Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2021: Lets all swim upstream

In light of NEDA week 2021, I feel a responsibility to take a stand.

I don’t love this week in the end of February every year. I spent so many years in and out of the hospital and treatment centers, I am hesitant to give eating disorders any extra thought or attention. I also do not like acknowledging how many times I hit rock bottom and was placed in the hospital for anorexia, but it seems important to put the number out there: Twelve times. If my math is correct, that accounts for roughly two and a half to three years of my life between the ages of 13 and 28.

In a culture that continues to blur the lines between healthy and disordered eating, I believe it is vital for those who daily battle this beast to speak out. I spent nearly two decades consumed by the avoidance of consumption and the desperate attempt to shrink into nothing. The whole time, my size was applauded by doctors, cross country coaches, trainers, and countless others.

Eating disorders are encouraged by the media, by the medical world, and by the many other sources we encounter daily. I know very few humans who are not in some way influenced by inappropriate elevation of thinness, fitness, and unhealthy preoccupation with food. And this is the “non-eating disordered” community.

After ten years of solid recovery under my belt, I can say confidently that recovering from anorexia in our culture is like swimming upstream against raging rapids. In order to maintain recovery, I must constantly capture my thoughts and replace them with truth. I must evaluate my choices regarding food and exercise with vigilance, and I must prayerfully take it to the feet of my Lord.

Ten years into recovery, I still consider myself “in recovery.” I challenge everyone, in light of NEDA week, to evaluate our relationship with food, weight, exercise, and our bodies. If we have to work continually to maintain a certain weight, I venture to say that it is not the weight where our body wants to be.

How much does culture inform our expectations of our own bodies and the bodies of our children?

How much energy goes into maintaining a certain body type, and is it truly worth it when we consider the true vapor that is our life?

What are our values, and does our relationship with food align with our truest values? So this post is one of awareness.

I plead with everyone, let’s shine light on the lies that we believe about our bodies, food, and the necessity to fit into a certain mold.

Every day is a battle of the mind. It still is, but I know I’m not alone. And we can change the narrative for ourselves, our children, and generations to come.

No more living in fear and desperately grasping for control. This is my narrative: I am loved. I want my every choice to reflect my identity as the beloved. His kingdom is my home, and I have nothing to prove by moving the number on the scale. It only reflects my relationship with gravity, and since when has gravity ever held me down?

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Pastor Al Gilbert

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