FamilyLife Today® Podcast

I Have an Eating Disorder: Rachel & Campbell Faulkner-Brown

with Rachel Faulkner-Brown | February 19, 2024
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Could you or someone you know have an eating disorder? Campbell Brown shares her personal journey with anorexia and her mom, Rachel, shares how she learned to support her on the road to recovery.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Join Campbell Brown as she bravely shares her anorexia journey, and her mom Rachel discusses support on the road to recovery.

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I Have an Eating Disorder: Rachel & Campbell Faulkner-Brown

With Rachel Faulkner-Brown
February 19, 2024
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Campbell: When my eating disorder started, I wanted anorexia. I wanted that thinness. I wanted that praise from my family members. And I got it. I got praised for being skinny and thin and beautiful.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

Dave: When you hear the name Rachel Faulkner Brown, what do you think?

Ann: Amazing,— [Laughter]

Rachel: —oh, Ann.

Ann: —wonderful, beautiful, and a survivor?

Campbell: I agree. Yes, totally.

Dave: I mean, we're laughing because we're so excited to have her back in the studio, and not just by herself!

Rachel: That's right.

Ann: You have your daughter Campbell here.

Rachel: I do.

Ann: Welcome, both of you, to FamilyLife Today.

Rachel: Oh, we're so honored. We just love you all so much.

Ann: We love you, too.

Rachel: This is a gift; totally a gift.

Ann: And you were on not too long ago. Share a little snippet of what we talked about the last time you were on—

Rachel: —yes.

Ann: —because you’ve been on quite a journey.

Rachel: Yes!

Dave: Quite a story.

Rachel: You know, my life has been totally unconventional. I lost my first husband when I was 23 to an aneurysm and remarried 2 years later. I lost my second husband in an Air Force plane crash when I was 31. I had Campbell, who was five months old, and Davis, who was two years old, and was widowed for six years. I remarried a pastor from Atlanta ten years ago. We've been on a journey of ministry and blending and trying to figure out how to raise kids in a world that is difficult.

You know, I would say, and I was telling you the last time I was here, death made what we've been through this last year look easy.

Dave: By the way—I mean, there ae people that didn't hear the last time you were here. They're like, “Wait, wait, wait.”

Rachel: Yes, I know.

Dave: “Did she just say she lost her first two husbands?”

Ann: Yes.

Rachel: Yes, yes.

Dave: You talk about traumatic. And yet the last time you were here you said the hardest year of your life.

Rachel: I was in the hardest year of my life. Yes, absolutely. I've dealt with shame, and we both share story of abuse and how that affected our life as Christians who were trying to self-protect and we really self-imploded. You know, at the end of the day, though, this past year, dealing with the illness of a child has just opened my eyes to supernatural compassion for parents who are dealing with sick children and kids who don't want to be sick. Nobody's like, “Please, I want depression,” “I want an eating disorder,” “I want cancer.” I mean, nobody signs up for this. There's not a place where you go, “Yes, I want this.”

And I told the Lord [Laughter] not even 15 months ago—I said, “I really don't want any more stories. I have enough.” And yet, this is our story.

Ann: Yes, and you've had a whole ministry with what you've been through.

Rachel: We have Never Alone Widows; and I will say we just finished one of our retreats this past weekend. I look at those twenty women, and I haven't personally raised someone from the dead, but I have been a part of resurrection, of a woman who came in dead. One of our widows, even this past weekend, said, “My husband may have died, but I didn't have to.” So many widows feel like, “A part of me died,” or “I died,” you know, “when he died.” That just doesn't have to be the case because I look at Ruth and I look at Naomi and I look at Mary, and we're still talking about them. They were widows, and they did great and mighty things in the Kingdom.

I know that the Lord is using Never Alone Widows to resurrect a generation of widows who thought their life was over; who think that because, maybe, their husband was in ministry or they did things together, that that is over. It doesn't have to be over. Their life doesn't have to be over, and they can do—we are just as capable, if not more capable, of releasing the Kingdom in that loss than we are even before, when our life seemed quote unquote “perfect” and everything was going good. And the reality is that a lot of times in these widows’ lives, things weren't going good. But when a husband dies there is this—shame takes over, and you're like, “Well, he's gone, so I can't talk about the hard things.” And that is just not the truth. To me it opens up the ability.

