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Eating Disorder and Break-Up Redemptions: Bela Lemon

with Bela Lemon | February 2, 2024
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Can God REALLY use the suffering of things like eating disorders and relationship break-ups? College student Bela Lemon shares her experiences with both—and how she's seeing God use her in the midst of life's hurts.

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Can God REALLY use things like eating disorders and relationship break-ups? College student Bela Lemon shares her experiences with both—and how she’s seeing God use her in the midst of life’s hurts.

Eating Disorder and Break-Up Redemptions: Bela Lemon

With Bela Lemon
February 02, 2024
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Season 2, Episode 74: Eating Disorder and Break-Up Redemptions

Guest: Isabela Lemon
Air Date: February 2, 2024

Bela: So I struggled with a really bad eating disorder when I was I was fifteen to the point where I had to be hospitalized, and as hard and as scary of a time that was because I almost lost my life because I was so underfed and struggling so much. But I look back on it now and it was one of the most beautiful times in my life because it was in that suffering that I really felt like I met Jesus.

Shelby: Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading...

I'm Shelby Abbott. I'm back again, this time with Bela Lemon, a student at George Mason university in Virginia. So Bela, I wanted to get back into it by asking you kind of a personal question. We talked about weakness in the last episode. So what are some areas of weakness in your life that God might want you to pursue?

Bela: Honestly, that's something the Lord has really been working on my heart. I just got dumped from like a six month relationship like a week and a half ago.

Shelby: Oh Bela, I'm sorry. You know, we can laugh, we can laugh at that, but like it is, it's really hard. It sucks.

Bela: Heartbreak, I think, is one of the hardest things to go through. Because you're grieving this person you still love, that is still alive and around. And so I think an area of weakness that I definitely have is surrender. I struggle with that so much because I fight hard for people I love and for like relationships, because I’m a Comm Major so like communication relationships are a huge just passion of mine. I love people. I love talking to people. I love having those relationships with people. When they fail, it feels like a personal failure. I turn to myself.

Shelby: When the “relationship fails,” you mean?

Bela: Yes, yes, for sure. And You know, I don't understand exactly all the reasons why certain people, like, will walk out of your life unexpectedly. But I've really, really been wrestling with this idea of surrender, because I like to feel, like, in control. A lot of times, in relationships, that manifests in me really struggling to let go and not also beat myself up or look to myself and be like, well, maybe if I had done this, they'd still be here.

Maybe if I would have been a little more perfect, which isn't possible, they would still be here. The Lord has just really been placing on my heart, “Bela, like, it's not always all about you. Like, I could be doing a work in them that has nothing to do with you.” And all relationships are vessels to do something in your life.

Even though this one might not be permanent; I've taught you something through it. And it's okay to be weak and not have it all together. It's okay to have shown someone those vulnerable parts of you. And you know, they're not there anymore. And so that's a huge area I struggle with is just that surrender and that vulnerability, because I really like to feel like I have it all together, just for myself. I like to not feel hurt and not feel in pain, as most people do. I'd say everybody,

Shelby: Yes. I'd say everybody.

Bela: Yes. But yes, it's definitely an area that I struggle with is, is learning to surrender, because I just like to hold on to things, and I don't want to let things go, because I just, I always feel like I could fix it. Like, if we just try a little bit harder, if I just try a little bit harder, I can make this work. I really struggle when the Lord is like, “Hey, like we need to let this go.” And I just, I really hate that.

Shelby: Yes. Thank you so much for sharing that. It is the kindness of God at times to wound His children. Because we will not be able to learn that lesson without being wounded, because we're so stubborn. We're so tight fisted with stuff and the more we think if we loosen our grip and give it to God, the more, the more out of control the more chaotic it is going to be when it's just the opposite. It's actually more in control when we're less in control.

Bela: Yes.

Shelby: It's more in the, in the right hands, when it's less in our hands. And that's just so difficult to do, especially when it comes to romance. I mean you--

Bela: Oh my gosh. Feelings are gross. [Laughter] Yes. They're disgusting. I'm like, why would I, why am I so upset over a man? Like, sometimes I'm just like--

Shelby: --You have feelings and you're allowed to care. You're allowed to care.

Bela: Exactly, exactly.

Shelby: Yes. Did, you know, you said he broke up with you and you guys were together for six months?

Bela: Six months. Yes.

Shelby: Okay. Let me tell you like a relationship that I had that was the relationship right before I dated my wife.

Bela: Okay.

Shelby: She was someone I prayed about for a very long time. Because I liked her a lot and I pursued kind of getting to know her as a friend and not really trying to be creepy or anything like that. But when I finally like laid my cards on the table, she had told me that she had been praying her whole life that she would only date one person and that person would be her husband, and I was the first person that she dated and I was like Oooo that's a lot of pressure. That's a lot of pressure.

