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Miranda Writes: A “Perfection” Problem




by Omar Miranda



Dear Omar,

I’m 13 and my brother is 17. We used to have an awesome relationship and spend a lot of time together, which is definitely NOT normal ’cause I’m a girl. But in the past week things have gotten weird. I don’t really know how to put this, but I think he has an eating disorder or something. I’m kind of blown away by the whole thing ’cause I thought stuff like that happened only to girls. I’ve been suspecting it for a long time, but last week I asked him about it and he got upset with me and told me not to tell my parents or he’d never talk to me again. But I’m worried about him. He plays football and says that he needs to do it to lose a lot of weight to stay in shape because he’s “got to be perfect”—but he’s already lost like 10 pounds in two weeks, and he eats only once a day and works out A LOT! Like four to five hours a day. I don’t know what to do. I love him, but I’m worried about him. I want to tell my parents, but I don’t want my brother to be mad at me and never talk to me again. What do I do? Please help!
Worried and Confused

Well, “W & C,” your letter makes me very sad, but I’m thankful that you had the courage to write it and ask for help. There are several things you are concerned about, and I want to make sure I answer each one, so I want to list them real quick:

• You and your brother have an unusually close relationship, and you don’t want to do anything to ruin it.

• In the past week your relationship with your brother has been strained because you confronted him about an eating disorder you think he has.
• You were surprised because you didn’t know that males could have eating disorders too.

• He confirmed that he had a problem and was driven to “be perfect,” but didn’t want you to tell your parents and threatened to stop having a relationship with you if you did.

• You don’t know what to do, but you’re leaning toward telling your parents because you’re really worried about him. You’re afraid, though, that he’ll never talk to you again.

First of all, I agree with you. Your brother does have a serious problem, and you do need to tell your parents right away—no matter what your brother threatens about the consequences to your relationship.

Eating disorders is not my area of specialty; I haven’t had any special training in dealing with this type of problem. But I can tell you it sounds as though your brother is having problems with something called bulimia (being afraid of gaining weight; exercising a lot; sometimes making yourself throw up). We’ll talk about it, and I’ll give you an idea of how common it is with males and females. We’ll talk about the causes, signs, and symptoms of not only bulimia but also anorexia (seeing yourself as “fat” and skipping meals or severely limiting food intake) and binge eating (eating large amounts of food over a short period of time to the point that you feel sick or physically uncomfortable). We’ll talk about how to help someone you suspect is dealing with this, and I’ll give you several resources so you and your family can learn more and know how to tackle (no pun intended) this problem.

Anorexia nervosa is when someone has a strong fear of gaining weight or getting fat. They may eat only specific foods or choose not to eat much or may skip lots of meals. People with bulimia also have an intense fear of gaining weight but may eat a lot (binge) and then vomit it back up (purge) and/or exercise or take a laxative (something to help you go to the bathroom) to help get rid of the food. Someone who has a problem with binge eating (bingeing) may eat large amounts of food very quickly to the point where they feel sick or physically uncomfortable. They may not know why they do it or may not be able to stop themselves. All three of these problems are serious, and if you suspect someone is doing them, you’ve got to tell a trusted adult right away. They will not get better on their own—only worse!

In terms of what causes eating disorders, the Web site for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (anad.org) states: “There isn’t one conclusive cause of eating disorders.  Multiple factors are involved, such as genetics and metabolism; psychological issues—such as control, coping skills, trauma, personality factors, family issues; and social issues, such as a culture that promotes thinness and media that transmits this message.”¹ I’ve also noticed in my limited dealing with teens who have this issue that they have a very warped sense of perfection and are many times very perfectionistic in their lives and perceptions about themselves (perfect grades, perfect behavior, etc.). That’s a lot of pressure to put on themselves, and realistically, no one is perfect.

In terms of the signs and symptoms, I want you to take a look directly at anad.org. Here’s the exact link: www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/general-information. You can also learn more information about all the causes. If you and your parents go to this Web site, y’all can learn much about this problem and how best to help your brother. Here’s the contact information as well: Helpline: (630) 577-1330 (9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Central time, Monday-Friday). E-mail: anadhelp@anad.org. General business phone: (630) 577-1333.
In terms of statistics, here’s some of what I learned from anad.org²:

• 95 percent of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.

• More than one half of teenage girls and nearly one third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.

• An estimated 10 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
• Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “women’s diseases.”

“W & C,” the most important thing you can do, other than tell a trusted adult, is to pray, pray, pray! I hope this information has been helpful to you. I hope you will take the next step and help your brother by making others aware of your brother’s problems in order to get the help that he needs.

Until next time, remember these things: God’s way is always the best way. Life is full of decisions, so make yours good ones. Put God first in your life, and you can’t go wrong.

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at omarmiranda@earthlink.net; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at www.insightmagazine.org; or you can check me out or send me a message at my Web site, thriveatlife.org; or you can reach me via snail mail (slow!) at the address printed below.

In Christ,
Omar Miranda, certified Christian counselor

Abundant Life Ministries
155 Earl Street
Plainville, GA 30733
Phone: 1-770-354-2912

¹www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/general-information
²www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics

Omar Miranda is a Christian counselor with 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening, and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column, Miranda Writes.


 





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