“Holy Anorexia” and Sanctified Starvation

Catherine of Siena was bulimic. So was Theresa of Avila.

Did you know that? I’ll bet you didn’t know that fellow mystic, Catherine of Alexandria, is the patron “saint” of anorexics and bulimics.

One of the most bizarre chapters in Christian history is that of the Medieval ascetics. Many of these devotees to Christ and the so-called “cult of the Virgin” daily flagellated themselves, starved themselves, wore chains and hair shirts, mutilated their own bodies (particularly their sexual organs), and even purged food as an act of piety and self-denial.

Amy Indyke writes about Catherine of Siena: This 14th century woman subjected her body to ruthless abuse and neglect throughout her life; these severe practices informed her theological constructs. Catherine does not discuss the extent of her asceticism in her writings, but the eyewitness accounts of her practices are innumerable. Her bulimia was so infamously extreme that she was reported to have shoved “twigs down her throat to bring up the food she could not bear to have rest in her stomach. Other accounts report spontaneous vomiting.” The idea of swallowing twigs and “spontaneous vomiting” denotes extreme pain caused by bloody lacerations, scratches, and the blood vessels that burst from forced vomiting. Rudolph Bell, author of Holy Anorexia, asserts that "not only did Catherine die from starvation but also from her perverse bodily mortification. She was also a flagellant who whipped herself “with chains for an hour and a half three times daily. At one time she wore a hair-shirt, but later replaced it with a chain bound to tightly about her that it embedded itself in her flesh. She reduced her sleep to approximately one half hour every two days, and used only a board for her bed.” Whipping and tightly-bound chains must have left her body bruised and torn. She believes suffering is necessary also because it imitates Christ’s paradigm, embodied by his crucifixion, and facilitates the Soul’s reintegration with God.” (Emphasis mine).
<== A heavily "re-touched" picture of Catherine of Siena

This kind of twisted thinking is difficult to fathom, even for the unregenerate mind. Self-destructive behavior is sinful, and the idea that it was held as a sign of holiness is a perversion, obviously, of biblical truth. Elevating starving and purging to the level of virtue is a twisting, a bastardization of the spiritual discipline of fasting and self-control (which is one of the fruits of the Spirit).

“In the medieval period, the control, renunciation, and torture of the body were understood not so much as a rejection of the physical, but as a way of achieving the divine…Theresa of Avila began frequently to use twigs of olives to induce vomiting and completely empty her stomach. In this way she was able to truly take into herself the Host, which became her unique source of sustenance. From an investigation of the conduct of 170 Italian medieval saints by Rudolph Bell (1985), fully one half of them exhibited symptoms of anorexia.” (Mario Reda,“Anorexia and the Holiness of Saint Catherine of Siena”).

Without getting into a lengthy discussion of medieval mysticism and why altered states of consciousness are demonic, (Ray Yungen does an excellent job of addressing this subject in “A Time of Departing”, as does Dave Hunt in “The Seduction of Christianity”), suffice to say that contemplative spirituality, which gripped the Roman church and thousands of pious young women during the Middle Ages, is a counterfeit trap of Satan. The lure of mysticism arises from it’s emphasis on personal experience, and is essentially a flesh-pleasing form of spirituality. Subtly, all biblical principals are misconstrued or ignored – the soul is seduced with the promise of “union with the divine”. Extreme fasting has traditionally been a part of this practice, which elevates altered states of consciousness to a holy rite.

The TRUE face of anorexia

Since the mystical practices associated with “sanctified starvation” are so clearly demonic – levitation; self-mutilation; demonic attacks – is it not logical that the eating disordered behavior these “contemplative saints” practiced was of the devil, as well? Here’s why:

1. Humans were made in the image of God.

2. Satan wants to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10) children of God.

3. One way he attempts this “revenge” against God is by harming you physically (even killing you, if possible).

When writing my book, I discussed at length the fact that Satan cannot make the believer do anything, but he can tempt you to harm yourself. This is especially effective if he has convinced the believer that the self-harm is a good thing, or has spiritual value (on some level, many women today believe that self-starvation is a noble, if not spiritual practice). One of the main ways the devil has operated from the beginning is by twisting God’s words and thus brainwashing His children.

<==A "holy woman", or one desperately in need of help?

I am convinced this is what happened among the medieval mystics, secluded in their austere convents. They were not reading God’s Word, which was forbidden at the time, but instead were relying heavily on their subjective, ecstatic experience. Furthermore, the notion that they, as sinners, could participate by physical suffering in Christ’s redemption of humanity belies an almost incredible hubris on their part. From the scant amount of research I’ve done on these Catholic ascetics/contemplatives, I am convinced that many of them were demon-possessed (or at least suffering demonic oppression). Out of body experiences are one of the characteristics of occultism, and combined with the unscriptural practices of the monastic life, demonization was the natural result.

