I was a male teenager. Competitive runner. Disciplined, not “depraved.” Accomplished, not “idolatrous.” I just wanted to be faster. I just had to eat less.
But I was sick.
Physically unable to train for the races I longed to win. Spiritually enslaved to over-desires for performance, righteousness, and control. I had an eating disorder. At fifteen, I entered inpatient treatment. I hated it. I left with more pounds on my body and nutritional strategies in my journal, but I was still hungry for true healing.
A few years later God called me to salvation through faith in Jesus. I was forgiven of sin, made righteous, and given new and eternal life. The war was finally over. But I still struggled. Even then, I hadn’t fully seen my disordered eating as a God-replacing idol — as a cosmically offensive sin. So, I slipped in and out of restrictive eating in pursuit of success and righteousness.
Afraid to Confess
Then my wife gave birth to our first son, Josiah. At 29 years old, I was happy beyond belief — and awake most nights. Countless diapers, long cries, and unpredictable needs made life feel out of control. I ran past Jesus to my familiar God-replacement: restrictive eating.
“Killing the sin of disordered eating isn’t easy.”
I lost weight. Fast. One heart-contrived lie after another convinced me it was for selfless performance. I was more alert, ready for middle of the night diapers or hugs. In reality, I was ravenous for my glory and self-righteousness. I left behind God’s word, and trusted my selfish and sinful impulses again. I put down the fork and feasted on Satan’s lies.
I was afraid. Afraid to confess my sin. Afraid of the anticipated shame, stigma, and embarrassment. Afraid to trust God for righteousness, and with control. Afraid to say I had an eating disorder.
Confronted in Love
I should have been more afraid. I should have feared God, not man. I should have revered his awesome holiness and mourned my sinfulness (2 Corinthians 7:9). I should have trembled at the one who calms seas, forgives sin, and orders disordered eaters like me (Mark 4:41). I should have been satisfied in his unmerited mercy instead of self-righteous restriction (Proverbs 19:23). I should have found safe refuge in his steadfast love, instead of in plates full of vegetables (Psalm 31:19).
I was confronted in love.
Jenn and I sat in the King of Prussia Mall. With grace and truth, my wife asked if my current eating related to my past anorexia. She helped me see a present problem, not just a past struggle.
Scott and I walked our afternoon route with Daisy (Scott’s dog) and Josiah (my son). With compassion and concern, my friend said he worried about my health and ability to care for my family. He helped me see a fatal enemy, not just a crutch for comfort.
“I hadn’t fully seen my disordered eating as a God-replacing idol — as a cosmically offensive sin.”
Matt and Tim sat in the office across from me. With God-honoring conviction these brothers in Christ and elders over me said I needed to see a biblical counselor and a nutritionist. They helped me to see my sin against God, and to see Jesus as gracious to redeem.
Five Lessons Learned
God continues to use many means of grace in my recovery. He has taught me at least five lessons along the way.
1. Trust God’s word, not personal preference.
Killing the sin of disordered eating isn’t easy. The evil that creeps up within me has three or more opportunities to surface every day (Romans 7:21). My adversary, Satan, prowls around like a roaring lion speaking seductive lies at restaurants, holiday dinners, and especially anytime I must eat alone (1 Peter 5:8). He invites me to settle for preference over God’s design when the two diverge. His lies lead to death (John 8:44). Jesus offers true life (John 10:10). So I fight to trust and obey Jesus, especially at mealtime.
2. Hope in future grace, not present comfort.
My eating disorder offers false hope and pretend righteousness. God offers true righteousness and eternal hope in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 1:3–7). The process of weight gain and maintenance can be hard. My hope must be on eternal glory if I’ll persevere and obey through temporal trials.
3. Submit to godly counsel, not a subjective heart or stomach.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I needed a biblical counselor and a nutritionist. Why? Because my heart is subjective and prone to deception (Hebrews 3:12–13). I need a meal plan for the same reason I need a Bible-reading and prayer plan. I want to enjoy God and his gifts rightly, but won’t naturally drift into that on my own.
4. Confess sin, and don’t pretend.
I needed to mourn sin as offensive to God, to hate that I doubt and disobey my Creator, to admit my darkness to Jesus and others, to stop pretending I didn’t have a problem and performing like I could change without help. I needed to let the light of the world shine good news into my dark heart and disordered eating (John 8:12; Romans 8:1). This enjoyed mercy through confession motivates ordered eating in worship to God (Romans 12:1).
5. Feed the new self, and starve the old.
“My old desires need to be starved as I cultivate godly appetites aligning with my identity in Jesus.”
I deleted social media accounts because scrolling fitness and eating blogs was addictive. I stopped preparing every meal because it made too much provision for my weak flesh (Romans 13:14). I asked Jenn to cook for us without letting me know every ingredient used. I asked if we could share meals at restaurants so that I couldn’t order the salad. I had to starve my old desires, and cultivate godly appetites aligning with my new identity in Jesus (Ephesians 4:20–24).
With each of these five lessons, I am learning to be satisfied with the Bread of Life. He alone orders every disorder of my heart and invites me to eat to his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).