Eating Disorders & Body Image

Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Body image is the perception of, beliefs about, and attitudes toward one's body. Many people struggle with their body image largely because of comparisons made between themselves and an ideal standard that is not based in reality. The perception of one's physical body is impacted by a variety of factors including self-worth, emotions, and the culture's standard of beauty. A fundamental component in the battle against negative body image issues is a shift to focusing on who we are in Christ rather than on how we look. See also Self-Worth.

Emotional eating occurs when food is used for reasons other than to nourish the body. Instead of eating as a response to hunger, emotional eating is an unhealthy response to feelings. During an episode of emotional eating, food can be used to soothe, comfort, punish, or hurt. That is, an individual can use food to relieve pain or to inflict pain on himself/herself. Often, emotional eating expresses something that is difficult to put into words. For example, emotional eating may be used to avoid the feelings of being out of control, lonely, or unloved. Common triggers for emotional eating include stress, loneliness, boredom, depression, fatigue, fear, anger, disappointment, and many others.

If left unchecked, patterns and beliefs around eating and exercise can develop into an Eating Disorder, which poses a serious threat to an individual's health. Disordered eating affects a person's physical body, thinking, emotions, relationships, and spirituality. The three most commonly recognized types of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. While a large percentage of people do not develop a full-scale eating disorder, many individuals struggle with disordered eating symptoms and body image related issues throughout different stages of life.


Emotional & Physical Danger Signs for Acting Out  (124 kb) 
This document lists emotional and physical states that you may feel when you get the urge to act on unhealthy, sinful, and/or addictive impulses (e.g., desire to drink, binge or purge, allowing impure sexual fantasy to run, etc.). By becoming aware of these triggers, you can begin to use healthy, Christ-honoring coping skills to deal with them more effectively. [ACCFS]

Finding Balance is a faith-based health and wellness organization with an emphasis on eating and body image issues. They are dedicated to providing information and resources to those struggling with EDNOS and non-extreme disordered eating. []

Freedom From Eating Disorders 
This link will take you to a Christian-based website created by a recovered anorexic.  Whether you are struggling with an eating disorder or know someone who is, you'll find practical, helpful articles and encouragement here.  In addition, the website provides tips for overcoming an eating disorder, journaling exercises, and "Recovery Stories" from individuals who have overcome eating disorders. []

Self Esteem: What Does the Bible Say?   

This booklet addresses the biblical basis of Christ-centered self-worth and how to avoid the unbiblical and unhealthy extremes that people often believe on this issue. [ODB Ministries]

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness
This site provides information to help define different types of eating disorders and common warning signs.

The Lindner Center of Hope
This short video shares common questions and answers related to Eating Disorders.

Take and Eat: Food and Faith in Scripture
This devotional examines passages throughout Scripture related to food. It explores spiritual truths and provides lessons on God's faithfulness and grace.

Tools for Assessment

Brief Eating Disorder Screening Test (SCOFF)
Taking this brief screening test can help you identify at what point does disordered eating turn into an eating disorder.  []

Take the Eating Attitudes Test
This is an online Eating Disorders screening test. []


In His Image 
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Women's Seminar  
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For People Struggling with Eating Disorders

Overcoming Binge Eating
Author: Christopher G. Fairburn
This 235-page book, now in its second edition, provides information needed to understand binge eating and bring it under control. It includes step-by-step guidelines to show you how to overcome the urge to binge, gain control over eating behavior, reduce the risk of relapse, and establish stable, healthy eating habits.

The Overcoming Bulimia Workbook
Authors: Randi E. McCabe, Ph.D., Traci L. McFarlan, Ph.D., Marion P. Olmsted, Ph.D.
This 217-page self-help workbook provides a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to recovery from bulimia. Topics in this book include symptoms of bulimia, normalizing eating, managing eating disordered thoughts, relapse prevention, and how to get help from a therapist.

For People Struggling with Body Image

Who Calls Me Beautiful? Finding Our True Image in the Mirror of God

Author: Regina Franklin
This 144-page book discusses the impact of the world's standards of the "ideal woman" and how to move beyond these cultural standards to live out God's understanding of beauty in your life.  Suggested for: teenage through adult women faced with the typical challenges of self-image and pursuing true beauty.

Life Inside the Thin Cage
Author: Constance Rhodes
This 227-page book takes a personal look into the world of the chronic dieter and those suffering with an undiagnosed sub-clinical eating disorder. Sub-clinical eating disorders are characterized by unusual, unhealthy eating habits that don't fit the technical classifications of anorexia or bulimia.

Loving Your Body

Author: Dr. Deborah Newman
This 162-page book focuses on body image issues and offers help through practical, biblical suggestions. It also includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter and specific instruction for how to use the book in a study group. Suggested for: teenage through adult women struggling with body image issues. 

For Families and Friends of Those Struggling

Surviving An Eating Disorder--Strategies for Family and Friends
Authors: Michele Siegel, Ph.D.; Judith Brisman, Ph.D.; Margot Weinshel, MS.W.
This book has been found helpful by friends and family of individuals struggling with eating disorders. It provides comprehensive information on the multiple facets of eating disorders and practical suggestions for how to confront and manage the problem. The support and insight provided in the book can help friends and family understand what can be expected from the eating-disordered individual and also from themselves.

Mom, I Feel Fat
Author: Sharon A. Hersh
This 215-page book is an excellent resource for mothers with daughters between the ages of seven and seventeen. It provides good instruction regarding the mother's role in helping girls develop a healthy body image in the midst of cultural pressures. It is largely prevention-focused.

Love First: A Family's Guide to Intervention
Authors: Jeff & Debra Jay
How to approach a loved one to help them seek treatment for addiction, tools and techniques to use in intervention, family relationships with those addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, rehabilitation for addicted people, information on addiction and addiction treatment including treatment centers, Alcoholics Anonymous, AI-Anon groups, and how to evaluate treatment centers.  Using family intervention for other problems such as compulsive gambling, sex addiction, eating disorders, compulsive shopping, compulsive indebtedness, computer and internet addictive disorder, elder care issues, and those with chronic pain who are dependent on opiates. 360 pages

Helping Your Child Overcome an Eating Disorder
Authors: Bethany Teachman, Ph.D., Marlene Schwartz, Ph.D., Brenda Coyle, Ph.D., et al
This 226-page book addresses how family members can support a child struggling with an eating disorder.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16