“….a certain level of pain and suffering through careful dieting may be required. Women are not forced to do this by male religious authorities. This is not masochism either. On the contrary, young anorexics and bulemics believe that their pain brings them closer to God, for self-inflicted suffering imitates Christ’s own pain and suffering on the Cross. Saint Catherine is therefore the patron saint of anorexics. Modern women have a tendency to suffer guilt and remorse when they diet, instead of regarding it as a healthy spiritual process. Such suffering is unnecessary if modern women can learn that through the pain of the Eucharist and fasting that they can attain that higher mystical state. Women must learn to renounce food while the men must renounce power.” (“Voices and Saints”, emphasis mine).

How food and spirituality became intertwined is an interesting historical subject, but the spirituality ascribed to self-starvation did not begin with 20th century Western culture. I like to think, though, that no woman today purges in the Name of Christ. It is inconceivable to me that these “holy” women are canonized as saints; their purging and cutting given sacred value.

As a Christian counselor, it is particularly bizarre to me seeing how the concept of faith and holiness has historically been perverted to sanctify anorexia and bulimia. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20). Ladies, self-starvation, mutilation (including cutting), induced vomiting, and excessive restricting is not God’s will for you, and it never was. It is a false idol, an impure practice and is destructive to your body – the temple of the Holy Spirit. There is NO virtue in this practice, and it makes so one one iota holier – only progressively enslaved to sin. You cannot live the abundant life Christ promised – which includes obedience to Him and service to others – if you starving and purging yourself to death.

Catherine of Siena starved herself to death, by the way – in “atonement for the Church’s sins”. Look it up – it’s historical fact.



From another blog alerting to the dangers of eating disorders, a wake-up call to bulimics who use syrup of ipecac as a "safety hatch".


It is DEADLY and leads to cardiac arrest. If you are using syrup of ipecac (I don't believe it's available over the counter anymore), stop immediately. E-mail me if you want to chat or need support.


Avoid the Leaven of 12-Step Programs!

<== I should be getting one of these next week, if I believed in the "12-Step" religion (which I don't). I'll take a dynamic relationship with the Living God and a crown in heaven over an inscribed poker chip any day, thanks.

Today Defending Contending ran this essay, put out by Christian Worldview Network and distributed across the Web. I am running it here to alert you of the spiritual dangers inherent in "Twelve Step Recovery Groups". Although the article refers to AA, the premise is equally applicable to Overeaters Anonymous and every other brand and stripe of the 12-Step paradigm. Elsewhere I have written a great deal on the unbiblical problems with 12-Step programs; this warning sums it up nicely. Is AA/OA spiritually-based? Yes. Is it Christian? Decidedly NO.

Please e-mail me if you would like more information on the dangers of the 12-Step groups, or would like me to recommend a biblical alternative. And as always, I am available for personal counsel.

Missionaries Into Darkest Alcoholics Anonymous

Mama and Papa,

We are in America at last. The Lord has sent us into the strangest belief system. The men and women here seem impervious to the Gospel, but the Lord has given us great love for them.

This religion teaches that virtually anything can be defined as a god. During their meetings these people gather and pray in unity, but the "god" each individual prays to can be as varied and unique as particles of sand in our African desert. It is unsettling watching them join in the Lord's Prayer, because most do not know Jesus, and therefore cannot know the Father.

This religion was founded here in America in the 1930s. It is a very American system of belief and worship. Very democratic, one might say. In this belief system, it is not important what one worships, only that one must worship something. In fact, initiates who come seeking help, but who have trouble inventing or envisioning a god, are often told they can worship a "doorknob," or even the group itself to begin their spiritual journey.

The first time we heard this we thought it was a joke-some form of esoteric humor. But it is not. It truly is not. We have heard the "doorknob-deity" speech a number of times now. It apparently serves as their starter-god. Like the training wheels on a bike-only there until the child is ready for the next big step. Believe in something, newcomers are told; believe in anything; just believe.

We have been documenting the various deities the members describe as their gods. One worships nature; another an unseen force; several pray to the universe, others to diverse spiritual entities. Some claim to worship the divinity in man. A woman in this sect recently proclaimed we are all part of God! We pray hard for her.

In this sect one can also find Mormons, non-Christian deists, Wiccans (modern day witches, very popular in America), and many who follow heretical versions of Jesus Christ. There is simply no limit to the gods that can be revered in this belief system. Here it doesn't matter whether the god you worship is an ant-or an avalanche-or an avocado.

It has been ferocious spiritual warfare. Mama and Papa, we are tired. This mission field…it is like living, not in a Christian nation, but in the pages of the Old Testament. This seems virtually the same to us as Jeremiah 2:27. These are people, "Who say to a tree, 'You are my father,' and to a stone, 'You gave me birth.' For they have turned their backs to Me, and not their face.'"

We fear most of these people will go to their deaths rejecting Jesus Christ. Our daily prayer is that the Lord will bring other missionaries to share the gospel with them. Here is where it gets complicated, for in the midst of this paganism, some that worship the Jesus of the Bible are also present!

There are Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and Lutherans. Sadly, most haven't come to share the gospel. They are not here to testify. They are here as participants of this multi-god religion. These saints attend their churches, acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God, but nevertheless belong to this undeniably anti-Biblical religion.

