A Review of “Eating Disorders” by Mark Shaw

Counseling books can often make problems and overcoming those problems seem simplistic. It’s not always the fault of the authors; books themselves can never truly be comprehensive and they can never replace actually counselors in the process of helping people with troubles. Eating Disorders: Hope for Hungering Souls is a good book on one particular aspect of overcoming the struggle of an eating disorders, but counselors and counselees will certainly want to supplement it with other resources. Eating Disorders is a helpful tool for navigating the thought life of someone wrestling with this particular problem.

Mark Shaw writes as both at trained professional (Master’s Level Addiction Professional) and an experienced counselor. He was previously, at the time of writing this booklet, the Director of Vision of Hope – a residential treatment program. As he writes about the issue of eating disorders, then, he writes with real knowledge. His counterparts in this work, Bethany Spence and Rachel Bailey, add their own qualifications too. Spence served at Vision of Hope and Bailey serves at the Houston Eating Disorders Center. The book is written, then, by knowledgeable professionals.

The work follows an accessible outline, modeled off of two passages of Scripture: Ephesians 4:20-24 and 2 Timothy 3:16. The conviction of the book is that the Word of God has something powerful to say to eating disorders and something hopeful to offer to those who suffer from them. Therefore the Bible is the starting place and foundation for all the instruction they give. The process of change outlined, then, follows four steps drawn from these passages. The process can be described in terms of Learning Christ, Putting-Off, Renewing the Mind, and Putting On. Or, it can be described in terms of Doctrine, Reproof, Correction, and Instruction in Righteousness. It’s a standard outline within Biblical Counseling and is relevant for this particular struggle too.

The strength of the book is its emphasis on confronting deceptive thoughts and renewing the mind with truth. Shaw excels in stressing these points, as is demonstrated in his other works (see Heart of Addiction particularly). He walks readers through the impact of their thoughts on their habits and activities, and he is able to highlight specific common lies of those who struggle with eating disorders. The list will give counselors great insight into some of the internal dialogues of those they seek to help, it will also resonate well with those who struggle. As he turns his attention to the renewal of the mind, Shaw gives direct challenge to each of these lies, demonstrating how Godly thinking can be used to counteract false beliefs. The book excels on this point, and both counselors and those struggling will find much help here.

Yet, eating disorders, like so many problems, involve lots of trained habits and fighting against them requires lots of practical strategies too. Here the book tends to lack the detailed and specific insights that it possess with regard to the cognitive battle. Even chapter four, which discusses “Walking in Victory,” focuses solely on the proper motivation to sustaining victory. That is a great topic, to be sure, but it is not the kind of robust detail that is needed to help those who struggle.

Eating Disorders serves as a great tool for wrestling with deceptive thoughts, a major part of the battle with eating disorders. When used in conjunction with other counseling tools and practical helps this can be of real benefit to those who are struggling. At 70 pages this booklet is simply an introduction to the challenges of eating disorders and the strategies to fight against them, but it is a good introduction.

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