"The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear."
- Maya Angelou
Spirituality and Eating Disorders
At their core eating disorders are a spiritual problem. Almost all women with eating disorders have distorted and lost touch with their sense of identity and worth. This identity loss is pervasive to the extent that they lose touch with virtually every healthy aspect of their identity until their identity is their eating disorder. They no longer are capable of seeing themselves as women, daughters, mothers, artists, creations of God, and so on but see themselves exclusively as an eating disorder, or as the expression of an eating disorder. Their whole sense of identity revolves around their body and their eating disorder. A 19-year-old former patient who participated in a survey we conducted about the role of faith and spirituality in recovery wrote,
An eating disorder doesn't want just a part of your life, it wants it all-it demands it all. This was the case for me. Before I knew it, I was consumed by my eating disorder and spent 110% of my time thinking about food, weight, etc.
A 22-year-old former patient wrote,
Having an eating disorder hurt my spirituality and relationship with God just as it hurt everything else. There was north else-only an eating disorder to occupy my time and energy.
For many patients, the loss of their spiritual sense of identity is an extremely painful part of their experience. Many patients feel that they have lost God or that God has left them. They no longer feel worthy or deserving of God's love. A 25-year-old former patient wrote,
My eating disorder destroyed my relationship with God. It blocked me from God and I lost all faith and trust in God. I became very angry with God because I felt like God had abandoned me. Eventually, I just stopped thinking about God. My eating disorder became my God and my body became the Devil.
A 23-year-old former patient wrote,
My eating disorder robbed me of my relationship with God. I was in a personal anguish that shred my soul and threatened my spiritual and mortal life. I felt no love and saw no mercy. Anger consumed me. I felt abandoned and worthless. My heart turned bitter and hard. I cut God out of my life completely. My eating disorder robbed me of my self-worth. I felt like nothing. I could not feel love, for I was unlovable. I could not give love, for I was incapable. I lost my self-respect and went against all I believed to be true. It was a downward spiral that almost led to my death.
These statements help illustrate the damage an eating disorder can do to a woman's sense of spiritual identity and worth and to her relationship with God. One of the sad consequences for women who suffer with eating disorders is that through the course and development of the eating disorder, they often lose touch with what is most powerful within themselves. They become numb or lose contact with the feelings of their heart or spiritual identity and worth.