Woman's Recovery from Anorexia Will Warm Your Heart and Change Your Life


Eating disorders thrive on secrets. If you struggle with one, perhaps I can guess yours.

Your eating disorder is not just about food, but feelings. It’s not just about your stomach, but your heart. It’s not just about your diet, but about much bigger questions:

Who am I?

How can I be accepted?

Who can I trust?

Angel Reese Loses it, Snaps at Reporter After Questions Set Her Off - 'I Can't Trust Any of Y'all'

What is life all about?

Your issues run deeper than size. You’re wrestling with desires and questions that are too big to name, let alone face. You’re afraid. Maybe you starve those fears. Maybe you swallow them. Maybe you pound them out at the gym or purge them in the bathroom. Whatever the shape of your struggle, there is hope. There is a future. There is a God who is wooing “you out of distress into a broad place” (Job 36:16). I should know. Your story is my story.

One voice has always whispered more loudly to me than the rest. “Fat,” it said. “You’re fat.”

Fat is not a dress size. It’s not how I look in the mirror. Fat is my unsatisfied hunger. Fat is my fears, my shame, and my mistakes. Fat is me — too shameful, too messy, too much.

To Kill My Hunger

Until age thirteen, I knew who I was and where I belonged. Almost overnight, things started to change. My grandfather died. I switched schools. My body was out of control like a tanker, spilling flesh and hormones. In search of answers, I even started going to church.

The God I heard about was real and personal, but we were never properly introduced. My brand of Christianity had space for God, but not for Jesus. It talked more about sin and rules, but less about grace. It paid lip service to Jesus’s work on my behalf. But in practice, I had to prove my own worth.

So I worked hard and won prizes. I was determined to be smart and pretty and, most of all, “good.” But nothing — clothes or friends or money — was ever enough. I was filled with unnamed hungers and I didn’t know where to put them. But I did know this: they were too much.

I was too much — like red wine spilled on white carpet. So, I resolved: I will become like stainless steel. I will kill my desires before they kill me. I will quash my hungers and I will fix myself. I will be thin.

Biden Goes Motionless at Swanky Fundraiser and Gets Led Offstage by Obama - White House Responds

Outer Life, Inner Death

The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). This is a great description of an eating disorder. It names you and it brands you. It seems to offer life — then it kills you.

As a teenager I received anorexia treatment, but it was limited. I gained weight, but on the inside I felt just as messy as before. My name was now “shame” and it burned within me. I resolved to make a new one — this time through religion.

I threw myself into full-time church work, enrolled in Bible college, and married a trainee minister. From the outside, I looked like a great Christian. But the truths of the Bible were drowned out by louder voices. “You’re nothing,” they said. “You’re not enough.”

Overwhelmed by the prospect of a new town and a new calling — “minister’s wife!” — I stopped eating again, and my weight began to drop. I was dying, and it seemed like nothing and no one could save me. We’re sorry, experts told us, but your problems are too much.

A New Hunger

It took the death of my beloved grandmother to pierce the madness. I was too weak to travel to her funeral. Something in me finally broke. I cried out to the God I had tried to flee, “I’ve exhausted my own resources. But if you want me, you can have what’s left.”

I waited for thunder or blinding light. There was only stillness. My eyes fell upon the Bible in front of me and I opened it. The passage I saw describes Jesus, standing in the throne room of heaven:

The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:14–16)

For as long as I could remember, I had been far too intense. Yet here was someone more passionate than I am. Here was a vision that caught my breath. Radiant, terrible, beautiful. Irresistible.

My fingers trembled as I turned the pages to Revelation 5. I encountered Jesus again, this time as a lion — then a bleeding lamb. He’s the embodiment of strength and glory — also of frailty and pain. He’s Jesus as Lord, the conquering Lion. And he’s Jesus as Lamb, sacrificed and broken — for me. A lamb who met me in my brokenness. A lion who vanquished all my foes. The God who turned his face toward me and said, “You’re mine. I’ve bought you. And that’s enough.”

A New Name

That night, I felt myself pierced by a gaze that saw through my name-seeking. Standing before the Lord, I expected anger — instead, I encountered grace. I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t control it. And I couldn’t resist it. My heart was thrilled at his voice. “I love you as you are,” he seemed to say, “but I won’t leave you that way. I’m giving you a new start. I’m giving you a new name.”

For the first time, I felt I had a purpose. I wasn’t in charge — but I had met the One who was. God showed me someone more precious than the perfect me: he gave me himself. And he gave me his name and his identity.

That night marked the beginning of my real recovery from anorexia. It’s a long and painful process, but there is grace for every step. What’s changing me isn’t a program or a technique — it is a Person, more beautiful than any disorder. I can hand over control to him and not be destroyed. He is enough.

For All Who Hunger

Eating disorders can feel like religion. They define our humanity, give us identity, and dictate our worship. They have their own rules and rituals, and they promise rescue from sin. But compare their laws to the real good news:

With eating disorders, sin is falling short of our own standards and desires. In the gospel, sin is rejecting Christ and refusing to receive from a giving God.

At the center of our eating disorders is our body — we break it and we pay for our own mistakes. At the center of the Christian faith is Christ’s body — broken for us.

Eating disorders say, “Try harder, do more, fix it yourself.” Gospel repentance says, “It’s not about anything you can do — it’s about what Jesus has already done.” On the cross, he paid for all of the ways we try to feed and fix ourselves. We strive for a new identity and name. But Jesus gives us his own.

Moving Forward

If you struggle with an eating disorder, don’t give up. Ask for help from your church, your friends, support groups, and professionals. Moving forward may seem frightening — like losing a part of yourself. But Jesus’s call to change is not fleeting. He calls us to follow him to find life in its fullness. Eating disorders promise life and easy answers — then deliver misery and death. Following Jesus means that we die to who we were, but discover all we were made to be.

“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)

 was born in Belfast, but now lives with her husband and daughter in the southeast of England. She is the author of several books, including A New Name: Grace and Healing for Anorexia. She blogs about identity, faith, and mental health at her website.

A version of this article appeared on the website. 

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Desiring God produces God-centered resources from the ministry of John Piper. Its mission is to produce and distribute resources that spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.