Celebrating Lent With An Eating Disorder

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Do you have specific religious beliefs that you practice during Lent and struggle with an eating disorder? Do you believe that you must “give up” something during Lent in order to follow your religious beliefs? I frequently here of people giving up desserts, sweets, snacks, or other food types during Lent. Although this may be a spiritual act for some people, I think that giving up food (of any kind) can be very triggering and difficult for those who struggle with disordered eating. I believe that part of our job is to take care of ourselves and our bodies. If I give up sweets I can almost guarantee that I will over eat sweets after Lent and will likely over eat the sweets prior to Lent. So that may not be a very healthy option for me.

So what can you do to celebrate Lent that won’t potentially cause more problems for your eating disorder? One person shared with me that their church also encourages people to “add” something to celebrate Lent. I find this option to be great because you can add anything that feels spiritual for you. Some ideas include:

1. Reading a Bible verse every day

2. Reading an inspirational quote

3. Meditating

4. Praying about things you are grateful to have

5. Practicing mindfulness

6. Study something about nature each day

7. Doing something nice for someone else

8. Journaling

9. Donating your resources (time, money, etc) to a non-profit organization

10. Engaging in a self-care activity daily

11. Watching something spiritual or past sermons online

12. Writing positive affirmations daily

Rather than taking something away from your life, why not make your life more spiritual and fulfilled by adding something meaningful to your daily spiritual practices? If you do still feel like you need to take something away in order to follow your religious beliefs, think about what options you could do that wouldn’t trigger your eating disorder. Some ideas may include:

1. Avoid cursing

2. Avoid not following the laws (i.e. speeding)

3. Avoid gossip

4. Avoid intentionally hurting someone’s feelings

5. Give up negative thoughts/beliefs

Some of these things may also be helpful to consider if your religion or spiritual beliefs practice fasting. Fasting can be harmful for those who struggle with eating disorders and can be triggering for those who are at risk of developing eating disorders. Speaking with your religious community about other ways for you to participate in religious activities without having to fast, may be helpful. Just like people with medical conditions (diabetes) who can’t fast, people with eating disorders should also be allowed to acknowledge religious events without putting their health at risk. Fasting can increase restrictive eating behaviors, trigger bingeing, and mess up our metabolism.  I believe it is important for us to take care of our bodies!

What are things that you have done to celebrate Lent? What are things that you have done, or not done, that have helped you to feel more spiritual? I would love to hear other ideas and thoughts about how you follow religious beliefs without triggering your eating disorder!

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