Worshipping my Eating Disorder

In the throes of my eating disorder I was losing.

I lost part of my physical, emotional, and cognitive self. I had difficulty formulating thoughts…difficulty holding any feelings inside my body. I felt there was no room for them, falsely sensing that my body was so large that I could not fit sadness or anger. In reality, my frame was not big enough to hold any complicated emotions, it did away with anything beyond nourishment.

I lost my hopes.
I lost my relationships.
I lost myself.

I grew up in a religious home where rather than being preached to about what to believe, I was taught why we should believe.
I was extremely connected to my religiousity and could be found educating others and holding my head high when I practiced.

In the throes of my eating disorder I lost God.
My Anorexia became my religion.
I prayed to my eating disorder, willing it to stay strong, to guide me…believing it could fix my problems…believing it had the power to fix me.

Religious practices and holidays became empty, matching my soul. Rather than connect to the services I found myself thinking about weight and appearance.

I continued to pray but found myself thinking about food, exaggerating my movements during the prayers in the hopes of burning calories.
My eating disorder became a higher power and I turned to it for relief.

And then it all changed…

My faith was restored when one day I was approached by a peer. This was during my stay at a residential treatment facility. She asked to speak to me and we sat down in the client lounge, enveloped by a cozy white couch and sunlight. “Why hasn’t God fixed my eating disorder? Why does He let me suffer?” she asked.

I explained to the young woman that if she wanted recovery she would need to realize that if her eating disorder served as her higher power, she would make no religious or spiritual progress.

I returned to my room, sat down on my bed, and opened my mind and soul. I was impacted by my own words echoing in my head and it abruptly dawned on me that it was time to apply them to myself.

I started by finding meaning once again in prayer. For a few moments each day I turned to God rather than my eating disorder.
These moments turned to minutes.
The prayer Refa’aynu (“Make Us Well”) became my sanctuary.
After weight restoration I was able to think clearly and to know that I would need the comfort and function of my spirituality to be on my team during my battle against my eating disorder.

I did not waste my time feeling angry with God. Instead I turned my energies toward shifting my religious practices from being sources of risks and anguish, to becoming sources of comfort.

Shabbat became a day of rest from my eating disorder.
Brachot (blessings) became a way to remind myself that my body was functioning and fighting for me, even if I abhorred my appearance.
Davening (daily prayer) became a way to escape from the eating disorder and pray for help.

Religion became a vehicle in my recovery, as I incorporated it into my journey to health.

Once I embraced this added element of spirituality I gained.
I gained trust.
I gained relationships.
I gained a part of myself that supported me during my recovery.

And I broke away from Anorexia as my Higher Power…I regained my connection to God.



About the Author
Temimah Zucker, LMSW is a primary therapist at Monte Nido Manhattan and also works in private practice in the fields of eating disorders, self-esteem, and mental health. Temimah writes and publicly speaking on these subjects and is also an adjunct professor in NYC teaching on the subject of the treatment of eating disorders. For information or inquiries please see her website.
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