Brittany Viola knows all about losing and winning. During the final week of Olympic competition, she dove from a 10-meter platform as part of the U.S. diving team. But diving sharply into water at 35 miles per hour during the Olympics was by no means the most strenuous test Brittany has faced in her young life.
After transitioning from competitive gymnastics to competitive diving, the young teenager felt that her body wasn't quite right for her new sport. So, she began to lose weight to reshape her body, but her effort to "be the best athletically" moved beyond the bounds of what was best.
Drifting into Disorder
By the age of 15, Brittany developed an eating disorder. She looked at the top competitive divers and felt even more inadequate, believing that her body needed to change dramatically to dive for maximum success. Feeling worthless … hopeless … powerless – these emotions led to eating disorders, and Brittany was swimming in a sea of troubled waters. The high drive to achieve combined with her low body image distorted her view of what was necessary to meet her competitive goals.
Like many who struggle with anorexia or bulimia, Brittany believed she needed to take greater control to make her body just the "right" size and shape. Brittany wanted to feel significant, valuable and important – legitimate desires that she was trying to satisfy in illegitimate ways. She began with fad diets that cut out all carbohydrates, but her attempts to excessively control her food intake led her to spiral out of control into periods of binge eating and purging.
Victory and Recovery Is a Process
In 2006 Brittany entered a facility for eating disorders in order to find hope, help and healing. It was there that she found spiritual healing as well, inviting Christ into her life as her Lord and Savior. Although she had been religious, Brittany had never experienced a personal relationship with Christ.
Her life began to change for the better, but upon returning to college, Brittany fell back into the same harmful patterns. A teammate then tenderly befriended her. They studied the Bible and attended church together. Brittany also began investing in others as a middle school, small group leader at her church.
As her relationship with the Lord developed and friendships with believers deepened, Brittany experienced greater success in overcoming her eating disorder. Her athletic success has been steady and gradual with a few injury setbacks, but the milestones have been substantial … as in winning three national championships.
Brittany's victory over bulimia has been a process, just like her walk with the Lord. Over time, she is coming to see herself as God sees her. Brittany describes her own journey of faith: "There was light shining in times of darkness. For example, as I continued to struggle with my eating disorder, I would be reminded that God still loved me even when I did not love myself. His forgiveness helped me to forgive myself. His truth allowed me to replace the many lies in my head. He saw me as fearfully and wonderfully made, His perfect creation, chosen, holy, and dearly loved."1
Focus on Truth to Overcome the Lies
If you, like Brittany, want to know your God-given worth, yet you keep diving into the defeating world of eating disorders, there is hope and help for you. It's found in the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. Give up self-hate and refuse to believe that you are "not good enough" or "unworthy" or "unlovable." The Lord unequivocally says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness" (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV).
The real issue in life is not your physical size, but rather it is seeing yourself through God's eyes. The Lord loves you just as you are. Instead of being consumed by control, choose to release control of your life and trust the Lord Jesus with every aspect of it.
When Brittany competed in the Olympic Games, she knew what was truly important: "When I go to competitions, there are many divers that are diving for their family, or their coaches, or for themselves, for spectators and for others. I'm honestly diving only for the Lord. No matter the results, I know that I'm greatly loved."2 You can also rest securely in the love that Christ has for you.