Fasting & Eating Disorders

Posted by Ethos Church on

The following blog was written by Savannah Locke — friend to Ethos Church and all who know her. You may know her as Savannah Ellis (before she got married to Todd Locke, woohoo!) — and remember her stellar voice from leading worship, her beautiful heart, and willingness to be transparent in the struggles and working of God in her life. Her personal experience in this area will serve many in ways we cannot even imagine — and we pray that this blog will be a blessing to all who read it.

- - - - -

For most of my life I didn’t have an emotional vocabulary to express the deep-rooted shame, anxiety and depression I was experiencing, so I numbed my feelings with food. Day after day. Night after night. Coping. Trudging forward. Binge eating then feeling guilty then sinking into shame then binge eating again to manage it all. It was a vicious cycle that distorted my view of God, food, and my body.

Everything changed in high school when a friend of mine lost a ton of weight and I decided I could do the same. I researched celebrity diets and Victoria’s Secret model’s weights and realized the only way to achieve their standard was starving myself… So I did. I wanted to be pretty enough, skinny enough, and appealing enough to fit in. I was, like millions of people especially this time of year, driven by shame.

I lost too much weight in three months. I amped up my workout plan, stopped eating, and dropped even more weight over the next two months. Like many people who are struggling with (or have previously struggled with) an eating disorder, I treated my body worse than an animal, forcing it to run on minimal nourishment and care. I didn’t see my body as God’s home — I saw it as a rival to defeat.

Jesus saved me around that time and slowly reshaped my view of food and bodies and eating. He taught me that food is not an enemy, but a gift. My body is not an ornament, but a gift. Exercise is not a guilt-reliever, but a gift.

The same is true about fasting — it is a gift. It is not a tool for weight loss. It is not compensation for gluttony. It is not a way to kick-start your diet or spiritualize self-deprecation. It is not a instrument of punishment and it is not a hunger strike. It is meant to develop self-denial, not self-hatred. It is intended to cultivate your intimacy with God.

As someone who has mistreated both food and my body with gluttony and starvation, I understand how complicated fasting can be. It is tempting to take this God-glorifying act of worship and pervert it into a self-glorifying act of penance. So hear me out: you might not be ready to fast from food right now. If your body is already on the brink of malnourishment, the last thing you need to do is ditch food under the guise of spiritual practice. If you heard about the fast and immediately thought, “Great! I need to lose ten pounds anyways” there is likely a problem.

In the same way you need to work from a place of rest, you fast from a place of health.

Until last year, I chose to fast from things like social media, caffeine or movies rather than food while God continued to restructure that area of my heart. Like Dave wrote in his eBook, “…fasting is not about us somehow getting God’s attention. Fasting is about God getting all of our attention.” As you think about fasting, then, remember you are not doing anything to earn God’s attention, affection, or affirmation.

If you are unsure about whether or not you need to fast from food, I (fortunately) can’t tell you what to do. But here are three questions to ask yourself as you prayerfully process this with God.

1. Why am I fasting?

This is a question of motivation that only you can answer. If your fast is driven by weight loss, you might as well start Jenny Craig or something, because Biblical fasting is not a diet. If your fast is driven by self-hatred, know that God does not pleasure in guilt-ridden sacrifice, but in a humble heart: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

2. Do I struggle with an eating disorder?

Is your view of your body, food, and eating distorted? If you are struggling, don’t let it fester any longer. Talk to someone about it. Go to a Christian counselor. If you have struggled or are currently struggling with an eating disorder, know this: The Enemy will try to rob your joy in the experience. He will try to steal and destroy the breakthrough God has in store for you. That being said, if you choose to fast from food, be open with your friends and lean on your community in the process. Know that God will sustain you.

3. What is the Holy Spirit leading me to do?

This can look different for everyone, especially those wrestling with an eating disorder. Maybe God is asking you to fast from food even if you feel unready. Trust that He is not setting you up for failure. He will support and lead you every step of the way. Or maybe God is asking you to abstain from social media or coffee or music instead. This is not because you are a failure or immature. He is simply doing surgery on your heart, and you might not be ready to run out of the hospital and take a 30-day fast by storm yet.

In Closing...

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Simply listen to God’s call and obey: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whatever the Lord prompts you to do, do it with joy and for His glory, knowing He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Breakthrough is coming. Healing can happen. Everything is possible.

- - - - -

If you feel you struggle with an eating disorder and would like to talk with a Christian counselor, we'd love to help connect you. Visit our counseling page to read about a few counselors we recommend.

If you would like to speak to someone on our ministry team for encouragement and prayer, please email and we'll connect you!


to leave comment