Soul Hunger

prayfoodEating disorders are culturally driven. And they don’t recognise traditional divides. But in my experience at least, they’re also a massive, massive issue for women in the church.


Perhaps churches, like EDs, attract certain kinds of person. Sensitive, insecure.  Folks with high standards in all areas of life – including morality. Good girls who keep the rules and see life in black and white. Women unlikely to embrace more obvious forms of rebellion…or who feel the need to keep certain emotions sealed off.

Writing in an interview with the Guardian, author Hilary Mantel says this:

‘Fat is not immoral. There is no link between your waistline and your ethics. But though you insist on this, in your own mind, everything tells you you’re wrong; or, let’s say you’re going in for the form of intellectual discrimination that cuts against the perception of most of the population, who knows that overweight people are lazy, undisciplined slobs…

Saints starve.  They diet till they see visions…some saints are muscular Christians, but there are no fat saints’.

Eating disorders may be more prevalent today, but they’re far from being a modern issue. From the asceticism of the 4th century to the medieval ‘holy anorexics’, fasting and feasting are at the centre of most religions. Today, self- starvation has been redefined from religious act to pathological state.  But perhaps its roots remain are the same.  In fact, perhaps it is partly because we have lost a religious context for fasting that EDs have developed.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Soul Hunger

  1. I definitely agree we have lost the discipline of fasting. A discipline that focuses on self denial in order to depend upon God which is so contrary to starving yourself for control or weight loss reasons. when you are denying yourself for A closer relationship with God our focus becomes so much about him and less about our physical shape.

    As christian women Is our constant struggle with sin finding an outlet in eating disorders such as anorexia and bullemia where women can feel an element of control? We can be so aware of our constant inward private sins and so often instead of looking to apply the gospel of grace, starvation or a purge of our stomach gives a ‘quick fix’. A challenge to us as women to encourage one another in gospel community and to be honest about our struggles and short comings maybe somewhere to start…

  2. Absolutely: the point of fasting is not self-reliance (which is what many EDs thrive upon), but dependence on God. But dependence is hard – it feels easier to try and control my body and make life on my own terms – even though this leads to being out of control and enslaved.

  3. I think a problem can be ‘having a form of godliness but denying its power’. When we are trying to be ‘better’, to live by rules and regulations, trying to please God – these are the conditions where the eating disorder goes crazy. And for that part, I would agree with your post. People who do not fully understand God’s incredible, amazing, incomprehensible grace towards us will try so hard to ‘be better’ and sometimes, that can involve being stricter with ourselves, hiding our messiness, hiding our emotions, trying to be ‘perfect’.

    But contrast that with the true grace that is found in Christ. He ate with ‘tax collectors and sinners’. Look at the woman who broke the alabaster jar of perfume over his feet and wept, washing his feet with her hair, and generally being a ‘mess’ or ‘making a fool of herself’ as people around thought. Or the woman caught in adultery. Messy. Embarrassing. On the surface of it, shameful. But ‘he who has been forgiven much loves much’, and when we start to understand that grace, we start to see just how futile and enslaving our own efforts are.

    I need reminders of this truth!

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