We’ve all heard it before…that voice in the back of your head that tries to dictate your food choices by illogical, condescending, and distorted thinking.
“You better order the salad because you have been bad today.”
“You’re gonna have to workout hard after eating those french fries.”
“If you eat dessert you are going to be fat and ugly.”
“You have really let yourself go.”
“You have to get into the gym.”
“You better not eat a snack…you need better self control.”
“That ______ is going to go straight to your hips.”
“Do you know how many calories are in that?!”
or, on the opposite end of the spectrum…
“Go to McDonalds and supersize everything…it will make you feel better.”
“You deserve to eat a quart of ice-cream, you have had a hard week.”
“You’re already eating one cookie you might as well eat 12.”
“Screw the diet, you need Pizza Hut and you need it right now.”
“You have to have a Java Chip Frappuccino from Starbucks or there is no way that you can possibly have a good day. “
In the eating disorder community this voice is known as “ED”. Ed is often depicted as such voice in order to help individuals with an eating disorder separate themselves from their eating disorder. The analogy has been particularly helpful to me in helping me discern my thoughts from “Ed’s”. Ed’s thoughts are always restrictive, judgmental, condemning, and health-conscious. There isn’t room for snacks in his book. On the other hand, counter-Ed is just as manipulative and demeaning, but he urges us to depend on food to heal our brokenness and satisfy our souls. He urges us to eat even when our body doesn’t want to; He tells us we need sugar to have a good day; He urges us to eat whatever we want when we want it. Most people (even those without an eating disorder), can relate to this voice in some way. It’s almost impossible not to in a society that is essentially revolved around food, diet, and exercise 24/7.
With ED (or counter-Ed), you can never win. This all-or-nothing thinking only leads to guilt, shame, regret, disappointment, and low-self esteem. If I am honest with myself, I experience this daily. I’ve often thought life would just be so much easier if we didn’t have to eat food and we were freed from the burden to make healthy choices, cook, and spend money on something that only lasts for a few hours until we need it again. Over the past few years I have looked at a lot of scripture concerning food and these are some of the verses that have stuck out:
- God made food…and food is good. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” -1 Timothy 4:4-5
- Food can never condemn us. “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” -1 Corinthians 8:8
- There is no one opinion, diet, or food that is right or wrong. “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.” -Romans 14:1-5
- Food doesn’t justify us before God…Jesus does. “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” -Ecclesiastes 9:7
- There is more to life than food. “Do not labor 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.”-John 6:27
- The condition of your heart is more important than the condition of your diet. “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”-Matthew 15:11
God’s word makes it clear that food can’t condemn us, we have freedom in our food choices, that food is good, but that it is nothing compared to the presence of God. So why, then, do we so often feel bad about the things we eat? I know that when my eyes are off of Jesus and on myself, I start to believe every lie that Satan (the father of lies & enemy of my soul) plants in my head. The “ED” voice is straight from the enemy. It is one of his tactics to distract me from the things that really matter in life. If I don’t catch it early on it can feel enslaving at times. I know that it isn’t true, yet there are many times that I myself just can’t say no to such enticing lies. I can’t do it on my own.
Yesterday I had a particularly rough day in recovery. In the past few weeks of recovery I have really struggled to find the balance between not eating enough and eating too much. I try to look at my friend’s and family’s meals and just eat what they eat…(this will NEVER work, because every person have different needs and activity levels). I try to eat the exact same thing every day but then I end up feeling uncomfortably full or uncomfortably hungry by the end of the night. At times it seems as if it will be impossible for me to be able to eat in a “normal” way. I was sitting on my floor crying out to God and basically complaining that I would never be able to recover because eating is too complicated and confusing in the world we live him. I acknowledged that no matter how hard my friends, family, and recovery team tried to help me it wasn’t going to be enough, and that I was bound to mess up sooner or later. I said, “I can’t do this and I have no idea what to do or how to eat or when to eat….who can help me?!”
I gently heard God’s voice remind me of my ultimate teacher, guide, leader, and source of wisdom and discernment: The Holy Spirit. God quickly began to recall to my memory scriptures about the Holy Spirit, and this particular verse struck my heart in a way that no one else could in that moment:
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation- but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of your body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. The spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” The spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
If you are in Christ, you aren’t obligated to your flesh, to the voice in the back of your head that tells you that you have to eat in a certain way in order to be worthy of love. We don’t need to feel obligated to eat a salad or an ice-cream cone. There is no pressure for us to eat when we aren’t hungry, or to not eat when we are. We have no obligation to do anything but live for Christ and listen to his spirit. I know that the only way I will be able to listen to and take care of my body is through the power of the Holy Spirit. In my own efforts I am too weak and I will continue to fail. The Spirit of God sets us free.
I’ve said this before and I will say if 1,000 times again until I believe it every single minute of every single day in my own heart. Every person is different and has different needs. There isn’t a one-size-fits all diet. It can be confusing and frustrating to try and take care of your body. It takes time and practice. Whether you are currently in ED recovery or not, I am confident that God will be faithful to lead us each day in making the right choices for our bodies, all we have to do is listen to the leading of his Spirit.