Zelophehad’s Daughters

Mormonism and Eating Disorders, Part III: Thinking About My Religious Beliefs

Posted by Lynnette

In commenting, please respect the sensitive nature of this issue. And as is standard for eating disorder recovery discussion, do not use numbers in your comments (weight, calories, etc.)—any such numbers will be edited.

Note: I originally posted this under the name “Tirzah.”

Though my experiences at church have often been painful (as I described in my last post), I do think many LDS teachings have a lot to offer when it comes to countering the demons of eating disorders. I would begin with the most basic idea that we are children of God.  As you may be aware, there are online communities which are pro-eating disorder. I’ve skimmed them at times, and in my experience, they usually reflect a deep level of ambivalence. They trade tips and encourage each other in destructive behavior, but they also say they would never encourage anyone else to do what they’re doing, talk about the misery of it, sometimes play with the possibility of getting in treatment. I can’t say I see these communities as a good thing, on the whole, but I can understand why people end up there, especially if they are looking for a safe place where they won’t be judged. (There are also, I should add here, online support communities that are recovery-oriented, such as somethingfishy.org, which I would recommend as a resource both for people who are dealing with eating disorders and for family and friends of those who are.)

But this is getting tangential—I bring it up because of an experience I had many years ago. I’ve been involved in various mental-health related support groups, and I became acquainted with other people with eating disorders online long before making such connections in real life. And I once found myself having a conversation with someone who ran a pro-ed site. It was a mutually respectful conversation, but it really forced me to ask myself why, when it all came down, I saw eating disorders as a problem. This might sound obvious to those who have never engaged in such behavior, but the question isn’t always an easy one to answer if you’ve shaped your life around it. On what basis do you even say, this isn’t okay? And I realized that for me, the answer ultimately was a religious one. That we are children of God, that we matter to our heavenly parents, and that it is a problem to treat ourselves in ways that don’t reflect that. That God wants better for us. (I’m not saying, of course, that I think you need to have particular religious beliefs to recover from an eating disorder, because obviously that isn’t the case—but this is an instance where my most basic Mormon beliefs were something I found very grounding, and powerful.)

I also think Mormons have a rich resource in our doctrines on embodiment. We came to earth to get bodies, and our ultimate goal is not to escape corporeality—we believe in an embodied God. Here I think we need to be wary of a substance dualism which frames the spirit and body as entirely distinct (e.g., the hand in glove analogy in which the spirit enters the body and animates it, and then departs), because the implication is that our spirits are our “real” selves. The problem with this framework is that it makes the body somewhat peripheral, reduces it to a kind of holding box for our spirits. But our experience of life—including religious experience—is that of embodied beings. The body is central, not peripheral. And intriguingly, there is a suggestion in Mormon teachings that the body is liberating—note the comment in D&C 138 that the spirits awaiting resurrection see the absence of the body not as some kind of freedom, but as bondage. As someone who has all too often wished to escape the unbearable weight of embodiment, I find this striking.

This can, unfortunately, go badly amiss. Growing up, I learned that the body is a temple, a gift from God, and I used it to attack myself. As I saw it, in my failure to eat correctly, I had defiled my temple, disrespected this gift, and doubtless deserved God’s wrath. But these are teachings I am trying to reclaim in more positive ways. There is a real difference between self-recrimination because of the guilt that you are supposed to be doing better, and genuine self-care.  You can do the “right” things: eating nutritiously, exercising—and do them in a deeply self-hating way, based on a premise that you are flawed and in need of fixing. You can psychologically attack yourself in the name of health. This, in my experience, is a very different experience than deciding that you are going to take your body and its needs seriously, with a  perspective based not from the outside (how do I look? how will I be judged?), but from the inside (how do I feel? what do I want? what is my body telling me?)