But it was also I really liked her, and I had been praying about it for a long long time. So I was like that's terrifying, but okay let's see what Jesus has here. I was pretty convinced that she was the one. We dated for not six months, and she was a student. I was on staff, and she was like, I don't want to be on staff at all, and so this is not going to work.

I was like, I couldn't accept it. It was like, we broke up, but like, I couldn't accept it in my heart and every time I would come back to like, “but no, I prayed about this for a long time.” I was convinced, convinced that this was the right thing, but it clearly wasn't because we weren't together, but I couldn't let it go.

Bela: Yes.

Shelby: You know, I eventually, of course, did get over it, and it was fine. But like that pain that you're talking about is one that you can smile. You can pretend to be happy on the outside, and physically you could be in great condition, but emotional pain that comes as a result of a broken romance is very real, and it eats away at you.

Bela: Oh my gosh.

Shelby: It can. It can really do that, if you allow it to and I did. I allowed it to do that for me for a while.

Is he a guy that's like around the movement and Cru® ?

Bela: No, he's not. He is around the church that, like, my family attends. But it's a massive church.

Shelby: Okay, so It's not like you're bumping into him every three seconds.

Bela: No. So that is really nice.

Shelby: That's good. Yes. That's really nice. Keep a little distance there. That's, that's healthy.

Bela: Yes. For sure.

Shelby: That's, that's good. Thanks again for sharing that. It does stink. I wrote a book about dating [I Am a Tool (To Help With Your Dating Life)]. Did you know that?

Bela: No, but I'm going to have to read it.

Shelby: Yes. I wrote a book about dating and there's a chapter on breakups. There's a whole chapter on breakups. Because I felt like breakups were being handled really poorly in Christian circles. They were just not. You know, this is back, I wrote it back in 2014. So, it was a while ago now, but like even back then people were ghosting people instead of dealing with their hard conversations. They were just like abandoning people and not really talking about it. I’m like this is not okay. It's just not okay you need to like deal with [it]. Did he have a conversation with you at least?

Bela: So, what happened is the week leading up to it he told me, he was like, “Bela I love you. I adore you. I’m not going anywhere. I just - I’m going through some stuff personally that I’m trying to process. I just want to assure you I'm only doing this so that we can continue walking through life together.”

That was like two days before the breakup. I had noticed that week though that he had stopped texting me as much. He was starting to pull back. I thought, “Oh, maybe he's this is just him taking some space.”

Then I texted a few times like, “Hey, like I love you just checking in,” and he wouldn't say it back. I called him on that Friday, and I was like, “Hey, we need to talk, like, if we weren't in a relationship, you don't owe me an explanation, but you're pulling back and yes, you're kind of ghosting me. I want you to kind of like man-up a little and just come talk to me in person if you're going to end things.

Shelby: Nice.

Bela: I deserve an answer.”

Shelby: You do. You do.

Bela: It makes me a little upset because I was like would he have even talked to me about it unless I had asked him to. And he was like, “Okay can I just come over to your parents or we can do it tomorrow?” And I'm like “If you're about to dump me, I am NOT going to go to bed tonight and like with that impending doom. I'm like just man-up a little and come talk to me about it like an adult.”

Shelby: Yes.

Bela: And so he did and it wasn't really a clear answer to me, other than he's like, “I'm just going through a lot and I can't give you what you need right now, and I did love you but those feelings have gone away.”

I was like, “Oh, you were just telling me a few days ago that you, you loved me.” So it was very unclear, and I don't say I love you to anybody unless I mean it. I was just like those are some really dangerous words to like throw around—

Shelby: --Totally agree.

Bela: and then just disappear within literally two days of telling me that, “You weren't going anywhere.” So I definitely feel like I didn't get a clear answer and that's really tough, because you know then he unadded me on everything and has just like completely deleted himself, out of my life.

That's really hard because you spent six months with this person, going through things together and making memories, and I was definitely in love. And then it kind of sucks to be like hmm, “Where did this go so wrong for you?” Because it was nothing I thought we couldn't, work through.

Shelby: Deal with it. Yes, like, handle it, tackle it together. Yes.

Bela: Like I said, I'm definitely a team player in a relationship. I'm like, I will stick through anything, and we can get through this, because we have the Lord on our side, and you know, we can seek godly counsel from other people to help us through this. And he just ended things before I felt like we really had a chance to get this ball rolling and get ourselves into a better place together. So that definitely sucked a lot.

Shelby: Yes. Thanks for sharing that with me. People are going through this. They're going through this kind of stuff all the time. And the way that you're handling it, you're even like, Okay, Jesus must have something different for me, and He wants me to learn something specific. Or He wants him to learn something specific. Not many people think that. Oh, it must be about what God wants to do in their life right now and teach them. It's remarkably mature of you. You're going to be fine. You're going to be fine.

