By Kath Crane
Kath Crane lives in Saint Louis with her husband Brandon and cat Benny. She works for VU as a Production Trainer and enjoys any opportunity to hear folks’ stories and share her own. As a family, she and Brandon love having awesome talks with friends, studying the Bible, hiking, jamming to Twenty One Pilots, and snuggling Benny.
Hey there, I’m Kath’s Eating Disorder. I don’t have any official name or psychiatric diagnosis but she knows I exist. Her dietitian knows I exist. Her friends and family know I exist. Now you know I exist.
I slowly edged into her life over several years, she had no idea who I was until three years into college. Kath has always been plagued by anxiety and had also had to become very food-conscious since being diagnosed with Celiac disease. So I took that reality and ran with it. She became not only hyper-aware of gluten, a true enemy to her body; she became hyper-aware of food entirely. Kath’s semi-conscious central aim was to become as perfectly “healthy” as possible. I weaponized this to drive her to unhealth. I created an ever-spinning hamster wheel in Kath’s mind constantly ruminating over what she should eat that day, and the next day, and what foods or amount of foods she needed to avoid and what level of exercise intensity she needed to achieve perfect health and prevent anxiety. Which of course birthed more anxiety: go me.
Her best friend Jill convinced her I wasn’t worth keeping around because my old buddy Jill’s Eating Disorder had gotten her in some serious trouble before. When Kath told Jill the patterns I had planted, Jill threw me under the bus and said Kath needed to do something about me. Jill’s the worst.
So seven years, two dietitians, and several counseling sessions later, here I am at this bar singing my sob story to you. I still come around, she’ll let me sit in the back of the room sometimes but then her husband or her dietitian or Jill points me out and she feels compelled to shoo me out or explain away my presence in order to please them and assure herself she’s doing all the right things. But more and more, she herself tells me to leave. That’s what I hate the most: she’s starting to believe she’s valuable enough to not be a slave to me.
She tells me, “God created my body, He knows what I need and created trained professionals to help me see what I need. You don’t and you didn’t. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I exercise because I enjoy it and it keeps me strong and able to do the work and play God designed me to do.”
“I eat because food is a gift from God and He wants me to be fueled and delight in it.”
“Health is a wide spectrum, not a single tightrope I have to anxiously walk.”
“I can be flexible. I don’t need to have complete control over every aspect of my life in order to have peace.”
“I’m not a slave to you. I am free. Jesus made me free. I am a daughter of the Greatest Love.”
And she’ll come at me with stuff Jesus has said, like, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
I hate it.
* * *
What impact have eating disorders had on our world?
According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders):
- 9% of people worldwide are affected by an eating disorder.
- 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.
- less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”
- Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose.
- 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder—that’s one death every 52 minutes.
- About 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide.
What about the veterans we serve?
- Body dysmorphic disorder affects 1-3% of the overall population but 13% of male military members and 21.7% of female military members.
- A survey of 3,000 female military members found that the majority of respondents exhibited eating disorder symptoms.
- One study found high rates of body dissatisfaction and previous disordered eating behaviors in a sample of young, female Marine Corps recruits.
More information and help can be found at https://anad.org/eating-disorders-statistics/.
Thanks for making space to hear my story. I’d love to hear yours.