My Faith and My Eating Disorder
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
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In the ten years that I have struggled with eating, body image, and self-esteem, the hardest part was bringing it to God. When I was in the thick of it, I hid it very well, but I was always thinking about it. After I thought I solved it, it was always in the back of my mind. Either way, the last thing I did was think about God’s hand in the whole situation.
I tried everything to lay it at his feet.
Bible verses never helped. I could memorize 1 Corinthians 3:16,17, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 and Matthew 6:25 (the typical eating disorder verses) and it didn’t change my mind. I still felt I too fat and ugly. Words are just words sometimes without the Holy Spirit.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3: 16,17 ESV
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 ESV
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25 ESV
Praying didn’t help. I have never had the gift of prayer, though I do it daily. Whenever my eating disorder came up, I always said: “what does God care that I have low self-esteem?” And that’s what I thought, the eating disorder wasn’t a big deal - it’s just low self-esteem. Lots of people have low self-esteem. It’s not a big deal.
Talking to a mentor never helped. I talked to a few people I would consider deeper in their faith than I and either they would have the same struggles or it would devolve into talking just about the eating disorder. There was never a revelation or a come-to-Jesus moment.
It didn’t help because I didn’t view my eating disorder as a sin.
I viewed my eating disorder as a problem. A thing that interfered with day to day life, but wasn’t necessarily life-threatening like asthma. A big enough of a problem to get an inhaler but not a new set of lungs. It didn’t affect other people, just me. So I didn’t need to fix it, just mask the symptoms.
I also knew God loved me despite my eating disorder. I knew he would take care of me. It’s important to recognize that God loves you in your eating disorder and all your mental health struggles. Whatever they may be and however you are coping with them. Jesus is still going to love me if I’m fat and have low self-esteem. Grace is grace!
I didn’t think to struggle with eating, body image, and self-esteem was a sin, but I was wrong. It is more than just a problem. Every eating disorder is a mix of gluttony, envy, and pride - three of the seven deadly sins. In some cases, one can be more prominent than the other, but they are all there. Binge eating is gluttony. Thinking other people are better than you and wanting to be like them is envy (which we will dive into in another article).
But pride is a little harder to explain. The most widely accepted definition of pride is to hold oneself above others or to take pleasure in one’s accomplishments, but a better definition of pride is “an excessive view of one’s self without regard for others.” Notice this definition doesn’t talk about putting yourself above others, just thinking about yourself more than others. If I am constantly thinking about myself and how I look in either a positive or negative light, I am being prideful. And that is a sin.
How did God intend it?
The opposite of gluttony is temperance.
Temperance is defined as abstinence from or moderation in behavior or expression. One phrase that helped me cope was “everything in moderation” which is temperance. Easier said than done, but it can still be done!
The opposite of envy is kindness.
A big part of my eating disorder was looking at a thin and/or fit woman - usually tall and blonde because I’m tall and blonde - and hating her. Just pure anger that stemmed from the envy I had for her body and the disgust I had for my own. Part of getting better was refusing to compare myself to anyone else and taking pride in the strengths my body did have. I realized other people’s thoughts and opinions about me didn’t matter. Only God’s opinion mattered. I stopped comparing myself to other people. I still acknowledged the thin and/or fit woman, but with kindness.
The opposite of pride is humility.
I have always struggled with pride. Whether positively or negatively, I often think about myself too much. And that is the part of the eating disorder that stayed all these years - the “I can do this by myself” or the “it’s not really a problem” mentality. Working on my thought process is difficult. I can’t brag, but I have to love myself. I need humility, but I have to stand up for myself. That sweet spot can take time to appear and hard work to stay at.
Wait a second.
God knew exactly what he was doing in my life to help me heal - and I didn’t even notice. He knew I needed physical and tangible motivations so he gave me consequences to my actions. That’s what you need to pray for. The correct motivations. Ask God for consequences - that one thing that stops the binge eating and the body shaming. If you want to heal, God will help in the exact way you need it.
Struggling with your Christian faith and your eating disorder? Check out these other Christian Blogs about Eating Disorder:
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