Volleyball Trips and Second Chances

I cram my suitcase with all the essentials – knee pads, a fluffy blanket, and a plethora of snacks. I shove the mound of things into the outermost corner to allow room for my pillow.

It’s that time of year again. Volleyball season is in full swing. October 1st announces the eve of nationals.

As I pack for our trip, I can’t help but recall the 2017 national tournament in Missouri. The memories bring back a collection of mixed emotions.

I remember feeling anxious, to say the least. Anxious at the thought of frequent fast-food outings and the eight-hour long bus ride that was to be expected. I was anxious at the thought of leaving home – the thought of leaving my strictly regimented routine.

Yet I was also excited. Excited to get away from my mother’s all-seeing eye. Excited at the opportunity to further restrict my food intake. Excited to exercise in secret. Excited for all the wrong reasons.

Overall, the week was a blur. My focus was solely food. I was starving. My empty stomach distracted from friends, sightseeing, and conversations to be had.

One night, we made a stop at Steak and Shake for dinner. In a frenzied panic, I ordered a grilled chicken salad. I asked that the bacon strips and croutons be removed. I asked for dressing on the side. I mentally tallied the numbers. Too much, I thought. Still too much. Too unhealthy. Too fattening. I requested “no cheese, please.”

My plate arrived, a pitiful portion of lettuce, shredded carrot, and chunks of chicken – a meal that provided zero happiness, satisfaction, or enjoyment.

My friends laughed through mouthfuls of onion rings. The cute cashier was probably the main topic of conversation. But I wouldn’t know. I was barely present, lost in my own world of self-destruction.

I wish I could go back. I would order the greasiest cheeseburger for the girl with cold hands. I would purchase a large Oreo milkshake for the girl with hollow cheeks. And yes, I would like an order of fries with that. But the experience goes far beyond a substantial meal.

I wish I could go back to the people. I wish I were there to participate in deep discussions. I would play card games and joke about the attractive cashier. I would stay up late to talk about the newest Netflix series that is “so addictive.” I would braid hair whilst talking about boys.

If only I could go back, I would spend less time in the bathroom. Less squats, more socializing. Less tears, more talking. No regrets, only sweet remembrance.

But, wish as I might, I can’t go back. I cannot retrieve wasted time.

Throughout the Bible, we see many examples of God’s mercies. He offers free forgiveness and bestows upon us second chances.

As I prepare for a week of volleyball games, I count it all joy that I have been given a do-over! I do not take this trip for granted. I am so grateful to travel with my friends – not only to eat food together, but to giggle, grow, and play as a team.

I look forward to the long drive. I look forward to the convenience of fast-food. I look forward to strengthened relationships, and best of all, I look forward to winning the championship title with my girls!

– Taylor

Eat Food, Not Numbers

As a happy-go-lucky toddler, I loved food. I was considered a “good eater.” I found pleasure and enjoyment in food.

Then, as an irritable teenager, I still loved food. But I hated it too. I was very selective with the foods I ate. Eating had become a chore. I found no pleasure or enjoyment in food.

As a four-year-old, I cried when I didn’t have my way. I cried when I wasn’t allowed to eat a particular snack. At fourteen, I cried when I was made to eat a particular snack. Why such the extreme turn of events?

Here’s the thing: there’s no joy in eating numbers. When food is diminished to calories, carbs, fats, and proteins, the fun is completely sucked out of eating.

Food is a social thing. It is something to be shared among people. It draws families together. It brings laughter, conversation, and an occasional tear to the dinner table.

But when food is diminished to mere numbers on a box, the social aspect of eating is fully removed. Food becomes a task.

When the social component is taken out, you are left feeling isolated and detached. You might sit around a group of people where food is the centerpiece, but you are unable to participate in meaningful discussions. You might sit there, but you aren’t present. Instead, you’re wondering why she has yet to start on her mashed potatoes. Why didn’t she clean her plate? What did she eat earlier today? Has she eaten more or less than I? At mealtimes, you sit awkwardly, not knowing how to fit in.

Food is also an emotional thing, although I dislike the term “emotional eating.” Typically, this phrase has a negative connotation to it. People look down upon eating to your emotions. However, we can’t deny that eating is simply a natural response to our feelings of happiness, excitement, bliss, sorrow, heartache, and all of the emotions in between.

