Nancy Alcorn, Founder and President of Mercy Ministries, recently answered some common questions about the different types of eating disorders she regularly encounters with residents of Mercy Ministries.
Question: Nancy Alcorn, what kind of eating disorders have you encountered with the young women in your care?
Nancy Alcorn: I have seen anything from anorexia nervosa and bulimia to binge-eating disorder. It really varies from woman to woman.
Question: How do you define the different types of eating disorders?
Nancy Alcorn: Anorexia nervosa is identified by a severely distorted perception of one’s physical appearance. This mind-set leads to actions, including self-starvation and excessive exercise rooted in an intense fear of gaining weight. Bulimia is compulsive overeating leading to self-induced vomiting. The abuse of laxatives and diuretics is common in an attempt to purge the body of food. Binge-Eating Disorder is consuming large quantities of food in an uncontrolled manner.
Question: So you’re saying overeating can be considered an eating disorder? Everyone at one time or another overeats.
Nancy Alcorn: True, but when someone overeats to manage unpleasant emotions like stress, depression, or anxiety it can become a real problem. When overeating occurs, many times it is to fulfill an unspoken need.
Question: You mentioned an unspoken need. What kind of unspoken need?
Nancy Alcorn: All eating disorders are used to express emotions through unhealthy behaviors. As you understand the connection between your outside behaviors and how you feel inside, you can begin to get to the root of the eating disorder. And I have learned that no matter what the problem, Jesus is the answer. That is why I believe God called me, Nancy Alcorn, to start Mercy Ministries; so that hurting young women would know that they can be free from life-controlling issues like eating disorders.
Question: How many girls and women actually have these various eating disorders?
Nancy Alcorn: Up to ten million teens and young women develop eating disorders and abnormal attitudes towards food.
Question: Are these eating disorders truly dangerous?
Nancy Alcorn: Regardless of the specific eating disorder, severe and sometimes permanent damage can result, even leading to death. For young women between the ages of 15-24, the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is more than 12 times the death rate of all other causes of death.
Question: With an eating disorder as severe as Anorexia Nervosa, how do Nancy Alcorn and the staff go about treating the residents of Mercy Ministries?
Nancy Alcorn: I believe a holistic approach is necessary. We try to address the physical, emotional, behavioral and spiritual needs of each girl. This is done through Biblical counseling, nutrition education, fitness instruction, life-skills training, and educational opportunities.
Question: What is the success rate that you have seen with residents of Mercy Ministries?
Nancy Alcorn: In a recent survey of former Mercy Ministries of America residents, 93% of respondents said Mercy Ministries “transformed their lives and restored their hope.”
Question: That’s quite a successful track record for Nancy Alcorn.
Nancy Alcorn: Yes, especially in comparison to other secular programs and treatment centers. But it isn’t Nancy Alcorn’s success; it is the unconditional love of God that brings true healing and transformation. Nancy Alcorn just responded in obedience to God’s calling.
Question: Where can girls with eating disorders find out more information?
Nancy Alcorn: They can visit our website at www.mercyministries.com. Or they can go to the site’s online web store where my book Starved, part of the “Mercy For” series, is available to purchase as well as other Nancy Alcorn writings.
Nancy Alcorn found her calling in 1983 when she started an organization whose sole purpose was to change lives. Nancy Alcorn saw a need and founded Mercy Ministries of America. Nancy Alcorn felt that God had prepared a path for her as she spent 8 years working for the state of Tennessee at a correctional facility for juvenile delinquent girls and investigating child abuse cases. Though Nancy Alcorn saw many girls pass through the system and end up in prison, Nancy Alcorn felt these girls never got the real help they needed. Native Tennessean Nancy Alcorn also worked as Director of Women for the Nashville Teen Challenge Program. Through these experiences, Nancy Alcorn realized that a real transformation could occur only through Jesus. As Founder and President of Mercy Ministries, Nancy Alcorn has seen this ministry grow to include several international locations. To contact Nancy Alcorn or Mercy Ministries, visit http://www.mercyministries.com
About Nancy Alcorn
During her five years working for the state of Tennessee, at a correctional facility for juvenile delinquent girls, Nancy Alcorn developed a passion to impact the lives of hurting young women. Time and time again, Nancy Alcorn watched as the young women she worked with at the juvenile facility passed the age of eighteen and ended up in the women’s prison system because they never got the real help they needed.
During the next three years, as Nancy Alcorn investigated child abuse cases for the state of Tennessee, she saw firsthand why so many of these young women were angry and hurting. Working with juvenile delinquent girls and investigating alleged cases of child abuse gave Nancy Alcorn the opportunity to interact directly with secular rehabilitation programs and the girls impacted by those programs. It was during this time that Nancy Alcorn realized that these programs were not producing permanent results that exemplified changed lives.
Following her tenure with the state, Nancy Alcorn accepted an appointment as Director of Women for the Nashville Teen Challenge. Through all of these experiences, Nancy Alcorn began to realize that true transformation would never come as the result of any government system. Nancy Alcorn understood that only Jesus could bring restoration into the lives of girls who were desperately hurting and searching for something to fill the void they felt in their hearts.
Nancy Alcorn began to sense that God was unfolding a plan prompting her to step out in faith. God called Nancy Alcorn to help hurting young women find freedom and have their lives transformed. With her experience to assist her and God to guide her, Nancy Alcorn would prayerfully make a giant step of faith to help hurting young women.
In January of 1983, Nancy Alcorn relocated to Monroe, Louisiana and established Mercy Ministries of America. Nancy Alcorn was determined that the Mercy Ministries program would bring about true-life change in the lives of young women. With that in mind, Nancy Alcorn knew there were three guiding principles to which she must always remain faithful. First, Nancy Alcorn committed that Mercy Ministries would accept girls free of charge. Second, Nancy Alcorn committed that Mercy Ministries would donate ten percent of all donations to other organizations and ministries. Third, Nancy Alcorn made the decision that Mercy Ministries would never accept any state or federal funding. In no way did Nancy Alcorn want any money that might interfere with the freedom to share Christ.
Since 1983, Mercy Ministries, under the leadership of Nancy Alcorn, has seen exponential growth and impact. Establishing locations in Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri and California, Nancy Alcorn has seen her God-sized dream impact numerous women ages 13 to 28. Nancy Alcorn has seen Mercy Ministries grow beyond the borders of the United States with home in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada.
Nancy Alcorn and Mercy Ministries help young women seeking freedom from physical and sexual abuse (including sex trafficking), eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addiction, depression and unplanned pregnancy. Mercy Ministries, with Nancy Alcorn serving as Founder and President, assists young women through a non-conventional approach to healing that allows them to stop and break destructive cycles of behavior. Nancy Alcorn continues her commitment to helping young women recognize their self-worth and reach their full potential.
For more information about the services offered by Nancy Alcorn and Mercy Ministries, visit the Mercy website online at http://www.mercyministries.com.