We live in a nation that is obsessed with image. Unless you live in a remote area without television, internet or places to shop, you are bombarded every day with images of photoshopped people that society pressures you to look like. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder in the United States and every 62 minutes one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder (ANAD). Even those of us without a diagnosed eating disorder struggle with an unhealthy view of food and our bodies. I honestly cannot think of a time when I did not think about losing weight before taking a beach vacation…okay, maybe when I was pregnant.
There are many excellent therapies for eating disorders but I believe true success cannot happen without spiritual integration. Many people with eating disorders struggle with poor self-image and a negative view of God. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or a poor relationship with food and self-image, here are some helpful biblical principles to help transform thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
- Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). The word of God has the ability to create positive thoughts and a healthy identity, which is countercultural to a world that stresses the importance of perfection.
- Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NIV). Having faith in God and hope that life can be different is an important part of creating change. Scripture has the ability to develop one’s faith and provide hope for the future.
- 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (NIV). This is a difficult concept for many people who have felt rejected by their parents. Joshua 1:5 says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (NIV). God is a loving father who will never reject us or abandon us like people do.
- Isaiah 55:8-9 teaches that people’s thoughts are not God’s thoughts and that his thoughts are higher than ours. People with an unhealthy relationship with food always have poor views of themselves. God’s thoughts of us are opposite of the lies we believe about ourselves. In fact, each day that God created something in the universe, he used the words “it was good” or “it was so” to describe that particular creation (Genesis 1:3-25). It wasn’t until God created mankind that he used the words “it was VERY good” to describe his creation (Genesis 1:31). We are God’s delight and were specifically made so that he could love us.
- Feelings of shame and dishonest behavior are common in those with eating disorders. Both of these are displayed in the book of Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned for the first time (Genesis 3). The first thing Adam and Eve felt was shame. This feeling caused them to cover their bodies and fear God. When God asked what they did, both were dishonest and shifted blame to someone else. Knowing that people in the bible had the same struggles we do can help normalize the feelings and behaviors of those with eating disorders.
- Lastly, recovery from eating disorders should involve recognizing one’s gravity of sin and the need for atonement (McRay et al., 2016). Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (NIV). This truth allows people to understand that when they acknowledge their sin, God removes it and brings them back into relationship with him. When people begin to see themselves as forgiven and accepted, they can let go of shame and be confident in their spiritual connection to the Father. That loving connection is essential for true recovery.
ANAD Your Future is Worth Fighting For. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Retrieved from http://anad.org
McRay, B.W., Yarhouse, M.A. & Butman, R. (2016). Modern psychologies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal(2ndEd.). Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.