“Mommy, am I fat?” he asks one morning, as I stand with my hands under running water at the kitchen sink.
"What? No! Of course you’re not fat; you’re not in the least bit fat,” I answer, not turning to look over my shoulder at Rowan, who’s perched on a bar stool at the counter. “Why would you even say that?”
“Well, you say you’re fat all the time, so I thought maybe I was fat, too,” he says, holding his toasted bagel half in one hand, his glass of grape juice in the other. I turn off the water, dry my hands on a dish towel and lean against the kitchen counter.
“Honey, you’re not fat, and I’m not fat either,” I tell him, resting my chin in my hands and looking him straight in the eye. “And I shouldn’t say I’m fat. It’s just a bad habit for me to say that all the time, and I’m going to stop.”
I know my boys have heard me say that I’m fat more times than I can count. I know they’ve seen me poke at my stomach through the folds of my cotton tee-shirt, lamenting aloud the doughy roll, vowing to nix the nighttime Wheat Thins snack.
I thought I could get away with complaining about my body because I have boys. I thought it didn’t matter with boys, that they wouldn’t notice, that it wouldn’t have any influence. I thought I could call myself fat without fearing it would impact my children.
But I was wrong.
This is one of the many reasons why Emily Wierenga’s new book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, fills such a critical need: because there are so very many misconceptions and misperceptions surrounding eating disorders. My assumption, for example, that boys don’t succumb to eating disorders is simply wrong. Of the estimated 8 million Americans who suffer from anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders, one million of them are male.
Not only does Emily weave her real-life story of suffering and recovery from anorexia with research and facts about the illness, this book is also a spiritual guide for those of us who love someone suffering from an eating disorder. As is often the case, a book like this might answer our questions from a physical and even an emotional perspective, yet it often leaves the spiritual perspective untapped. Emily artfully weaves all three perspectives together into a coherent, gracefully written narrative.
I appreciate, for instance, that Emily includes a prayer at the end of each section. So often, when we are ravaged by hopelessness and fear, we simply can’t pray, we can’t find the words. Emily offers us words to pray, even when we fear prayer is impossible.
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