Prayer Intentions: For Women Suffering from Eating Disorders

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Secretum Meum Mihi Press

Pray for Women Suffering From Eating Disorders

by Kristen West McGuire

Clinicians working with women with anorexia point out the religious overtones of their self-denial, including heightened morality, asexuality and striving for immortality. Indeed, some secular historians believe certain saints were anorexic, such as St. Catherine of Siena. Yet, “ye shall know them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:16) The historic circumstances and overall profound impact of St. Catherine’s interactions with the leaders of her day are more prominent than her extreme fasting.

Fasting outside of a larger spiritual context can be dangerous. For those diagnosed with an eating disorder, misunderstanding fasting can even lead someone to starve to death. As pained family members stand by helplessly, the spiral of control and weight loss is not an inspiration to faith. Worse, the patients may view their efforts to control their weight as an expression of uniqueness. Many require hospitalization at some point.

Over 10,000 people die from complications related to an eating disorder every year. (ANAD, 2023) Experts estimate that one in eight people (75% of them female) will develop an eating disorder in the U.S. during their lifetimes. While most of them do recover, the lasting effects of the disease can affect their health permanently. Which, some experts say, may be why St. Catherine of Siena died in her thirties.

Here are some resources:

Emily Stimpson-Chapman shares her courageous journey to health after an eating disorder, The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet. There are six videos that accompany the book. The first video, My Battle with Anorexia, shares her story that led her to write the book. These resources are published by St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

The National Eating Disorder Association shares resources and treatment opportunities for individuals and families impacted by any eating disorder. They also sponsor public awareness campaigns on body positivity and wellness.

The Center for Change presented a webinar in 2023 on “The Dangerous Intersection of Negative Body Image, Social Media, the Diet Industry, and Eating Disorders.” It includes details on the overall negative effect of popular culture on the self-image of women. (Note: this video includes some images that may be considered triggering or disturbing.)

LORD, we pray:

* for those caught in a deadly struggle with an eating disorder, that they would find the wisdom and courage to ask for help;

* that all young women might find the physical and emotional changes of puberty leading to a body-positive, mature self-esteem;

* that anguished parents and friends would find the resources they need to help persons with eating disorders to find healing and help;

* that young women who find themselves enslaved in any way to unhealthy weight loss ideals or methods would avoid websites, blogs, and even spiritual practices which perpetuate their illnesses;

* for an end to unrealistic media portrayals of the feminine body;

* for those medical and psychological staff members treating girls and women with eating disorders, that they would be sustained by their successes, and buoyed in faith; and

* for those who knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the suffering of persons with eating disorders, that they might realize their errors and change. Amen.

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