Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Conquer My Obsession With Weight?
“The biggest issue in my life is whether or not to put mayonnaise on my sandwich. How am I supposed to concentrate on anything when I’m obsessed with mayonnaise? Final verdict? No mayonnaise—it has too many calories. Anorexia wins again. I lose.”—Jaimee.
EATING disorders afflict millions of youths.a Most did not start out with the intention of starving themselves (anorexia) or of developing a pattern of bingeing and purging (bulimia). On the contrary, many began with the simple goal of losing a few pounds. Before they realized it, however, they were trapped in a bizarre cycle of starving or bingeing. “I began this whole diet to control my weight, but now it’s controlling me,” says Jaimee.
If you find that you are obsessed with food and its effect on your weight, what can you do? First, realize that many other youths have battled with eating disorders and have won! But how?
A Look in the Mirror
A major step in winning the battle against an eating disorder is coming to terms with your appearance. “Most people with eating disorders have a distorted self-image,” says the book Changing Bodies, Changing Lives. “They do not perceive their bodies realistically and are highly judgmental about themselves, especially their appearance.”
Indeed, some teens base their entire self-image on their physical form; any flaw is seen as catastrophic. “I am so fat I can’t stand it,” says 17-year-old Vicki. “My waist is so thick I can’t ever wear anything tucked in.” Even after losing 20 pounds [10 kg], Vicki was not satisfied. She either refused to eat or gorged herself and then vomited up what she had eaten.
Certainly it is not wrong for you to be concerned to a degree about how you look. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the Bible comments favorably on the physical form and appearance of a number of women and men, including Sarah, Rachel, Joseph, David, and Abigail.b The Bible even says that David’s nurse Abishag was “beautiful in the extreme.”—1 Kings 1:4.
Defining True Beauty
Nevertheless, the Bible does not place primary emphasis on one’s physical appearance or bodily shape. Rather, it extols “the secret person of the heart.” (1 Peter 3:4) It is the inner person that truly makes one either attractive or detestable in the eyes of God and men.—Proverbs 11:20, 22.
Consider King David’s son Absalom. The Bible states: “There proved to be no man so beautiful in all Israel as to be praised so much. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there proved to be no defect in him.” (2 Samuel 14:25) Yet, this young man was treacherous. Pride and ambition impelled him to try to usurp Jehovah’s appointed king. The Bible, therefore, does not paint a pretty picture of Absalom but portrays him as a man of shameless disloyalty and murderous hatred.
A person’s true beauty, or handsomeness, does not depend upon physical form. With good reason, the Bible states: “Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding. To your head it will give a wreath of charm; a crown of beauty it will bestow upon you.”—Proverbs 4:7, 9.
Admittedly, though, eating disorders are often motivated by more than dissatisfaction with one’s appearance. Says one reference work: “People who become food obsessed and fall prey to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and overeating, generally have low self-esteem—they do not have a high opinion of their own worth and feel that others do not value them, either.”
There are a number of factors that can contribute to feelings of low self-worth. The onset of puberty, for example, can flood you with feelings of uncertainty—especially if you have bloomed before your peers have. Then, too, some youths are raised in homes where there is constant turmoil, perhaps even physical or sexual abuse. Regardless of the cause, recovery usually involves coming to terms with whatever is fueling feelings of worthlessness. This means coming to appreciate your true value as a person. Surely, everyone has at least some commendable qualities. (Compare 1 Corinthians 12:14-18.) True, you may not see these in yourself, but a mature friend may be able to point these out to you.
But what if you really do need to lose weight for legitimate health reasons? The Bible recommends that we be “moderate in habits.” (1 Timothy 3:11) Hence, it is best to avoid going to extremes in dieting or falling victim to lose-weight-quick schemes. Perhaps the best way to shed unneeded pounds is to eat a healthy diet and get a reasonable amount of exercise. “As with most everything else,” says the magazine FDA Consumer, “there’s a right way and a wrong way to lose weight. The wrong way is to skip meals, resolve to eat nothing but diet bread and water, take diet pills, or make yourself vomit.”
The Power of Confiding in Someone
Social worker Nancy Kolodny compares having an eating disorder to “entering a maze alone, without a map or compass, unsure of the location of the exits, and unsure when or if you’ll find your way out. . . . The longer you’re in it the more it confounds and frustrates you as you try to spring free of it.” If you have symptoms of anorexia or bulimia, therefore, you need to get help. You cannot get out of the “maze” by yourself. So confide in a parent or another trusted adult. A Bible proverb states: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.
Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have found such trustworthy companionship among the elders in the Christian congregation. Of course, elders are not physicians, and their assistance will not replace the need for medical help. However, Christian overseers will not turn a deaf ear to “the complaining cry of the lowly one,” and their counsel and prayers can help to “make the indisposed one well” spiritually.—Proverbs 21:13; James 5:13-15.
If you do not feel comfortable confiding in someone face-to-face, put your thoughts in a letter, requesting a response. The important thing is to get the matter out in the open. “By acknowledging the fact that you can’t go it alone anymore,” writes Nancy Kolodny, “you’re making a commitment to allow someone else to help you from now on.” She adds: “These may be difficult steps for you to think about and take, but they’re positive ones, the kind that will put you in the right direction to get out of the maze.”
Christian youths have another powerful resource—prayer. Praying to God is not a psychological crutch. It is real and vital communication with the Creator, who understands you better than you understand yourself! (1 John 3:19, 20) Hence, while this is not Jehovah’s due time to wipe away all illnesses, our loving God can guide your steps so that you do not totter. (Psalm 55:22) From his own experience, the psalmist David wrote: “I inquired of Jehovah, and he answered me, and out of all my frights he delivered me. This afflicted one called, and Jehovah himself heard. And out of all his distresses He saved him.”—Psalm 34:4, 6.
By all means, then, express your deepest feelings to Jehovah God. “Throw all your anxiety upon him,” wrote the apostle Peter, “because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) To build appreciation for Jehovah’s loving-kindness, why not read carefully Psalms 34, 77, 86, 103, and 139? Meditating on these psalms will strengthen your conviction that Jehovah is loyal and wants you to succeed. By reading his Word, you will come to feel as did David, who wrote: “Whenever I am anxious and worried, you comfort me and make me glad.”—Psalm 94:19, Today’s English Version.
Be Patient—Recovery Is Gradual
Most who get help for an eating disorder do not recover overnight. Consider Jaimee, quoted at the outset. Even after she started getting help, she found it difficult to eat something as simple as a bowl of cereal. “I have to keep saying to myself that this is good for me, and I need food to live,” she says. “Each spoonful I eat seems to weigh a thousand pounds.”
Though at one time Jaimee was near death, she resolved to conquer her obsession with food. “I’m not going to die,” she said. “I’m going to fight this and win. I will overcome anorexia. It will be hard, but I will do it.” You can too!
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A balanced diet and a reasonable amount of exercise can help you control your weight