What Should Christians Know about Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that stem from genetics, biology, personality traits, and societal pressures. Eating disorders are not “sins” and they are not choices. Nobody chooses to have an eating disorder, but recovery is possible.

Contributing Writer
Updated Jan 26, 2022
What Should Christians Know about Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are the number one deadliest mental illness in the world. Many people believe Christians do not suffer from eating disorders, but this is not true. Eating disorders do not discriminate. People of all different ethnicities and faith backgrounds can struggle with eating disorders.

Christians are not exempt from this mental illness. Therefore, anyone can have an eating disorder; however, it is important to educate yourself and others on eating disorders in order to provide help, support, and treatment for yourself and your loved ones.

Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are something that is very close to my heart. I have personally struggled with anorexia nervosa for 10 years. Maybe you can relate to this or maybe you know someone who is going through an eating disorder right now. Either way, seeking out help, support, and resources is the best thing to do.

I have personally been in recovery for about two years now and I’m not going to lie, it has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Often, if you search “anorexia recovery” on social media platforms, influencers paint a picture of rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies, but this depiction could not be further from the truth.

Recovery is gruesome, painful, and full of emotions. Prayer and spending time with God are much needed for the recovery process. Before someone can get to the recovery process, they must first recognize that they do have a problem.

For me personally, I never saw I had a problem until my sister kept telling me I had a problem (she had been praying for me too) and then I went to the dreaded doctor’s office. If you know me personally, I absolutely hate doctor’s offices.

I had to make an appointment with my doctor to have blood work done, but instead of getting my blood work done, I was questioned more on my mental health after my weight had plummeted to an all-time low. I don’t believe sharing numbers is helpful especially to those who are struggling, so I will keep numbers out of this article.

Nevertheless, once I saw the number on the scale, I knew I had a problem. Ever since that year, I have been trying to work on recovery, but it is easier said than done. If you are wondering what anorexia is, anorexia is a mental illness that consists of extreme calorie restriction, excessive exercise, low self-worth, and body dysmorphia.

There are other types of eating disorders outside of anorexia such as bulimia, purging disorder, and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). Any eating disorder is valid and is worthy of recovery. It is also worthwhile to mention that eating disorders do not have a certain “look.”

You do not have to look a certain way or have an extremely low body weight to suffer from an eating disorder. If you have an unhealthy relationship with food, then you most likely have some form of disordered eating. If you struggle with disordered eating, don’t fear!

There are plenty of eating disorder resources available as well as doctors and therapists who are ready to help. It took me a while to find a good therapist and nutritionist, but they are well worth the wait.

Even if you do not have insurance, there are many programs that can help get you assistance, such as Project Heal. Long story short, there is help out there, but it is up to you to take action.

Are Eating Disorders a Sin?

Many times, I have heard people say that eating disorders are “sins.” This is an erroneous belief that needs to be eradicated from the minds of all people. Eating disorders are not “sins” and they are not choices. Nobody chooses to have an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that stem from genetics, biology, personality traits such as perfectionism, and societal pressures. It is not uncommon for depression and anxiety to go hand-in-hand with eating disorders.

The most common time for a person to start suffering from an eating disorder is around 12 or 13-years-old. This does not mean eating disorders cannot occur later in life because they can; however, 12 or 13-years-olds seem to be the most common ages for eating disorders to begin. It is also important to mention that eating disorders can affect females and males.

Many people believe eating disorders only occur in females; however, eating disorders can occur in men too. Oftentimes eating disorders in men are more dangerous because doctors fail to understand the truth that men can experience eating disorders and then the men as a result, often go without help.

In the same way, eating disorders can affect people of all different ethnicities, ages, and economic statuses. It was once believed that eating disorders were only something rich, Caucasian females experienced; however, research is quickly discovering that eating disorders do not discriminate and they can affect anyone.

Therefore, eating disorders are not sins and they are not lifestyle choices. A person struggling with an eating disorder cannot help the fact they got the illness any more than a person who is diagnosed with cancer can help their illness.

The latter is treated with extra care, love, and support; however, those who struggle with eating disorders are often treated with disdain, hate, and anger. “Just eat” is a common thing people will tell those who suffer from eating disorders; however, the saying “just eat” is not helping your loved one at all.

Many people believe eating disorders are strictly related to food, but they are not. Eating disorders are dealing with mental and emotional issues. Rather than telling your loved one to “just eat,” talk to them, laugh with them, and love them.

It is vital for you to separate your loved one from their illness. If you are personally suffering from an eating disorder, you need to separate yourself from your eating disorder. You are not your disorder. You are You. You are exactly who God created you to be. You deserve a life without your disorder.

Seeking Help

Eating disorders do not need to be left alone or ignored. They are not phases you are going through. As already pointed out, eating disorders are complex mental disorders. If you or a loved one was suffering from heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, would you go to the doctor to get help for you or your loved one?

In the same way, when a person struggles with an eating disorder, they need to get help from doctors, therapists, and nutritionists. Many disordered eating patterns have been normalized in society — excessive exercise has been normalized, which can make it difficult for a person to accept they have a problem.

If you are wondering if you have an eating disorder, you may have one. If you have obsessive thoughts about food, weight, or your body, you most likely have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not part of God’s plan for your future.

God wants you to know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-16). The Lord thinks you are the best and He loves you dearly. You are perfect just the way you are. There is only one you in the whole world and God has a bright future for you.

If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder today, know that there is hope and full recovery is possible, but it is up to you to accept the issue. From someone who has gone through recovery and is still working my way through it, I know it is difficult.

It is hard and you will have many days that you want to give up, but you have to keep being strong. God will cheer with you for every victory, and He will remain right beside you even in the deepest valleys (Psalm 23).

Nobody is truly happy in their eating disorder despite what your eating disorder tells you in your mind. Doctors, therapists, and nutritionists are here to help. There will be many bumps down the way, but full recovery is so worth it.

Once you are fully recovered, you will be able to do all that God has planned for you and you may even be able to help others who are going through the same thing. I believe in you and more importantly, God believes in you.

Additional Resources

If you are currently going through an eating disorder or a loved one is currently going through an eating disorder, here are some additional resources:

For further reading:

Why Does the World Care about My Weight When God Doesn't?

What Does the Bible Say about Body Dysmorphia?

Should Christians Be Involved in Diet Culture?

What Does the Bible Say about Struggling with Mental Health?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Motortion

Vivian BrickerVivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.

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