But when food turns to numbers, the emotional parts of eating go away. For example, an anorexic doesn’t eat birthday cake for the sheer fun of it. It is a methodical procedure, involving lots of planning. Emotions play no role in choosing what to eat. It all boils down to numbers.

Whether or not you realize it, you are robbing yourself of joy! You are selling yourself short. You are keeping yourself from pleasure and enjoyment.

If there’s anything to be learnt from this post, eat food! Eat real, processed food. Stop eating numbers. Stop eating calories and macronutrients. Stop diminishing food to digits and percentages.

Eat food for the joy that it’s worth! Eat when you’re happy. Eat when you’re stressed. Eat when you’re tired. Eat when you’re bored. Eat when you plain ‘ole just want to eat! Engage in conversations, and eat food for food.

There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand. ~ Ecclesiastes 2:24

– Taylor

A Poem on Sin and Redemption

Sin is the stain that will not wash away.

It kills, ensnares, and tangles

In such a harmful way.

It has left our world a filthy place –

In utter disarray.

Sin has kept us from partaking

In God’s glorious display.

But Jesus showed His love for us

When He came to make a way.

He took upon a lowly form

To break sin’s mighty sway.

He bore God’s wrath and died for us,

Though His body did not decay.

He arose in full splendor

On that bright, Easter Day!

The story is not over,

For we all rejoice to say,

That sin is the stain,

Erased by Yahweh.

– Taylor

Recovery and Counting Calories

Throughout my course of anorexia, I made several attempts at recovery. Unsuccessful attempts, at that. I had wanted to prove that I was capable of getting well on my own – that I could, singlehandedly, reach a recovered state.

A recurring pattern was seen among my unsuccessful attempts. For one, I was always hesitant at the idea of full recovery, or, more specifically, the idea of complete abandonment of my eating disorder. Ultimately though, the most constant theme was that I continuously and persistently counted calories, even amidst my efforts to recover. This seemed, to my disordered brain, a good option. After all, it was important that I ate sufficiently. Tracking my caloric intake appeared to be the best way by which to monitor that.

This thinking was incredibly false and did nothing to improve my mental condition. Counting calories was not helpful. In fact, it was dangerously harmful!

How, you may be wondering, could calorie counting prove to be so destructive? I’m glad you asked.

For an anorexic sufferer, there is an incessant fixation on food – an unhealthy obsession, if you will. Inserting calorie counting into the mix of already chaotic thinking only amplifies the disarray. When an anorexic decides to begin counting calories, they are forced to think about food in a detailed manner, more so than is already being done. It forces the individual to direct their thoughts to questions such as: What is a serving size? How many servings did I eat? How many calories are in xx servings?

Calorie counting can become a religious practice in as much as Bible reading or prayer. One may begin to elevate calorie counting to the point that it controls their decision to eat or not to eat a specific food.

In addition to calories, one may begin to count macronutrients, which could lead to further restriction of foods.

If I have failed to make myself clear, let it be known that calorie counting is an anorexic behavior. Therefore, an anorexic cannot expect to recover while participating in anorexic behaviors. All of this I say to confirm my point that it is nearly impossible to recover while counting calories.

Aside from the few exceptions, normal people do not track their caloric consumption. And yet, these same people are able to eat sufficiently. My brother is nine years old and has no trouble preparing himself a suitable meal. Mind you, he doesn’t count calories. Why then, do anorexics argue that they must record their intake in order to eat adequately?

In all truthfulness, it is a means of control – a way to satisfy the ever-present desire to manage food. It is a means of resisting recovery. A means by which to continue with your eating disorder.

When I was sick, I often retreated to My Fitness Pal to keep a history of what I had eaten. This app, though seemingly beneficial, became a hindrance to my recovery.

Perhaps you have struggled in similar circumstances. You struggle with counting calories or checking the nutrition panels of foods. Even so, you are stronger than you think.

First and foremost, I would suggest that you delete any and all applications relating to food or exercise. If recovery is the goal, do not engage in anorexic behaviors, no matter how tempting.

Eating sufficiently does not require that you count calories. Eating sufficiently simply requires that you eat without restriction. For someone in the early phases of recovery, this is a lot easier said than done. Nonetheless, you know when you are restricting. You know better than anybody else. You know what a proper portion looks like, and it isn’t always a size small.

My advice? Don’t count calories. It isn’t useful, and besides, who likes math anyway?

