What does food freedom in Christ look like?
Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.
This was a client question I received recently and I thought I would spend some time thoroughly answering it.
When a person is active in their eating disorder, food takes on a very important role. A person spends their day worried about food. They may think extensively on when to eat, what to eat, how to eat it, and maybe what people might think about them for eating certain foods. Then if a food is eaten in a way that is inconsistent with their eating disorder’s food rules then there are the ripple effects of guilt, shame, and anxiety to deal with. That’s a lot of brain space taken up just by food. The eating disorder sells the lie that if a person eats a certain way, then the underlying problems that are at the root of the eating disorder will improve. So slowly a person offers more and more meal sacrifices to the eating disorder.
In short, food becomes an idol in the eating disorder.
So, how do we heal from this idol worship of food?
Idol worship is not a light subject. God wants our whole heart. Not because he needs anything from us, but because He desires what is best for his beloved. God knows that the material things in our earthly home cannot compare to the heavenly gifts He has for us.
When we are ready to confront our idol worship, we can model our response after Moses’ response in Exodus 32. He responds to idol worship immediately, directly, and thoroughly.
Respond quickly when food idol worship is brought to your attention. Model Moses’ quick reaction to learning of the Israelites idol worship (Exodus 32: 15-20). Start by identifying the role that food is playing in your life. How much are you trusting it, relying it, depending on it to deliver you out of your circumstance?
Completely destroy the concept of food as an idol. Just as Moses burns the golden calf in the fire and grounds it into powder (Exodus 32:20), you must also completely destroy food beliefs, thoughts, and rules that support food as an idol in your life. It won’t be as quick as throwing it into the fire, but when challenging food rules is done systematically and with support it is just as effective.
Ask for support to fight against your food idol. Moses models rallying the LORD’s followers to fight back against idolatry (Exodus 32:27-29). You, too, can find the power and strength needed to fight back against idol worship when seeking support from clinicians and recovery focused peers.
Pray for restoration. Moses models how to begin and end our fight against idol worship with prayer and petition. Idol worship reflects the distance of our heart from God and yet God desperately wants to welcome you back home (see The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32) and close that gap.
Food Freedom in Christ
So now we have talked about how to heal from food idol worship, it may be beneficial to talk about what we are healing towards.
Food freedom, secularly defined, is the ability to enjoy food that is physically and psychologically satisfying in an amount that satisfies the body’s hunger. Food freedom may look like:
Enjoying a traditional holiday meal
Trying a new recipe
Ordering what you really want off the menu
Going out for ice cream with friends just because
Being present with friends and family during meals instead of focused on food worries
When we start to embrace food freedom it’s so liberating. When we embrace food freedom in the context of Christ it’s life changing. Food freedom in Christ means that we have normalized our relationship with food (and our body) to proceed fully with our God given mission on earth. We have replaced the brain space that used to be focused on food and body and have switched focus to our Kingdom mission: loving God and loving others.
Eating disorders are a very real physical and mental illness that often include a preoccupation with food. This preoccupation with food can become idol worship and needs to be addressed immediately, directly, and thoroughly. When we are able to root out the food idol worship, we are able to work towards food freedom in Christ that prepares us for our Heavenly Kingdom work.