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Progress: Judson College woman shares journey of hurt, hope through bulimia battlecomment (0)

June 11, 2009

By Brittany N. Howerton

Christina Lee was like many teenage girls: energetic, involved and self-conscious about her body.

But the summer after her senior year of high school, Lee found her eating habits erupting.

“Everything outside of me was out of control, so the one thing I could control is the way I ate,” said Lee, a 19-year-old Smiths native and now a student at Judson College in Marion.

And eat she did — everything in sight. But only some days. Other days, Lee ate nothing at all and exercised compulsively.

Using eating as a coping mechanism for underlying issues, Lee found herself thrust into a cycle of binging and purging as she indulged in mass quantities of food and then hated herself for it.
“I would constantly think about food, but on the opposite spectrum, I would constantly think about what my body looked like. And if I didn’t get my exercise in one day, I’d go crazy,” she said of her battle with bulimia.

And when Lee saw she wasn’t losing the weight she would gain as quickly as she would like, she resorted to researching ways to make herself sick.

Realizing she didn’t have a gag reflex, Lee began to use laxatives and steal milk of magnesia from her grandmother’s house, using the excuse that it was only occasionally and she just wanted her stomach to feel better.

“Sometimes I felt guilty because when you read the Bible, it talks about gluttony and talks about how your body is a temple and how you’re supposed to take care of it,” Lee said.

“I would say, ‘I’m completely destroying this gift God has given me,’ for a long time. Maybe people don’t see this as a sin, and maybe people don’t view gluttony as a sin, but this was a problem I had.”

She knew this was an addictive behavior in her life, and she could not allow it to control her any longer.

On Feb. 22, 2008, Lee reached out for help.

E-mailing her counselor, she confessed her addiction to food, her obsession with body image and the extreme measures she had taken to balance the two. “The problem is continuing to escalate,” Lee wrote to her counselor. “I am binging more often and using laxatives and restrictive diets more frequently. I sometimes use (spirituallike) ‘fasts’ to justify restricting my meals. If I am doing it for Jesus, then somehow that makes it right? That’s a twisted way of thinking. I really do not know how much to eat. I have never been told how much is overindulging. I either do too much or not enough. It is so frustrating. I feel like a prisoner in my own body.”

After meeting with her counselor, Caroline Nichols of Samaritan Counseling Center in Birmingham who also works for Judson (see story, page 8), Lee began seeing a nutritionist in order to learn healthy eating habits. But her journey to healing was just beginning.

She kept a journal to help her through the most difficult times.

February 27, 2008: “If I were to ask myself about my feelings years from now, I’d say I feel empty and hopeless. I want so badly for someone, anyone, to save me. I need to save myself. … My actions are a cry. No one can see me eating but I do. They cannot see my pain but it’s there.”

The next few months were an emotional roller coaster for Lee as she sought to refocus her life and her eating.
February 28, 2008: “I can do it. I can say no to food. It was one baby step, but we can all do it, right? Second Timothy 1:7: ‘For God did not give us the spirit of timidity but of discipline and self-control.’ God and I did it. I can practice self-control.”

Still some days were harder than others.

June 14, 2008: “One day of eating wrong. One day of eating past full and not being able to move. One day of wishing I could purge. One day of feeling completely uncontrollable. One day of guilt. One day of anger. … [T]he problem arises when that one day turns into one week. One week is a huge deal. I feel like a fat cow. I will soon look like one. I will diet tomorrow. I will go without. It is wrong. I do not care. I cannot take laxatives so I will find an alternative. … I wish I could be sick, really sick. It is a horrible wish. I do not understand myself.”

Looking up from her year-old journal entry, Lee observed, “Wow. I’ve come so far.”

Though she would quickly admit that her recovery from an addiction to food is not over, progress is being made.

May 3, 2009: “I am very slowly growing into who I am. It is so freeing to learn to be me instead of trying to be who I am told I should be. … I am learning to appreciate even things I do not like. I am seeing that people do not have to be just like me and I do not have to try to be just like anyone else — what a freeing thought.”

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