[ Godsends ]

Facing Bulimia, with Faith

Even at the tender age of eight, I bought into the promises of diets. I believed that if I were smaller, just a little thinner, then I would be a better person. Satan worked overtime to be sure that I believed that lie.

My dieting lifestyle continued and the eating-disordered thoughts remained in my mind throughout middle and high school and into my college years. After gaining my "Freshman 15," I decided that I needed to use more drastic measures to lose the weight; my dieting wasn't working anymore. That's when thoughts of purging came into my mind. Bulimia quickly took residence in me and I found myself locked in the binge and purge cycle.

It didn't take long before I had lost complete control and depression hit hard. My eating disorder owned me, lied to me and made me miserable. It was the fall of 1997 when I dropped to my knees in my lonely apartment, weeping in hopelessness and completely fatigued – emotionally and physically! I couldn’t stand it another day; I was in a destructive cycle that I couldn’t get myself out of. I cried out to Jesus for help. Jesus knew my secret, but He was the only one.

I reached for the phone and dialed the treatment center’s number that was written on a crumbled piece of paper. To my disappointment, I was greeted by the hospital’s answering machine. I cried myself through a message telling whoever would listen that I had an eating disorder and I needed help!

Within five minutes, I received a callback from a nurse at the Eating disorder unit at Iowa Lutheran Hospital. I told her everything; I knew she would understand since she worked with it everyday. I told her how both of my eyes had broken blood vessels, how I had had a sinus infection for months because I couldn’t keep any antibiotics down, how I was running seven miles a day, how I was taking 18 college semester hours and I was burnt out, how I couldn’t ever measure up to what I wanted to be, and how I couldn’t control my life.

I felt guilty, unlovable, depressed, and hopeless. I didn’t want to go on because I couldn’t imagine happiness again. I didn’t love myself and I could not satisfy my standards. Leslie, the nurse, said I needed to be checked into the hospital immediately and that I needed to quit school for at least a semester to begin the road of recovery.

Once again, I got down on my knees and prayed. This couldn’t be the answer. I could not leave college and be put in a hospital! Everyone would find out. Leslie said that the first step was to tell my parents and Nathan (my boyfriend at the time, now my husband) – so I prayed for the courage to take that step.

After sharing my struggles, they became my biggest cheerleaders. They were not disappointed in me; they wanted me to be healed. The most important way they supported me was through prayer. It was hard for them to understand what I was facing, but they always reminded me that I was never alone.

I quickly learned that my eating disorder was stronger than me, but that God was stronger than the eating disorder. Relying on my faith, I began a long three-year process of recovery. I attended Ridgeview Institute in Georgia when I came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas break. Then in February of 1998, I spent three days a week at the Iowa Lutheran Eating Disorder Center – where I was treated for bulimia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression. My professors were very understanding and let me turn in my assignments over e-mail during hospitalization. I met with a Christian counselor every week, a psychiatrist, joined a weekly support group and worked with a nutritionist.

God is so good and He wants more than anything for each of us to find happiness and fulfillment in our lives. I knew that God did not give this problem to me; I also knew that He was teaching me through my struggle and using it for good. He promises us that truth in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.” He always reminded me that through this I would be able to reach out to others, and learn to know Him better.

I am fully recovered now and it feels good! When looking back, I consider the pain of hopelessness of my experience a blessing because I am now more thankful for this life God has given me. I am also ready and equipped to help others, like so many people helped me.

Through this trial, Christ prepared me for ministry! I am now leading an eating disorder support group and able to be one-on-one with those who God has called me to serve.

Getting to this point, however, was not an easy road. I wouldn’t necessarily use the word “patient” if asked to describe my personality, but God has taught me a lesson through my recent experience that His timing is not MY timing and that HIS timing is the RIGHT timing.

Beginning in early 2002, I felt strongly called to begin a support group in my town. Excitedly, I began planning everything; I made fancy flyers, got a support group phone number, advertised in local papers, sent notices to all the eating disorder specialists in the area… and then prepared to begin my ministry. My church congregation even added the support group to its yearly budget, so I was set.

I waited patiently the first few weeks for someone to come to the group… nobody showed up. I waited a few months… nobody showed up. I’d get a few calls, e-mails and I would be sure that I would have someone, but no one ever showed up. I began questioning myself, “Was this my idea, or was it God’s?”

At times, I began to doubt my calling. I ventured on for more months, sitting alone in the church, just waiting. In August of 2002, my husband and I were blessed with a baby girl. Her arrival prompted me to put my plans for the support group on hold until life settled down.

One year after having our baby, Faith, I applied to be a contestant in the Mrs. Georgia pageant. In this pageant, every contestant selects a platform, the topic she would speak on if she were chosen to represent Georgia. My platform, “A Hunger for Something Greater: Eating Disorder Awareness and Prevention,” came from my heart.

That brings to me to where God has placed me now. In April of 2004, I was crowned Mrs. Georgia, and with it received the huge responsibility of sharing the danger of eating disorders. Yes, He has blessed me again, but in doing so, He’s also made me more accountable, because “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required.” (Luke 12:48) My favorite scripture, from Philippians 4:13, reminds me that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Shortly after being crowned, I began to witness firsthand God’s blessings. Opportunities were made available to me that was clearly God’s work. I had newspaper, magazine and radio interviews – all focused on helping people with eating disorders. I was blessedly given the opportunity to be a special guest on Fox 5’s “Good Day Atlanta” to discuss my elementary school outreach program, which focuses on preventing eating disorders. I also took my testimony and message of hope directly to churches, schools and college campuses.

The most obvious blessing, however, was in how God’s plan for my support group finally came to fruition – in His timing. The media attention gave my support group the public awareness it needed to attract others and help them.

My support group now has 10 - 15 ladies per meeting. What a blessing! I am constantly challenged and sometimes discouraged, but then I remember the huge opportunity I was given as a result of patience and trust. I also learned to recognize that those doubts were Satan’s way of trying to stop God’s work. Opposition is going to be present whenever God’s will and plan for you are being met. But the good news is: “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

What is God calling you to do with your life? Do you struggle with something that you need to surrender to Jesus? Seek the Lord in sincere prayer with the belief that you will receive healing…and perhaps a new calling. When God tugs on your heart – ACT! Then step back and let Him lead you. You will be amazed by His power and active hand working through you. Pray, listen, and go out and glorify the King!

Julie G.

Dacula, GA