Another LDS teaching which has been involved in my recovery is that of Heavenly Mother. For a long time I raised intellectual and theological questions about her absence—and I think those are important ones—but it wasn’t something that mattered much to me in my personal devotional life. But at some point after I had gotten into recovery, it hit me. I need a divine feminine. Because a relationship with a male God, no matter how positive and powerful that has been in my life, still had me thinking of myself in terms of a male gaze and all the baggage that went along with that. I found myself desperately needing the image of a divine and embodied female. Because whatever characteristics Heavenly Mother has, I simply cannot imagine her as anorexic. This gives me a different model for strength, one that is not tied up with starvation, one that pushes me toward greater acceptance of myself. A consequence of our tendency to keep her in the background is that it reinforces a traditional notion that the female body is somehow shameful, and better off hidden. And I am trying to stop hiding. I find it reassuring to believe in a Heavenly Mother who really gets what I am going through, and who offers me a different kind of role model than so much of what I see in the surrounding culture.

There is one more issue I want to mention. It is that of fasting, which in the church is an important aspect of both personal devotion and communal worship. I have been forbidden from fasting, possibly forever. And to be fair, at this point in my life it’s hard for me to imagine fasting in any kind of genuinely devotional way. (It’s a bit like having a “Drinking Sunday” for a recovering alcoholic). So I’m okay with the prohibition; I don’t feel guilt about not fasting. I don’t think any sane church leader would suggest that I do it.

But this is where things get harder. Our religious discourse about fasting frequently draws on the language of asceticism. People often talk about fasting as a way of subduing the body, as a feat of willpower and self-mastery that will lead to increased spiritual strength. This model is a problem for me because that is exactly what my eating disorder believes. Where do I go with that? I feel a need to re-think what the doctrine is about, even if I am not personally participating in the practice, because it will mess me up if I think about fasting as religious ideal of self-control that I am too weak to personally observe.

I am thinking about Lent, the somber part of the liturgical year leading up to Easter observed by many Christian communities (especially of the “high church” variety). It is often tied to fasting (like meatless Fridays), and many observe a tradition of giving up something for Lent. This can be done in ascetic ways—I’ve seen that happen—but that’s not always the case. And it is those latter situations that I want to think about. Food is far too loaded for me, and asceticism too appealing. But can I imagine giving up something as a way of strengthening a relationship with God? For it to be positive, I think it might well be challenging,  but it would not be harmful, and it would definitely not be self-punitive—because acting in such a way hurts relationships, rather than strengthening them. It might be a way to call attention to the things you do in your life that perhaps numb you out a little, make you more spiritually distant, enable you to escape from yourself. In her memoir Girl Meets God, (a really fun book, if you haven’t read it), Lauren Winner describes her attempt to give up books for Lent. I found that crazy, and yet it some odd way it made sense to me. I obviously do not see reading as some sort of vice to discard, but I can appreciate how challenging it can be to spend time in the reality of your own life.

And in writing this out, it occurs to me that maybe one of the things I need to give up is the desire to be in control of everything. Maybe the spiritual discipline I need is that of letting things be. Of not running from myself—from my body and its needs, from the things about myself that I am afraid of, from God. And back to fasting—is there a difference between allowing yourself to be hungry (fasting), versus forcing yourself to do so (dieting)? In the former case, I’m thinking, you’d perhaps acknowledge your hunger and take it seriously as a legitimate need, whereas in in the latter, you’d see it as a weakness to be defeated.

On a less personal level, I also wonder what it means to talk about fasting in the context of a culture with such a conflicted relationship with food, and which idealizes not eating. It comes with rather different connotations, I would think, than it would have had in a nineteenth-century agrarian society, or the ancient Near East. I do not think that when the scriptures talk about fasting, they are talking about the kind of willpower celebrated in the contemporary religion of dieting—though it may be too easy to read them that way. We also sometimes talk about fasting as if it were a kind of extra credit that went along with prayer, something that will make God more likely to give you what you want, and that seems off to me, too. I am intrigued by the fact that fasting is at times linked with mourning in the scriptures, but that D&C 58 also equates it with rejoicing. I note that it is also tied to justice, and to concern for the poor (and I like how explicitly this connection is made in the LDS practice of fast offerings). I need to think through this more.