We've got 80 local chapters across the country now, of widows helping widows. I'm like, “How is this my life?” I never thought I would ever be in ministry and yet, God just keeps opening doors. I feel like that's why we're here today: to talk about something that there is so much shame wrapped around. I mean, it's unbelievable how little people are willing to talk about eating disorders. I'm just shocked! And it's so funny, when Campbell was diagnosed, she said, “There is more shame wrapped around eating disorders than a daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock.”

Ann: Wow! So, Campbell, tell our audience, how old are you? Give us a little of your story and your history.

Campbell: I'm 15 years old, but I'm turning 16 this week.

Ann: That's exciting.

Campbell: Lots of fun.

I was five months old when my dad died in a plane crash. And that in itself is really traumatic, more so growing up than at the time because my mom—I mean, I know you told me that he died, but I was like, “Okay, whatever.” I mean, I was—

Ann: —you never knew him.

Campbell: —literally four years old. I was just like, “La Di Da” because my life is so great, and “When's the next Barbie doll coming out?” So, that was the only thing on the top of my brain at the time.

Then I got a stepdad, Rod. He's amazing. He's like the greatest human being I've ever met in my whole life.

Ann: Aww.

Campbell: He helped a lot, but around my 11th birthday and things like that, I totally rejected him. I think I just needed a reason to be mad, because I was like, “You're not my real dad.” I don't know, I think I equate that to my rebellious [phase], because that was really rough for me. I said some incredibly hurtful things to him. But I mean, I'm really grateful for it, because I don't think we would be as close as we are today without it.

Ann: And it takes a while for family to blend. There are all different seasons with that.

Campbell: One hundred percent, yes.

Ann: Let me do this. I want to read, Rachel, what you posted on your Instagram recently, and then I want, I'd love for you both to respond to that. There are several pictures attached to that, but it says,

“A year ago this week, we checked into the hospital as Campbell had been diagnosed with anorexia, and we were at the end of ourselves watching her waste away. Even under the care of the treatment team, we were losing her. It was ravaging her frail body, even though we had been so confident that therapies would help. Campbell's heart rate was lower than a patient near death, and we were utterly terrified. From diagnosis until we pulled her into a treatment center, the terror in our family was palpable…ask my friends. It affected all of us. Campbell had been taken over by an outside force called an eating disorder, and we felt insanely helpless.”

But then you say,

“One year later, she is almost fully restored, healthy, partnered with her body, nourished, and thriving. I have so much more to say, but for now, I will celebrate my daughter. She's my hero. She has truly been resurrected into a new life, and she's a completely different person. Her life will never be the same (nor ours). Everything about her faith, God, relationships, life and her future has shifted, and it's so good, but it is not conventional.”

That makes me emotional reading it because I can sense the pain, the trauma. Campbell, as you hear that, what goes through your mind?

Campbell: Well, I mean, it's definitely super real for me. You know, it's a walk through memory lane for us. And it is our truth and we—it was a lot. It still is a lot, and we aren't over it completely. It's left us with some scars that are still needing to heal.

Ann: And yet you want to talk about it.

Campbell: Oh, of course.

Ann: You're so—you came in like, “I'm so excited to talk about this.”

Campbell: It is probably one of my most passionate things to talk about because I love getting people aware. I love talking about it and making people aware that they need to address that their relationship with their food and body in general is such a big thing. Our culture is so wrapped around diets, weight loss, fitness and all of these things, to the point where it could become an obsession. Sometimes, it's not always an eating disorder; it's disordered eating.

Ann and Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: But that is so normalized in our culture. Just because something is common does not mean it is normal.

Dave: Yes, so take us back to the valley. I mean, when I hear the first part of that post, I'm like, “Whoa, it's dark.”

Campbell: Yes. I made a post, actually, that's something that's really dear to my heart. My mom and I were sitting in the car, and she was like, “Do you want social media back?” And I was like, “That's random, but, yes, I would love that.” And I was—

Ann: —so, wait, you went off of it for a while.

Campbell: I went off of social media for over a year and a half.

Ann: Because?

Campbell: Because my mom thought it was draining me. And this is back in the hospital, and I didn't get back even after I got back.

Ann: Were you comparing yourself to others?

Campbell: I wouldn't say it was really big. Instagram was not a big part of my eating disorder. For some people it is. I just don't really think social media is conducive in general to anybody's mental health, so I mean, I agree with my mom.

