A Former Anorexic’s Guide to Feeding Your Body (and Imperfect Prose)

I am at the splash park with my boys, and there is a little girl, unable to move because she’s so obese.

She waddles across the sand in her two-piece and then flops down on the ground and wails until her father picks her up and places her on the picnic table and feeds her potato chips.

And I wonder if it isn’t all about hope? About us hungering for it and not finding it amongst pre-packaged Oreos and Twizzlers?

Food is not easy. I pray for that little girl as my soul twists for all children who are over or under-fed.

How do we feed ourselves so we can, in turn, feed our children? How do we love ourselves when all we’ve ever been told is we’re ugly or fat or useless? How do we let the light in, when all we can see is darkness?

I’ve had days where I’ve had to sit on my hands for wanting to restrict. I’ve had to sit on them and wait for the shaking to stop, for the need to control to subside, because everything in my world, in that moment, is so uncontrollable. So hard, and painful, and food–or the lack of–used to be my go-to when life got tough.

But food is no longer my go-to.

I still believe in nutrition. In things like fruits and veggies, and whole grain cereals, and small portions of meat. I believe in using sugar sparingly and replacing it with honey or maple syrup, and exchanging applesauce for vegetable oil.

Yet how do you feed the soul? The place that gets so hungry, no amount of Haagen-Daaz can satisfy?

And I’m wondering if the key to eating right–if the key to loving food and loving self and loving our children–isn’t to ask God for a spiritual kind of hunger?

Feeding the soul requires spiritual food, and it’s only when we consume something Alive and Eternal and Divine that everything else–like eating– falls into place. Because food then takes its place on the table, instead of on a pedestal.

Yes, we still need to eat our veggies.

But more than that is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness; the meat of the gospel–no longer craving spiritual milk, but understanding what Jesus has called us to and daring to dig deeper.

It’s about us about needing him more than we need life, about praising him in a Psalm 63 kind of way:  

“I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

It’s about praying for this spiritual kind of appetite in our children, teaching them to turn to prayer instead of a bag of potato chips; to find Jesus instead of the snack cupboard or the toilet.

Perhaps then we wouldn’t have obese two year olds, and anorexic seven year olds. Perhaps then our churches might be full of young people.

Perhaps then there would be a kind of revival the whole world is starving for.

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  1. Beautiful thoughts Emily. I too struggled with an eating disorder…the key for me, is just what you write here, focusing on my spiritual hunger first, and letting God organizing my life around Him, not eating, not exercise, etc…all those “things” fall into their proper place when I allow Him to satisfy me with his richness :) Not that I always get this right- but this is my aim:) I love your writing and your heart. Thank you!

  2. Very wise words – I was overfeeding myself, and thus teaching my children a very poor message. We are blessing ourselves with nutrient rich food these days, and being thankful too.

  3. So eloquently said, e. I’m working on eating when I’m hungry and learning to eat foods that feed my body, not just fill a void. Thank you for your heart!

  4. this is really hopeful, e. you know I already love this post. :)

  5. Dear Emily
    Oh, our world is filled with spiritual anorexia! And all the while oir Pappa longs to feed us, but the father of all lies feeds the souls of man with a steady diet of power and pride. Oh, this breaks my heart!
    Blessings XX

  6. you already know that this post spoke to me. you know where i’ve been and you know that i’m striving, just like you, to stand in the Hand of the One who feeds us.

    love you, em. <3

  7. So you know that I get this — this physical nourishment a pale substitute for what I craved because I didn’t have growing up in a lot of ways. This stuffing, stuffing because there was empty, empty. It wasn’t until He showed me the void that I understood. And daily, I learn more about craving Him.

  8. I wonder how much food is consumed to substitute for God. We’re all hungriest for him, we just don’t all know it. Thanks for sharing this, Em. May we all pause before we pick up our next bite.

  9. Oh, such conviction here. I’m pausing now before I eat lunch. My prayer is to crave God more- not food, alcohol or anything else this world entices me with

  10. Beautiful, encouraging, hope-filled words here, Em. Thank you for this. Truly.

  11. THank you for this meditation and encouragement this morning. I really appreciate it.
    I am realizing how much I need to nourish my soul in Him. Only then can i be a fruitful garden to those I love.
    Thank you and bless you,

  12. I love this. Love it in a season where I recognize I’m craving all the wrong things, but I’m afraid of the next step.

  13. I struggle with eating. I always feel fat when really I am a normal size. I am never content with what I weigh. I always desire to weigh less. I call it my thorn in the flesh. I have been a christian for about 7 years (or at least that’s when I really understood) I am 27years old. I would think this would have ended but I struggle so much it interferes in life. How did your mind change to believe the truth you read in the bible?

  14. Yes, isn’t the Jesus kind of hunger, and eating of Him the answer for all we long for. Yet, He’s right there, the Living Bread, the Living water, and I chose to eat what never satisfies and drink from broken cisterns. God help me, God help us.

  15. Feeding the soul is what satisfies the emptiness within. You are so right, emily. When I feast with Him, I am filled with food sweeter than honey. But I have to make the choice to be wholly present to Him.
    Thanks, emily.

  16. My heart hurts for the obese child, person as much as for the starved, both slowly killing themselves. “Their stomach is their god…” Oh Jesus, we need a massive work of grace to deliver us from this culture and our appetites.

  17. Your story is beautiful. I love this line: “it’s only when we consume something Alive and Eternal and Divine that everything else–like eating– falls into place” It speaks poignantly to your own struggle while still encompassing God’s grace for every struggle.

  18. love you, friend. resonates.

  19. Emily,

    This line: “Feeding the soul requires spiritual food, and it’s only when we consume something Alive and Eternal and Divine that everything else–like eating– falls into place. Because food then takes its place on the table, instead of on a pedestal.”

    Yes, and getting our love tanks filled up properly, and knowing that we are loved, and treasured, and protected and cared for, too, I imagine.

    Jennifer Dougan


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