Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Breaking the Bondage of Destructive Eating Habits

In this insightful book, biblical counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick examines the heart idols that lead to anorexia, bulimia, and overeating. She starts by exploring the different worldly explanations for eating disorders, pointing out the problems and inconsistencies of each. I’ve read this book spread out over a month so I don’t remember if she specifically addresses the term “eating disorder,” but the premise of the book reinforces the truth that these food issues are not physical diseases that attack a helpless victim, but choices that have led to the person’s current condition.

The person with the eating problem has chosen attitudes and actions that have brought him or her to the addictive state of either starving or gorging compulsively. (Even the word “compulsively” I want to use carefully, because again it implies that the person has no control.)

Worldly views tend to emphasize the person’s helplessness in the face of the problem. My guess is that part of the motivation for this is to remove blame and guilt from the sufferer (a natural desire when we see someone suffering—blaming them for their state seems like kicking them when they’re already down). But this view, while removing blame, also removes hope. If the disorder is something they did not choose, then they can’t choose otherwise. They’re helpless before it.

But thankfully, this is not the biblical perspective. What God says about addictive behavior is sobering but hope-giving. We have a responsibility for our choices and actions, and there are consequences for them. But God promises grace, forgiveness, and help for all who turn to Him. We do not have to stay the way we are, or put our trust in the world’s fruitless strategies for dealing with our problems. Hope!

A couple key points that stuck out to me:

• Thinness is not equivalent to holiness. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to be thin. Gluttony, on the other hand, is called sinful in the Bible. A thin person can be gluttonous; the sin is not being overweight. The sin is excess and obsession with food.

• The goal for the Christian dealing with food idols is not to lose (or gain) X number of pounds. No, the goal is to approach food in a way that shows who is Lord of our lives. As Christians, we don’t belong to ourselves any longer, and this includes our physical bodies. Our desire needs to be to please Him, not to merely look/feel better. This is especially difficult for women, with the pressure we feel (and put on ourselves) to be slim and trim.

• The 6th Commandment, “Thou shalt not murder,” has a much broader meaning than just not going out and murdering someone. Its meaning also encompasses not engaging in behaviors that will lead to our own early deaths or physical deterioration. I never thought about that commandment in that light before… it’s true it doesn’t say “thou shalt not murder others.” As temples of the Holy Spirit, we have a responsibility to maintain our physical bodies for His glory.

I have never struggled with an eating disorder, but I swooped down on this book eagerly when I saw it at the thrift store (speaking of which, I wonder if the person who donated it had benefited from it?). I had two thoughts: anything by Elyse Fitzpatrick was bound to be helpful, and I never knew when I might need to better understand this common struggle for the sake of a friend. I was right on both counts. What I was not expecting was the conviction this book brought to my own heart. I am not overweight or anorexic, and while I enjoy food, it has never been an idol to me. (The closest I get to a problem with food is throwing up when I am extremely nervous or upset.)

But although I don’t struggle with the eating problems described in the book, I was convicted in two specific areas. First, I am guilty of not eating to the glory of God. I just tend to take my food (and my lack of eating disorders) for granted—even taking a little pride in the fact that this is something I have never had to struggle with. Second, I was convicted about being far too interested in my physical appearance. I have known for awhile that I placed too much emphasis here, but I hadn’t really been confronted with biblical admonitions specific to this idol.

As always, God’s timing is perfect as I am six months pregnant and realizing my body will never be the same again. I am so thankful that as a Christian woman, I am not stuck with methods of mere self-improvement or self-discipline to make peace with my changing form.

My experience with eating problems and their solutions is not vast, but I can’t imagine a more helpful, biblical resource than this book. Highly recommended.

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