must consciously discard old tendencies and deliberately replace them in Ephesians 4:25-32. Let’s look at a few of the sinful habits he tells us to stop doing, and what we are to start doing instead:

Now, let’s take this principle and apply it to eating disorders. Most of the warnings and exhortations the Bible gives us are general enough to apply to any sin, because all sin ultimately is a heart issue. While Paul did not specifically have gluttony or self-abuse in mind when he penned his epistles,  Romans 8:13 is a goal all repentant anorexics and bulimics can share: “…if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live”. 

What specific attitudes and thought patterns can you identify which need to be “put off”? What actions? I mention thoughts and attitudes first, as they determine your outward behavior (Luke 6:45). As you prayerfully identify areas of your thought-life that are contributing to your eating disorder, ask God to show you biblical attitudes to “put on” in their place. I have listed a few suggestions to get you started.

© Marie Notcheva, 2011.


"Redeemed from the Pit" Now Available on Kindle!

Dear Readers:

Fifteen months after its release by Calvary Press, my book "Redeemed from the Pit" is FINALLY available in Kindle Edition. You may now purchase it world-wide through Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B7DEPIW.  Weighing in at a healthy 95,000 words, it is a bargain at only $9.99. Tell all your friends.

Also, if you have read my book and found it helpful, please leave a comment in the "Review" section on Amazon (5 stars would be nice, too.) These positive reviews really do help potential readers get a "feel" for the book, and may boost sales.

I am really excited about the Kindle release for another reason, too: proceeds from Kindle sales will be going to support Albania Evangelical Mission (http://www.aemission.org/). This is the team under whom I served at a summer camp for teenagers the last couple summers, and they are a great group of people serving the Lord in Albania.

Please leave me a comment or send me an e-mail to let me know if you've purchased the Kindle edition, and what you think (be sure and mention any technical issues you might be having, so I can get them fixed.) You'll be glad to know the typographical and formatting issues in the print edition have been corrected in the e-book!