During my sophomore year of college, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Italy. For an entire summer, I adventured my way through a beautiful, romantic country that was thousands of years older than my own. I slept under the same stars as Michelangelo, met the David face-to-face, and walked through Roman ruins that once housed Pontius Pilot as he presided over the trial of Jesus Christ.
It was supposed to have been the best summer of my life. But rather than basking in the beauty, history, and unique experiences available to me, my mind was completely consumed with anxious, guilt-ridden thoughts about food, weight, and my body. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be more mentally present though. I longed to experience the freedom and joy I saw in my classmates, who didn’t seem to care at all what they looked like in beachwear or whether they’d gain weight from pesto sauce or a scoop of gelato. While my friends were eating and drinking their way through Italy, I was completely consumed by painstaking attempts to control my eating and my body.
After developing anorexia at fourteen and subsequently starting a treatment program, my body weight was quickly restored. The condition of my heart, however, took much longer to heal. Even after regaining my physical health, I still struggled emotionally and spiritually, unable to reconcile my self-image, my sense of identity, and my view of my worth as a human. I was disgusted by my reflection, I agonized over fear of weight gain, and I resented myself every time I ate something that I felt I shouldn’t – things like pastries, pasta, and ice cream. While I’d mistakenly believed that the excitement of journeying to another country would allow me to leave my food struggles behind, I instead was confronted by them with greater intensity than ever before. My friends would spend their days enjoying the beach, restaurants, and night life, but I would stay home, attempting to avoid food, only to binge by myself in the evenings.
Late one night, completely overwhelmed by self-condemnation for failing to follow my strict diet rules, I left my apartment to go for a jog, hoping to burn off the calories I’d consumed that day. The alleyways were uneven and poorly lit, and after a few blocks, I lost my footing and tripped, scraping my palms and knees. Between the surprise of losing my balance, the shock of the pain, and the despair and frustration in my heart, I curled up on the sidewalk behind a dumpster and sobbed into my bleeding hands. I was broken, lonely, scared, and completely at the end of myself.
“God,” I prayed, “Please, take my life. I don’t want to live like this anymore.” It was the most sincere and desperate cry of surrender I’d ever made, and God was faithful in His answer to me:
“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These rules, which have to do with things that are destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have the appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:21-23 (NIV)
My food rules were not helping me to reach my goals for fitness, satisfaction, or joy in life; rather, they were killing me. For most of my life, I’d believed the lie that in order to be beautiful, worthy, and lovable, I needed to carefully control my eating and appearance. But as we read in Scripture, legalistic observation of strict dietary guidelines is futile and empty. They made me empty, and it wasn’t until I laid them down at the cross of Christ that I was able to finally experience freedom.
The morning after my midnight run, rather than skipping breakfast as usual, I went out to a café with my roommates. I followed them to lunch, ate gelato with them in the afternoon, and strolled through the historic cobblestone streets in the evenings. I tasted, and I saw for the first time that the creation of God was good; I understood that He gave us pleasures in life as blessings, not curses.
My temptation wasn’t in the satisfaction of a smooth shot of espresso or perfectly al dente pasta, but rather in the draw to manipulate and distort the role of food in my life. In finally renouncing the lie that my dinner was what determined my worth, I broke free of the chains of my enslavement to eating. I was amazed that once I stopped trying to avoid food, it no longer had power over me. My midnight binges ended almost overnight, and for the first time in my life, I found myself with enough mental space available to think more about the content of my character than the content of my meals.
For most of my life, dieting promised to save me from my shame when it instead was the very thing that caused my low self-esteem. In turning from such temptations, I was finally given the freedom to live the full life to which God had been calling me all along.
He gave us pleasures in life as blessings, not curses. -Alexandra MacKillop (@Nutraintuition): Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thank you so much for sharing your journey. The enemy is so crafty. It isn’t the food that is the bad temptation, it’s the pride that comes with trying to be in control. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that you fell and had to literally go to the Lord, on your knees, in prayer. I was just reading about that being best position from which to fight out battles. God will fight for us; we need only to be still. What a victorious post!
Yes, absolutely! Pride can be an enormous driver in terms of distorting our relationships, including that with food.
This is one of the best things I have ever read on the subject of food and managing our weight. Thank you for sharing your story and putting this perspective on paper for others to see and learn from you. This is truly powerful.
Of course! I’m so glad it was able to encourage you! I definitely agree that our relationships with food are often distorted, usually from the fact that we are believing lies about who we are!
Michele Morin says
It’s so like God to use the very thing that weighed you down to give you wings as you share your story and use your knowledge to partner with him in setting people free.
Blessings to you and upon your ministry!
He does have a way of doing that, doesn’t he? Thanks for the encouraging words!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Excellent reading. Thank you for sharing your heart. See how the Devil is so crafty he made you then think you need all thoes things to do with food and beauty in the way you did then. The world way. To look nice and have the body the world says you must have. So you got into your head to eat only once a day. Going on fitness run. See that too God. You will we all are Children of God will always be DAUGHTERS OF THE KING. God loves us no matter what. You can never stop God loving YOU. He does not want to have this body or look this way or that way. We are all perfect in his image. That is all that matters. Not what the world thinks. Like it say in the Father’s Love Letter. You get it on Youtube. Worth listing too. If we surrender all to him. He is there for us. I used to think I was not beautiful as was at school bullied. I did not matter. I had to be showed yes that I do matter. It not what the world thinks about me. It what Gods says that matters. I am precious to him. So are we all. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxxx
Love how you mention we are DAUGHTERS OF THE KING! Yes and amen! Each of us is a beloved child of God, fully and truly, defining our identity beyond anything else we might look towards
Anna Flake says
Thank you for this! God knew I needed to hear this today. I have been struggling with weight my whole life, especially the past 3 years. May I use this inspiration from you to surrender to the easy yoke of Jesus.
