Anorexia: My Battle And Freedom

my lovely older sister
This post is the second in series of posts on the topic of “My body, God’s temple,” during national eating disorder awareness week. You can find the other posts here


Elissa Savov believed in the Lord Jesus to be her Savior when she was about four years old. She is blessed with two wonderful Christian parents who nurtured her spiritual growth throughout her life, and two younger sisters who were her best friends, and three younger brothers. Elissa graduated from Simpson College with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, where she completed a four year program in three years. Her first year of college she met her future husband, Naiden Savov. They got married the summer before their last year of college and Elissa became pregnant soon after their wedding. Two days before graduation her precious little Aviela Savov was born. Elissa enjoys singing, spending time with family, and finding joy in her Savior, Jesus Christ.

I have the best sisters in the world and they, as well as my entire family, have given me such love and support throughout my life. I have indeed been anorexic. When Emily asked me to write something, I of course agreed, but had no idea how to go about doing it. What would I say? I have asked God for wisdom, and I will share with you my story of my battle, and freedom. If any of you reading this suffer from anorexia, I desire that these words will be from God and will give you hope. I know what you have experienced, at least to some degree, and I know that God is more powerful than anything.

My Story:
My anorexia started the second semester of my freshman year of college. I had always been a rather thin girl, but suddenly I was obsessed with being the most thin girl I could ever meet that wasn’t literally skin and bones. God had just brought a wonderful man into my life as my new boyfriend, and somehow, I just knew if I was going to be pretty enough for him, I needed to be really, really, really thin, because extremely thin equaled very beautiful in my warped thinking.
Looking back, I cannot tell how these thought patterns developed! Satan must have been working so subtly. My boyfriend began noticing my poor eating habits developing and he encouraged me to be healthy and told me he hoped I wasn’t eating so little because of him.  I assured him it wasn’t, and that I just wanted to be healthy. The strange thing was, I was assured of this in my mind as well. The thinner I could be, the more beautiful and the more healthy. I was too blinded by lies to see the truth.  
           
For the rest of that college semester my daily diet consisted of approximately a bowl of cereal for breakfast and maybe toast, two bananas, and a 6-inch sub sandwich. I would exercise every day. That summer I perfected my anorexia. My summer was packed with activities that kept me so busy I was hardly home. I ate at most five grams of fat a day. I ate so slowly that I would honestly become “full” before I had finished my food.
In a way, I thought I had become strong. Food was no temptation for me as it is for most people. I could turn down anything. It could not rule my life. Little did I realize that I was letting something far worse rule my life. My Mom was getting worried and threatened to take me to a doctor. Going to a doctor was the last thing I wanted to do. I was terribly frightened of changing my way of eating. I was terrified of gaining weight. I thought I was healthy, but something nagged at me that what I was doing was not a Godly way of life.  By the end of the summer I weighed 103 pounds and I was 5 feet 6 inches tall.

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I cannot say when this would have changed, had God not used my boyfriend to bring me out of that ugly pit. Sophomore year of college came and so did his birthday. I had been asking him what he wanted for a while and he told me he would think about it. Finally he told me his birthday wish was for me to get up to 120 lbs. My immediate response was, “What else do you want?” He told me very seriously that was the only thing he wanted. His mom used to smoke and when he asked her one year for his birthday for her to stop, she quit, cold turkey. He said smoking was a stronger addiction than anorexia. He said if I really cared about him, and believed in God, I would do this.
What he did not understand, however, was that he was not asking me to quit an addiction. He was asking me to give up my sense of worth, security, and self-esteem. To get up to 120 pounds seemed ludicrous and suicidal in my mind. I felt like that would be killing myself. In a way, it really was; my old, sinful self that I had allowed too much control in my spiritual, and therefore physical life.
Paul said in Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
God was asking me to let go of myself, my identity, my security, and find my self-esteem in Him alone. I resisted at first, but God worked on me and with my boyfriend’s help, I started on to a better lifestyle of eating and exercising. I had to realize that self-esteem apart from God is not just empty, but sinful. We have nothing in ourselves in which to find security and worth. I was finding my worth as a person apart from God, in my appearance. I had a false confidence in myself because I was so thin. Breaking the chains of anorexia left me weak and scared, bewildered, and unsure, and running to God to embrace me and console me, telling me I was His child, and that is what gives me beauty and worth.
           
It was no easy battle. Eating right again brought with it many painful effects. It would have been much easier reverting back to eating barely anything and avoiding the physical pain. I am still dealing with some of the health effects of anorexia. However, I thank God, that He has blessed me by freeing me from the grip of anorexia. I am now married to the man that was my boyfriend, and God has blessed us with a beautiful baby girl! God is so good! I would never go back to the anorexic way of life. My eyes are not focused on myself now, but rather my family and my God. I desire to live and be healthy for both!
Elissa, Nick, and Aviela

A Few Statistics:
Anorexia nervosa– “Anorexia nervosa involves an aversion to food that leads to a state of starvation and emaciation. It is a very serious illness that some doctors believe is an entirely different condition from bulimia and should be not be diagnosed as a simple eating disorder.”
  •  The death rate associated with anorexia is approximately 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of mortality for females ages 15-24 years old.
  • About 20% of people suffering from Anorexia will prematurely die from health complications related to their eating disorder. This includes suicide and heart problems.
  • Among adolescents, Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness.
  • 95% of people with eating disorders are between ages 12-25.
  • 50% of girls between ages 11 and 13 believe they are overweight.
  • 80% of 13 -year-olds have tried to lose weight. 
  • Up to 30% of patients with eating disorders never recover.
  • It has been estimated that suicide accounts for as many as half the deaths in Anorexia, with studies showing up to one-fifth of people with Anorexia attempting suicide.
These statistics are from the University of Maryland Medical Center. 