Ann: Yes.

Campbell: I think it was a great decision to get off social media—

Rachel: —yes.

Campbell: —just so I couldn't feel like FOMO or anything like that while I was missing out on life per se. But once I decided to go back, I wanted to be  okay. I was posting some really damaging things. I was just—it's called body checking. It's like a really common eating disorder symptom. I would literally post body checks on my Instagram, which is just—

Ann: —what's that mean, body check?

Campbell: A body check can be different for anybody, but my body checks were just making sure I still had a thigh gap. Or like making sure my arms looked super skinny or like, I just really wanted to be skinny. And like, my collarbone, like dips in my collarbone or just random things like that. I would take pictures of it. I’m like, “This is so disgusting.” I would take pictures of it and post it on my Instagram.

Rachel: But I didn't know what she was doing.

Campbell: She didn't know.

Ann: So you saw the pictures?

Rachel: I did, but I wasn't—

Campbell: —you’relike “That’s suspicious.”

Rachel: She just looked like a teenage girl posting a picture. It’s like I think if you don't know what's inside their head—

Ann: —yes.

Rachel: I was just really uneducated about eating disorders. I think that's part of it.

Ann: Are most of us as parents uneducated?

Campbell: Yes, 100 percent!

Rachel: I think so.

Campbell: The amount of people who are completely uneducated on eating disorders—my friends are so confused. My friends still think I just didn't like food. Even though they read and listen to everything I say, they still don't know what it is, which i why I was so excited to come on here today.

But that's another thing—when you said you didn't notice my body checks, it’s because a behavior isn't a behavior until the intention is behind it. So rice cakes, like those are a quote unquote diet food, but if you're not using them in a diet way with a diet mentality, it doesn't have to be diet food.

Rachel: Right.

Campbell: My dietitian might not agree with that. [Laughter] I love caramel rice cakes and chocolate covered rice cakes, so I mean, I digress. But anyway, returning to my return to Instagram. I went on Instagram, and I like archived, deleted, whatever, all of my posts with body checks in them. I decided to just like go out with a bang and have like this return post.

I got a bunch of pictures of, like, I don't think it's important to post pictures of my unhealthy body, so I just posted a bunch of pictures of my healthy body and me enjoying food and life and, you know, genuine happiness. I posted a bunch of that, and I did this long paragraph kind of like talking about eating disorder and apologizing for the body checks and everything like that. But it was very similar to my mom's post. I posted that and then my mom posted her post.

Rachel: Yes, because it was really—this is her story. I feel really dedicated to the fact that this is her story and, yes, it affected us, but this is her story. That night we were—she just finished Bible study—

Campbell: I was freaking out.

Rachel: —and she said, “I'm ready to tell my story.” I was like, “Ooh, ooh, you can't go back.” Like, “You can't until your story.” You know, once it's out there and once I knew she posted it I was like, I said, “There's no coming back from this.” You know, they will know—

Campbell: —and I was like, “Let's go.”

Rachel: —and she was like, “Let's do it. I'm ready.” She said, “If it helps one person, then it's worth it.” You know there's this part of me that wanted to protect her and protect her from people—not necessarily people knowing that she had an eating disorder, but just protect the questions, protect—and she was so confident.

Campbell: There’s no protecting at this point.

Rachel: You know, she was just so confident that it was it was time to tell them what happened.

Campbell: I got flooded

Ann: —really?

Campbell: —with DM's, comments, likes, shares, all of the saves, all of these things and I was like, within an hour of posting it at nine p.m. at night.


Rachel: But girls—

Campbell: —girls who needed help.

Rachel: —moms, friends, sisters, brothers; everyone, texts.

Ann: So, Campbell, is this like a secret? Like girls are, it's kind of boiling inside.

Campbell: Yes, that is something I really wanted to talk about today, is that eating disorders are the most secretive, and it is the second deadliest mental illness—only second to like, I think it's suicide. That is the only thing it’s second to, and I survived it.

Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: So, I feel like, who's going to speak for their lives? I want to share my story so that their stories can be told. You know, it's just like it comes from such a place of secrecy.

Ann: Rachel, what are some of the statistics that you guys found as you went through this?

Campbell: Yes, it's scary.

Rachel: Yes, and it's more the statistics of 42 percent of 1st through 3rd graders want to be thinner. That is so disheartening to me, but you know Campbell—

Dave: —first to third graders?

