The Gift of the Body

This is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. On Instagram, I’ve been talking about how, after a six-year struggle with anorexia, the Eucharist transformed my understanding of food (I’m also giving away five copies of The Catholic Table over there this week). But it wasn’t just the Eucharist that helped me. Just as the Eucharist transformed my understanding of food, the theology of the body transformed my understanding of my body.

For most of the first 25 years of my life I equated my body’s value with a number on the scale. I thought it’s worth could be measured and weighed. It was a perpetual problem for me, something I needed to control.

Then, when I was 25, I read Pope St. John Paul II’s theology of the body. It taught me that my body wasn’t a problem to be controlled; it was a gift to be cared for. It was me—as much a part of who I was as my soul and as much a gift as my soul.

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Good to Eat: How I Said “Goodbye” to Anorexia and “Hello” to Cheese

I was all set to write a fun, breezy little post about one of my favorite things in the universe—wine—when the Great Hive Mind informed me that this is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Thanks, Facebook. Now I feel guilty writing about wine.

Because I don’t do things I feel guilty about—or, at least, I try not to do them—the wine post is on hold. Instead, I’m going to share a few thoughts about how I walked away from anorexia for good 14 years ago.

For those of you not familiar with the disease, the prognosis for those battling eating disorders isn’t exactly rosy. While most people who struggle with anorexia get somewhat better, few get all better. The majority spend their lives waffling on the edge of a relapse. Many fall right off that edge.

But me? You couldn’t drag me back to that edge with a thousand horses. I like cheese too much. And bacon.

I also like myself too much. And my friends and family and every other person on the planet who doesn’t deserve to deal with the horror that is Emily When She’s Not Eating. In my case, Christian charity pretty much forbids a relapse.

That’s not to say I’m not a normal woman living in the 21st century. Air-brushed babes can totally get me down. Skinny jeans can’t go away fast enough. But, regardless of how I occasionally feel about my body, I’m not going to starve myself in pursuit of some unrealistic ideal. At 39, I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to stop feeding myself. Life it too full to spend one minute of it going down that rabbit hole.

So, what made my recovery possible? Lots of things, from my desire to be a mother (although that hasn’t quite worked out) to an increasingly full and fun life. Five things, however, stand out above the rest.

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