When working with fellow Christ-followers, parts of their eating disorder will attach to their faith and, as a result, allow them to justify beliefs and behaviors through scripture. I have listened to an array, but today I want to explore the five I have heard the most.
It goes without saying, yet it still must be said that our God is a God of unconditional love and light and promise – all things opposite of an eating disorder. This is not stated to make you feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment if you are currently struggling. And it is certainly not a judgment of your walk and relationship with the Lord. I simply encourage you to look deeper, surrender, and trust. There is an opportunity within your affliction to grow closer to Him if you allow.
Before diving in, let me share a piece of my story. During my eating disorder and at twenty-three years old, I was baptized. I wanted desperately to grasp something that could save me. Jesus, are you there? I had always believed in God as a child/adolescent and imagined myself as a tiny speck, hopefully with some purpose, in His grand plan. We sometimes prayed before going to bed while I was growing up; however, we only went to church on Easter if we were invited. My mom was raised Mormon but not practicing the religion (I didn’t even know until later in life), and she was firm in her desire that she wanted my brother and me to find our faith on our own, without the force of religion. So, at twenty-three years old, when a friend invited me to her super friendly, energetic, non-denominational Texas mega-church on Baptismal Sunday, I found myself pulled by the Spirit to give my life over. If I am being honest, there was also the deep desire to stop my eating disorder, be in control and still achieve the body I wanted in a “healthy way.” I was hoping being baptized could help this prayer be answered.
My eating disorder did not stop. It became worse, more pervasive, and I wouldn’t go into recovery for another five years. I would sometimes discretely cry during worship service at church, pretending to be moved by the lyrics when I was actually suffering and asking God why He wasn’t saving me and giving me control to beat this eating disorder. What did I need to do? I would try so hard to eat “good,” to stay thin, but not too thin. I didn’t want to be sick, just the version of attractiveness I had in my mind; the version I saw with Victoria Secret models. Then, after being “so good” for a while and following the rules, I had for myself, I would sporadically find myself overeating or, even worse, all-out compulsive binging. The guilt, shame, and fear were too much to bear, which ultimately made me run to the most secret place I could find to purge. All of it made me feel completely out of control. I would have thoughts of, “I just do not believe enough; maybe I really am not good enough, not even for God.”
It wasn’t until I had a horrific day with my eating disorder and was rushed to the hospital due to low blood pressure, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance, coupled with the fear of people finally finding out, that I decided to surrender fully to God. All this time, I had been praying to give ME the strength to stop this when what I needed to do was LET GO & LET GOD. This became a mantra for me as I entered recovery. In addition, I always wanted to achieve a particular look to have some assurance I could be accepted and loved. I needed to understand that this desire was of this world and that our Father already accepted and loved me, for He is my creator, and His promises and faithfulness are not based on me achieving anything or looking a certain way.
As promised, let’s now look at what I hear from others and how certain parts of the Bible seem to justify their eating disorder behaviors. In addition, I want to bring you to the truth, so the lies and justification of your eating disorder are rebuked. I also want to point out that for some Believers, their eating disorder separates them from God due to feeling like they are letting Him down and are horrible sinners because of their behaviors. This is simply not true. I am not a Theologian, but I have a heart for Jesus and the Word of God.
- “My body is a temple.”
- Justification by ED preying on faith: I must perfect and control my body, for it is my temple.
- Truth: Nowhere in the Bible does it say perfect the temple or perfect the body. The pursuit of tending to the temple is for spiritual and physical health. Plus, there is no such thing as a perfect body. That is an endless quest, that yields discontentment – even preoccupation with the flesh and body dysmorphia. We are to simply care for the temple, love, and honor what God has given us. Read more – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
- “I am fasting for spiritual reasons.”
- Justification by ED preying on faith: Fasting is mentioned over 70 times in the Bible and it will cleanse my body, plus hopefully yield weight loss.
- Truth: God always knows your heart; you cannot hide. If you are fasting for other reasons besides worship, spiritual sacrifice, and guidance, He knows. Read more – Matthew 6:16-18
- *Side note: I would never advise fasting, of any kind, in any way, while struggling with an eating disorder.
- “I want to be pure.”
- Justification by ED preying on faith: God calls us to be pure and like Him, for we were made in His image. By restricting, eating super clean, and avoiding “bad” foods, I am honoring God.
- Truth: Pure and purity are spoken of throughout the Bible. However, you cannot wash away sin by starving yourself and being rigid out of fear. Only the blood of Jesus washes away sin. Food also has no morals. There is NO “good” and “bad.” There are only foods that have more nutritional value than others. It is about balance, and moderation in freedom. In addition, “pure” is often referencing God’s Word and matters of the heart. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Read more – Matthew 5:8
- “I could be doing much worse things.”
- Justification by ED preying on faith: I am not engaging in other seemingly worse temptations, making what I do with food (my relationship) not that bad.
- Truth: Gluttony:, eating, and drinking in *abundance is one of the seven deadly sins; however, it is not greater or less than the other six (pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, and lust) in God’s eyes. And then on the flipside, nourishing your body is not a temptation, so denying your body fuel in efforts to be “good” do not correlate. Eating is a necessity to live! Also, God created food to be received with Thanksgiving. Read more –1 Timothy 4:3.
- *How we define abundance, is important. I have people all of the time (seriously!) tell me they are a “Binge Eater.” Yet, when I dig into specifics, it is only their judgment of self, mixed with diet culture messaging, that has made them label themselves this way. Overeating and even emotional eating are normal human things to do sometimes, and our judgment of it, or compensation for it, becomes the problem. If you do struggle with binge eating, like restriction and purging, the good news is you can change and heal!!
- “I must have self-control.”
- Justification by ED preying on faith: One of the Fruits of the Spirit is Self-Control.
- Truth: The principle of self-control is the ability not to be tempted by the flesh and things of this world. It doesn’t mean ignoring your physical hunger or following impractical diet culture rules. Self-control is the last of the fruits, and if all that comes before are not present, the specific need/desire for control is not of God. You cannot be in control if you are led by fear, for this is the very thing that keeps your eating disorder…in control.
FRUIT of the Spirit:
Love~ Joy~ Peace~ Patience~ Kindness~ Goodness~ Faithfulness~ Gentleness~ Self-control. Read more – Galatians 5:22-23
An eating disorder prevents ripe fruit and instead grows the following towards oneself: Hate~ Misery~ Conflict~ Resistance~ Criticalness~ Meanness~ Betrayal~ Harshness~ and Fear of Lacking/Losing Control. The wonderful news is that God can create purpose, passion, and healing through all that seems so broken and empty.
He can help you grow NEW FRUIT and OVERCOME FEAR.
This month I am over sixteen years fully recovered and helping others along their journey. I never believed that would be possible at one time, and I couldn’t even imagine what God would do with my story. But he is the Great I Am, and therefore with God, nothing shall be impossible. Read more – Luke 1:37
I always sign off on my blogs “with love and light.” Today, I will leave you with one of my favorite scriptures:
Psalm 119:105 – God’s Word is a lamp, a light that illuminates the darkness.
With Love & Light,