It doesn't happen that way. It's more gradual. Little by little. Choice by choice. Thought by thought. Until you're completely trapped by the cycle that you're stuck in. Utterly obsessed with an impossible goal. A goal that promises so much…
But the promise is a lie. The thinner you get, the more dissatisfied you feel. The more flaws you notice. The more you plunge into despair that you could never make your body look the way you hoped. So your body becomes nothing more than a slave to your thoughts - a slave to the lies you believe.
And you would give anything to get out of it. But you don't know how. You want to be free, but you can't even imagine what that would even feel like or how you could get there. So you sink into hopelessness, feeling like there's no way out. And you certainly can't tell anyone about it, because you're sure that no soul alive could possibly understand the turmoil you're in.
But by the sheer fact that you're reading this, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's felt this way…
Over the years, my struggle has manifested itself in different ways. And I could write all about it. It would probably be therapeutic for me. But I'm not sure that this blog post is the best context for that. So I'll just share what the struggle looks like for me these days…
You see, I have these conflicting desires. They're at war. They fight for control of my life. And they're things that I desire more than I love God. (James 4:1-10). On the one hand, I think food is really great. I like it. I like the way it tastes. I like that it quells my hunger. I like the experience of trying different things at different places. I like the freedom I have to enjoy it. But on the other hand, I like to be thin. I like to see how small I look in the mirror. I like the way my clothes fit. And the lower the number on the tag of my jeans, the more confident I feel. And that's not even mentioning all the positive feedback I receive from the people around me.
Most of my life has been a pendulum swing between the two extremes of these desires. And most of the time, I don't really think about how to be healthy or honor God with my body. Sometimes I believe that the only true way to be happy and beautiful and loved and successful is to be thin. And so I obsess about what I eat. I think ahead about every meal and snack - what's allowed and what's not. I obsess about exercising, sometimes multiple times a day. I obsess over the progress I'm making by weighing myself frequently, looking in the mirror, and trying on smaller sized clothes just to see if they fit.
But then I begin to hate that life. I don't want to deal with the never ending list of restrictions and rules. They feel like slavery to me. And I just can't take it anymore. Plus the results aren't even good enough. I still don't look perfect. So I give up. And I start to believe that if I lift all of the restrictions that seemed so oppressive, then I will be able to find true freedom. So I just eat what I want, when I want. But strangely enough, that doesn't seem to leave me feeling happy or satisfied either. And then I'm just sad, uncomfortable, and ashamed for the weight that I've gained - for the weight that must make me repulsive to all who see me, including myself. So I plunge even further into despair. And this "freedom" feels like slavery too.
At the point of feeling utterly hopeless, out of control, and too ashamed to talk to anyone about it, that's when I know I need to let someone else in on how bad things really are…on how much I'm really struggling… (1 John 1:5-10)
Because otherwise, these lies that seem so true to me in the moment, will continue to grow in my mind. They will tell me I'm alone, that there's no hope, that I should give up. But when I honestly share my struggles with someone else, they can help expose these thoughts for what they truly are - lies. And that's where the shining light of hope can break through the darkness I've been living in.
So my battle is not really with food. My battle is not really with the mirror. My battle is against the lies I so easily believe about the way to find true fulfillment, love, and happiness apart from God. My battle is against the idols I've chosen to worship - food or my body. So my body is not really my enemy. But I do have a true enemy who loves to feed those lies, who loves to spur on my idolatry, who loves to keep me in the dark.
Friends, I would be remiss if I didn't mention something that I often forget: Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). He loves eating disorders. He loves death and destruction. He loves keeping people enslaved. In our fight for freedom, we don't just battle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:11-12). Our battle is against the very powers of Hell.
And what Satan would love more than anything is for me and you to get so fixated on worshipping this present physical life (i.e. what we eat or how we look) that we miss the very fact that there's anything happening in the spiritual realm. When we get obsessed with this physical life, we miss the greater, deeper, eternal things that are far more significant and far more satisfying. We get so busy dwelling on things that are only temporary that we miss life itself - we miss truly knowing Jesus.
Here's how Jesus addressed a group of people who were more fixated on the physical bread He gave them than on finding Him - true bread - true life:
"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:27, 33, 35, 47-51).
Jesus is the bread of life. And He died that we might have life through Him. There is food that perishes and food that endures. And giving myself unabashedly to pursuing my ideal of perfection in my physical body is food that perishes. It may satisfy temporarily, but never ultimately. And physical food can only sustain for a while. But allowing myself to eat without restrictions will never fill the hunger my soul has for something more substantial. Jesus is the food for my soul. Knowing Him and believing in His life, death, and resurrection can energize, fuel, sustain and satisfy eternally - and on the deepest level. Knowing Jesus is real life now and forever.
And when I know Him, He gives me His Spirit to live inside of me - the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11) - the same Spirit that triumphed over Satan as Jesus broke the bonds of sin and death through the power of His resurrection! So if Jesus already defeated Satan, and I have that power living inside of me, then Satan's lies need not have any power over me. He that is in me is greater than he who is in the world, and He can free me from this slavery (1 John 4:4).
Friends, eating disorders kill - not just physically, but they kill our spirits. Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy. But Jesus came to bring life to the full (John 10:10). Let's fight for life! Let's fight for freedom! And no matter how hard, or how hopeless it may seem, let's never give up!
Who's with me?
Loving Him is Red!
If you or someone you know can relate with the things I shared here, please please please talk to someone about it! Talk to me, talk to a trusted friend, call a hotline, just talk to someone! The only way to truly loose this battle is to give up...and it's harder to lose all hope, when you have friends to help you fight the lies! You don't have to struggle alone! There is hope!
February 22-28 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. For more info check out: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/