Finding Freedom:
The statistics above are shocking! Anorexia nervosa is becoming more and more prevalent and is claiming more and more lives. This disease is so dangerous because it is psychological. There is no tangible prescription or cure.
Why the great prevalence of this disease? While the causes of anorexia in each individual certainly vary, I firmly believe the United States’ immoral culture is much to blame for the majority of the cases. The sex industry is ranked first or second in the entire nation. Everywhere, in media, magazines, movies, and even subtly among peers, schoolmates, etc. culture tells women they must be sexy or they’ve failed as a woman and the world cannot use them. Women, like all people want to be wanted, and most think they’ve nowhere to turn but to the world to find acceptance.
What they don’t realize is, all the world wants us for is to use us. The world cares nothing for our souls, our character, or our personality. The world only wants to use us to further its wickedness, and it will do all it can to fool us into thinking that brings happiness. The poor victims of anorexia are starving themselves thinking this will bring them happiness, but in reality they are destroying themselves and are so far from happiness.
Those immoral actresses, Victoria Secret models, and the rest have sold their souls and given their bodies to be no more than instruments of lust. This is surely not a hopeful, satisfying state. The women who are depressed because they aren’t perfect according the world have no hope, and the women whom the world calls perfect have no hope, either.
The world and all that’s in it cannot give hope! The world and all that’s in it cannot give you worth! The world and all its philosophies and lies cannot give you peace or love! There is only One who can, and that One is your Creator, the God of the universe. He already demonstrated His love for you by sending His Son Jesus Christ to conquer sin, in your life and someday all the world. Jesus paid for your sin, and He offers you forgiveness and love –a place in His arms of hope and security!
           
To God, His daughters are the most beautiful women in all the world. His word says, “Who can find a virtuous woman? Her price is far above rubies” (Prov. 31:10). He says a woman who adorns herself with “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit” is “of great price in the sight of God” (1Peter 3:4). “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
God loves you! If you are the victim of anorexia and if you struggle with the messages the world tells you about your appearance, there is great hope in God! Stop believing lies! 

“The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

I have found it to be so in my own life, I pray you will too!
In Christ,

Elissa Savov

Do you find yourself sometimes believing Satan’s lies? How do you discern lies from the truth? Share your thoughts in the comments!

  • Evianne Crawford

    Wow, this is an incredible testimony, Elissa! Thanks for sharing it, it has helped me correct some of my ways of thinking. I love you!

  • Emily, thanks for posting Elissa's story! And thanks Elissa for being so honest.
    Working in college ministry, i've talked with girls who have dealt with eating disorders, but i never know really how to respond. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and providing a window into a serious issue.

  • Thank you for sharing your story! I think it's really cool that you're so open and honest about your experiences with eating disorders. I hope and pray that your testimony will help others get the help and support that they need!

  • Wow Elissa, I did not know about this,but thank you to sharing your story.I am sure your story will help some young girls.
    We are so thankful that you are part of our family and that you are healthy now.God is good!!!You are wonderful wife,mother and daughter in law. Love u,Ania

  • Thanks for sharing this! What a blessing that you can show that there is so much hope for the future!

    I work with teenaged girls and (as the stats show) many of them struggle with eating disorders. It's such an addiction and such a control over them that it's hard to see out. It's hard to see any day ever being happy unless you get to x-weight. And then that weight arrives and it's not enough.

    I always always ALWAYS want to encourage the girls that there is HOPE and health and happiness on the other side. That they can come through it and that there is a God who desperately loves them as they are.

    I appreciate you sharing this because it's so much what I want girls (and women!) everywhere to hear. Thanks for being a blessing!

  • wow.. i am inspired by your story Elissa.. thanks for sharing.. and It's a blessing that you had a supportive boyfriend/husband..

    the statistics blew me away! anoorexia is indeed a serious matter!

    http://www.theblogforbrides.com
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  • Emily,

    I am inspired by your strength and your honesty. One of my best friends dealt with this and she had gone down to 60 lbs. It awful with the fear that at any moment she would be gone. It's strange how timing is. I was just discussing this with a friend tonight, that occured 10 yrs ago. I then come on and read your post. I'm so happy that you found your way back to being happy and confident. I'm glad to hear you are happy with you. That's most important. I can see in the picture the beautiful support system you had. That is what makes life worth it 🙂

    xoxo
    Katie

  • I am thankful that God brought you out of the grips of this disease so that you can help others through it. Thank you for sharing your story, Elissa!