It was 1988. I was 15 years old enjoying a summer camp in the country where I grew up, South Africa. Until one day when Nikki, a close friend of my sister’s, pulled me away from the lunch table saying that she wanted to show me something.
Unsure of what on earth could be revealed, we stopped outside the girl’s bathroom, where she whispered, “Listen.”
Half hiding, I listened intently only to hear the sounds of someone throwing up. Not one to find the sound easy to stomach, I turned away until I was far enough to say to Nikki, “Why did you bring me to listen to such a thing?” Nikki somberly replied, “Tehila, that is your sister you just heard. She does that three times a day, after every meal.” My world shattered into a thousand pieces, and I had no idea of how to approach the situation, let alone my 14 year old sister.
My sister’s Bulimia continued until she was well into her 20’s. Even though she tried to hide it quite cleverly, I caught her several times throughout the years, and each time, my heart sank as I stood by helplessly witnessing the unnatural path she had chosen to take.
The Irony of Eating Disorders
Can you spot the irony in the following dictionary definition of Bulimia:
A habitual disturbance in eating behavior mostly affecting young women of normal weight, characterized by frequent episodes of grossly excessive food intake followed by self-induced vomiting to avert weight gain.
I often ask myself how my sister, who was ‘of normal weight,’ reached the level of throwing up her food after every meal. And I’m reminded of the reality of one of the potential causes each time I am at a supermarket checkout. Being faced with umpteen magazine covers each sporting beautiful, thin (no… skinny) women, boasting tanned curves and unrealistic beauty that I personally in my 41 years of living have not seen in a living woman. Do these women exist?
I have no doubt that the desire and pressure to emulate these nonsensical looks, is one of the driving forces behind Bulimia and other eating disorders. It hit close to home for me…
The Reasons for Eating Disorders
The fact that my father literally despised my mother, due to her being overweight for many years of our childhood, was definitely added to the mix. He made no secret of his disdain for her and blamed the extra kilograms for all the verbal and physical abuse that followed. With three daughters standing by watching and listening, no message could have been more destructive to absorb.
Back then, during all those many years that my sister struggled; in the midst of the years where her insides were so badly affected that she suffered internal bleeding and other health issues – back then, I did not know what lay ahead. I did not comprehend how to minister to her. I was ignorant of the only true solution that was open to her – the healing and identity that only God can restore.
Today, my sister is in Heaven. She enjoys a perfect heavenly body, with peace beyond understanding to go with it. At the age of 25 she was taken home to be with the Lord in a car crash.
The Futility of Eating Disorders
Does what her body looked like on this earth matter? Is this the quality that people remember about her? No. What those who knew her think of when they recall my sister Galia, is her love for the Lord, her unique sense of humour, her incomparable integrity, her impeccable sense of justice, her overwhelming kindness to those less fortunate than herself, and her faithful devotion to her friends and family, among other unforgettable traits.
I want you to know, my friend, that the attributes that will be remembered about you are the only ones worth investing in, working on, and praying about. Tweet that
Your physical body is wasting away, but it is your inner person that is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
I challenge you – take care of your body – for it is the temple of the Living God which dwells within you. But more importantly, take care of the treasures and character qualities that will last an eternity, and that will bring the most glory to your King! And you will hear – “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
How has our culture’s obsession with external appearance affected you? What can you begin doing today to invest in your inner beauty?