This made us angry at first. But the Lord has begun to reveal how deceptive and seductive this religion is. So seductive, in fact, that these Christians don't believe this to be a religion at all. They believe this to be a "spiritual program," a distinction that has no validity. In their minds this simple phrase, "spiritual program," allows them to attend these meetings, despite what their Bible proclaims.

They have turned to this belief system because it promises freedom from the bondage of sin they were (or are) trapped in. Mama and Papa, they come to this religion to free themselves from alcohol!

It is hard to understand. Somehow they have learned to come here rather than submitting to Jesus and seeking help within Bible believing churches. What about prayer meetings? What about Bible study? What about falling on one's face before a holy, all-powerful, compassionate Christ?

These Christians believe only through attending this all-gods religion can they be free. But it is a strange sort of "free," because they have to attend these meetings for life. In fairness, they have been encouraged to participate by their own pastors, family members, and by other Christians who already attend. For seventy years Christians have been part of this movement.

In their churches on Sunday they call God by that Name above all names: Jesus Christ the Savior. But here, in their all-gods sect, they call Jesus by the term all members use for their various gods. So Jesus becomes a "higher power." Thus has the Savior been placed in the pantheon, the temple of the gods.

In addition to this, when Jesus is mentioned (which is rare), the pagan people in this movement often get upset. Responses have included anger, sarcasm, and a general unease. The enemy is very active in this place.

It is obviously an anti-Biblical belief system, yet Christian after Christian has testified how wonderful this spiritual organization is. On the positive side, it has been encouraging to see Christians occasionally seek out non-believers after the meetings and invite them to church-but, as for boldness in the actual meetings, there is little of it.

Members carry around this religion's "bible," which they call the Big Book. There are actually Christians here who read it more frequently than the Word of God. You will have difficulty believing what we are now going to tell you. A Christian man who belongs to this all-gods religion invited us to attend church with him last Sunday. Badly needing fellowship with believers, we gladly accepted.

The service was wonderful. The Word was preached. Right after church our friend asked if we wanted to go back to the all-gods sect (he of course does not call it that.) We agreed, knowing the Lord would have us pray or proclaim the Gospel, or come alongside one of these lost and hurting souls.

Mama and Papa, the all-gods meeting was held right in his church after service. His pastor has allowed this! Since when does a pastor open the House of God to a non-Christian religion? Yet here in America, it seems a common practice. In America it is very important to be "nice." The Bible does tell us to be kind and loving-but also holy. Holiness, it seems, has been lost here.

In Deuteronomy 16:21 our Lord is commands: "You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make up yourself. You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the Lord your God hates."

The Lord does not want false gods worshiped alongside Him. But because the reality of a Holy God seems obscure to these Americans, they think nothing of planting an all-gods belief system right in the Sanctuary. Pray for Fear of the Lord among these people.

Last week we had an exchange with a Christian woman after her all-gods sect had finished meeting. We asked her point blank how she could Biblically justify belonging to this movement. We asked her to read Galatians 1:6-8 to us:

"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!"

Does this not concern you, we asked, that Christians are sending people into a religion where Christ is but one god among many? Is not Paul's warning clear?

She rolled her eyes. "This is a spiritual program, not a religion."

Clearly the enemy uses this all-gods movement to dull Christians down, and to point the unsaved anywhere but Christ. This strategy has been marvelously effective.

Please pray that our Lord raise up other missionaries to send to these people in Alcoholics Anonymous. There are so many lost people here. This hurts to say, but many of the Christians, who love this all-gods sect, need missionaries almost as badly as the unsaved.

Pray the Lord of the Harvest sends laborers,

His missionaries In Deepest, Darkest A.A


Teenage Bulimia Domain Now Here

I am now the owner of the Teenagebulimia.com domain. The old site now redirects here.

It is my hope that many teen-aged girls struggling with anorexia and/or bulimia will visit this site and find the hope and inspiration needed to walk away from this bondage once and for all.

Freedom is available, and free to all who seek it! Please visit the Archives to read my testimony and articles on repentance and renewal of your mind. As always, I am available for private online counseling at marie4thtimemom@yahoo.com.


Open Letter to a Food Addict

A recent exchange. Used here for the edification of others with the writer's permission.

Dear Marie,

I am struggling again. I do not know where to start with putting this idoltary away. I have been runnign to food, and stuffing down to avoid feelings. I am afraid that there is no hope for me.I seem to not get myself of solid ground. Then the issue of support, I ssem to be alone in this.. I am at my whit send. where do I start??? I feel sick in my heart and in my body.

I am desperate for answers, but do not know where to begin. I know that I need to start in God's word.

My response:

"Well, first off I am really sorry that you are struggling; this is a real mountain to move, I know. Eating is such a major part of our lives, and (especially around this time of the year) it is so hard to keep it in perspective. Please don't say that there is "no hope" for you, because that is what Satan would want you to believe and there is ALWAYS hope for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The thing about the support...don't rely too much on other people for your breakthrough....... I had to repent of the bulimia completely without my husband even knowing, and I was TERRIFIED. When God really is all you have, you find that He is enough and sufficient to meet all your needs.

