Active Faith

God Healed Me of My Eating Disorder

"God just held me as I wept. He let me cry over something that I felt was so inconsequential..." by Seraphina Seow

From the ages of 12 to 21, I struggled with low self-esteem. When I was 19, this drove me into a disordered pattern of eating and exercise. How my body looked was the one thing I felt I could control and so I strived to do it well.

It started with a goal to lose weight for an event. I was obsessed with sticking to that goal. I started to restrict my calories. I remember feeling hungry after dinner and even being afraid to drink a glass of milk.

If my friends planned to go out for a meal, I would frantically check the menu online to work out which dish I could have, and it was all I could think about the hours leading up to the meal. In the end, I would make up excuses not to go.

I checked my body in the mirror every morning and I always felt dissatisfied with how I looked. “I have to be thinner,” was my daily thought.

I weighed myself every day. Even though the scale showed a very low number, I still thought I needed to lose more weight. I always felt cold despite the warm weather, and my hair became wispy and wiry.

When I met my parents’ friends after not seeing them for many months, they were taken aback by how thin I looked. I denied it of course, because I still thought I was not thin enough.

Then I discovered the realm of “clean eating.” At first, I thought it was a good way to move away from calorie-restriction, but it was still just a means of controlling my body. I began exercising more intensely. I feared salt, sugar and oil. I feared going out for meals because it meant losing control over food.

As a result, I became distant from my friends and gave my family a lot of grief. I lost my period again, despite being on medication. I started experiencing crushing headaches in the middle of exercise.

Our family holiday at the end of 2013 brought about a tiny shift. I came back from that trip realizing I did not have to eat clean all the time.

I could enjoy the foods I liked. In 2014, I started weightlifting to get away from the “thin” mindset. Nothing had truly changed, though–I was still trying to control my body. My daily thoughts still revolved around food and exercise more.

If I ate something I thought I shouldn’t eat, it led to more guilt and more restriction. If I couldn’t fit exercise into my day, I would become upset and anxious, and it, too, would lead to more restriction.

Though I told myself and my parents that this lifestyle was liberating me from my “thin obsession,” it really wasn’t. I looked less thin on the outside, but my mind was still controlled by fear.

In 2015, God revealed to me that I feared failure and people. Being afraid of failure made me anxious constantly. I was afraid to fail going to the gym, to fail at eating well, to fail to maintain a good body.

When I stepped into a leadership role that year, these fears controlled me. I was afraid to fail in leadership and I was afraid I would fail at being a Christian. Leading up to meetings each week, I was paralysed with dread and anxiety. Everything in me did not want to be there. I was afraid of what my peers would think of me.

I constantly felt judged and belittled. After every group meeting, I would breathe out a feeble “thank you God,” as I climbed into bed. The following day I would scrutinize everything I said during the meeting and would feel ashamed all over again.

Though I read the Bible, it didn’t seem like God was speaking to me through it. I felt empty and could not pretend that I wasn’t.

The story took a turn in August 2015, when I encountered a different side of God during a night at church. My pastor told us that Jesus is the lover of our souls and He wants to heal and bind up broken hearts. This had never sunk in before.

We closed our eyes and waited for the Holy Spirit to reveal a memory from our past that has affected us to this very day. The Holy Spirit led me to an incident that happened to me when I was 12–an event that I thought was long forgotten and meant nothing.

When I was in 7th grade, I had to give a presentation in front of my class. As I began to speak, my whole class started to laugh, including my teacher. I think it was because I was speaking so fast and had a foreign accent.

I felt numb and I could not hear my friends’ voices as we walked to the restroom after class. It wasn’t until one of them turned and asked me if I was okay that I burst into sobs. I cried because I had failed.

From that moment, I had made an unconscious promise that I would always be strong and in control.

The Holy Spirit also reminded me that a few weeks earlier, a woman at church had prayed for God to remove the pain from my heart. I had dismissed her prayer because I did not believe that I was in pain. This time, I put my hand up and someone tapped me on the shoulder to pray with me. When I opened my eyes and locked eyes with the same woman, I knew this moment was from God.

Sometimes, we are healed when we face brokenness with God. As the woman prayed for me that night, God just held me as I wept. He let me cry over something that I felt was so inconsequential and that I should not impatient with me. He let me be weak and broken in His presence and was not uncomfortable to see me like that. He wanted to heal me.

I learned that night that He is the lover of my soul. He continued mending my broken heart after that. He had to mend my view of Him too, showing me that His love could not be overstated. He showed me who I was–His beloved and His daughter. I began to get to know Him as a Father and my dearest friend.

As I encountered the pure love of God in full force, my fears disappeared. My disordered thoughts around food and my body were knocked off their high place. Love sat on the throne of my heart, and fear could not stand in His presence.

I have been completely free from my eating disorder since that very night. I do not hate my body or worry about what I eat. I can love Him with all my heart, soul and strength. I can love people with the love I have received from Him. I am no longer controlled by fear.

Seraphina Seow is a freelance writer who started her journey through writing short stories in high school. She lives with her husband in Melbourne, Australia.

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