• Amber Hayes

God's Grace in My Eating Disorder


Disclaimer: Due to my husband’s pushiness, I have finally attempted to write about this. I have put it off until now because I didn’t really know how to unpack 5 years’ worth of emotions and struggle. But alas here we are. . . If you’re reading along, thanks. I pray that another story of the Lord’s redeeming love and power will bless you.

I remember the exact day that I became hooked by the lure of an eating disorder. I was a sophomore in high school. Ashamedly, my sister and I were watching a reality TV show on MTV after school. It seemed so simple and intriguing. A pretty and skinny girl exclaimed how she obtained and kept the appearance she had by eating small portions of food then purging. A combination of anorexia and bulimia.

I thought to myself, “Surely it’s not that easy.” And boy was I right.

I’ll spare you all of the gross details that become second nature when you’re wrapped up in this lifestyle. But I will tell you that an eating disorder involves much more than withholding from food and purging. From my experience, a hypercritical self-esteem turned into a dangerous addiction full of self-loathing and a false sense of body image.

As a high school cheerleader who had experienced a bad breakup, the pressure I put on myself to be skinny and pretty was enormous. I began to believe the lies of the world, namely that beauty is external. And ultimately, my attempt to fix my broken heart and to please man plunged me deep into the darkest season of my life.

The addiction lasted until I was a sophomore in college. I was trapped in my own head. Every thought was consumed by what people thought of me and how fat I was compared to others. I would count chips while eating out at a Mexican restaurant (I think I would limit myself to 10 chips) and order side salads minus the dressing as my entrée, only to purge it later before going home. I would wake up early to work out every day before school. I would chew gum until my jaws ached so I could burn calories while sitting in class. I even found myself always holding a particular posture so I could hide my stomach rolls when I sat. But the most damaging of it all was that I lost the reality of who I was. I had come to hate the person I saw in the mirror. I only saw what I needed to fix and was desperate to fix it. This cycle continued for so long that I completely lost sight of who I was before the eating disorder. I fought hard to appear happy and put together even though my moods were like a roller coaster. As time went on, by God’s grace, my friends and family began to catch on to my habits and call me out on them.

In God’s perfect sovereignty, he provided me with a new friend that for some reason I confided in. His name was Micah. Though I barely knew Micah, I unloaded my secrets and struggles onto him, and he listened. He helped me carry this burden like no one else had. He challenged me in my faith and called me out on my sinfulness. He pushed me to surrender this addiction to Jesus and let go of the lifestyle I was trapped in. Micah helped me to battle against the temptation to focus on myself and to instead focus on the Lord, who I had lost sight of in my struggles. God ultimately used a friendship to point me back to himself.

Looking back, I can see how God was ever-present through it all. He allowed me to experience a dark time to redeem me. He revealed my worldly passions and prideful heart. Quite frankly, I was in love with myself, or at least the self I thought I should be. I mistakenly believed my low self-esteem was humility. I was arrogant enough to believe that my plan for my life was infallible and perfect. I’m so glad I was wrong!

Praise God for loving me enough to bring my world crashing down around me. Through a long process of healing and restoration, I surrendered my addiction and fixed my eyes on Jesus, the only one who could pull me up out of the mess I had gotten myself into. Since then, I have never looked back. I have not once considered reliving my past struggle and actually don’t like to even talk about it. But what I do love to talk about is how Jesus saves. Again and again I am being made new and reminded of his redeeming love. Though the storms of this life come in different seasons and circumstances, the Giver of Life is continually giving me life! I am no longer filled with self-hatred, but I rejoice in the fact that I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. In Him I find hope and peace even in times of uncertainty. I can rest in the fact that God is sovereign and His plan is far greater than my own.

Praise God for redemption and grace. Praise God for using our mistakes for His glory. Praise God for new life in Jesus.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

#mentalhealth