Okay, try to shift gears a little bit. You said you're a Comm Major, you're obviously involved with Cru. As you process the things that you're currently may be passionate about, what would you say you pound the table about? What can you talk about with people for a while, because it excites and interests you? It could be anything.

Bela: Okay. I would say I'm very passionate about music. I love music. I will talk music all day long.

Shelby: What's your favorite then?

Bela: I love like alternative rock. So like, the band Camino, the 1975. Things like that. They're my favorite. I. love, like, writing. I'm a huge proponent of writing your thoughts and writing experiences. I could talk about that all day.

Shelby: Like, writing in a journal or typing things out? What do you mean?

Bela: Either. I used to be a hand writer type person, but now I write on my, like, notes on my, like, laptop. I am a huge proponent of writing.

Shelby: Getting your thoughts down.

Bela: Yes, it's so helpful.

Shelby: On an average day then, what would you say, do you go back to your notes app pretty often and type things out? Or is it like, end of the day, I'm going to type things out? Or maybe time with the Lord, Bible open, you're writing things down then, what is it, what's it like?

Bela: Time with the Lord, for sure, is when I really write my thoughts out. I've kind of always been that way whether I'm reading a book or going through like the Bible I just I'll have these moments of like I really feel like I need to like write this down like what the Lord might be like teaching me through this passage or through this like chapter and in this book. I've been reading this Lysa TerKeurst book. I love her books and they've gotten me through some difficult times. But I just write my thoughts about all those things a lot. So yes.

Shelby: That's great. Do you end up sharing them with anybody or is it just you?

Bela: I would love to write something someday. But as of right now, no, it's just me, myself, and I – so yes.

Shelby: I have another friend, a college student, and she said that she would make videos, like vlogs basically, where she'd talk to her phone. And she wouldn't share it with anybody, but she'd start it out, “Hey guys, like, I'm here thinking about this.” And she was like, “Wait, I'm not talking to anybody, why am I saying ‘hey guys?’” in front of stuff. I thought that was pretty funny.

Bela: Oh my gosh, yes.

Shelby: Yes, I'm a big proponent of writing things down. Obviously, I've written quite a few things. Ironically, I don't journal a ton. I don't write things down by hand a lot.

Bela: I don't know if it's like my attention span or if my hand just cramps, but I can't do it anymore. I don't know how I used to. I just can't.

Shelby: In general, in college, you're not like writing things as much anymore with a pen and paper. You're always typing stuff out. I thought about that as like I, you know, you learn how to write when you're in elementary school with your hands and then eventually you learn how to type. And then you learn how to like type with your thumbs and then writing kind of goes by the wayside.

And then if you have to get back into that again for any particular reason, it's like, what does my handwriting look like now? I don't even know what my handwriting looks like. I know what my signature looks like, but I don't know what my handwriting looks like. It's kind of funny to explore it again – write stuff down.

You've been a Christian for how long?

Bela: I've grown up in a Christian home. I first accepted Christ, I believe I was six or seven.

Shelby: Okay, really young.

Bela: Really young, yes. But I always say that I became like a actual believer when I was like fourteen. It was a very distinct moment in my life where I was like, I know that I'm saved, but it doesn't feel like it's my own relationship right now. And I remember distinctly, like, where I was and when I like prayed that prayer of commitment to the Lord.

Shelby: As a fourteen year old?

Bela: Yes.

Shelby: Would you say that you felt like it wasn't your own because you were kind of piggybacking off maybe your parents or your family?

Bela: A little bit, yes. It's like when you're growing up in an environment where you're surrounded by that all of the time it's amazing, and I wouldn't change that for the world. But when you're surrounded by it all of the time, it just kind of becomes your way of life and there's no like real challenge kind of in that. And so, fourteen kind of entering high school, you know there's a whole new set of challenges.

And I was like, okay, like I really want to say, “Yes to the Lord.” And that usually involves some pain and suffering, because He's never going to leave us how He finds us. Which definitely propelled some things throughout high school where that really challenged my faith, where I felt like I had to cling to the Lord because that's all I had.
And that's kind of how my faith has matured over the years is situations like that definitely started when I was like fourteen, thirteen in that age range.

Shelby: When was a time when you feel like other than that time when you're fourteen -when was the time when you feel like you really experienced God on a personal level?

Bela: So I struggled with a really bad eating disorder when I was, I was diagnosed at 12, but it got really bad at 15 to the point where I had to be hospitalized. And I was away from my home, my family, everything I loved and knew, and like, school, my sports. I was a dancer. I did martial arts. I was very active, and all those things were stripped from me. I was in a hospital bed, and I had wires coming out of who knows what. I had a feeding tube, and I was in the hospital for about a week and a half, almost two weeks. Then I was transferred to a rehabilitation center, a refeeding place for another six, seven weeks. So in total, I was away from home for, like, nine weeks.

