It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.
You watch your child picking again at their food. You rationalise that lots of children are fussy eaters, and that doesn’t mean anything.
Time passes. The length of time they spend in the bathroom increases – but that’s normal for a teenager, right?
More time passes. You look at their baggy clothes and their rebellious behaviour. You don’t want to think it, but gradually you begin to wonder, ‘Is it possible…does my child have an eating disorder?’
What would you do in that situation? How would you begin to respond?
I am really thankful for this new book by Emily Wierenga, Chasing Silhouettes, written just for that situation. It is an invaluable tool in understanding the complex causes of anorexia, and a guide for how best to respond as a family member or friend.
Emily’s anorexia began when she was just nine, and she gradually starved herself for four years until she reached a turning point and began to recover. As an adult, she later relapsed for three years, and she discusses the reasons for both in the book.
Here are three reasons I loved the book:
1) it takes you through the stages of an eating disorder: Recognising; Rendered helpless; Recovery; and Renewal. The section that most impacted me was ‘Rendered helpless’, where it describes how someone with an eating disorder typically needs to hit rock bottom before they decide for themselves to recover. It made me think through what my instinctive reaction would be if I had a child with an eating disorder, and I was challenged that my instinctive response would not have been the most helpful one.
2) it has lots of different perspectives. The great strength of this book is that for each section, it has the viewpoint of Emily, her parents, her siblings, her husband and a medical professional, so you can explore the impact of the eating disorder from all angles.
3) it has prayer soaked in it throughout. Each section ends with a written prayer, recognising our dependency on God for healing and support in the midst of an eating disorder. Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of a difficult situation, it’s hard to find the words to pray, and it can really help to use someone else’s words.
Read it before you need it
This book reminded me that eating disorders can happen to any family, and that it’s tricky to know how best to respond. Emily was in a ‘good Christian family’, her Dad a pastor of a flourishing church. I don’t know anyone close to me at the moment with an eating disorder, but I realised that is precisely the time to read this book – before you need it, so that you have a better understanding and you’re better prepared.
A New Name vs Chasing Silhouettes
The observant among you may notice that this is the second book on anorexia I have reviewed in the space of two months. It never rains but it pours – hardly any books on eating disorders for ages, then two out at once. Which one should you get?
Why, both, of course!
A New Name looks in-depth at the emotional and spiritual causes of anorexia, and is a gripping story of a woman’s battle with perfectionism. It’s good for anyone struggling with issues of perfectionism or control as well as those with eating disorders.
Chasing Silhouettes is excellent for those who want to help an anorexic friend or family member. It is a must-read for all parents.
I would definitely recommend getting both – they’re both outstanding and with approximately 80% of thirteen-year-olds saying they’ve attempted to lose weight, this is an issue that needs to be faced. I am thankful to Emily for providing such a valuable resource for doing this.
Disclosure: Emily sent me a free copy of the e-book, which I read and loved. Also, I am a HUGE fan of her thoughtful, worshipful blog – do check it out!
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