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Yeah…Immaeatthat

For most of my life, up until about 7 years ago, Lent was a time to eliminate a food to allow me to continue idolizing and pursing a body size I wasn’t made to have. The typical eliminated food was sugar, desserts, sodas, carbs (aka the foods vilianized by our culture). As we head into the Lenten season, instead of viewing this season as an opportunity to pursue one’s weight loss longings or use it as a socially acceptable means to continue one’s eating disorder, better questions to ponder are: what is corrosive to my soul? What do I need to go without to grow closer to Him?

For me, I need silence. I need solitude. Which translates less into sitting by myself at a spa and more to intentional time away from my phone. How can I expect to hear the small whisper of Christ if every waking hour is filled with the distraction of reaching for my phone and scrolling or googling something? More and more I realize how social media allows demands to be made of me that aren’t in line with what Christ has called me to. Starting Ash Wednesday and until Easter I want to be intentional about creating a space to connect with God more and that can’t happen if I’m connecting to the vastness of social media and the internet. For me, this will look like being off my phone from 7pm to 7am, which is huge for me because most nights I’m a scroll-on-my-phone-until-I-dose-off kinda person. The next step to more silence would likely look like me listening to fewer podcasts during the day, but baby steps. Silence is hard.

An article I read recently put the difficulty of silence like this: ” ‘We can only survive solitude,” warns Dallas Willard, “if we cling to Christ there”.  Solitude and silence bring to the surface inner conflicts, distress, and longings. This can be upsetting or painful, but it is much needed purification! Whatever issues come up for us can then be brought to the Lord in prayer or shared with a friend later.”

Some sacrifices can build up an idol. For those with an eating disorder past or present, restriction of food (physical or mental) is likely corrosive to your soul. For those who are years into eating disorder recovery, fasting from certain foods may possibly draw you into a deeper connection with Christ, but this is a very personal decision that needs to be well thought through. If you find fasting from food leads you into more preoccupation with food + your body size and misplaced praise and worship (i.e. worship of pants fitting less snug instead of worshipping Christ), it’s likely that food fasting isn’t healthy or helpful for you at this time. As we head into this Lenten season, I encourage you to take some time to consider what is corrosive to your soul based on your life experience and purse a season without that thing.

37 comments on “giving up food during Lent.”

  1. I was just reading my church bulletin this morning regarding the rules around fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I no longer participate in this because of my ED past, but was thinking how damaging it could be for some people. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

    • Thanks for commenting, Amy! I was doing a bible study that was talking about how people have different requirements for living based on what they’ve been though. Like, there are good and healthy things for some (i.e. fasting) that could actually be sin for others if they struggle with an eating disorder, disordered eating or body preoccupation. Every body needs to consider what is healthy and helpful for their unique person!

  2. One year I gave up exercise for lent. It felt so counterproductive, I was so used to hearing thinness and exercise praised it had become godly in my head. As I discovered during lent, it was an idol for me and I found after some discomfort there was amazing freedom. I haven’t been the same since. 

  3. My cousin and I were talking a few weeks ago about this very thing. She said for years she’s used fasting as a way to selfishly lose weight and think of it as almost being “holy” because people in church tended to praise people for their “self-control” by not eating. But it always made the ED voices louder in her head instead of magnifying Christ’s voice. After praying and seeking the Lord about it she felt led to do a negativity fast. So stepping away from social media, unfollowing people that only caused anxiety, purposefully replacing negative speech with ones filled with hope, etc. I think fasting has definitely been taken over by religious practices because once it becomes about files and not about relationship it’s religion and Jesus came to earth to destroy religion and restore us to the Father. Great insight! 

    • Thanks for sharing, Savanna! Such a good way to put it that for some when fasting the ED voices gets magnified in some people’s heads instead of Christ’s voice getting magnified.

  4. This is very interesting. This made me think about how fasting during the month of Ramadan would be difficult if you practice intuitive eating or are recovering from an eating disorder. I’d love to hear a perspective about religious fasting and intuitive eating/ED recovery. Perhaps you could find some RDs who practice Judaism or Islam to share their perspectives, or point me in the direction of one who already has written about this.

