Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fasting or Starving?

Lots of people are swearing off chocolate or soft drinks for the next 40 days and calling it a fast, or a sacrifice. Some of us aren't really doing it to sacrifice; we are doing it to lose weight.  As a culture, we are extremely focused on appearance. Many people are nearly always trying to lose a couple of pounds.

Eating disorders aren't in the news as much as they were when my girls were teens but they remain a clear and present danger to our kids, especially our daughters, but increasingly also to our sons. They are serious, life-threatening illnesses. The exact causes remain unknown but it seems that self-esteem, body image, societal and family pressures, along with heredity all play a role in creating the perfect storm of an eating disorder.

The following is an excerpt from the blog Small Steps Upward written by a young woman I know who has been doing battle with anorexia for almost half of her life. She writes:

 I’m currently sitting at a coffee shop, wasting time before my group therapy session this evening. I am eating my snack, scrolling through different websites on my computer, listening to the music and the conversations that surround me. I hear the door open and a woman walk up to her friend. The first words out of her mouth are, “Oh my god, you look so thin! You’ve lost so much weight!” There’s no “hello, how are you?” in this conversation. 

Oddly, I find this to be infuriating.

I do not know these women. But, as they stand behind me, waiting for their drinks, the woman continues to praise her friend for losing weight. She then states, “I’m so jealous, you look great!”

Perhaps it’s because I’m seeking an identity outside of my size that I find this conversation to be frustrating. When did it become the social norm to make running commentaries on peoples’ appearances? How did it become acceptable to pick apart every minute detail of someone’s looks?

How indeed? Maybe this season of fasting can be a time to examine our family and personal attitudes toward food, shape, health, and exercise. How much attention do we pay to appearances? When the prophet Samuel was sent to anoint a new king, he was quite impressed with Jesse's son Eliab. "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:7)

It is challenging, but necessary, for us to look into our own hearts. What do you love about your child? What do you see in his or her heart? Do you know in your own heart that your child feels loved and accepted as is? Is there anything in your heart that will cause you to send your child a message that she or he is not acceptable? Is there any doubt that your child is created in the Maker's image? Celebrate what you love about your child. Ask God to work in your heart so that you will love your child unconditionally. Unconditional love is the most powerful prevention available.

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