The place to begin would be, IMO, before your next meal. Seriously, get used to putting on the full armor of God before your meal - plan ahead - and pray for guidance and self-control. And then the next one, and when you are tempted to binge in between. As you know, it is not a physical hunger you are trying to feed, so get used to disciplining yourself to SEEK HIM FIRST. Then commit to eating a normal, healthy thing (use common sense as well as prayer about food choices - I know you know what constitutes healthy food and normal portion sizes) and rely on His strength to stick to it.

The thing is, it's so common to mess up - over and over. But the more you despair and stay in shame, the more you will give up and stay in defeat. That's where grace comes in - you have to just pick yourself up, repent as you would of any other sin, and accept that He loves you and knew you would fail before the temptation was even before you. Christ has already made provision for the failings of your flesh, and you cannot redeem yourself to the Redeemer (nor should you try). Just seek Him once again, and lost in that love, move on. Even if it's "seven times in the same day", go back to Him and repent (Luke 17:4).

Do not have the triggering foods around. Simply don't. I always compare this to someone who struggles with lust - shouldn't they be careful what they put in front of their eyes? In the Catholic church, you hear mention of "occasions of sin". The phrase itself isn't biblical, but the concept certainly is - don't put yourself in situations where you know you're going to be particularly tempted. You are much more likely to fall.

Whatever the feelings are, deal with them...it's better than continuing on in disordered eating, which will only give you one more painful burden to carry. If there is something in your marriage that needs to be addressed (I know that is the toughest one, especially for us, the women), please try to do so - with or without a counselor. If it does not relate to anyone else, still bring the burden before God - even if initially it seems much more painful to face it head-on, dealing with your feelings and circumstances will ultimately bring you much greater relief than medicating them with food.

Please just take it one meal at a time; one prayer at a time. Commit to spending at least 15 minutes with your Father first thing in the morning; before you even eat breakfast. Yes, you need to be in the Word, but just as badly, you need fellowship with Him. This is the TRUE hunger that you are trying to stuff with a counterfeit.

He loves you so much, and bids you come to Him - flaws and all. Please don't give up."

I hope this advice is helpful to someone...please e-mail me if you want prayer support or to talk one-on-one.


Take Jesus At His Word

"When it comes to healing our spiritual condition, we don't have a chance. We might as well be told to pole-vault the moon. We don't have what it takes to be healed. Our only hope is that God will do for us what He did for the man at Bethesda - that He will step out of the temple and into our ward of hurt and helplessness.

Which is exactly what He has done...

I wish we would take Jesus at His word...

When He says we're forgiven, let's unload the guilt.

When He says we're valuable, let's believe Him.

When He says we're provided for, let's stop worrying.

God's efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless."

-- Max Lucado, excerpted from He Still Moves Stones (reprinted in Experiencing the Heart of Jesus)


Why Not Psychology to Treat Bulimia?

(HT: Gretchen Smith)

Several years ago, (seven to be exact, as of this writing), I was still stuck deep in bondage to bulimia and working at an administrative job that afforded me relatively unlimited computer time. Lonely to the core and painfully aware I was an addict, I was trying so hard to come back (or have for the first time) a right relationship with God based on faith in His Son and obedience to His Word.

Like most bulimics, (including some of you, presumably, if you are reading this site), I turned to a search engine rather than reach out to a "real person" for help. The one friend I did tell - by letter; we live on opposite coasts - responded by questioning my salvation (to this day she does not believe I am a "true Christian" because I do not use the King James version of the Bible, but that is a side-bar story).

Despairing of recovery and desperate for help, I found a very biblical site on the internet, started by a woman who had been set free from a bulimic past that resembled mine. For the first time in my Christian facade of a life, I felt a faint glimmer of hope. Gretchen was an online biblical counselor, and the straight-forward talk and exposition on her site "clicked" with what I already instinctively knew. (I say "instinctively", but in fact it is always the illumination of the Holy Spirit that reveals to us the Truth). Her counsel of repentance and ongoing surrender to Christ confirmed what I already knew: eating disorders are spiritual issues (sins), which have spiritual solutions (repentance and forgiveness).

I devoured the material of Gretchen's site and e-mailed her for counsel. Although it would be another year before I finally found complete freedom, she was a valuable person along the way who God used as a vessel of hope, help and encouragement. More recently, she has been pursuing a Master's Degree and has stepped away from online counseling, although I used some of the material on her site in my book (with permission, of course).