  5. These things have been on my mind as well. I’m finding it interesting that of the three traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and alms-giving, how easy it is in our culture for fasting to be taken out of context, and become about manipulating our physical bodies instead of disposing our hearts and souls toward God. I’m no expert on scripture, but it seems that in the Bible, when people fast, it signifies a turning AWAY from something destructive and a turning back TOWARD the God who wants to heal, forgive and be in intimate relationship with each of us. I’ve come to realize how much certain unhealthy diet mentalities and behaviors around food /body image are siphoning vital energy from my relationships with God and others. I’m not in a good place to fast more than very minimally this year, and while I still believe that appropriate fasting (ie for the right reasons and not in a disordered way) is a valid spiritual practice, it is not to be used without self-knowledge of our own particular physical or mental health concerns and limitations. In my church (I’m Catholic), pregnant and nursing mothers, those who are below or over a certain age, or those who are ill are exempted from fasting. In all these cases, there are good reasons why fasting would not be wise. Sorry for the rambling comment, and thanks for the space to get these thoughts out.

    • I really appreciate the thoughtful comment, Anna! Thank you! I so agree with–> “appropriate fasting (ie for the right reasons and not in a disordered way) is a valid spiritual practice, it is not to be used without self-knowledge of our own particular physical or mental health concerns and limitations.”

  6. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I have been kind of cranky the last few days about how many people in my faith community are “going keto for Lent!”. I am also going to be fasting from social media during Lent, which I am hoping will be very fruitful. Have you ever heard of the book Lovely by Amanda Martinez Beck? I just read it and it talked about IE/HAES from a Christian perspective…I really enjoyed it.

  7. I’m so glad you wrote this! I was just thinking about what I wanted to give up for Lent and couldn’t decide. But I knew giving up one type of food or drink wouldn’t bring me closer to God. Just make me obsessed about what foods I was eating. 
    Love this ❤️

  8. Thanks so much for this. I’ve been struggling in a lot of areas lately (emotional, mental, spiritual) and I’ve recently come to realize that most of it comes down to a lack of comfort with just being present- with Christ, with myself, with others. It’s like as I’ve released some lingering eating disorder behaviors, my brain instinctively seeks some other coping skill, and for me that’s constantly being on my phone. Scrolling- Facebook, social media, random websites…anything to keep from just having to be with myself, which in turn really inhibits my connection to God and totally cuts off my ability to pick up on those whispers and promptings from the Holy Spirit that we get when we are more tuned in. If it’s not too weird to be a copy-cat, your post has motivated me to set some Lenten goals for myself in the area of media/distraction and use the time to see what God will do with a more open and willing mind and heart. Thanks again for this post. 

  9. Love this, and agree with so much of what you’ve said here. I also think that it can be helpful to add in a practice. So, not only “fast” from those things that disconnect us from God (usually not food, at least not for me), but in fact “feast” on what brings us closer to God. To that end, I’m looking for a Lenten book/devotional to do with friends. Thoughts?

    • Thanks for sharing, Kate! I don’t have any recommendations to give for a Lenten book/devotional! Maybe another reader will comment with some ideas!

    • I’m doing O Heavy Lightness! It’s been great so far (granted we’re only on day two). Very doable with friends. There’s even a Spotify playlist with curated music that goes along with the study. 

  10. I used lent way too many times to try & manipulate my body!!  No desserts was always my thing.  One year, no desserts, no snacks, & no seconds.  It wasn’t at all about getting closer to God!!  I now like to “fast” on things that are good for my soul, like your limiting phone access.I like to pick things that are hard to give up, but aren’t always serving me too (:  

  11. I am 10.5 months post partum and have lost too much weight while breastfeeding and am now underweight. I have a history of anorexia/exercise addiction/Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and do not want to go down that road again. So this Lent I’m going in the opposite direction of fasting and my Lenten resolution is to gain weight and get back to a healthy weight for me. Eating MORE during Lent may be counter intuitive but, for me, intentionally gaining weight is a death to self and a giving over of control to God. I decided when I was in recovery from my eating disorder that I would, most likely, never fast again because there is the danger of things getting confused and disordered in my head…so this Lent I’m adding a lot of food in instead of taking any out!

  12. I appreciate this post so much! Thank you for writing on this topic Kylie!

  13. The whispering of Christ? Not judging, just curious ;) What does that look like/sound like for you? I’m struggling with my (Christian) faith lately & I lack guidance on how to see the palpability and authenticity of my birth religion. Thanks!!

