They are hanging on bulletin boards, in your mailbox, all over social media: signs and flyers urging you to restrict your intake to nothing or to a few food groups. Everywhere you turn, people are talking about what foods they are giving up and at times insinuating they are more moral for doing so.
The thing is, you aren’t in a crazy weight-loss clinic. You are in your church, on your religious college campus, interacting with your religious friends.
Whether you are religious or not, as the season of lent comes upon us you are likely to experience an increase in eating disorder triggers. But with the right preparation, you can wade through this triggering season without losing the progress we have made.
The first step is choosing not to fast, and understanding why you have chosen not to.
The key is understanding a critical principle in eating disorder recovery: just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should to be done, and just because you choose not to do something doesn’t mean you are too weak to be able to do it. Or as the Bible puts it in 1 Corinthians 6:12 “You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is good for you. And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything’, I must not become a slave to anything.”
It is very difficult to deal with the feeling that others, or even God, are judging you as undisciplined and un-spiritual. But the Bible makes it very clear fasting is a personal decision to be made solely for the purpose of obeying God, and if you have had a history of making food an “ultimate thing”, it is blatant disobedience to return to putting God second in your life in the name of spiritual discipline.
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Use this time to refocus on living your life based on God’s standards rather than on the opinions of those around you. And practice not feeling obligated to explain yourself to others–particularly when it comes to religious matters.
The second step is to avoid triggers to the best of your ability.
Since fasting is meant to be a personal, private decision, in an ideal world it would not be talked about, publicized and pushed on others. But a few days into lent it becomes pretty obvious fasting often gets used as a form of self-glorification rather than God-glorification.
If you find somebody is triggering you with talk of fasting or with their eating habits, respectfully ask them to refrain from such topics when around you and avoid being with them during meal times.
Lastly, choose your own observance.
Just because you are choosing to avoid the classic lent observance of fasting from food doesn’t mean you have to avoid observing lent in general.
For me, a history of perfectionism and minimalism means I too easily fall into idolatry when I fast from anything, and thus I generally choose “additive” observances. For example, in past lent seasons I have added things like music that feeds my soul, daily biblical meditation and choosing a new life-verses to focus on.
I hope these steps can help you not just make it through the lent season this year, but also experience spiritual renewal and rejuvenation–Please let us know any of your “additive” lent ideas!
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