Mar 27, 2015

Eating Disorders and Prayer

by Ella Walker Henderson, M.A., LPC, NCC

Eating disorders create a common but misunderstood and misjudged problem in our world. Often parents or friends believe someone could recover if they would just eat. Yes, food is a large part of the problem, but it helps to look at food as a symptom rather than the root of the struggle. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and carry a wide range of underlying issues. Education and awareness are important because of the many myths surrounding this problem. By learning more, you can better support and love a person who struggles with an eating disorder. Recovery requires deep healing on many levels.


The most well-known eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Other diagnoses are binge-eating disorder, other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) and unspecified feeding or eating disorders (USFED). All eating disorders must have clinically significant impairment in functioning to be diagnosed.

Anorexia is characterized by low weight, fear of weight gain, self-esteem overly defined by body image, and denial of the significance of the problem. Anorexia includes two subtypes: restricting type and binge-eating/purging type. Most people may mistake binge-eating/purging type of anorexia as bulimia, but the difference is that those who struggle with bulimia maintain a normal weight.

Bulimia includes patterns of consuming large amounts of food at once (binge-eating), followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain (purging), such as self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise to "burn-off" all calories consumed. While binge-eating, the person feels out of control. Bulimia is also characterized by a self-esteem overly influenced by body image. A listing of the warning signs of both anorexia and bulimia can be found on the National Eating Disorder Association's website,

Binge-eating disorder is similar to bulimia because of the overlap in binge-eating patterns. However, binge-eating disorder lacks the purging behaviors of bulimia. Signs that binge-eating is out of control can include shame regarding eating habits, eating in isolation, eating when not hungry, and eating past physical comfort. Those who struggle with binge-eating disorder can be of normal weight or higher than average weight. Binge-eating disorder often overlaps with symptoms of depression.

Although not formal diagnoses, orthorexia and diabulimia are two types of eating disorders that can cause clinically significant impairment. Orthorexia involves an obsession with healthy eating or clean eating. Those who struggle with orthorexia seek to eat only the foods they deem pure or high quality. This rigid form of eating can become highly intertwined with an individual's self-esteem, and the person may compare themselves to others and feel self-righteous because of food choices. These patterns become a problem when they begin to interfere with daily functioning and other conflicting values and goals of a person's life.

Diabulimia is a form of an eating disorder only applicable to those with Type 1 Diabetes. The person purposefully reduces his or her insulin intake to lose weight. The medical risks of this disorder are severe. Signs of diabulimia can include signs related to other eating disorders, especially bulimia, in the increased consumption of sugary foods and also lack of weight gain or unexplained weight loss. Also, further signs related to diabulimia are blood sugar records inconsistent with hemoglobin levels and secrecy about blood sugar levels and shots.

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