The following post contains ideas that have helped me in my journey with the Lord through eating disorder recovery and wading in the waters of diet culture. If you need medical advice, please talk to your doctor. 😎
Often, I find myself in conversations with dieters who are not seeing the weight loss results they hoped for and people pursuing a healthy lifestyle that get frustrated when they don’t meet their own expectations. I see people strive to eat “healthily” and often minimally, but when their hunger catches up with them at the end of the day (or week), they claim they lose willpower. They don’t understand how they have the strength to eat only fruit for breakfast, kale for lunch, chicken and greens for dinner and then “lose all control” and binge on 12 Oreos, 1/2 a bag of Cheetos, a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, 3 chocolate bars, and 4 popsicles at night. They get frustrated because they were “good” during the day and then lose the ability to finish the day eating minimally.
The issue isn’t as simple as a lack of self control but rather the daytime restriction of sufficient and regular intake of calories and macronutrients.
Hearing peoples’ stories reminded me of some of my own struggles. I began reflecting on my experiences with an eating disorder and diet culture – and learning to obey Christ in this area of my life.
For me, finding appropriate, non-food related outlets for dealing with stress and trauma, getting enough sleep, and eating sufficiently throughout the day (every 3-4 hours) make binges unlikely to happen; I’ve had to learn what “eating sufficiently” means for my body and energy level. Since restricting leads to binging at some point, enough protein, fat, starch, fruits, and veggies at EVERY meal throughout the day has helped me break free from unwanted binge sessions (and restricting/compensating cycles that would surely follow).
Learning how to regulate my food intake has been life changing, but even MORE importantly, in my recovery, I’ve learned not to idolize food – in other words, not to put food on a pedestal or let it take me captive.
Here’s a quick throwback to a doodle I did while in residential eating disorder treatment in 2014.
Healthy eating should NOT be viewed as the gateway to:
I don’t want to be afraid of food or give it too much power in my life. In the New Covenant, all food is clean; I don’t want to make it a morality issue. People aren’t closer to godliness if they skip a meal or eat a kale smoothie for breakfast everyday, and it definitely isn’t profitable if they look down on someone who ate a bagel!
God alone saves His people. God alone gives us our unchanging worth as beings made in His image. Our purpose and joy are realized in glorifying and enjoying our Creator.
How should we view a healthy eating endeavor? What’s appropriate for a Christian?
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
I still aim to eat a well-rounded, nutritious diet and take care of the body the Lord has given me, but my motivations are different now than they were before. My overall diet is also more FLEXIBLE because it is no longer a self made LAW I am trying to abide by. I am no longer looking to the “perfect diet” to be my salvation, or to give me worth, purpose, and joy. I want to have energy to serve the people in my life, and I want to enjoy the pleasures God has given me, but I do not place my HOPE in my food choices. Rather, my hope is in CHRIST for my salvation, worth, purpose, and joy. (I occasionally have to remind myself of this, however!)
I have had to learn to give my food issues to Jesus, and walk with Him in obedience. The idols in my heart do not belong there because the Lord has saved me and is sanctifying me. As a Christian who struggled with an eating disorder as a coping mechanism for many years, I have to remind myself to come before Christ with my anxiety and not to use food types, withholding food, or compensating for food eaten to cope with trauma or a need for control. Also, changing my body will not lead to the profound, God-given peace I crave… that comes from Christ alone. 😉
Although I am still being refined in this area of obedience, I aim to stay motivated in eating balanced meals throughout the day regardless of how I feel so that I can better love the One who makes me more alive than a superfood salad. I strive to focus on him, find my strength in him, and obey Him when He guides me in all things, diet included. After all, He is the One who gives me salvation, worth, purpose, and joy.