People go about recovery in different ways. And I have found that Mormonism is too central a part of my life to not play a role in it. Obviously I do not mean this in a facile, “read your scripture and pray your way to recovery” way. But this process has forced me to seriously question some of my beliefs, in a way that is personal as well as theological, and pay attention both to what has been harmful and what can be powerfully helpful. A therapist suggested to me that I might think of things like eating, self-care, and body acceptance not as suspect behaviors, but as spiritual practice. That would certainly be a radical reorientation of my eating-disordered worldview.

21 Responses to “Mormonism and Eating Disorders, Part III: Thinking About My Religious Beliefs”

  1. 1.

    From age thirty until now at age seventy two I have been obese. I have prayed mightily to no seeming avail. I was simply self destructive. About fifteen years ago I very slowly began losing weight. At present I am losing more steadily. My prayers are being answered, but not on my timetable.

  2. 2.

    Really good insights in here. I like what you say about spiritual practice being aimed toward things like self-care and body acceptance. That rings true to me. That’s how it’s supposed to be, I think. And giving up the need for control, the illusion of control, for Lent. I love that!

  3. 3.

    First, a general comment on all 3 of your posts-
    I admire your lucid description of what having an eating disorder has been like for you. I don’t have an eating disorder but I recognized a lot of what you wrote about (and what Tatiana wrote about in her comment on the first post) in myself, to varying degrees at various times. My weight isn’t unhealthy, but I’ve spent almost my entire life thinking I needed to lose weight, and I think I’ve wasted too much mental energy on that topic. I’d like to get over this preoccupation.

    I very much agree that the Mormon doctrine of physical bodies being good and necessary is empowering. I think Mormonism is quite unusual in this. The idea that spirits experience a lack of their bodies as bondage (D&C 138) is the exact opposite of what the Christian sect called the Gnostics believed. According to my father in law (who wrote his dissertation on this), the Gnostics thought physical bodies were a mistake – that a lesser diety created them. And eventually people would escape their bodies to inherit a higher world. The Maniches took this a step further and believed it was immoral to reproduce since that trapped more spirits in bad physical bodies. Saint Augustine was a Manichean before he became a Christian and a lot of Catholic moral teaching around physicality can be traced to his Manichean heritage. My point is that there’s a lot of baggage in Christian theology that devalues physical bodies, and Mormonism is unusual to elevate the body as being actually essential to spiritual progression and salvation. In addition, I think Mormonism is one of the few Christian faiths to take the resurrection of Christ totally literally (perhaps the only one, but I haven’t studied this enough to make that statement).
    I really like your therapist’s suggestion to view self-care as a spiritual practice. This is how I see the Word of Wisdom – as a way of caring for the body I’ve been given, and of acknowledging it’s sacredness.

    As for fasting, between pregnancy, nursing, and medication, I’ve spent quite a bit of time unable to fast in the traditional way. But I fast in ways that don’t involve giving up eating – sort of like giving up things for lent. I don’t give up foods, instead I try to give up things that interfere with my spiritual life. A friend of mine does the same thing. One month she gave up complaining. One month I gave up having negative thoughts about my body. This month I’m trying to give up swearing (even in my mind). I think this totally “counts” as fasting. To me fasting is about making an empty space in your life that God can fill with something good.

  4. 4.

    Recently, I have been working with a very difficult person and I found that my resentment was growing more and more. By the time lent came around, I was in a sorry state. So, long story short, what I gave up for lent was my resentment. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It also improved things greatly, as I was able to see past wanting “justice” for being wronged, and find an alternative solution that worked.

    I don’t necessarily think that fasting, as such, is necessarily tied to food – I think that there are a multitude of ways of approaching it, by giving up negativity and replacing it with positivity. That is how I approach it, at any rate.

