Because food is such a regular part of life it can make the challenges of an eating disorder more complex and discouraging to navigate. We must eat to live and yet the way we eat and more significantly the value we place on eating can lead to serious problems. Biblical counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick knows the challenges of an eating disorder well, and so she has written a guidebook for helping those who suffer to break “the bondage of destructive eating habits.” This is an excellent resource in particular because it balances theological truth with practical help.
Elyse makes clear from the start that this is “not a diet book.” Her concerns are much deeper than a list of food and dietary rules. She writes:
You won’t find any list telling you what you may and may not eat. You won’t find any recipes in the back of this book. If you’re like me, you’ve read many diet books – and even some books that said they weren’t diet books (but really were). (9)
Instead of focusing on a set of rules, her interests are centered around helping readers to discern what “God wants you to think about food and your eating habits.” This is a book that centers on God and on living (and eating) for His glory. In that regard it is starting from a very different place than most books on eating disorders.
The book is broken down into three parts. Part one centers on “A Renewed Focus.” Here Elyse shifts the focus of the reader to a goal bigger than thinness, or personal satisfaction, and control. The goal of all of life should be to glorify God and true change takes aim, then, at our heart’s desires and not simply our external behavior. We have a true sense of purpose rooted in our relationship to God and that should drive how we think about our eating.
Part two turns to “Understanding Who You Are.” In chapter four, Elyse highlights aspects of a Biblical anthropology that can shape how we address destructive habits. She reminds us of our identification with God as the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” reshaping how we think about care of the body. She turns too to interact with heart motivations in more detail, exploring the common lies we are tempted to believe as we indulge in sinful eating habits. The list in chapter five is particularly helpful. As she rounds out this part of the book she introduces her four-fold approach to change:
- Become convinced that your present method of eating is sinful and cease from it
- Become convinced that God’s methods for disciplined eating are right and begin practicing them
- Seek diligently to change your mind and become conformed to God’s thinking, especially in the area of your eating habits
- Continue to practice these new thoughts and behaviors, even when the struggle gets hard.
She recognizes that for many readers this approach will seem both too simplistic and too difficult to enact. As she walks readers through each aspect of this four-fold approach to change she will then, in the following chapters, give more practical help to provide a robust exploration of change.
Part three takes readers into the more practical elements of the book, “Embracing God’s Method for Change.” Readers should be discouraged from skipping ahead to this portion of the work, bypassing on the groundwork that chapters 1-6 set in place. Elyse is conscious of the temptation many will have to skip ahead, and so she even starts off part three with a reminder of the importance of a right perspective on food. She presents a harmatiology of eating, noting that our eating can violate the First Commandment (becoming idolatrous) and the Sixth Commandment – she had an interesting exploration of the Westminster Divine’s teaching on this commandment, noting that “thou shalt not kill” can be applied to self-destructive habits too. She gives a theology of gluttony, noting that this term can be applied to more than the over-indulgent. The gluttonous person is the one who is obsessed with food, thinking about it constantly, even if they are still eating small portions.
The book develops further practical help. Chapter eight outlines a useful grid for “making godly food choices.” Using the word “Disciplined” as an acrostic she gives guidelines for “Self-controlled eating.” Chapters nine and ten give attention to “taking thoughts captive” and maintenance of disciplined eating, respectively. Here, Elyse maintains a great balance between the cognitive and the practical, giving regular help in re-oritantion of the mind to help guide the hands and feet of habituation. She ends the book with some great sensitivity both to the complexity of change and the discouragement of sufferers, along with the encouragement to hope that change is possible.The book also comes with some helpful appendices to give readers further tools for continuing on the fight post-reading. