(One of our editors wanted to write about eating disorders and Lent. However, we remembered Anna Rose Meads gave a great explanation two years ago about why fasting from food is a huge “NO” for people suffering from eating disorders)
The fact that National Eating Disorders Awareness Week landed on the first week of Lent is rather ironic. During a Church season when people are giving up sweets or even meals, millions of people around the world are struggling with either overeating or restricting food. This time of the year, although a wonderful spiritual experience, can be extremely triggering to someone recovering from an eating disorder.
As someone who is recovering from Anorexia Nervousa, I am challenged by how to face Lent. Making time for God, giving up a pleasurable thing, and learning to rely on my faith are all important. Thankfully, these do not need to be found in fasting from food. For me, that would be detrimental to my health and faith.
Part of me wishes that I could lean back on the great excuse not to eat. However, fasting from food was not a prayer for me. This action brought me no spiritual depth, peace, or grace. Instead, I ended up weary physically, haggard emotionally, and disenchanted spiritually. Only the shell of me remained, or so it seemed. Slowly, my recovery brought me back my voice, passion, and hope.
However, I needed to think of something new to give up for Lent. I decided that my Lenten fast will involve food in another way. As terrifying as it is, my prayer and way of spending more time dedicated to my faith is by eating my full meal plan. Starting today, my goal is to have as much of the food that I am supposed to eat as possible. That includes all of the fats which I usually only have 3/4ths of and all of the other tallies too. Along with that Lenten sacrifice, I am fasting from complaining about my body, weight, or appearance.
Inside, part of me is screaming. This is horrifying. Maybe it will not work, and I will end up needing to choose another fast. How these two fasts will work together will need to come from strength beyond me. Surviving this Lent will need to include leaning on God, my family, care team, and good friends. That is exactly what I need but fear. Trying to struggle through life alone is so much simpler.
Here are some other ideas of things to fast from instead of food:
- Social media
- Certain television shows or music
- Staying up late
- Shopping for fun
The list could continue for a much longer time. Hopefully, it has given you or a loved one ideas of how to get through Lent when you cannot fast from food for medical, emotional, or spiritual reasons.