Shelby: Wow, that was a long time.

Bela: It was like a little over two months, and as a fifteen year old, you know, I was just a kid. I was surrounded by people that were definitely not believers. But I remember that was a time where I genuinely had nothing to turn to but the Lord.

As hard and as scary of a time that was, because I almost like lost my life because I was so underfed and struggling so much mentally with just the idea of just where I was. I was in such a broken place. But I look back on it now and it was one of the most beautiful times in my life because it was in that suffering that I really felt like I met Jesus.

I would get up every day, like either in the hospital or at the house that I stayed at and I would read my devotional and read my Bible. And I carried it, my Bible, with me everywhere in the house. To where some of the girls would like start asking about it. I would be like this is the only reason I'm able to like get through this. Because without Him I didn't really have much of a desire to like get better and heal my body through food and just the refeeding process and trusting it. Just allowing the Lord to heal me from the inside out. I really felt like after that process, I've never really struggled with that again. I really felt like the Lord told me that was like a one and done, which is amazing. And of course, there's, you always have to be aware.

Shelby: Yes, of course.

Bela: But that was definitely a time where I felt. Because of that suffering at such a young age and truly surrendering everything I had to the Lord, which was not much, but He used that to heal me and really just deepen that relationship that I had with Him. It was genuinely some of like the most beautiful times I had where I feel like I really like encountered Him and His love for me.

Shelby: Have you found that you've been able to use your story to help, like, freshman women or any other women that you run across who have gone through the same thing that you have?

Bela: Oh my gosh, yes. And that is what makes it so worth it to me, because when we go through those things, we are so much better able to have compassion and help others.

Shelby: Yes.

Bela: So many young women I've encountered struggle with body image, with food, with eating disorders, like mental health, and that is something I'm like, okay Like I know I know a little bit of my stuff, because I've lived it like I've walked through it.

Shelby: Yes It's not theoretical for you.

Bela: Exactly. So there have been so many times even in like public places. There was one time in Target®. There was this girl she was a teenage girl and she was with her mom. And her mom was trying to get her to eat something. She was like no mom I feel fat and like I feel very ugly.

And like I asked the Lord in that moment, I was like, I really feel like I want to say something to her, God. But I just pray that it comes across well and that her mom is not thinking it's weird that I'm talking to her about this.

I remember I pulled her aside for just like 15 seconds and was like, “Hey, I've been there and I've struggled with this. You are beautiful and you deserve to eat. Like, you need to take care of yourself.” And, like, her mom heard it and she was like crying and then the little girl was like, well not little girl - she was like a teenager, she was like, thank you, like, I really needed to hear that.

I remember walking away from that feeling like, okay, I feel so good because I feel like that was something the Lord really wanted me to say something. I felt so empowered after that. I was like, God, you know, for that one encounter that I just had all of that pain and suffering through that time in like the hospital and doctors and therapists and nutritionists and counselors - so worth it for that one moment where I felt like I could use my pain for a purpose. And that's what's fueled me so much, even from that situation in that trial, just to use pain for purpose, and that's something that's always stuck with me since then.

Shelby: Yes, that's such a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing that. I got like little teary as you were telling it. Isn't that just like Jesus, you know, using pain for purpose? Which is when you think about the gospel, like the pain of the Savior used for the purpose of healing other people. There's a little microcosm of the gospel right there.
The pain that you went through, you were able to use to bring purpose in the life of this, teenage girl in a Target who you never met before and had a fifteen second conversation with. Yes, that's really cool

Well as a young person, what's one thing you hope to see God do in your generation specifically? if you were to think about it.

Bela: Oh man, I would just love to just see a generation that is so defined by like their compassion. I think there's so much hatred and just tension with people and in society. I think we lose just that crucial idea of compassion and grace for one another. We're so quick, and I'm guilty of this too, to point fingers and blame and criticize. But, I would love to just see this like on fire - just compassion - for other people and for the Lord. I think would go so incredibly far.

Shelby: Yes, yes, I totally agree, and I see hints of that too like the Asbury revival. It was like run by Gen Z. Nobody was programming that stuff. And you could see that there is a huge amount of compassion with social justice issues. What if we were to, your generation in particular, be a part of justice in the world, but through the lens of Scripture--

Bela: Absolutely.

Shelby: --through the motivation, the fuel of the gospel. It can happen.

Bela: Yes, absolutely.

Shelby: That's really cool. Bela, I am so grateful for who God has made you to be.

Bela: Thank you.

Shelby: And I'm so grateful that you took the time to talk with me today. I love to see the potential that people like you have for changing the world for the glory of Jesus and you are certainly one of those people. So thanks for the time today.

Bela: Thank you. Thank you so much!

Shelby: God really does want to use us and He'll even use the painful things in our lives to help shape and transform others even when we think that'll never happen. Bela is a testament to that.

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