WHERE DO EATING
It seems to be human nature to always want to understand
the "why." What causes an eating disorder to develop?
People with eating disorders and those who treat them have forever
been trying to place the blame somewhere, typically outside the
person with the disorder; we want to believe that our problem happens
to us, rather than in us. Society loves
and adores the victim model. Commonly, we are taught to blame
our problematic behaviors on negative life experiences and the
people who contributed to them, or on disease, or even
on genetics. Personal responsibility is not too popular
a concept in most circles.
I want to outline here the five internal reasons for the practice
of an eating disorder:
Possession of a "sin nature."
All human beings are born into this world with a nature
passed from Adam that embraces sin. Sin is a sad fact of life. In fact,
according to the Bible, the sinful nature cannot keep from sinning (Romans
8, particularly verse 7). People with eating disorders have become heavily
enmeshed in sins such as idolatry, lasciviousness (lust for pleasure,
indulgence), gluttony, lack of regard for God's temple (the body), extreme
vanity, envy, self-centeredness, selfishness, control, rage, fearfulness,
dishonesty, and theft, to name a few.
I know it is extremely hard to hear, and even harder to accept, but
an eating disorder is a chosen lifestyle. Just as everyone
possesses a carnal, or sinful nature from birth, so also do we come
into this world with a free will. Most people don't really realize just
how free they are to choose. The fact is, much of what we feel victimized
by we actually played a huge part in bringing on ourselves because of
choices we have made (Please note that I am not suggesting that we choose
the hurtful, cruel words and actions that are inflicted upon us by other
people. That is a ridiculous notion.). We choose our actions,
our thoughts, and our beliefs, and through
these choices, we also choose our emotions. If someone says, "you're
stupid," you have a choice to believe or reject that statement. Granted,
if a person hears this again and again, it is a tough thing to resist,
especially for a vulnerable and immature child, but it still is a personal
choice. The neat thing is that the power of choice also can bring about
the reversal of the fallout from such damaging choices.
An eating disorder is first preceded by a thought. Then another thought,
and then another. Eventually these thoughts become a meditation.
The meditation sooner or later leads to an action. Very often, a person
does not realize at this stage of the game how serious it all really
is, and how "bound" she will soon become. The action is repeated, others
are added, and soon habits are formed. Weeks, months, and years of thinking
ED thoughts and performing ED behaviors go by and the stronghold is
Lack of self-control.
The characteristic that is common to all eating disorders is the
feeling of helplessness. Yet, in actuality, an eating disorder
is the cumulative effect of a series of choices. People do in
fact get to a point where the ability to choose seems completely spent,
but originally, choices were available, and choices were made. We use
the word "compulsive" to describe people and behavior, when we actually
mean "impulsive." No one forces anyone else to eat weird. A drug
addict can became "hopelessly" addicted after the first shot,
but he/she was doomed to become a junkie when he/she made the succession
of choices that led to a willingness to try that first hit of
the drug. It works the same way with unhealthy eating habits.
Many people who have suffered terrible tragedies in their lives believe
that people or events caused their eating disorders. It is my
educated opinion that a person with a lust for food, for instance, will
find SOMETHING to eat over; it might be a big thing, it might be little
things, it might be almost everything. When the Lord began healing me
emotionally, and my life was getting better and better, and a many of
my excuses for overeating were gone, I remember well how startling it
was to discover that one big reason I overate was because I wanted to
eat. It may not have been the main reason I started over-eating, but
it surely was the chief reason I continued to do it. I love tasting
and swallowing delicious foods, period. All I needed were excuses, and
excuses are a dime a dozen, aren't they?
Not only do people with eating disorders lack discipline to control
their thoughts about eating or not eating, but a whole lot of other
thoughts are raging out of control. Ungodly, and therefore unhealthy,
preoccupations run rampant. Untruthful, unproven, and otherwise destructive
statements and ideas have been permitted to repeat again and again
in their minds, becoming "tapes" which they play to themselves. This
is how a faulty belief system is formed, and it influences both emotions
Disordered people spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about
themselves and their problem. They may appear to be people pleasers,
but their constant giving is often a control measure. The hope
is that if they are just nice enough, good enough, helpful enough that
they can in effect manipulate people into the desired response, thus
they hope to establish a sense of security through the approval,
respect, and loyalty "due" them by others. Knowing that someone is angry
or upset at them, or otherwise disapproving, gives rise to feelings
of fear of rejection or even abandonment. It also serves
as "proof" to themselves that they really are bad, worthless, stupid,
and undeserving of love.
People with eating disorders generally have a wrong self-concept.
They typically are self-loathing, self-condemning, self-punishing,
and utterly self-absorbed. They may hide behind a convincing facade
of confidence and well-put-togetherness, and they are often high-achievers,
but they don't know their intrinsic worth. Their fragile self-concepts
are built upon the wrong foundation and are heavily influenced
by distortions and lies.
Unforgiveness, which keeps people mired in their past, is
fed and kept alive through thoughts. Carrying around unforgiveness can
act as an incentive to drown painful feelings with eating (and/or other
pleasures) or to overly control the body (through starvation, overexercising)
as a peculiar response to uncontrolled emotional pain. Unforgiveness
stymies the healing process.
I mention this last, because the previous three are all really a
result of this one: A person currently practicing an eating disorder
is hurting spiritually in at least some area.
Not always, but often, a person practicing an ED is not praying.
She is either not praying at all, or else not consistently. Just like
a marriage, or a friendship, or any other important relationship, your
intimacy with God is dependent on quality, regular communication.
