Q: Can you help me deal with the starving, binging and purging problem I've had ever since I was a teen? Thoughts of food rarely leave my mind. I'm fixated on my body weight. I feel guilty, shamed and dirty. How can I change?
Jim: My heart goes out to you. There's really no way I (or anyone else) can even scratch the surface of this issue in a limited venue like this column. But I do want you to experience something that may seem far away right now: hope.
There's a reason you've found it so hard to break this pattern. The starve-binge cycle is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disorder that actually changes body chemistry. It does this by interfering with normal serotonin and endorphin levels. Change can be difficult and slow under these circumstances. But it's not impossible. The key is that you need caring people to walk with you on this journey. Don't try to go it alone.
It's also important to remember that there's a strong spiritual component to most eating disorders. So, with all of that in mind, I would strongly recommend that you contact one of our staff counselors for a free over-the-phone consultation. They will be happy to discuss your situation and supply you with a list of referrals to qualified therapists in your area. Call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Meanwhile, on the physical level, moderate exercise can be an important part of the reversal process. Dr. Archibald Hart's book "The Anxiety Cure" suggests a number of lifestyle alterations that can help get you moving in the right direction. I wish you the best.
Q: Our marriage has long been plagued by conflict and emotional pain. We've reluctantly concluded that we need to separate for a while. I don't know if our relationship will survive, but for our kids' sake and our own sanity I want to go about this process in the best way possible. Help?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Remember that marital separation is best understood as a strategy for healing a hurting marriage. As Gary Chapman says in his book "Hope for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed" (which I highly recommend), "separation is not necessarily the beginning of the end." Rather, I'd advise you and your spouse to approach it as an opportunity to avail yourselves of some marital triage.
Be intentional in the way you go about it. Write up a list together of the goals you hope to achieve by this time away from one another. Decide on a time frame. Make a commitment to work on your issues during this hiatus in your relationship, both as individuals and as a couple. Document all these decisions to keep yourselves on track.
It's best to provide children with as much structure and stability as possible during a separation. Do everything in your power to maintain a normal schedule and preserve your kids' sense of normalcy and security.
Meanwhile, you'll likely have to interact occasionally about the children's needs, household affairs and other practical matters. Much of this can be handled by phone, text and email, but if you're involved in mutual counseling (as I trust you will be), you may receive "homework" assignments requiring you to meet in person. I highly recommend doing this in a neutral public setting like a coffee shop or restaurant. Prioritize conducting everything in a genial and businesslike manner.
Again, the goal is to heal your marriage. We have many resources to help at FocusOnTheFamily.com. And for relationships at the breaking point, our Hope RestoredÂ® program has an exceptional success rate in healing troubled marriages; see hoperestored.focusonthefamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.