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Facing Lent While Recovering From Anorexia

March 8, AD2017

Birgit - Garden of Hope(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
  • Sarcasm
  • Complaining
  • 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.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Anna Rose Meeds is a Catholic writer and speaker who wants to spread hope, truth, and awareness. After struggling through many years of depression, eating disorders, anxiety, aspergers, and numerous other illnesses, she has finally begun to to see a light at the end of the tunnel that she wants to share with all those who need encouragement and support. Currently, she is a university student studying professional writing with a minor in literature and Bible. Creativity and imagination play an important role in her life and faith. Other activities that she is involved with include Toastmasters, speech team, theater, web editing and social media marketing for several sites, writing for her university newspaper, a chapter officer of Sigma Tua Delta, and leading of the disability awareness club at her school.

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  • Cozy Hannula

    I think another valuable way to practice lent is to commit to do something, maybe praying daily (setting aside specific time) or reading a certain devotion or any other non fasting commitment that can bring you closer to God. Or for instance trading time you spend watching a tv for bible study.

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  • By the way, Anna Rose, my daughter just read your article. It put a smile on her face and she said, “I never thought of that!” Holding to her meal plan as a form of “sacrifice” during Lent is a wonderful alternative for ED Catholics. Thank you again. <3

    • That is so wonderful to hear! Give her my best. 🙂 Knowing that my article was helpful is a blessing.

  • Warren Anderson

    Have you been talking to my guardian angel? I think I should now add to my Lenten fast at least five of the six “other ideas of things to fast from instead of food” that you have articulated.

    Thank you for your beautiful witness.

    • God does send us signals through each other, doesn’t he? 🙂 Thank you for reading.

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  • Anna Rose, thank you for addressing this issue. Powerful reminder that fasting is not healthy for all people. You are an amazingly fearless young lady for taking the time to share your experience. I trust that your words will help another individual/family dealing with this horrible disease. Eating disorders are probably one of the most misunderstood mental health issues that we face today. With young women like you, we can educate the masses and heal so many more. Peace be with you. <3

    • Thank you so much! Also, thank you for being willing to also advocate and be a voice for those struggling with an eating disorder.

    • Well, Anna Rose, as you know, I have a teenager daughter struggling with this horrible disease. The more we talk about it, the more we educate others. Thank you for being willing to champion this cause. God bless you. (((hugs))) Diane