    A thought provoking series. Thanks for being willing to share it.

  5. 5.

    These posts have really touched a nerve with me – thank you very much for your candor.

    I very much relate to the idea of asceticism and the self-punishment that goes along with it. Unfortunately I think our Mormon culture often validates self-denial, like you mention, which doesn’t help. “Why not start your fast on Saturday to be that much more righteous?” Learning to be kind to your body can be difficult if you’ve always been taught it’s something to be overcome.

  6. 6.

    Thank you for sharing the insights that you gained through your courageous journey.

    I think that one way of thinking about the practice of fasting is as a method of building our relationship with God. Abstaining from food becomes a physical symbol of posturing ourself in an attitude of reverence, humility, and worship. Food is certainly not the only way we can express these attitudes. I really like the suggestions of offering to relinquish negative thoughts or actions as fasting. Then fasting becomes not an act of bodily deprivation, but a self-conscious act of transforming oneself into a divine person (or discovering one’s divine nature) in relation with divine parents.

  7. 7.

    Abstaining from food becomes a physical symbol of posturing ourself in an attitude of reverence, humility, and worship.

    Why? What’s so reverent, humble, and worshipful about not eating?

  8. 8.

    Our religious discourse about fasting frequently draws on the language of asceticism. People often talk about fasting as a way of subduing the body, as a feat of willpower and self-mastery that will lead to increased spiritual strength.

    I was in a Relief Society lesson on fasting last year that turned into a discussion on the merits of “superfasting” (i.e., fasting for more than 24 hours). I wanted to speak up and voice my concerns, but I wasn’t sure what to say (plus, I’d only recently been released from a 3 year stint in Primary, so I didn’t know the other women there all that well).

  9. 9.

    I have really appreciated this series. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    As to fasting, I can’t really get into the asceticism thing, but I’m really drawn to the idea of fast offerings. It makes me think about how much more I could be doing in the service of others.

  10. 10.

    @ Martine – I’ve actually heard people justify starting their fasts on Saturday as a way to feel like they are missing *less* meals, that by still conforming to the “two consecutive meals” they’re not out more than one meal a day that way. Doesn’t quite seem in the right spirit to me, but hey.

    As for fasting, I haven’t done it myself in quite a few years, but I miss it. I’m sure part of missing it has to do with that sense of control that self denial gives an anorexic, but I do like the ideal of asceticism for other reasons. I’ve struggled over the years with whether my mind controls my body or my body dictates what I think about and I’ve wanted to understand the truth of it. It reminds me of “Little Buddha” with Keanu Reeves (yeah, I know) where there’s a scene that depicts the mythology of Siddhartha with the ascetics fasting and wasting away in search of enlightenment. But then he realizes that the answer lies in the “middle way”. I think that’s the truth for me. It’s both. My mind controls my body just as much as my body controls my mind. And fasting is only one side of a multifaceted jewel that we can look through to see God more clearly, without the temporal dictating everything that we perceive as reality.

    I have family that likes to “gather in spirit” for members that are struggling, physically or otherwise. They frequently hold fasts across the country and express in their testimonies, often after the fact, that they feel that the fasting was particularly helpful in affecting the outcome. And I would believe that if they didn’t bring God into it funny enough. I don’t think our fasts or prayers have one iota of an effect on God, but that they can have real power on us and the energy that we put out.

    But that’s neither here nor there – it has simply forced me to look at how the things we do with our bodies, with food or without, have real impacts on our lived experience, and therefore cannot be separated. I know it is a struggle for many to equate food with religious practice, and I understand that difficulty. But for me, they are inseparable. Just as my body and spirit are inseparable, what I do with my body has always been part of my religious practice in a way – perhaps even more so than anything I’ve done at a church. My connection to the earth and the food it produces for me has become my connection to God, so this is the way I am currently forming my views I suppose.