– Taylor

The Pursuit of Perfection and American Girl Dolls

Anorexia or not, I’ve always been the perfectionist type. I’m the type to scrap an entire sheet of paper because of (what I consider to be) poor handwriting. Then, I’ll start all over. And if the ink smears? Trash that page too. I’ll rewrite it.

My perfectionism is also made manifest in my bedroom. I like things to be kept so-so. I have a particular system of organization, and, if you’re smart, you won’t interfere with me and my methods of arrangement. I like for my bed to be made, my floors kept clear, and my laundry folded as crisp and flat as can be.

Okay, I hope you get it. I’m perfectionistic. I don’t need to rant or spend an unnecessary amount of time giving examples of my strange absurdities.

Bearing all of this in mind, however, we’re brought to a story that I’d like to share.

Anyway, on my tenth birthday, I was surprised with a trip to the American Girl Doll store in Atlanta, Georgia. Talk about pink in its pinkest form! Pink walls. Pink floors. Pink shelves. Pink boxes. An explosion of pink. And glitter – oh, tons of glitter! Glitter by the gallon.

For the first ten years of my bliss-filled life, I had considered myself a tomboy. But, it was at this very moment that I temporarily converted to girly-girlism.

To say that I was “in love” would have been an understatement. I was engrossed – infatuated – with these beautiful dolls, adorned in pink.

I wandered around the store, lost in my own happiness. I roamed the seemingly endless aisles of doll clothes, doll furniture, doll accessories, doll books, dolls.

At last, I landed on a display of look-alike dolls. I searched for my twin. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Brown-ish skin. She was beautiful – perfect even! We made an immediate connection, me and that doll. I wanted her with all of my ten-year-old heart!

In short, I left the store in a contented state with a new friend clutched tightly in my arms. She was my pride and joy!

As any good mother would, I decided that I would take my doll – whom I later named Kate – with me, wherever I went. Yet I would keep her hair in its original condition – glossy, unknotted, perfect. She would always be fully dressed and fully prepared for whatever I planned to do.

I started out with good intentions, and indeed, my intentions remained “good.” But problematic circumstances (or perhaps my sheer clumsiness) got in the way of my good intentions.

Several months into my motherhood, a terrible misfortune occurred. I dropped my beloved doll atop the concrete pavement. In doing so, the tip of Kate’s nose chipped off. It was only a small scrape, but I was absolutely devastated!

My perfectionistic (aka borderline insane) personality kicked into overdrive. I was not only mad at myself and my utter klutziness, but I was irritated with my doll for having suffered such a calamity, as if, such a thing had been her fault.

She was no longer perfect. She was flawed, damaged, marred. She, due to her wounded nose, had lost her luster. And likewise, I had lost pride in my doll.

According to my own way of thinking, Kate was now undeserving of my attention and affection. I would have argued that Kate was no longer useful, as if her usefulness had lain in the tip end of her nose. She was unworthy of my time and energies.

Contrary to my previous desires, I no longer wanted to carry Kate along with me. In fact, I would have liked to purchase a new doll in replacement, if only I had had the funds to do so. I desired nothing less than perfect. A strong demand, yes, but my standards were unwilling to waver.

For the most part, I kept these harsh emotions inward. But I did, at some point, share with my mom about how I was feeling. I briefly explained that, because of my doll’s misshapen nose, I no longer had any interest in playing with her. I even voiced that I had considered sending her off to the American Girl Doll Hospital, all in hopes that she might be returned to perfection.

I expected that my mom would rebuke my unrealistic expectations or roll her eyes at my silly thinking. But instead, she said in a matter-of-fact way, “Taylor, there’s nothing wrong with her nose. Sure, it may be broken, but it just shows that she has been well-loved. It shows that she has been worn by the experiences of life. It shows that she has ‘lived a little.'”

Although you may be thinking that I was a bit irrational or unreasonable towards my doll, you might relate to my story more than you’d like to admit.

Too often have I seen girls criticize themselves because of flaws that are out of their control. They berate themselves due to their faults or deem themselves unworthy on account of their mistakes. They condemn themselves because of their weaknesses or shortcomings. They attack themselves owing to their blemishes. Girls critique and revile their own bodies when they fall short of perfection.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with observing your body or acknowledging your frailties. But when it gets to the point that you are unhappy with your God-given frame, then it becomes an issue. In this way, not only are you harming yourself, but you are insulting the One who created you!

