Heidi Shirra from South Cave has published a book sharing her experiences of overcoming anorexia. Handmade By God, published by Gilead Books, is an account of Heidi’s battle with the eating disorder, and the Bible verses that helped her conquer the illness.
Now a nursing student at the University of Hull, Heidi first encountered anorexia as a 18 year old dance student. “I went off to study dance as a happy healthy teenager” she said. “But I became very critical and dissatisfied with my body. In dance, you’re always looking at yourself in studio mirrors and wearing skin tight clothing. I started to watch what I ate and then it all became addictive. I started to lose weight so I thought ‘this is working, I’ll eat even less’, and it became a vicious circle.
“I realised something was wrong when I went home for the holidays. I didn’t want to eat food with my family, and I didn’t want anyone cooking my food. I wanted to eat it on my own. And in the end, my doctor told me I shouldn’t go back to University unless I put on more weight. I just burst into tears at what the doctor said. I loved being at University, and I couldn’t bear the thought of not going back.
“So I thought “Right, I will try and eat a bit more”, and it was so hard. I did it, and I made a little plan for myself and my parents were brilliant. They were so supportive. In the first week I ate an additional mini box of raisins. It seems like nothing now but it was a big deal at the time. And then I ate an extra piece of bread during the day .
“The real change came when I started looking in the Bible for help. I looked for inspirational Bible verses, and printed them out and stuck them around my bedroom. Everywhere I looked there was something positive. And it started making a difference in my head.
“Anorexia is a very controlling thing. You want to have absolute control over your life, but you don’t. Anorexia is controlling you. So it was so good to read that God has a plan for me, that God was in charge of my life. He’ll always be there for you, He loves you no matter what. I realised that God is still with you even when you feel really lonely.
“I had all these Bible verses around my room and I thought ‘it would be such a shame to just throw them away’ because I spent so long finding them and they’re brilliant Bible verses. So I entered them all into my computer and wrote a bit about what they did for me at the time and how I felt. I really enjoyed doing it and it was really quite therapeutic for me. I think me and God co-wrote it together. It should say ‘by God and Heidi’ really!
“Gilead Books gave me the chance to publish the book, and I said yes because I wanted something positive to come out of something so negative as anorexia. The book isn’t just for people that have suffered from an eating disorder – it’s a reminder for anyone that God loves us just as we are.”
Heidi, now 21, attends All Saints Church, South Cave, where the youth leader is Mark Tiddy. Mark said, “Heidi’s story isn't dissimilar to the increasing number of young people who are developing eating disorders in order to conform to the unrealistic expectations that society presents to them. I hope that people reading this book will realise that ultimate satisfaction in who we are comes from accepting that God, our creator, has made us who we are and that our self-esteem and self-worth needs to be rooted in Him.”
Sharon Edwards, BBC Reporter, spoke about Heidi’s book, saying, “This is a lovely introduction to the walk of faith in which we learn to lean on the Lord Jesus. It will prove to be a valuable book for those searching for a closer walk with Him.”
You can buy Handmade by God by Heidi Shirra for £5.95 at www.GileadBooksPublishing.com or by calling 01944 758777. ISBN: 978-0-9568560-4-3.
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Notes to Editors:
For further information contact Eleanor Course, York Diocese Communications Officer: 01904 699530, 07946 748702.