    • I’ve only experienced it once. It wasn’t a voice for me, but I’ve had others describe their experience with Christ as a whisper and think the Holy Spirit can present that way. I used to think people were making up their “God speaking to me” experiences, but as I started taking a more active role in my faith (i.e. reading my bible, doing bible studies that sounded interesting, seeking to figure out what religion is for me), rather than a passive role (i.e. just do what my parents do, repeat x thing/prayer, say I’m a Christian but that not actually mean anything to me, etc.), I have experienced something. For me the most life changing thus far was two massive hands laying on me that weren’t imagined by me and seemed outside my brain. I didn’t even tell people when it happened because I was like, “welp, now I’m one of those people who I never believed and thought were making stuff up.” BUT I share now because I don’t think our faith is supposed to be lived/experienced inside our heads alone.

      Someone told me recently that “Christ doesn’t have grandkids, only sons and daughters…” meaning even if our parents were a certain religion we have to come to faith/Christ on our own. That popped into my mind when you said “birth religion”, since faith didn’t mean anything for me until I started taking an active role within it.

  14. Hey Kylie! :) Like so many others have said, thank you so so much for sharing this! It is SUCH a necessary topic to have more discussion around. I, too, have felt confused and “less than” for not giving up food but have come to learn that it really is what is best for each person/what brings each person closer to God. I hope more Christians can be more aware of this when they discuss the idea of fasting! <3

  15. I love the idea of giving up the dependence on social media/Internet instead of something like food. Completely agree with you on how difficult silence can be, and it’s definitely something I am challenging myself with right now as well. Love your 7 to 7 goal!

  16. Good post! I’m not Christian anyway, but I totally disagree with the idea of giving up “bad” foods for Lent. First off, why are any foods considered “bad” ?!? NOPE. And banning yourself from anything is sure to set you up for failure, whether in the form of a binge or a total mental meltdown. 

  17. With three small children my Lenten resolution is going to be prioritizing rest/naps for myself. It’s a sacrificial discipline because it means giving up “me time” and my to-do list to do boring self care, ha! It will also mean resisting the urge to mindlessly scroll and actually REST when I get the 20-30 minute window of precious, overlapping naps.

  18. Thanks for writing this!

    I used to give up foods for lent for the same reason — not because I really wanted to grow closer to Christ — but because it was another opportunity to pursue a smaller body. Anything can become an idol, and for me it was my food choices/body size. I still find it challenging when I’m in churches and we talk about fasting – I think the intention behind it sometimes gets overlooked or underestimated and we forget how many people might have an ulterior motive (weight loss) when it comes to fasting (a “bonus” in their eyes). Crazy that diet culture can even seep in there at times. Not maliciously or intentionally, but almost because it’s normal to want to be smaller, even if you’re a Christian.

    I’m reading a book by Dallas Willard right now that you might like — it’s called The Great Omission and talks a lot about spiritual disciplines — silence, solitude, prayer, fasting, worship, etc and how those can prepare our hearts to better hear from the Holy Spirit (what I’ve come to understand as the whisper of Christ).

  19. I definitely used to give up food for Lent every year. I fooled myself into thinking that it was about Jesus when really it was just about me worshiping the empty, nasty idol of thinness. This Lenten season I will eat chocolate and carbs AND praise Jesus for giving them to me, thank you for very much. Lol!

  20. Thanks for this post, Kylie! I love how you’re starting to weave your faith throughout your blog more and more. It’s super encouraging!

    At my bible study a few weeks ago, we were talking about the idea of fasting. During advent and lent, my small group creates an open invitation to fast all day on Mondays, and then break the fast together when we share dinner before our study. While it sounds like a nice idea, I know that as someone who has recovered from an eating disorder, that would NOT be a healthy or God-honoring thing for me to do.

    The pastor explained, though, that when we are called to fast in the bible, it is a corporate calling on the church as a whole, which makes provision for the INDIVIDUALS who don’t or can’t or won’t. Just like with corporate worship, there are some members of the body that can’t attend on any given week (i.e. due to illness) but as a whole, the BODY of Christ is still meeting for worship.

    It was a new perspective I’d never heard!

  21. I’ve been wanting to share more about the idol of thinness within the church setting and I appreciate this discussion starter.

  22. Thank you for this! I have been struggling recently with wanting to diet again, especially in a season when it’s even more socially acceptable and I’ve been on my IE journey for 2 years now, feeling very defeated. This was a great reminder of what I REALLY need.

    Also, due to your influence among other resources, I was able to identify my need to diet as a need to control something and go back to a familiar routine as I am in a place of personal/emotional difficulty, the most I have been in since starting recovery from my eating disorder so I just want to thank you for all you do through this blog, it is so helpful and encouraging!

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