My friend, you are not defined by your scars. You are not defined by your shortcomings or your errors or your defects. Your worth is not found in appearance or in a number. Your value is in Jesus Christ, who died that you might live eternally!

Maybe you have some visibly obvious imperfections. You have a past that you fear may never be forgotten by others. Nonetheless, you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)!

Your infirmities and failures are proof that you have been worn by the experiences of life. I’m not condoning bad behavior or excusing misconduct. I’m not saying that it’s okay to create damage by partaking in sin. But if you struggle to accept that your worth is not defined by your past, I’m here to proclaim that your worth was determined at the cross!

Jesus loves you unconditionally. He doesn’t ask that you be perfect. He doesn’t even ask that you be close to perfect. He gently asks that you come, for His power is made PERFECT in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

– Taylor

10 Tactics to Defeating Temptations

If you have had an eating disorder, you are probably familiar with the horrifying thoughts that threaten to swallow you whole. The thoughts that condemn and beat you into the ground. The thoughts that seem to control every decision you make.

I wish I could say that these thoughts can be easily overcome. But to be quite frank, recovery sucks. It isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and hard work. So if you’re looking for a quick escape from your eating disorder, you may want to start looking elsewhere.

Recovery is a decision to be made every single day. Ultimately, you decide how to handle the convicting voices. And often times, this means to simply sit with them. Just sit with the voices. You can listen to them, but don’t give into them – there’s a big difference between the two.

During my recovery, I was frequently bombarded with negative, hurtful thoughts. And with them, temptations came flooding in. The temptation to omit butter from my oatmeal. The temptation to pour my orange juice down the sink when my mom looked away. The temptation to exercise at night or in the early morning. The temptation to lie about what I’d eaten. The temptation to do squats in the shower. The temptation to put one less slice of lunch meat on my sandwich.

These thoughts and temptations can be almost too much to handle, which is why I think it’s important to find distractions – things to temporarily disengage you from the voices.

Listed below are some suggested distractions to use when the thoughts and temptations hit. I found that these were all helpful for me during my own recovery:

1) Watch TV while you eat, particularly something funny. It’s a good distraction from your food, and besides, it’s hard to feel upset while watching a lighthearted show or movie!

2) Listen to music during mealtimes. My counselor recommended that I listen to “Make War” by Tedashii. The empowering lyrics and upbeat tune gave me the motivation I lacked to eat past my fears (“Worn” by Tenth Avenue North, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey, “Human” and “Tiny Victories” by Christina Perri, and “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara are just a few of the songs that I especially enjoyed amidst recovery).

3) Write during your free time. Write about your day. Write about your dreams or future plans. Write your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

4) Call or visit a friend. Social interactions are so, so important in recovery. Surround yourself with people that will encourage you, both in words and in action – specifically people that aren’t dieting or trying to lose weight. Surround yourself with normal eaters.

5) Draw or color a picture. I know, I know. You might insist that you’re “too old” for coloring, as if that’s a thing. But both activities are soothing and therapeutic. It’s an easy distraction from food, and, when finished, you’ll have a beautiful piece of artwork!

6) Play a board game. When I began recovery, I remember my dad suggesting that we play cards together. I didn’t necessarily welcome the idea at first, but it proved to be a fun time! It was a good bonding experience, and it kept my thoughts, though only temporarily, off of food and exercise.

7) Play video games. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but I am pretty competitive. Whether it be Mario Kart, Wii bowling, or Fortnite, video games are a good distraction from other things. And for those that aren’t as accustomed to electronic gaming (e.g., myself), it can be a nice change of pace.

8) Read a book. Although reading has become sort of old-fashioned nowadays, it will never go out of style! Transport yourself to foreign countries and travel across the globe. Go on adventures and meet new people, and all with the turn of a page!

9) Take a bubble bath – seriously! Scientific studies have shown that bathing can alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. Blast the Spotify and relax! Lay back and soak it in. You deserve it!

10) Dig into God’s Word. Yeah, yeah. Maybe you aren’t religious. You don’t believe in God. You have an eating disorder, not a spiritual crisis. But please, just try. The Bible is God’s way of speaking directly to you. He loves you so much! In fact, God is love (1 John 4:8). “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:4).”

I could give plenty more suggestions, but these are my top ten favs! Some may sound generic or unoriginal, but, speaking from past experience, all were beneficial to my overall mental health.

I recommend that each be done from a seated position. Anorexia hates the notion of remaining idle. Thus, you sit still.