    But I love hearing other people’s experiences and perspectives. I think it is really helpful to know there are people that may have had a similar struggle to mine at some point, but that we can and are dealing with it differently and successfully. (Despite my initial reaction, I love these posts. )

  11. 11.

    I meant to include that I like what you said about Heavenly Mother’s role in this for you. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how adaptive she is to such a wide and beautiful range of needs and fills the roles that are most needed by each person that I’ve heard describe their encounter with her. I just love that.

  12. 12.

    Thanks for all the comments. I’ve especially enjoyed hearing all your different thoughts on fasting and what it means, because I’m still working through that one.

    Emily U, that’s a good point about the devaluation of the body in the history of Christianity. Often in a gendered way, as well—women being tied to the “lower” corporeal realm, and men being linked with the “higher” realm of intellect. I think a lot of contemporary Christians have really pushed back against that tradition, and have adopted much more positive views of the body. Feminist theologians have especially been involved in advocating for more attention to embodiment and embodied experience. But I do think in some ways Mormons are still the most radical in that it’s not just a positive view of the body—it’s embodiment as an ideal, as divine. Heady stuff, really.

    And the more I think about it, the more I see the problems with downplaying HM. Because the result is that we link the body to divinity—but specifically, we link the male body to divinity. I think there’s still some ambivalence about the female body. And there’s a certain irony in our having rejected the Augustinian negativity about embodiment while adopting some rather Augustinian-sounding ideas in our modesty discourse (e.g., female bodies are dangerous to males).

    But I’m possibly going off on a tirade—getting back to your comment, I like the idea of giving up things that interfere with your spiritual life, creating something empty for God to fill—that’s nice. Similar to what Prometheus and Fideline said about giving up negative things.

    Martine and Katya, yeah, I’ve occasionally run into that idea of super-asceticism as a means to super-righteousness. Which I suppose makes some sense if you see spirituality as something that comes from extreme self-denial. It seems to me like a pretty bleak way of living, though. And especially when we have religious teachings about how we’re here to experience embodiment. I’m a bit skeptical that this means an effort to subdue all bodily desire.

    I’m randomly thinking of Isaiah’s injunction to “let your soul delight in fatness.” Okay, we interpret that in spiritual terms. (It’s interesting how many food metaphors we have for spirituality: the bread of life, feasting upon the word, etc.) But in any case, it sounds to me like an approach to life that is very contra asceticism. I don’t want to rush to judgment about other people’s spiritual practice, because I don’t know what things might work for different people. But I can say that in my own life, there’s actually a link between physical asceticism and what I might call spiritual asceticism: scrupulosity, the feeling that I need to be perfect to please a judgmental God, a refusal of grace because it’s too threatening, a distrust of desire and wanting.

    Corktree, yeah, I definitely think there is something about fasting being tied to the link of the body and the mind/spirit. I like your observation about the connection of your body to religious practice. Thinking about this more, I wonder if because of my own discomfort with my body, I’ve sometimes tried to disconnect the two, imagining religious experience as some ethereal thing. Intellectually I would critique that model, but I suspect on some level I’ve bought into it. I’m also thinking about how as Mormons, we place a premium on embodied rituals (I mean, we baptize people vicariously because ordinances have to be performed physically).

    I also like the idea of fasting in the kind of communal way you’re describing, something that can cross geographical boundaries. I can see some real power in that.

    And I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts, despite our initial clash. I’m finding it kind of overstimulating and scary to write this much about all of this, but also thought-provoking and helpful both to articulate some of my thoughts and engage in these conversations, and I’ve really appreciated all the supportive comments.

  13. 13.

    Okay, I want to push the fasting question a bit more, because I’m still grappling with it. I really like the suggestions of giving up negative things, things that are spiritual harmful. I see a lot of value in that. But what do I make of it theologically, if giving up negative things is in some way parallel to giving up food? How does that not lead to the conclusion that food is negative, a spiritual vice? That’s not meant as a trick question–I’m really trying to sort that out. I think it’s one reason I was intrigued by the giving up books scenario I mentioned in the post–precisely because it’s not an inherently negative behavior.