Recently, I was re-reading her essay on Psychology and the Bible, a topic I cover in exhaustive detail over the course of three chapters. I had first read this on her site 5 years before ever hearing of "nouthetic counseling" (counsel based on the sufficiency of Scripture), and was amused to note that the books she recommends were all titles I read during the research process. I highly encourage each one of you to check them out for yourself, or at the very least to prayerfully read her essay to understand why secular, behavioral psychology does not address the root issues of addiction (including eating disorders). I have linked to the original page in her site at the beginning of this article, and atttach the full text below:



Psychology is rooted in human wisdom, the teachings of the Bible are God's wisdom. Psychology is self-centered, Biblical counseling is God-centered. Psychology is self-saving, the Bible teaches that Christ Jesus is both our eternal Saviour and our present Deliverer. Much of psychological theory places blame for our sinful behavior on past experiences, Christianity tells us we are responsible for our own sin. Psychology provides that we can be healed of our hurts working through our pasts. God urges us to put the past behind us and put our hands to the plows, relying on Him to heal the hurts and character flaws that lead to wrong behavior. Psychology stresses self-nurture and supports self-indulgence, while the Bible places emphasis on dying to ourselves, and taking up our crosses. If the root or the seed is of one kind, how can we expect the fruit of the other kind? Can Christianity be "improved" by anything from modern psychology? Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. (Matthew 7:16-18 NIV)

Your soul (will, emotions, and intellect) is the domain of your Maker if you are a blood-bought believer. Should you then entrust that soul to a mere man who will teach you from human wisdom to become more self-centered and self-reliant than you already are? For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25 NIV)

We are accountable to God, each individual one of us, and are responsible for our own sin. It is incorrect to blame our parents, our siblings, our friends or anyone else for the things we do. What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: " The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?" As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to Me, the father as well as the son--both alike belong to Me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. Therefore...I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 18:2,3,30,31 NIV)

The unsaved man has but one nature, that of sinful man. He cannot keep from sinning. The born-again saint has two natures, the old sinful nature, and a new nature controlled by the Spirit of God. As believers, it is up to us in a moment-by-moment fashion to choose which nature will prevail. Psychology is attached to carnality and can only deal with man in his old carnal nature. Biblical counseling grows people spiritually and teaches them to gain victory over the sinful nature through renewing the mind with God's wisdom and by the strength of the Holy Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8 NIV)

When we accept responsibility for our wrong beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, and actions, the response is repentance. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10 NKJ)

Now that we know we need to change some things, how do we do it? Psychology is replete with suggestions. The Bible clearly teaches one way, and it's guaranteed! How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. (Psalms 119:9 NKJ).

God's Word is what accomplishes the changing, the delivering, and the healing. He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. (Psalms 107:20 NKJ)

Most of us believe or have heard that God heals physical bodies, but do you know that He's concerned with your inner man as well? He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalms 147:3 NIV)

God's Word is useful and powerful for helping us, shaping us, changing us. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16,17 NIV)

I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalms 119:11 NIV)

    For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit (spiritual man), joints and marrow (physical man); it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account. (Hebrews 4:12,13 NIV; words in parentheses mine)

    As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10,11 NIV)

Jesus is the standard and the model for maturing Christians. We seek to change in accordance with what we are learning about the Lord. Psychology does not encourage Christ-likeness because it's focus is not Jesus, who is the Word. The Bible reveals who Jesus is and also who we are right now. When we continually put the Word into our spirits, the Holy Spirit has something to work with in the transformation process. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17,18 NIV)

Specifically, how is it we are transformed? The Bible has the only viable answer. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2 NIV)

Transformation, whose vehicle is mind renewal, is accomplished by none other than the Word of God! If you want to be cleansed, if you want to be without stain or wrinkle, do not turn to a mental health clinic. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV)

Psychology may provide some manner of relief. It might last, it might not. If it's behavior changes you are seeking, you may gain control over the one area, only to find your sinful nature seeking to express itself in another way. Try the rest and come back to the Best. Nothing can set you free like Jesus! So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36 NIV)

The Bible contains everything we need for living. Why dilute it with psychology? His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8)

There is a reason for psychology and a place for its existence in society. It is useful for the unsaved counselor to help the unsaved counselee from completely falling apart and self-destructing. It may offer a salve of comfort and relief in not having to face something alone. But it is, at best, a false hope and a temporary remedy, and definitely it does not point the lost man back home. The Christian counselor is responsible to tell the counselee the Truth, that their complete salvation is in the person of Jesus Christ, not in some substitute offered by psychology. When dealing with unsaved people or immature Christians, this may take some time to present and may meet with rejection. Pray for those who cannot accept Biblical counseling and release them, entrusting them to God to send other laborers to till the soil and water the seeds you have planted. Never be tempted to compromise life-giving truth by substituting godless therapy for the sake of "helping" somehow. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 & 7:1)

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3 AV)

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NIV)

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalms 1:1-3 NKJ)

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and opposing ideas of which is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. (1 Timothy 6:20,21 NIV)

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-7 NIV)

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV)

Come to Me , all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest--I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest--relief, ease, and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet--for your souls. (Matthew 11:28,29 AMP)


Open Letter to a Bulimic

Well dear sister, to continue my thoughts of yesterday...

The struggle between the seductive lure of an eating disorder and desire for freedom and health is so typical, and I KNOW many women will be blessed by knowing they are not the only ones fighting this battle.