Don’t combat negative thoughts with restriction or exercise. Don’t give into Anorexia. Don’t give into her temptations. Don’t sneak off to the bathroom to compulsively burn calories or to hide food away. It’s not worth it. You, are worth more.

– Taylor

My Experience With Eating Disorder Treatment

Let’s talk about therapy. For some, this could be a touchy subject. For others, perhaps a comforting topic of conversation. Regardless of where you stand, here’s my take on the issue.

About a year and a half ago, my mom made the decision to seek help from a trained professional on my behalf. Time and time again, I had proven that I was incapable and unwilling to choose recovery. Thus, she took it upon herself to find help.

I expected I would meet with an eating disorder specialist or a recovery coach of some sort. However, this was not the case. In December of 2017, I began my sessions with a Biblical counselor.

Right away, I openly admitted my fears and apprehensions. I unloaded what I had kept hidden inside for so long. I talked through my struggles and concerns surrounding food. I confided in my counselor, as though I had known her for years.

Several weeks into our sessions, it was suggested that we do a Bible study together. I was slightly taken aback by this proposal. I was disinterested, to say the least. I was not there to listen to sermons. Trust me, I was receiving my fair share of those at home.

It irritated me that my counselor would recommend a Bible study. She doesn’t get it, was my immediate reaction. She doesn’t understand what I’m going through. She doesn’t comprehend the depth of my illness. If only she could grasp that I don’t need more lectures. I don’t need to read more Bible stories. I need someone to listen to my story. I need a meal plan, not a Bible plan.

I went into the whole ordeal with somewhat of a closed mindset. I couldn’t understand how a study titled The Gospel-Centered Life had anything to do with my eating disorder. How was this supposed to help me? Was it just mindless filler, to occupy the time?

Then, maybe halfway through the study, a lightbulb went off in my brain. Sure, the Bible study may not have specifically applied to my life, but my life could easily apply to that particular Bible study. In other words, the study wasn’t written for recovering anorexics. But an anorexic could equally use the study to recover.

If you’re still confused as to what I mean, let me continue. The author probably didn’t have me in mind when he composed his book. But even so, the book was written directly to me. And why is that?

Although the study had nothing to do with anorexia nervosa, when the Gospel is made central in our lives, it has a strong affect on every aspect of our being. In my case, the Gospel allowed me to obtain a new perspective on food and exercise.

For far too long, my eating disorder had become an idol. I worshipped food and praised fad diets. It had become the central theme of my life. Therefore, I had a distorted opinion of God. My inflated view of self and so-called “healthy” foods and vigorous workouts had deflated my view of the Gospel.

Learning to live a Gospel-centered life allowed me to truly recover. Not to say that I’m perfect or that I have ever been so. I stray away and lose focus, a typical human tendency. But continual striving towards the cross has freed me from my eating disorder.

Perhaps my counselor was the smartest woman on the planet. She recognized that I needed Jesus significantly more than I needed another ritualistic meal plan. I needed Jesus more than I needed affirmation to eat. I needed Jesus more than I needed self-care.

In the moment, I couldn’t identity my needs. I thought that quinoa and egg whites would make me whole. I assumed my worth to be found in the foods I ate and in the exercise I performed. Yet my worth is not in what I eat. I am made complete by none other than Jesus Christ!

Without the Savior, I believe recovery to be immensely hard. Until you make Jesus the main focus of your life, your eating disorder will decide your every move, justifying every wrongdoing. Lying will become excusable, and disobedience, a mere habit. Deception will become a daily practice, and secrecy will play a part in your typical routine.

I urge you, run! Run from your eating disorder and from lying, disobedience, deception, and secrecy. Run from aimless pursuits and earthly pleasures. Run from these things and into the arms of my Savior!

When I was sick, I longed to experience contentment – contentment with my body. I was searching for a piece of mind that I never received.

But, when I turned from anorexic behaviors and trusted wholly in Jesus Christ, that’s when I experienced true contentment. A sense of freedom, unlike anything else. A security that I am enough because He is enough.

You don’t need a nutritionist or a 12-step program. You don’t need more greens or grains or grapes (try saying that five times fast!). You don’t need to take a class on mindfulness or a course on intuitive eating. You need, more than life itself, a relationship with God Almighty.

“And my God shall satisfy all your needs according to His riches in the glory of Yeshua, The Messiah.” – Philippians 4:19

– Taylor