  14. 14.

    I appreciated this whole series of posts. Very articulate, accurate, and thoughtful approach to this topic.

    As a person who has a tendency toward both ED and SI, the self-negating aspects of the gospel have really appealed to me and have helped me become more entrenched in my disorders. I suppose the OCD part of me also feels somewhat justified because of all of our emphasis on perfection.

    Moderation, and self-love have been so vital. I have learned to protect myself and my energy from Church messages that, while helpful to some, would be absolutely harmful to me. More and more I seek out the grace of God (not even Christ–that interferes with my SI issues). The more loving I can see God, the more unconditional, the more I can heal. But that means that I have to carefully guard what lessons I attend at Church, and I don’t watch General Conference live anymore. I am learning to cope with just being quite sensitive to messages and their subtexts.

  15. 15.

    During Lent, I don’t give up any “vices.” Instead, I use that time to remind me of my humanity, that I am made of ashes and will return to ashes. In that sense, I particularly avoid givng up a vice. Instead, I choose something that I rely on in my daily routine. Because I have to interrupt my routine to avoid that thing, that gives me pause to remember my humanity. So I give something up merely for the sake that the disrupption in routine makes me remember, but not for the cleanse of a so-called vice.

  16. 16.

    I really like the suggestions of giving up negative things, things that are spiritual harmful.

    Sometimes I like to think of sacrifice as simply giving up something we really want, rather than something that is harmful. It serves as a reminder that our wants are temporary, and that we can control them rather than letting them control us.

    It doesn’t always work, and I think sacrifice of something that is harmful (rather than something that is benign) as quite a bit more spiritually significant, but sacrifice in and of itself also “feels” right to me, too.

  17. 17.

    I was in a Relief Society lesson on fasting last year that turned into a discussion on the merits of “superfasting” (i.e., fasting for more than 24 hours).

    The Handbook for Missionaries told us NOT to fast more than 24 hours.

  18. 18.

    I choose something that I rely on in my daily routine. Because I have to interrupt my routine to avoid that thing, that gives me pause to remember my humanity. So I give something up merely for the sake that the disrupption in routine makes me remember, but not for the cleanse of a so-called vice.

    I think you hit to the core of the issue. Abstaining from food creates a natural “timer” that returns my thoughts to whatever I’m fasting for. Every time my stomach growls and I go to reach for some food, my mind automatically thinks “Oh yeah, I can’t have that right now because I’m fasting for XYZ”. You would think that if something was really important to me I should be able to hold it in remembrance without that external trigger, but the reality is that life is busy and hectic and it is so easy to get distracted.

  19. 19.

    There is not much written about eating disorders in the church and ALL of what I have read centers around females and eating disorders. My husband who has been to the temple, owns a house, has a job, has had multiple leadership callings, and in all other aspects appears to be totally ‘normal’ has been bulimic for 16 years, since he was 14 years old. Having been bulimic for more of his life than not, it is a habit and is not something he is able to change easily. The resources for men and eating disorders are also limited (go try and find an inpatient therapy for men in the US, there’s only 4 and they mainly deal with the combination of alcoholism and eating disorders). And the shame that comes with it is also higher due to it being seen as a female disorder. So trying to find answers to my church type eating disorder questions are hard. But I do have a few, and figured this was as good a place as any to ask. I did appreciate your thoughts on fasting as I wasn’t sure what to think about it. Would it bug you if your spouse did though? I haven’t for a while, partly because I’m not sure how to do it with my husband around. Secondly temple worthiness? Concerning the Word of Wisdom, it more has to do with do you smoke? Drink? Whatever? Being overweight or a diet consisting only of McDonald’s isn’t going to keep you out, but is an eating disorder? My husband has pretty much stopped going the past couple of years as his disorder has gotten worse and worse and the binging and purging is multiple times a day. I feel it’s a good idea for him to go, but he disagrees and feels he isn’t worthy to. Are you married? How has your spouse helped or hindered your progression in your own life? I never know how to be helpful without sounding like the food police. General as a culture, the answer like you said is pray and read your scriptures and everything will work out the way it’s suppose to. Which in real life is not always the case, but do you think you could overcome an eating disorder by yourself and the Lord? Just wondering. The bishop can’t answer anything. Which he’s not a therapist or anything, but we’re encouraged to go to him with spiritual issues. And really eating disorders can definitely affect you spiritually. And my husband won’t go to an actual therapist therapist.