A couple of things I didn't cover in my post: the white flour and sugar issue. What I've found (as have others!) is that for some reason, these simple sugars tend to be triggering, and it is much harder to resist a binge when you start eating them. Part of it has to do with the spike and plummet in the blood sugar levels, but there's more to it than that, in my opinion - association plays a big role. If you've been bingeing on high-calorie, starchy "comfort foods", it's hard to break that habit. Those endorphins in your brain - the so-called "pleasure centers" - have been conditioned to react to the craving by bingeing on the available food. This is why prayer, planning meals by the Holy Spirit's guidance, and even abstinence from these types of "tigger foods" at the beginning is so important.

As time goes by, and you've gradually developed a more "normal relationship" with food, you will certainly be able to enjoy the occasional piece of cake or pie, but let's not rush things. Think it through and cultivate abstinence when you are tempted by "trigger foods". Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and He will help you cultivate this discipline. Eating complex carbohydrates and a healthy, balanced diet will help you overcome cravings and restore your health and concentration.

I would NOT recommend keeping a food journal and writing down everything you eat. That puts too much of the focus on the food itself, and not on Christ, where it belongs. Keep your eyes on Him, and just use wisdom and prayer, prayer and more prayer as you plan each meal. Put on the full armor of God as soon as you get up in the morning, and don't even let those condemning thoughts about your body take root in your mind. Take them captive and turn to Christ as soon as they enter your mind.

Remember, my friend, food addiction is a spiritual issue. It is a learned behavior, and as such it can be unlearned. Do not try to do this alone; it can only be overcome in Christ's strength. Additionally, you may find godly counsel helpful - a nouthetic (biblical) counselor will be able to walk through this process with you, holding you accountable and teaching you how to reject ungodly thoughts and replace them with Christ-honoring ones. If you visit the NANC link above, it will take you to the biblical counselor directory by state. Enter your zip code, and you will see if there is anyone in your area....nouthetic counseling is free and is based entirely on the premise that "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3).

Your sister in Christ,



The Satanic Trap of Body Image Obsession and "Exercise Bulimia"

I received the following heartcry this morning (posted with permission; my open response is below):


My name is Alexa* and I am a Mother of three. Four years ago, by God's grace, I overcame drug and alcohol addiction. I got saved and was on fire for the Lord and had a wonderful ministry to other addicted women. Now that the chemicals are not covering up the real problems, I have found that I actually have struggled with eating disorders since the age of 12. Mostly calorie restricting then binge, then exercise fanatically. I want to thank you for your work. When I ran across your blog and read your words I never felt so understood. To top it off, Christ is your focus. This excites me for freedom again. That whole sugar/white flour article really hit home. Once I start in, I can't stop. Why can't I look at food like a normal person? My husband eats when he is hungry and stops when he is full and occasionally enjoys a piece of pie or birthday cake. I have to write down all my intake and account for all my calories, fat and sugar everyday. Then I punish myself and my family by having to workout @ 20 hours a week sometimes! I also punish them by getting so depressed (about not fitting into my clothes anymore) that sometimes I just stay in bed and cry all day over it. It is self loathing. So much that I cant stand my husband to look at me when I'm in that mode. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. Wow. I didn't mean to write this much. My husband has said that I have a distorted view of my body. But it really and truly seems that one week my jeans look great on, and the next week, I'm curled up in the closet crying because I can't pull them over my rear end! Am I just imagining that? Does this sound like dis-ordered eating? Or a unhealthy view of things? Is this common? Should I seek outside help? What can I do today? I do want to continue to workout, I am a dancer and it is part of worship and praise, just not 2 and 3 hours a day. Actually the norm is an hour workout 5-6 days a week, I'd be happy with that. I'm sorry to go on, I just have never spoken to anybody about this and I'm just now realizing how much of a problem it is, so I am "hungry" for information, compassion and grace.


* Name has been changed to protect privacy

Dear "Alexa",

Thank you for reaching out and sharing your struggle with me. Yes, not only is this painful obsession common, is IS unhealthy both physically and spiritually. Obsessing over our bodies and loathing the way we look is a trap Satan uses to take our eyes off of Christ, our loving Savior and Redeemer. Alexa, God created your body and He knows exactly how it works. Just as he has a plan for your life, He has a plan for your weight and by eating in a healthful, God-honoring way, you will have the health and the strength you need to live for and serve Him. He longs for you to serve Him joyfully as a wife and mother (how will you have the energy to take care of those precious babies if you are exhausting yourself?), but first and foremost He longs for you to turn to Him with this dark obsession that is tormenting you day and night.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29).

Alexa, let that promise sink deep into your wounded soul. Your Lord is a Gentle Shepherd, not a drill sergeant. He is the author of life (Acts 3:15) and the source of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), a very present refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9; 59:16). You can turn to Him with this burden as well; there is no need to be embarrassed or ashamed. He already knows all about it anyway, so why not run into His waiting arms today?

An idol of the heart is anything we want badly enough that we are willing to sin in order to get it. As Paul points out in Colossians 3:5, greed (or covetousness) is idolatry - and this one of the root sins fueling eating disorders. Wanting to be thin so badly that we are willing to destroy or damage the temple of the Holy Spirit - our bodies - is idolatry. The devil, the enemy of your soul, delights in taking you down any way he can. He has been studying God's children for a long time, and he knows exactly where our vulnerable spots are. For many of us daughters of the King, it is insecurity and preoccupation with the bodies God gave us to house our spirits. This grieves the Holy Spirit within us, and we feel conviction for this sin as well as despair at ever truly walking free from this bondage.