Another common problem is failing to recognize sin as sin. Many Christians,
for instance, do not consider overeating to be synonymous with the "gluttony"
spoken of repeatedly in the Bible. Such a Christian may be doing very
well spiritually and taking dominion over her flesh in many areas, but
she's hardened her heart when it comes to her eating habits. Similarly,
an anorexic Christian may not equate his unnatural thinness with the
destruction of God's temple. Rationalization plays a key role here,
as the glutton says to herself "God made food for His people to enjoy!"
and the anorexic extols the "virtue" of self-control and a "fasted life."
Other Christians are properly convicted of sin, but they are insufficiently
taught and so their spiritual ignorance keeps them from the victory
that belongs to them. Every believer's teacher is the Holy Spirit. The
Holy Spirit teaches as He speaks through our pastors and as we spend
time reading and meditating the Bible on our own. Your pastor can only
deliver to you what the Holy Spirit has illuminated in his own spirit;
all else he passes to you is from mere human understanding. Furthermore,
if there is some part of God's Word that he doesn't like or overlooks
for other reasons, He cannot minister to you in that area. It is important
that you know your pastor is spending a great deal of time praying and
meditating God's Word, because that will determine what and how much
THE teacher, the Holy Spirit, is able to deposit into his spirit to
give to you! And as you spend your own time reading your Bible and praying
over it, there is a limitless potential for the Holy Spirit to "lead
you into all truth" (John 16:13). It's a matter of how much time and
effort you are willing to put in. How hungry are you? (NOTE: Hunger
for God and His truth can be "purposely" stirred up and developed!)
We know from 2 Peter 1:3-4 that the person who has a spirit that
is alive to God (born again) has access to every Promise needed to overcome
every evil desire she can possibly encounter. If you are overtaken in
a sin, there is Word from God that needs to be illuminated in your spirit
by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, prayer and getting God's Word into
your spirit are THE crucial elements for overcoming an ED.
Yet another scenario is the backslidden Christian or one who has
a very shallow relationship with the Lord. This person is walking most
if not all of the time in his flesh rather than in his spirit. Every
attempt to overcome an ED is purely under his own steam. Failure is
And others are simply trying to navigate life completely separate
Those were just a few examples. In short, a mature Christian, communing
with God, conformed into the image of Christ will not perform
eating disorder behaviors. But none of us have completed the process
to perfection, nor will we as long as we live on this earth and dwell
in these temporal bodies. We can only pursue "Christlikeness" and "press
toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus"
(Phil 3:14). The fact that a person is caught up in an ED is proof positive
that something is wrong, some stone hasn't yet been turned. Ask
the Lord to show you what it is!
Though I believe eating disorders are primarily a result of an internal
condition, there are external factors which play a more minor
In modern, technologically advanced
nations, we now have such widespread and sophisticated media that it
is impossible to avoid exposure. Radio, television, books, magazines,
fliers, posters, motion pictures, and now the Internet inundate us daily
with images and criteria of beauty. By way of these same avenues, people,
but women in particular, are taught that physical attractiveness, as
defined by the powers that be, is our most important asset. A fear is
hammered into us day after day, year after year, from the day we are
born, that if we are not pretty or handsome or thin, we will not
be loved and that we do not even deserve to be loved. What is worse,
the mindset created by this propaganda has led to a society of people
who behave in such a way that many do experience rejection based
upon their physical appearance alone.
The body has become an idol for many, many people, and the pursuit
of thinness or physical excellence a driving obsession.
Boxes of prepackaged cream-filled cupcakes and bags of potato chips
haven't been around forever. While media influence has increased dramatically,
so have the culinary temptations. In today's supermarkets, entire aisles
are dedicated to high fat, sugar-laden, chemical-sprayed, preservative-soaked,
artificially colored and flavored tasty treats that are more powerfully
addictive than cocaine! There are so many items and brands to choose
from and eating any or all of them is perfectly legal! The proliferation
of restaurants, 24-hour supermarkets, and convenience stores has increased
the accessibility of every imaginable food greatly.
Advertising is rampant. The same media that places demands of physical
perfection on us also cruelly entices us with pictures and descriptions
of a vast variety of food delectables. Not surprisingly, many find themselves
locked into a war of desperately wanting the very foods that will undermine
their quests for beauty. Upon losing that battle, one way or the other,
the guilt, shame, and terror can be so overwhelming for particular people
that bazaar behavior patterns emerge, which we call eating disorders.
Abuse, trauma, neglect, and adversity in life places pressure on
people. Not all people respond to and cope with pressure the same way.
Difficult circumstances combined with other factors previously mentioned
can create the right conditions to favor an eating disorder. Some people
"medicate" and anesthetize themselves with activities and/or substances,
including food. Others gain a much desired sense of power through rigid
control of food intake, to the point of starvation. Still others find
eating disorders useful for gaining attention, although usually at first
they are not aware that this is what they're doing.
Poor role modeling and a lack of education, direction and discipline
in the home rob children of the opportunity to develop the character
and skills necessary for a healthy adulthood.
The devil is a real, yet invisible foe we must contend with, and
his "friends" have daily assignments to try and trip us up. In fact,
from the moment of our conception, plans are made and the first traps
are laid intended for our spiritual incapacitation and eventual destruction.
However, bear in mind that Satan can only tempt us because of our internal
capacity to be tempted. He appeals to us through what our flesh
already wants to do! (see particularly James 1:14) Or else he
develops lusts in us through repetitious behaviours. Also worth
noting: Satanic forces do the vast majority of their work in the human
I believe that the idea of eating disorders was birthed in the heart
and mind of the devil, and that for years and years and years the world
has been systematically seduced into cooperating with his plan. Not
for a minute do I believe that the Standard Western Diet (SWD) or the
emphasis on beauty and corrupted sexuality brought to us daily by the
media are an accident or a product of chance. I think people with eating
disorders would be thoroughly astounded if they knew just how
orchestrated their "fall" actually was.
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