Christian Life & Discipleship

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Unhealthy Obsession

Dieting started out as a desire to get into better shape during my junior year of high school. I wanted to lose the little pouch of belly fat around my tummy that seemed to stubbornly stick around for the better portion of my high school years. I realised I didn’t pay much attention to what I was eating. Sure, I ate fruits and veggies, but I definitely enjoyed my fair share of sweets, ice cream, and processed foods too. I thought that if I ate a little better, if I was more aware of what I was putting into my body, maybe it would help increase my performance in sports. Dieting was a journey that was birthed out of, for the most part, “pure” intentions. Looking back though, I see that this was the starting point of a two-year long struggle. A harmless desire to get in better shape was warped into a dark, twisted desperation for control and perfection in the area of health and fitness.

Eating healthy and being active is a great thing until it becomes something that controls other aspects of your life.

I struggled for almost two years with over-analysing my health; the quality of my food, being too fat, or not being muscular enough and wanting to gain weight. I was constantly internally obsessing about trying to be the healthiest version of myself I could be. I’m not saying that desiring to live a healthy, active lifestyle is a bad thing-it’s a very good thing! God actually calls us to be good stewards of our bodies, because they are temples, and therefore a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit! Eating healthy and being active is a great thing until it becomes something that controls other aspects of your life. 

Three times a day, every day, I would find myself overcome with anxiety about what I would eat at my next meal, how “pure” the food I ate was, when the best time to eat before and after a workout was, etc. It got to a point where I began to socially isolate myself from the people that I loved.

…internally I was dying to be free of these thoughts that were starting to control every aspect of my life.

I would opt to make my own meals instead of eating what my parents made for dinner. I was hypercritical of menus at restaurants and usually would secretly find an online menu before I arrived to see if there were any “safe” foods; if not, I would eat before I went and use that as an excuse as to why I wasn’t eating. On the outside, it looked like I was just trying to be healthy (or I persuaded myself that was how it looked), but internally I was dying to be free of these thoughts that were starting to control every aspect of my life.

Would freedom make me fat?

For a long time, I wanted to be free, but I was afraid of what that would mean. If I walked in freedom…would I get fat? Out of shape? Would I not be able to enjoy a healthy lifestyle? Would I get sick because my body wasn’t used to other foods that I didn’t consider “clean” if I started eating them again? I sought freedom, yet I found security in the control I had-or thought I had-over my obsession with health; which I soon learned was a real problem defined clinically as orthorexia nervosa. I had a fear of giving up control of my life.

Giving God full authority over my situation

After about a year of living with my struggle of eating healthy, my body began to physically weaken. You’d think that something in my brain would have clicked. Unfortunately, I was so deep into this pit of self-destruction that I was in a state of internal indecisiveness for almost a year before I realised that I couldn’t conquer the sickness on my own. It didn’t take me publicly declaring that I needed help for the process of healing to begin, though. Instead, God met me right where I was at, in a state of brokenness, rejection, and confusion, as I stood in my bedroom alone, crying out to Him, “God, I am sick of never feeling good enough. I don’t want to just experience half freedom. I want it ALL.” And boom, it was like God had been waiting for me to give Him full authority to take control of the situation, so He could unleash His full and complete restoration in His daughter.

…it was like God had been waiting for me to give Him full authority to take control of the situation, so He could unleash His full and complete restoration in His daughter.

Experiencing full freedom

If I am seeking freedom halfheartedly, I may actually be susceptible to settling for an identity of slavery, because it is comfortable. God doesn’t desire that for any of us! Full and complete freedom is what the Lord desires for His children. Because He is just, the Lord has given us free will, so that we can choose whether or not to live in freedom and follow Him. God is not a tyrant ruler that forces us to honour Him. No, He is a loving Father, whose heart is broken for His children that wander from His love like lost sheep, trying to take on the burdens of life apart from Him. He waits longingly and patiently for us, until we realise that we don’t have to do this alone, but in fact have the love, support, and guidance of the one Who knows us best. The Lord is standing at the door and knocking, waiting for us to let Him in to restore and bring healing to every area of our lives.

… by the grace of my loving Father, I have experienced the sweetest freedom from a mindset of unworthiness, hopelessness, and fear.

I suffered from orthorexia for two years, but by the grace of my loving Father, I have experienced the sweetest freedom from a mindset of unworthiness, hopelessness, and fear. Because of the Lord’s faithfulness in never giving up on me, I am once again able to enjoy lifting weights, running, and eating nourishing, wholesome foods. By knowing more deeply my Father’s design of me and His purpose for health and wellness in every area of my life, I am able to enjoy exercise and not worry about how every decision will affect my health. Praise God for His unrelenting pursuit and unconditional love for me.

I am by no means perfect, but now I find my joy not in anything that this world offers, but in my Father. Because at the end of the day, only He can offer true worth, love, and security. I am not ashamed of my story, because it is a testimony of the crazy, radical love of God and how He has healed and restored my brokenness.