The Dress We Obsess About (Eating Disorders)

Two words can strike fear and unrealistic expectations for many of us ladies out there.

The dress.

It’s probably a safe bet to say there has been at least one which has plagued us. It may be that prom dress, eradicating high school awkwardness. It may be the fairytale torture known as the perfect wedding dress, transforming us into the bride to end all brides. It may also be any variety of special occasion dresses: the high school reunion show stopper, the special event evening gown, created to dazzle or the pageant dress, guaranteeing us a tiara.

The dress. The notorious, nail biting, nerve-wrecking, insanity creating dress. Been there? If not, be patient, you probably will be.

There have been a lot of desperate diets and exercise regimes plotted, all in the name of the big dress. We push, pull, cinch, torture, starve and manipulate ourselves into all kinds of predicaments. Like when I was a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding.

I really started obsessing the two weeks prior to the wedding. Looking back on my diary entries, I wrote a repetitive string of comments like, “I’m not going to eat today or tomorrow,” and “I can’t blow it now. I’m so close…”

…I tried on the dress and discovered that’s all it was — just a dress. Yes, it was hanging on me, but it didn’t really mean anything anymore. I was too exhausted for it to mean anything to me. I had to pin the sides of the dress with safety pins. It was hanging off from my 20-inch waist (18 inches, if I held in my breath)…

…People stammered things like, “Sheryle, you look, pretty” and “My, you’re thin. I didn’t recognize you.” They obviously felt uncomfortable saying it. A guy cousin of mine said something like, “Man, you’re thin,” (two beats of awkward silence), “but — you — you look — good.” He said it to me like I was in danger of dying right there.

…It was a long day. I focused most of my concentration on just staying vertical and not fainting. I had accomplished my goal; I was skinny for this wedding. I was just too exhausted and hollow to enjoy it…” (Excerpt taken from Cruse’s book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death Of An Eating Disorder”)

Years later, that obsession was only compounded when it came to my own wedding dress. Although I was no longer at that bridesmaid low weight, I was still obsessed with everything I put in my mouth two weeks, leading up to my “big day.” Have you been there and done that? What have you done for that big dress?

Are you and I simply dieting or are we worshipping an idol? Diets tend to start out innocently enough.

“I’ll just lose five pounds.”

But how many of us, find out, all too late, the simple diet has become the torturous, hard taskmaster? Eating disorders “suddenly” appear from nowhere, stealing so much from our lives. But they didn’t happen overnight.

No, it’s more insidious than that. We’re warned to stay vigilant against subtle lies and attacks which can sneak up on us all too quickly:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
1 Peter 5:8

That includes eating disorders; no one is immune. It can all start with a thought. One thought. And that one thought leads to another thought which eventually leads us astray.

So, what are we thinking? Is the big dress, the big thing or the big image becoming too big in our lives? Has it become God? If so, that’s idolatry. No golden calf being worshipped, but it’s still an idol, isn’t it?

We’re spiritual beings, loved and created by God for relationship with Him. Accept no substitutes. They never work, anyway. Like my bridesmaid or my wedding dresses, when I put them on, they didn’t magically perfect my life and make me blissfully happy. They were just dresses; they couldn’t save me.

What are you and I counting on to save us? Our idols, will only disappoint us, at best, and destroy us, at worst.

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.” Habakkuk 2:18-19

Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god…”Psalms16:4

It’s sobering to see what heart damage can come from our idols: addictions, compulsions and disorders. You know, issues.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

But thankfully, we can go to God with them…

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

Can we conform to that? Can we rethink what we’re thinking?

It’s worth thinking about. The dress is just a dress; the thing is just a thing. But God is the most high God, Who loves us and has the power to bless us beyond measure.

That reality fits us better than anything else ever could.