However, there is always forgiveness available - free and unmerited. The great news is what you already know in your heart - Jesus Christ delights in forgiving and restoring! He only bids you come to Him - not only for salvation, but for this day-by-day cleansing and renewal. You may very well be in Him and belong to the Father for eternity, but as you know, even blood-bought disciples may struggle with the sin of addiction. There is NO sin an unbeliever can commit that a believer is incapable of commiting (except for rejecting Jesus Christ). He knew this propensity of ours to sin and anticipated it, long before going to the Cross on our behalf. Alexa, Christ suffered for this sin as well. For me. For you. He didn't just die and rise again so that you could go to be with Him in heaven when you leave this earth; He also died to set you free from the power that this sin holds over you in the here and now.

Food was given for the purpose of nourishing us - it is morally neutral. The twin sins of pride and idolatry (which have given rise to this frantic obsession) have no power over you, because Christ has already set you free. You are no longer a slave to sin, if you have repented and turned to Him for salvation. However, you need to learn how to walk in that spiritual reality. You cannot walk in freedom and unbroken fellowship with Jesus if you are running and hiding....do you bring this painful scar on your soul to Him daily? Are you searching the Scriptures, in order to let Him renew your mind? (See my article here, "Renewing your Mind with the Washing of the Word"). Learn to rely on HIS strength, moment by moment, to resist the temptation of bingeing and then obsessive, unhealthy exercise...at the expense of your family.

Do you trust your Heavenly Father? Really, really trust Him? Enough to allow Him to shine His light of Truth onto this corner of your heart? Enough to let go of your control, and let Him teach you how to live for Him? This includes re-learning to eat - moderately - in a way that honors Him. Enjoying a meal with your family should be a time of fellowship and thanksgiving - not fear, restriction, or gluttony (bingeing). "If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Do not let the shame of this or past addictions keep you from the Father's arms (Luke 15). Jesus carried all your shame on the Cross, and He knows exactly how you feel. He knew about this sin before you even thought it, and made provision by redeeming you. He welcomes you back - no matter how many times you fall and need His help to get back up. Remember His words to Peter, before his denial in the Garden? "I have prayed for you... that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32; emphasis mine). Jesus, being God, knew in advance that Simon Peter would fail, and He prayed for Him (as He does for us even now, at the right hand of the Father). And WHEN (not "if") you turn back, He is right there by your side -- forgiving, restoring, loving, and guiding.

Alexa, it was this knowledge alone that caused me to take a step of faith - eating without purging- and ultmately walk away from bulimia, that counterfeit trap of Satan. The knowledge that I was truly loved, forgiven and wanted by the very One I had rebelled against (and continue to even now, in many ways each day) motivated me to turn to Him and lay the bondage down. We are so deeply sinful and flawed that we can't even see how corrupted our hearts really are. But Jesus, the Perfect One, does. And He picks us up and loves us anyway. Only He, Who is perfect, can restore us broken and stained addicts to fellowship with Him - and other believers.

We can't do it ourselves, so don't even try...draw near to the Savior and let Him remove the blinders from your eyes and the idol from your heart. He will lead you, day by day, as you let Him renew your heart. Pray about everything - including appropriate and healthful meals (see my post on "Practical Considerations"), and replace the lengthy, frantic exercise periods with time in His presence. He will never fail you, nor let you go!

Your sister in Christ,



So Let's Be Real and Talk About Christmas Already

For over a week, I have wanted to tackle the issue of the winter holidays (Christmas in particular) and the mix of numbness and emotion they churn up in the eating disordered individual.

Guess what? I've been putting it off and still don't have a well-developed outline or pearls of great wisdom to share with you, but most of my readers check in several times a day and I want to have something to say.

It is far easier writing about 2 Samuel. (Shoot, it was easier learning to spell "Mephibosheth" than writing about Christmas, emotions, and the recovering bulimic). I may be free of bulimia, but bulimia is only a symptom of the disease.

Based on the poll above, 75% of you said that your bulimia worsens around the holidays, and the remainder conceded that you feel more generally depressed at this time of year. Let's talk about that, and find some real solutions that are not pat, cliche answers.

Here's where I personally am now: I have not practiced bulimia or had any obsessive thoughts about food or weight in 6 years. Food is food. There's lots of it around the holidays. I enjoy it as much as the next person, and don't think about it too much now.

Although, of course, I used to take refuge in copious amounts of it....and alcohol, too. About to commence my seventh year of sobriety, it's a non-issue. But you know what? I'm still ambivalent about Christmas. I honestly couldn't care less. I am censoring myself somewhat as I don't want to sound overly cynical, but I just don't see the point of Christmas trees or those over-priced lawn ornaments.

People, the low-grade depression we often feel as the dreaded holidays season approaches has little to do with food, although because food is so integral a part of the "celebrations", we have conditioned ourselves to associate the "holiday" with the food. Anxiety, stress, inadequacy...how about feelings of SPIRITUAL FAILURE - build up to where we may use (or have used in the past) food as a drug to numb and comfort ourselves.

