Getting Over an Eating Disorder

Getting Over an Eating Disorder

I feel a lot of guilt because of how I've hurt my body, the temple of God. What can I do to get rid of this guilt?
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Q. I've been struggling with an eating disorder for a while. I've been in counseling for a few months and am slowly getting better. But I still feel a lot of guilt because of how I've hurt my body, the temple of God. I feel like I've let God down because it's so hard for me to love myself as I am, as the person he made me. What can I do to get rid of this guilt?

A. As you probably already know from counseling, people who struggle with eating disorders are often very much alike. They are perfectionists, who can never measure up to their very high expectations of themselves. These same people also sometimes have trouble accepting the unconditional love of God. It sounds like you might be that type of person. That's why I can't stress enough that God loves you not for what you do, but for who you are—his child. God's love and acceptance of you knows no limits or boundaries. He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die for you so you could receive his grace.

Grace and mercy are sometimes difficult to accept. Grace means "unmerited favor." But the world works in the opposite way: You get what you deserve—no more, no less. Thankfully, God's ways are not our ways. Even though we have all made mistakes, Jesus Christ reaches out his nail-pierced hands to us and says, "I love you." He offers us unmerited favor. Your image of God is missing an important piece: He is the Heavenly Father who wants to provide grace to the children he loves. And that includes you.

On the practical side, I want to offer three short suggestions:

  1. Stay close to people who show and offer you grace. They could be people in your youth group or just one or two special friends. Either way, they should be people who show you what it means to practice love and forgiveness.
  2. Keep up the counseling. Getting over an eating disorder isn't easy. Neither is learning to walk in God's grace. If your counselor is a Christian, talk to him or her about your struggles with your faith. If your counselor isn't a Christian, talk with your pastor or youth pastor about God's grace. As you learn more about God's love for you, I think you'll also learn to love yourself.
  3. Memorize a few Bible verses on God's grace and love. Here are my top four:

    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

    "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

    "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:35, 37).

    "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

As you do these things and read these verses, I think you'll begin to feel more deserving of God's love and grace.

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