Kate Wicker’s new book, “Weightless: Making Peace With Your Body,” chronicles the author’s struggle with anorexia and bulimia – but it’s about much more than weight. All of us know a woman struggling with a deeply rooted behavioral challenge that, like anorexia, seems to seize a dysfunctional control of decision making. It could be an eating disorder, alcoholism, panic aversions to bridges or airplanes, or any of long list of emotional disorders, including my own self pity tendencies. Wicker’s easy to read journey through her eating disorders offers a rich guide for slogging through our worst thickets. Here’s what I learned from Wicker’s weighing in.
1. Talk out loud. There’s no environment the devil enjoys quite like personal secrecy. Wicker demonstrates a bold, brave confrontation with the demon dominating her self image. Low body weight, self-loathing (L. 164), the “temptation to get control . . . [and] whip my body into submission”, the repulsion she experienced glancing her nakedness in a mirror, a desire not to burden her daughters with her disorder, combined to make her speak out loud. She speaks volumes to us but could not do so, until and unless, she spoke out loud in small, mournful ways, asking for help. Oh, how long can we “stare in a mirror . . . and see nothing but imperfections” (L. 106) before that confession, that plea for help, passes our lips? You know your inner demons. I know mine. Wicker says “expose it – say it out loud.” It’s a difficult but critical first step.
2. Long for Love. It’s one thing to say “I am suffering from how I treat my body,” but it’s another step to yelp, “I want to be loved.” Wicker invites us to confront our brutal moments of young formation – those moments when we knew with a cruel certainty that the world did not offer the love for which we longed.
Back in sixth grade, I was swimming through a sea of peers in search of my school bus when I heard the oinking. I looked up to see two boys . . . pushing up their noses . . . like pig snouts. [T]hey pointed at me, laughed, and snorted again. I . . . watched the world through the blur of my silent tears. “(L. 1632)
How many of us lounge in hurtful moments like Wicker suffered, and simply refuse to move on? Honest Wicker immediately warns, “this book is not intended to replace therapy or medical treatment,” but she rightfully urges that the “Great Physician” has a role in recovery for those who have been wounded and wandered the wrong the places for the love they long.
3. Relate to Role Models. Wicker’s a huge advocate of self-discipline and personal responsibility which will make her message hard to swallow in some quarters. While her own eating disorders were severe, she assumes full responsibility for her choices and refuses to play a blame game within her family of origin. To the contrary, she finds within her own circle a role model, “my grandmother as beautiful,” (L. 1312), who, “not an overly sentimental person,” (L. 1290), is “one of the most beautiful women I know . . . wrinkled as a raisin, her thin hair . . . muted the color of oatmeal.” (L. 1288). This woman, Wicker came to understand, lived love in a way that transcends the body related connections that fine appearance can achieve. “She possesses an ageless, almost supernatural beauty that comes from leading a life of getting to know God better.” (L. 1310.)
4. Find your God-given value. Wicker touches every woman’s core with her admission, “I had no clue where my value as a person really lay.” (L. 106) This natural struggle for identity has intensified among women today who are coaxed to embrace images of celebrity success and male career success as primary measures of worth. These measures, however, will never bring fulfillment.
I didn’t understand that as long as I looked to a number on the scale or a checklist on a diet plan or some other worldly measure for sense of fulfillment, I was doomed to a life of restless searching, always feeling imperfect and incomplete. (L. 106)
How did someone like Wicker – with a seemingly life defining weight obsession – find her way out of this emotional morass? Well, read the book – which I highly recommend to anyone interested in a faith-based solution to emotional disorders – and to anyone so desperate they’ve run out of options.