Filed under Homemaking Eating and Mealtime
Turning our focus to anorexia, you say that not only is this behavior very destructive to one’s health, it often shows up in teenagers. What are some of the warning signs that a mom (or teacher or friend) should be on the lookout for?
Generally speaking, until moms are aware of the anorexia, this would be the compliant child in the home that never gets into trouble and that you don’t really notice. Because of this, it’s hard to specify warning signs that might not frighten most moms in your audience. But in essence, I’d want to be sure that I was aware of what my daughter was eating, of what her weight was, and of how controlling or fearful she was, all without making too much of a fuss about any of it.
What sinful desires often drive anorexic behavior?
Usually the anorexic girl begins with an overriding desire to be perfect and to control her world so that nothing untoward, embarrassing or tragic might happen. She’s driven to the point of compulsion and is never satisfied with an “A”, she has to have an “A+”. Perhaps it might start out with a desire to lose weight or look better, perhaps to compete with her sisters or mother, but then, in this type of personality it can morph pretty quickly into a way to control others or demonstrate anger or fear. She might also have an over-active sense of modesty and be worried about looking shapely like a woman. She might even think that the material world (her body, food, her sexuality) is sinful.
How does God’s Word speak to these specific cravings?
Again, here’s where the gospel and the doctrines of grace are so very helpful. First of all, the desire to prove one’s own perfection is sinful, not only because it leads to controlling and pride, but because it’s a way to avoid Jesus as Savior. He’s our perfection and the sooner the anorexic rests in this alien righteousness, the better. He is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30) and in Him we’ve fulfilled all the requirements of the law (Romans 8:4). The perfection Christ calls us to in Matthew 5:48 can’t be accomplished by our efforts – they were accomplished for us in Him.
Secondly, her desire to shape her world and protect herself from embarrassment, harm or pain (by creating her own pain) needs to be overcome by the glorious truth that her King rules sovereignly over every single facet of her life and nothing can come to her apart from the loving providence of her glorious King. God’s sovereignty can be terrifying to a young woman if we don’t also stress His love. He loved her so much that He gave His Son for her and that Son is now ruling, in heaven, incarnate, bearing upon His hands the nail scars. She doesn’t need to control her world and she’ll exhaust herself trying to; no, that job’s already been filled.
What wonderful truths! As we conclude this interview, Elyse, how have you seen the power of the gospel help women to overcome the sins that lead to anorexic and bulimic behavior?
I remember one lovely young woman that I had been counseling for anorexic behavior for a number of months. She had been raised in a good Christian home and brought up in a church that preached grace. But she had never really gotten the good news. That’s not to say she wasn’t a believer, I think she was, it was just that she had never understood that the righteousness of Christ was really hers. One day, during a session when we had been going over the meaning of grace (again), tears began to stream down her face and she asked, “Isn’t God just kidding Himself?” That afternoon was the beginning of change in her as she saw that the perfection she had striven for was already hers and that she was being invited to rest in Him. She didn’t need to prove anything to anybody. Of course, even though she turned a corner that day, she still had to struggle against her habitual proud desire for self-worship and control, but the lessons of grace was what she needed to hear.
The lessons of grace are what we all need to hear, regardless of our temptations! Elyse, thank you so much for helping us better understand the eating behaviors of bulimia and anorexia and most of all for pointing us to the cross.
Once again, for further study on the topic of eating for God’s glory, you can check out Elyse’s books Love to Eat, Hate to Eat, Uncommon Vessels, and for a closer look at the cravings that underlie sinful eating patterns: Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone.
And please join us tomorrow for the conclusion of foodtalk on girltalk.