Gee, why didn't I think of this sooner?
A recent article said that people think eating disorders can be solved by prayer. The only reason I haven't choked on my evening tea was that this was from a Christian website, presumably polling Christians. Thusly, some sort of bias was inevitable. I don't think if you polled atheists that they would say the same thing.
So answer me this, pollsters: if praying solved eating disorders, then why didn't God hear me as I screamed for this to be done with?
You can pray all you want, and I'm not necessarily saying that this is a bad thing. But it's not THE thing. I can almost see it now: convents for anorexics. "Father, I sinned. I had an extra bite of apple." Okay, dear, that will be ten "Hail Marys" and a few "Our Fathers". Or whatever. There has been research done on medieval saints, such as Catherine of Siena, who essentially starved themselves to death.*
Several things of note:
1) These saints were, to the best of my knowledge, exclusively women
2) They prayed and saw their starvation as penance for their sins.
Now I'm not trying to imply a whole lot about Catherine's relationship to our contemporary views of anorexia, but if Catherine wasn't suffering from the same biochemical disorder as current anorexia, I'll die of shock. The psychology of her belief system about food was decidedly different, but the parallels are too marked for them to be sheer coincidences.
So if prayer cured anorexia, don't you think it would have worked in Catherine's case?
Then there's the point that many people with eating disorders suffer from "anogosnia," which basically means that they don't think they're sick at all. This isn't denial, this is really the true lack of comprehension that there's something wrong. Thusly, if you don't think you're sick, then why are you going to pray for a cure?
This article makes no sense. Can spirituality help? Of course. I'm not saying prayer is ineffective in helping people find their place in the universe and realize it's not all about food, that the world typically doesn't stop for a french fry or a piece of cake. Prayer is not the cure. Healing the brain takes time, and food, and patience. If you want God to lend a hand, there's nothing wrong with asking. But you cannot live on prayer alone, nor the Eucharist, nor anything but a healthy, balanced diet.**
Author Courtney Martin, author of the newly released book "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters," writes in a recent article titled Spiritually Starved, Too-thin Girls Seek to Fill Void:
In fact, our worth in the world has always been tied to our looks, grades and gifts — not the amazing miracle of mere existence.
In this climate, we feel perpetually called to perfect our own "body
projects" — the term used by historian Joan Jacob Brumberg. Thinness and achievement stand in for the qualities of kindness and humility. We think that our perfect bodies — not God's grace or good works — will get us into heaven. We have no deeply held sense of our own divinity, so we chase after some unattainable ideal. Perfect girls, as a result, feel they are never enough.
Never disciplined enough. Never accomplished enough. Never thin
I used to pray before meals, sometimes before a bite of an especially scary food. I'm trying to be thankful for food, instead of regarding it as a curse. I'm trying to be thankful for sharing food with friends and family.
In the end, though, it's also about the food.
*Maybe I'm cynical, but does anyone else find it ironic that Catherine has a feast day?
**By healthy, balanced diet, I mean a wide range of foods that you find tasty and nourishing. Chocolate is nourishing. So is kettle corn, so are pears, so are all foods. I have nothing against even tofu and tempeh, if cooked properly. Balance and variety are the key here. Not what a dietitian says, not what "research" says. Your body knows best.