I’m so glad it was able to encourage you! It’s so easy to feed into the lies that our struggles with weight and body image define us, but the promises of God truly transform!
Thank you for this! I also battled anorexia as a teenager and have struggled with self image all of my life. This is just what I needed to see today. God is teaching me and I’m slowly learning that my identity is in Christ alone, not my size, what I do, etc…
So glad you’re on the road of recovery and are embracing the truth about who God says you are
Patty Joyce says
Love ❤️ this. I am 77 and 4 years ago, l wore a size 10 and was 120 pounds. And then, I met my husband and have gained 25 pounds! Yes, I’m happy, but feel I could lose 10 pounds which I think is reasonable. And . . . I am Italian !
I have been eating low carbohydrates for a few months (with some cheating) and haven’t lost that much, but feel so much better mentally and emotionally. In fact, I am at the gym writing this comment.
I, too, was obsessed with weight and still love sweets. I have finally accepted the fact that at my age, my body is no longer what it was and is going through the natural changes that accompany my age.
I am experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding. My mind is filled with all the things that are a part of my daily life and yet my spirit is calm in the assurance that He loves me regardless of how I look or what I do.
Thank you for sharing. I am sure this will speak to many who only see themselves externally, and with God’s grace will begin to see themselves as a unique and beautiful work of the Creator.
Blessings, Patty Joyce
Praise God, the giver of peace! I’m so glad to hear that you’re embracing your unique shape and size, along with the natural and glorifying changes that God designed
Becky Keife says
Your story reminds me that there is such deep freedom in Christ that we often don’t have enough courage to ask for or believe in. Thank you for sharing so honestly here! It’s a joy to host your story on (in)courage. xx
I have way struggled with weight and self image and food, still at 64. The last couple of weeks have taken me mentally and emotionally back to my teen years and my struggles. I have been wrestling with God, I was amazed when this was in my inbox today with another. God is good. Thank you for the encouragement.
Linda Shukri says
Thank you for your post! A lot of us struggle with so many things in life, including diets and health issues. I know I do. I’m going through some emotional trials right now. We have to keep reminding ourselves that God hears our prayers and knows our struggles. He is truly a great God who has provided us with so many good things for us in His beautiful creation. I believe He has also given wisdom to certain people to create unique and life-changing supplements from what He has created that get to the root of our health issues, including weight loss. It’s changing my life and many others. It’s truly a God-send! If anyone is interested in knowing more, you can reach me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you!
Nancy Ruegg says
How like our amazing and gracious God to transform a girl who once struggled with anorexia into a food scientist and nutrition coach! Victory for you, yes, but now for others as well–HALLELUJAH!
Jenny K says
Thanks for sharing your story and how God worked in your heart and mind to move through the eating disorder. I like how you point out the lie “For most of my life, I’d believed the lie that in order to be beautiful, worthy, and lovable, I needed to carefully control my eating and appearance.” This is so easy to believe! I spent my teenage/college years with that same lie, and God is so merciful, to move in such amazing ways through His word and the help of other people to allow our hearts to replace the lie that is so gripping with his truth of how loved we are by Him and find peace. Blessings to you as you continue to live each day being centered on that truth.
Beth Williams says
Thanks for sharing your journey with us. You are shedding light on a topic that needs to be talked about, especially in the Christian world. The devil is very crafty. He will use anything even food to make us feel bad about ourselves. The world says to be a certain size, weight, etc. In Lisa Jo Baker’s book “The Middle Matters” she says “The scale is not the boss of me”. She has learned to love herself just the way she is for her age. God loves us unconditionally. He doesn’t care about the number on the scale or size clothing we wear. He wants us to enjoy life with all the pleasures in it. Unfortunately pride can get in the way. We see tall, skinny people & feel we have to be like them or we don’t measure up. No so!! Sometimes God will take us to the end of ourselves to get our attention. God has given you insights that you are now sharing with the world. Thank you for that.
Thank you for your words today, Alexandra. Substitute responsible for food and you have written my very story for the last 5+ generations, including the cries for the Lord to take my life. From a young age my value as a person was couched in what I could (and should) do as a ” good girl” . That bad things don’t happen to good people, which we know certainly isn’t the truth in this life. But God…I love those words…never left my side, Christ and the Holy Spirit were steadfast and faithful all these years in their patience, compassion and wisdom. They brought me to the place of surrender and true freedom to enjoy what God has called good, helped me to be “relieved” of my duties and to freely receive their love, life and peace. Thank you for sharing your story, which is all of our stories at one time nor another.
Kerry MacPherson says
Thank you for this post Alnexandra. EXCELLENT! Can you elaborate more on how you gained freedom? How you developed a healthier view of food, exercise, your body, etc.? How you came to love and accept yourself the way God made you, without the perfect body? How you enjoy eating the occasional dessert and not be bombarded with the fear of getting fat and/or negative self-talk?
I am a 59 year old Christian woman. I spent last year attending an eating disorder clinic as an outpatient after my psychologist convinced me I was anorexic, too skinny and not healthy. I gained 10 pounds. Since 17 years old I have used exercise to burn calories and stay slim. I vowed at that time that I would NEVER be fat like my mom or grandma. I quit running this spring after running for 40 + years. I still tend to walk lots because I’m afraid I’ll gain even more weight. I feel good about obeying God by not running, but I still restrict my food intake; don’t eat a lot of sugar, carbs or fatty foods, for fear of getting fatter. When I do eat a lot of carbs or an extra dessert I condemn myself with a lot of negative self talk afterwards. I want to eat and exercise in moderation so I am healthy; I want to obey the HolySpirit’s still, small voice, instead of my strict eating rules. Thanks for your help. (-: Kerry