For everyone with past or present experience of an eating disorder, Lent can be a difficult time of year. In a way, it is expected that people give up something for Lent, some of the common ones being chocolate or cake. But when you are recovering, or even recovered from an eating disorder, cutting out a certain type of food can so often be the equivalent to opening the door which lets the eating disorder back in.
I used to find myself torn. I felt selfish and like I was a “bad Christian” if I didn’t give up food for Lent. On top of that, people were asking me what food I was giving up. This added to the guilt I felt when I quietly and shamefully replied “I’m not”. On the other hand, I knew that I risked getting caught up in Anorexia’s mind games, falling back into the illness that I had fought so hard to overcome. And I was not willing to take that risk.
How, then, did I deal with this dilemma?
Well, this is how I view Lent now. In a way, I class myself as medically exempt from giving up FOOD for Lent. It wouldn’t be healthy, nor would it be sensible for me to do. Despite being in a good place mentally, I feel it is too high-risk to give up the “typical foods” that people give up for Lent. And would I really gain a lot spiritually from giving up food? No, probably not. Lent is a period of reflection, preparation and spiritual renewal. Instead of giving up food, I try to give up something that distracts me from my faith, that hinders me from coming closer to God. That might be social media, or it may also be abstaining from putting myself and/or others down.
If you are struggling with the pressure to give up food for Lent, please try to be honest with yourself. How beneficial is it really going to be if you give up a certain food for Lent? Maybe setting yourself the challenge to follow your meal plan, rather than giving up a type of food, is better for you. Or, like I said before, maybe try to give up something that is not food related. It’s ok to not “follow the crowd”. And please don’t be fooled by that voice in your head telling you everything you have just read is wrong, and that you do need to give up a certain type of food for whatever reason. You’ve come so far, you deserve a life free from the eating disorder, and there’s no point in jeopardising that.
Onwards and upward,