I just touched a raw nerve, didn't I?

You see, as a (former) bulimic, one who happened to love and fear God, Christmas always stirred up conflicting emotions in me. (I was tempted to use the term "cognitive dissonance", but decided it sounds too psycho-babbley). We're talking about hypocrisy, basically. Here we have this "season" of synthetic joy; packaged gaiety - and we're expected to play along whole-heartedly. You see, I have always found it difficult to be joyful on demand. We are celebrating - along with our fellow redeemed, walking-with-God brethren, agnostics, secular humanists and virtually every other stripe of humanity - the event of the birth of Christ. Supposedly. Okay, but let's say, as Christians, that's really what it's about for us.

And what is the meaning behind the Incarnation? That God took on human flesh and came to earth to redeem all who would receive Him - the vilest of sinners. Yup, even us bulimics. Only trouble is, we couldn't stop abusing our bodies long enough to commemorate His taking the trouble. In my testimony, I recall how one year I resolved to stop drinking and being bulimic as a "gift" to Jesus. Advent had barely begun before I failed - painfully.

For someone with an addiction, Christmas is an extremely painful season. It's not just a day; it's in your face before you've finished purging all the Halloween candy. Being joyful, much less rejoicing in Christ, is impossible while you're still in the pit. We need Him to pull us out of it, but we don't know how to start. The contrived "specialness" that we are told Christmas can be does nothing to help.

The only creature lonelier than a Christian bulimic is a Christian bulimic on Christmas.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

But there's more...what happened, back before you were in the pit? People do not generally develop addictions in vacuums. Now, as I've written before, it is unbiblical to blame your addiction on anyone or anything else - we must take responsibility for our own choices - but if you became bulimic, there was a void you were trying to somehow fill. A desire for love? Acceptance? Does Christmas bring back memories of family dysfunction...quarreling parents....scathing criticism for grades, behavior, looks? The hurt and embarrassment of glares over second helpings; reminders of the caloric value of mashed potatoes? Raging, drunken grandparents? Hateful tormenting (by adults or children)? To this day, my parents reject the Gospel and mock me for my faith. I've never met a bulimic who cannot relate to some of these memories, although many people who never develop addictions also share them. If you did not come from a loving nuclear family, it's likely you feel ambivalent about Christmas.

Holidays as fraught with associations as Christmas is are bound to bring up memories, good or bad. When food is the "comfort blanket" you've clung to for so long, the season is bound to be harder. All the more, you need to practice "taking every thought captive" and spending time with God, putting on the armor of God before going out into the day (in a world, by the way, which loves to attend His party but disdains the Guest of Honor).

My Post-Bulimia Apathy

And yet, at the end of the day, do you know I was much closer to God six years ago, during my season of deliverance, that I feel right now? There is only one explanation for that: I was clinging to Him. Like the woman of John's Gospel, when I bathed His feet with my tears, He was faithful to lift me up. And I stayed there, broken and needy, by His side. I felt that closeness; not in an emotionally-driven sense, but as an obedient disciple will always feel His presence - even when you don't subjectively "feel" Him.

No matter how long ypu've been free of bulimia, you never forget the sweetness of that fellowship.

Intimacy with God is based on obedience, pure and simple. And...what did Jesus tell us to do unceasingly? Pray. My prayer life has suffered. My sense of dependence on Him is superficial. I pay lip service to the idea I am totally dependent on God, but it is no longer a struggle to get through the day without my "pet sin". I have other, more subtle, more respectable sins now. And I feel very capable, thank you very much, to....cope. And do, and produce. Interpreting. Ministry - both in my home church and for Bulgaria. Producing....an 89,000 word book about repentance and restoration from bulimia...which two publishers have requested. Thanks, God. I thank Him like I thank the cashier at Walmart; such has my spiritual apathy become.

Christmas just forces me to recognize it, as I'm supposed to be getting all spiritual and welcoming the coming of Christ again. Once again, I am struck by my own failure, yet somehow, I'm too apathetic to DO anything about it. Christmas is, for me, truly just another day. I sense it is for Christ Himself, too.

I had to think hard about my favorite things about Christmas; what I really take pleasure in. Being brutally honest, this is it:

1.) Shopping for Salvation Army Angel Tree kids and dropping the gifts off at the center. My kids enjoyed that, too, and we will think of them on Christmas morning.

2.) The massage chairs many department stores put out for customer use at this time of year. If I had one of those massage chairs, I would never leave the house.

3.) The praise team at my church - the Sunday before Christmas, they do a rockin' rendition of "Joy to the World". The lead singer, an African American gentleman, has such soul and a set of pipes to match that I can't help but smile and join in, even though I have no real joy.

That's literally it. Christmas brings up painful emotions that this year I simply cannot spend the energy dealing with. If I WERE to deal with my seasonal emptiness, it would certainly entail opening my Bible and praying a lot (that's my answer to everything, right?)

We will continue this discussion another time.