    I’ve been to recovery sites to ask questions, but it’s mainly frustrating as all I get is recovery women who say you should understand since you’re a woman or it’s so great you listen my boyfriend or husband just tells me stop. Number 1 I really don’t understand, it makes me very angry that my husband would destroy his body in this manner. And secondly I’d like to tell my husband to just stop, but I’m well aware that is doesn’t work like that especially since he’s been doing it for so long. Long comment, I don’t expect to get all the answers, just wondering what your thoughts were. Thanks.

  20. 20.

    Sorry for the slow response! But I’ve really appreciated these comments. A couple more thoughts.

    Anon X2 blogger, I totally know what you mean about how things like self-negation and perfectionism, which are frequently held up as virtues, can really reinforce these behaviors. The ideal of selflessness, losing yourself, etc., has always been particularly challenging for me, because it’s hard to see how self-care fits into that. I’ve finally started to see self-care as a responsibility rather than an indulgence, but I still cringe when I hear the word “selfishness” bandied about. The SI connection to Christ is something I’ve thought about, too. If our religious tradition tells us that physical suffering is redemptive, SI makes an odd kind of sense. (Have you ever read Levi Peterson’s The Backslider? I love the book simply because it’s so funny, but it also addresses that question.)

    I appreciate the different perspectives on fasting. Going back to my earlier question, I’m thinking that fasting can be either giving up something bad, as a kind of temporary intense focus that is part of a larger process of giving it up—or giving up something good, as a way of reminding yourself of spiritual things, pulling yourself out of your everyday life a little. I think it might help me to differentiate between the two.

    Inquiring Wife, that sounds really challenging. I’ve thought about that gender issue, noticing that all the people in treatment with me are women—what would you do if you were a man with an eating disorder (a population which is, unfortunately, increasing?) That’s tough.

    Since I’m single, I may not be much help with questions about what it’s like for a spouse (though if anyone else out there reading this is in that situation, it would be good to hear your thoughts!) With fasting, I don’t think I’d have a problem with family members doing it, though I can see that it might make me feel a bit self-conscious about eating when they weren’t—the logistics of that seem like the potentially tricky part. As far as temple worthiness, I can’t imagine that this would keep you out of the temple. None of the priesthood leaders I’ve talked to have thought that; my sense is that, insofar as the church is aware of this, it’s seen as an illness and not at all as a worthiness issue. Though I realize that on a personal level, that’s a lot harder to believe, because it’s so tied up with shame and guilt. I have other reasons for avoiding the temple, but I can relate to the question of whether or not to go to a place that’s a spiritual resource for you when you’re feeling the shame of this behavior. Do you take the sacrament, for example, if you’ve been bingeing and purging all night? Ideally, I would say, that’s when you need those resources the most, when things are really bad. But I know it can be hard to believe that when you’re feeling awful about what you’re doing. I will say that priesthood blessings have helped me at times, not as any kind of cure, but as a way of reconnecting to God, and feeling like God isn’t judging me over the behavior. But I’m skeptical about the possibility of recovery with just you and the Lord, especially if the behavior has been going on for that long. I’m sorry you’re in such a difficult situation. I wish I had more answers. (Once I get going with this series again, I’m planning to do a post on what can be helpful from other people, which maybe will speak to some of the other questions you asked.)

  21. 21.

    Excellent post(s) Tizrah – many insights, much thinking – thank you!

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