Funhouse Mirrors: Distorted Body Images

When I was a little girl, I once went into one of those carnival funhouses with the mirrors. It was the one and only time I did so. I remember I didn't get very far. I took one look at my distorted series of reflected images and high-tailed it out of there so fast, you could probably see my streak marks hang in the air.


Cut to about fourteen years later: I was nineteen or twenty years old when I was, once again, standing in front of multiple mirror images. Only this time, there was no carnival- and certainly, no fun. It was, instead, just me, choosing to stand and scrutinize myself in front of my three-way mirror, picking myself apart, via my disordered eating and body image behaviors.

It was often during those times that I would ask God why He made me in the first place. What was the point? Was the torment of eating disorders all there was? Were the constant weight and food battles all there was to me? I hated what I saw so much of the time, regardless of where I was on the scale. At my thinnest, I hated what I saw; at my heaviest, I hated what I saw. Did God see me the same way?

    Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees?" Job 10:4

Yeah, I was certainly living a Job kind of existence. It's not a "skip to my loo" kind of approach. But no, God doesn't stop at surface appearances - thank God! He looks deeper...

    ...God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the LORD looks into the heart.1 Samuel 16:7

And, isn't that one of the problems for those of us dealing with eating disorders and body image issues? The old adage states there's no reality, only perception. So, some of us perceive ourselves to be ugly and worthless. But is that the truth?

Scientific studies state that there is a chemical disturbance in the brain function of many who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Simply stated, the brain wiring of these individuals prevents them from seeing their physical bodies as they actually are. Instead, they only see themselves as the distorted "funhouse mirror" version of themselves. You know the saying, "seeing is believing?" Well, I guess that's what can happen if the brain can only register one particular perception, even if it's an inaccurate one.

I believed that inaccurate perception for a long time.

And, as years have passed, I've also had a spiritual reawakening as well concerning my disordered eating and image issues. Eating disorders, at their core, are spiritual matters. For my own situation, I had to recognize and confront how I let my own eating disorder behavior become some form of idolatry.

Pleasant, isn't it?

According to "The Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus Second Edition," the definition of idolatry reads as follows: "the worship of idols. great adulation. The image of a deity, etc., as an object of worship. The object of excessive or supreme adulation, a graven image icon, effigy, symbol, fetish, totem, god, hero or heroine, star, celebrity."

Yeah, that covered it for me. Whether or not I knew it, my image desires and eating disorder behaviors were idols. I thought I was in control. But, before I knew it, all of my "little idols" turned into razor-sharp funhouse torture mirrors, mocking and threatening me. I had lost sight of my one true God.

    "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:2-3

And by disobeying that very first commandment, I had opened myself up to unnecessary pain. My eating disorders were not God's Will or God's fault. And, while it would be all too easy to blame myself here, I had to accept the fact that I was not completely hopeless; I still could make another choice. No matter how low I went with my eating disorders, there still was a way out: God.

    No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Like that childhood experience of the funhouse mirrors, I had a choice about what I could do. I could continue to stare into the scary, inaccurate reflections, or I could leave them and shift my view elsewhere? So, where- or more accurately, who- is that elsewhere?

Three letters- starting with a "G…"

    The name of the LORD is a strong tower; a righteous person rushes to it and is lifted up above the danger.
    Proverbs 18:10

What's your funhouse mirror? Is it an eating disorder? An addiction? Some other self-destructive behavior? Are you choosing to stare into that hopeless, futureless and lifeless reflection or are you choosing to look for God?

If the funhouse isn't so fun, then what? What will you do? You do have a better option out there. There is a better reflection, waiting to look back at you. Will you choose it?

Copyright by Sheryle Cruse.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Sheryle is the author of
Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder.
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