I'm a Christian, and I have an eating disorder - Part II
Do not grow weary of doing good
When the eating disorder voice takes over
Sometimes it’s difficult to ignore the eating disorder lies and cling to the truth of my identity in Jesus.
When I first started drafting this article, for example, I felt like giving up my mentally healthy pursuits altogether. For my particular disorder, this can go one of two ways. It’s either “Screw it, I’ll never succeed at eating healthy. I’ll just eat donuts,” or “Screw it, I’m so tired of being fat and hideous. It’s time to buckle down and eat salads. Only salads. And I’m going to get up early and exercise. And when I do everything right, I will lose weight, and then I will feel better.”
Sometimes these feelings take over. Every day, I have to eat. And every day I have to get dressed. And every day at some point I’m bound to look in a mirror, whether I like it or not.
So as a Christian, how do I respond to these feelings that I know are founded on lies? How do I face this disorder and live in a way that is honoring to God?
Abide in Christ
The answer is actually really simple. If I want to be prepared to fight the lies of an eating disorder, I should equip myself in the same manner that I would to fight any other sin or temptation. With truth.
In John 15:4-5, Jesus reminds us about the necessity of abiding in him in order to bear fruit: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Apart from Christ, we will not have the strength to fight off the weight of an eating disorder. But when we are filled with his Word, we can refute the lies about our identities with truths about who God made us and how he loves us.
Practical tips for living with disordered eating
Once you’ve armed yourself with the Word, you’re poised to combat your eating disorder. That being said, I still often struggle with the gap between my mental/emotional battle and my practical actions. Like - what am I actually supposed to eat?
One of the most helpful pieces of advice that I’ve ever received was to stop thinking about limiting what my body was allowed to eat, and to start thinking about giving my body things that were helpful to it. To implement this very practically, take care of your body like you would take care of a puppy (or a kitten, or a baby, or something else tiny and adorable).
Give your body food that helps you succeed. A puppy’s body needs nutrients and energy. You do too.
Give your body both exercise and rest. A puppy takes walks to get strong and healthy and then crashes for nap on the rug. You can too.
While body image issues might make eating and exercise seem like insurmountable emotional tasks, start by asking yourself simple questions like “what food can I give my body right now that will be helpful to me?” And it’s ok if sometimes the answer is “an apple” and sometimes the answer is “a cookie.”
Do not grow weary of doing good
On the days that you feel like giving up - don’t.
My wise husband recently encouraged me with this truth, and I can’t get it out of my mind in the best way. I was at a point where I felt like my recent weight gain was just too much. It was time to buckle down and do whatever it took to lose weight. Even if that meant becoming restrictive and pursuing earthly beauty. I wanted to be thin more than I wanted to trust in my identity in Christ.
But in Galatians 6:9, we are told the following: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” So even when you are feeling weary of holding on to the Word and you’re tempted to just let go in favor of earthly idols of body image and beauty, don’t give up. Don’t grow weary of doing the good that is trusting Christ. In him, you will reap a beautiful harvest.
(By way of disclaimer, please note that I am not a doctor or a licensed counselor of any kind. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or body image anxiety, please ask for help from a licensed professional! If you’re not sure where to start, Faithful Counseling offers licensed counselors via chat.)