Rachel: First through third graders.

Campbell: I was one of those first through third graders.

Rachel: Yes, and 81 percent of 10-year-old children are afraid of being fat; 46 percent of 9- to 11-year-olds are sometimes or very often on diets; 35 to 57 percent of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, laxatives.

Campbell: I was one of those.

Rachel: And on college campuses, 91 percent of women admitted to controlling their weight through dieting.

Ann: I mean, every mom listening is like, “Oh no, am I contributing? Am I affecting my daughter?”

Campbell: Yes, we were talking about this yesterday.

Rachel: Yes, that was like a big thing. Like, I don't sit in circles, Ann, with women where someone is not on a diet or trying to lose weight. It is rampant in our culture.

Campbell: And that is something that I kind of wanted to speak to. Not every single eating disorder is hereditary, but you were born with a certain amount of switches. This is a thing that my therapist kind of used to explain it to me. Everyone has like a switchboard, and to have an eating disorder you need a certain amount of switches turned on. You're born with like maybe zero or one switch, but throughout your life you can get more switches turned on. But when your mother, grandmother, family member had an eating disorder and you're related to them directly, more switches are turned on.

Ann and Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: Or like if your mother engaged in dieting. And I know that this almond mom trend is going around right now, and I know lots of the [listeners] probably know what that is, but—

Ann: What did you call it?

Campbell: An “almond mom” An almond mom is someone who is pushing diet culture on their daughter. So it's like, “You're eating again?!” Like, “Can you eat all that?” And it's typically someone who cuts out certain food groups. Or like a diet mom. And then, they have this thing called a “butter dad,” which is like a keto dad, “only meat” or “no carbs” or like, “Do you know how many carbs are in that?” It's just like somebody who's so preoccupied with body, exercise, diet, etcetera, but it's like pushing that on your kids.

I'm not going to pretend like you didn't have almond mom tendencies. [Laughter]

Rachel: Oh, no, I totally did! [Laughter]

Campbell: Yes, and that’s I was going to say—

Rachel: Becausethat's part of our story.

Ann: I don't know if there's a woman that doesn't in America.

Rachel: Right. Well, that's the thing. When Rod and I got married, I was feeding them Lunchables. I'm just going to be really honest before Rod and I got married. [Laughter]

Campbell: And breakfast dessert.

Rachel: I married Rod, and Rod grew up in a very holistic household, like brewer’s yeast—

Campbell: —chicken liver.

Rachel: —in orange juice. And I became a lot more aware of health and wellness. That was about the time she was in this developmental phase where she was noticing.

Ann: How old—do you remember that, Campbell?

Campbell: I actually do. I was like five.

Ann: And you remember?

Campbell: Oh, yes, and the sugars got limited; [she] called it one sugar a day.

Rachel: “One sugar a day.”

Campbell: One sugar a day.

Rachel: We tried to limit sugar. These are all good things.

Campbell: Okay, okay.

Ann: Right; I did that too, with my kids.

Rachel: Well, when you have switches turned on—

Ann: So you're saying that was switching.

Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: I have family members so preoccupied with diets and weight and commenting on other people's plates; unsolicited dinner comments got to me as a young kid. I was like, “Oh, this is a healthy choice.”

Dave: And that’s pretty common.

Ann: Another switch?

Campbell: That's a switch.

Dave: I mean, I’m thinking about our Thanksgiving meal and her dad, and I mean, he commented on everybody!

Campbell: Yes!

Dave: I mean, most Americans (at least that I know) are conscious about fitness—

Rachel: —they are.

Dave: —especially in the last 25-30 years.

Campbell: One hundred percent.

Ann: Oh, yes!

Dave: Diet.

Rachel: Yes, I know.

Dave: I mean, there's more information than we've ever had.

Rachel: —ever had.

Dave: And so, in some ways that's a good thing, but it could be obviously bad.

Rachel: Well, it is, and that's the thing. Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating.

Campbell: I had orthorexia.

Ann: Define what that is.

Dave: Never even heard that term.

Campbell: Okay, so orthorexia is a preoccupation or an obsession with healthy eating, and that can mean anything from cutting out certain food groups to being obsessive about exercise. Orthorexia is one of, probably the most—I would say it's one of the most common eating disorders in adults.

Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: I'm sure you guys are already thinking: you/ve got that fit friend. You know, that one who probably counts macros or lives, breathes and dies by the amount of sweat they burn or just never misses a workout; always ordering the healthy option or getting just lettuce at a restaurant, or just like grilled chicken or something. That in itself isn't orthorexia, but it can be.

All of these things—all of these healthy things, all of these diet things—don't have to be an eating disorder, and some of them aren't eating disorders.

Rachel: Right, right.

Campbell: But it can be an eating disorder when it gets to the point where you can't pull yourself away from that anymore. That is you; you are a diet. When your mentality goes from “I'm just going to get in shape for like six months.” Because in all honesty, fitness isn't about a six-month diet. Fitness is about—

Ann: —a lifestyle.

Campbell: —a lifestyle. It's like wellness is a lifestyle. I believe in having a balanced diet. Don't even put percentages on it. People are like, “I live by the 80-20 rule,” like 80 percent healthy, 20 percent not. I'm like, “It's not about that.” It’s everything in moderation and whatever fits your health and wellness goals. Because I know lots of people have diabetes or insulin resistance, or what's the thing?—

Rachel: —high cholesterol.

Campbell: —high cholesterol or things like that. But [with] all of these things, it's like, “Address your personal health goals and make that a lifestyle.”

Rachel: Yes.

Ann: Well, let me ask you—we're almost out of time: how did you come out of it? You have all these switches on—

Rachel: —right.

Ann: —to the point where you're hospitalized.

Campbell: Yes. When my eating disorder started, I was so unaware, like I wanted anorexia. I know that sounds really terrible, but I've never—I wanted to be thin so bad that I wanted anorexia. I wanted that thinness. I wanted that praise from my family members. And I got it. I went to Christmas that year, and I got praised for being skinny and thin and beautiful. I don't think anybody had ever praised my body like that except for when I had an eating disorder.

From there it just progressed. And then I weighed myself every morning and every night and depending on what my weight was at night would determine how much food I ate later that day. That just went on for—until I almost died. And then, one day, I stepped on the scale, and I was like, “When is it going to be enough?” I thought to myself, “When is it going to be enough?” because I looked at my body, and I was just kind of like, “There's nothing left to lose.”

Ann: You did recognize that?

Campbell: I didn't know how much more I could lose without dying.

Shelby: That is incredibly heavy and heartbreaking, and we're going to hear more in just a second from Ann on how to process this well as women and men who probably, in one form or fashion, are familiar with what Campbell has been sharing today about her life.

I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Rachel Faulkner Brown and Campbell Brown on FamilyLife Today.

Rachel and Campbell are not unique in this world, and what they've been sharing today maybe has sparked in you some thoughts about your own life; maybe someone who's close to you, or maybe you know someone who struggles with what we've been talking about today and you could really use some help.

Well, Sissy Goff, a licensed therapist and author, has written a book called The Worry-Free Parent: Living in Confidence So Your Kids Can Too. This book is really ideal for parents who are kind of seeking practical guidance and the tools necessary to break free from things like anxiety, who want to create a worry-free family environment and raise confident, courageous children in the face of, really, a nature of anxiety that exists in the culture today.

This book by Sissy Goff is going to be our gift to you when you give today. You can get your copy with any donation that you make by going online to, clicking on the Donate Now button at the top of the page. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” And feel free to drop us something in the mail if you'd like to. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Dr, Orlando, FL 32832.

Okay, let's hear more from Ann on how to process what we've heard today.

Ann: As a listener, if you're a woman, you have experienced something about this; even the pressure of wanting to be thin or people talking about it and so, this is totally true for me. I mean everything you said, I’m [thinking], “Yes, yes, yes.” And there's a part of me that's like, I'm almost glad that I didn't have girls.

Rachel: Yes.

Ann: Because I wonder how much that would have affected them. I'm glad that we're going to continue this conversation because we really want to bring help to women, to daughters, and to guys. There are a number of guys; it's not of as high a percentage, but we want to have a healthy lifestyle. And I also want to hear, as we talk tomorrow, how did you bring Jesus into this? What does that look like? Yes.

Campbell: Yes.

Shelby: When was the turning point in Campbell's life? And what happened when she realized she was so much more than her body image? Well, coming up tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined again by Rachel Faulkner Brown and Campbell Brown to talk about and share that piece of her story. We hope you'll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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