Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Wages of an Eating Disorder

My favorite spoon

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life." ~ Romans 6:23 (KJV)
Nobody likes to talk about sin.  Nobody wants to hear about sin.  This is even true for actively religious (for lack of a better term) people who regularly face the issue of sin in church, synagogue, temple, religious texts, and so forth.  Sin is not a fun topic.

For me, disordered eating in its many incarnations (starvation, compulsive overeating, purging, and so forth) became associated with sin.  That sounds moralistic, and I understand if you're jumping ship right now, afraid that I'm going to start smacking you with my Bible.  But I'm not, I promise.  What I mean by saying that my eating disorder became associated with sin is that I began to see how ED was separating me from God.  And, as a person who longs to be closer to God, that truth was devastating.

If I was a Christian, who believe that God put a part of Himself into His people, how could I be treating my body so poorly?  If I was a Christian, how could I be prioritizing my food and exercise over loving my husband?  If I was a Christian, why was I driving people away in an effort to preserve my "affair" with ED instead of loving and helping them in Jesus' example?  I felt like a hypocrite.

But I'm lucky.  Instead of (quite justly, in my opinion) punishing me for all the harm my eating disorder was wreaking in both my life and others' lives, God was a healing force.  Even though living an eating disordered life was pretty anti-Jesus, He didn't let me go.  I credit one hundred percent of my progress to God.

As you know, this past year I've been struggling more with overeating than with the anorexia that accompanied the inception of this blog.  That compulsive overeating has been every bit as harmful to my life (my spiritual life, my marriage, my professional life, my relationship with friends, and so forth) as my anorexic behavior was.  This morning, while meandering through some of the Bible, I once again found myself facing the link between sin and my eating disordered behavior.

But I didn't feel smited (smote?) some sort of Holy Smackdown.  Instead, I rewrote a chapter of the Bible's book of Romans in relation to my current food struggles.  Here's a selection of what I came up with (my changes in bold):

6-11Could it be any clearer? Our old way of eating was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that miserable eating disordered life—no longer at ED's every beck and call! . . . .We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of eating-disorder-as-the-end. Never again will ED have the last word. When Jesus died, he took ED down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: ED speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to ED and alive to God. That's what Jesus did.
12-14That means you must not give ED a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you've been raised from the dead!—into God's way of doing things. Disordered eating can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God . . . .
22-23But now that you've found you don't have to listen to ED tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for disordered eating your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

Sometimes I feel frustrated because the Bible doesn't seem to apply to daily twenty-first century life.  But on mornings like today I'm reminded that that's not the case.  This morning this passage of Romans 6, which many might call archaic and out-of-date, reminded me of how insidious disordered eating is, how even one small disordered on my part leads to more and more life-killing experiences.  If I allow myself "one little binge" or restrict my calories "just for one day," the result is either weeks of binging or weeks of feeling sick and weak because the restriction continues.

If I give myself to ED, all ED will give back is insanity, broken relationships, loneliness, despair, and more compulsion.  With ED, there is no middle ground -- I'm either in or I'm out.  And God gets that, and He's ready to help, to pull me (and you) out of addiction and compulsive behavior and into "a whole, healed, put-together life right now." 

The link between faith and addictions and compulsive behaviors is not new.  That's the foundation of the many successful twelve step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and more.  But I guess that I forgot, or I forgot how God is working in the midst of the ugliness of ED.  I'm glad for the reminder.

What do you think -- does faith help you heal from or overcome the struggles in your life? 


  1. I really like this post. I like how you modernized the Bible to something you deal with. It was really insightful. God and I don't really have much of a relationship right now, though I wish we did. I'm just harboring too much anger.I guess the main thing is, I really like how you expressed this. Keep using (that's not the best word to phrase it) God. He will make things work for you.

  2. Fantastic post, Beth. Faith absolutely helps me heal from and overcome the struggles in my life. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), but apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

  3. Beth @ To the FullesApril 27, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    Unbeautiful and Traci, thanks for your encouraging comments! This is especially awesome to me as you both come from very different religious perspectives. Thank you!

  4. Beth,What an amazing way to utilize Scripture. I'm so proud of you and inspired by you. This was truly Spirit breathed. I wanted to identify with you regarding your “one little binge” or restriction “just for one day.” I really struggle with this one too. One “bad” choice or day tends to throw me into a downward spiral. All or nothing. The closer I stay to God, the better! He is ALWAYS there with the life preserver...but I'm not always willing to take it or to acknowledge Him. That is the part that gets yucky...when I consciously turn away. The less I do though, the more I realize how GOOD IT FEELS on shore with God, rather than struggling in the waves...God is the ultimate SOURCE of healing for me. He works through tools like yoga, meditation, 12 step programs, etc, and we are graced to utilize them. I think unbeautiful's comment above is spot on and means just that. “Keep using God.”

  5. Beth @ To the FullesApril 29, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    Clare, you said, ". The less I do though, the more I realize how GOOD IT FEELS on shore with God, rather than struggling in the waves..." I'm totally with you on that! Even though there is still that compulsive voice inside of me, I WANT to be healthy and with God more than I want to obey it. Amazing!

  6. I really like this...and I really miss you.

  7. Oh wow.And this is why I never ever mark your blog as "all read" and read every post. I am so glad I found this. I am so very far removed from Christ lately I can barely hear him and I just realized how deaf I have become and my ears are aching to hear from him. Time to meditate. Youi are so brilliant.

  8. Beth @ To the FullesMay 6, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Thanks for reading, Missy. :) I totally understand that feeling of Christ seeming so, so, so far away. At least we have the Bible to remind us that He isn't. *Hugs*


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King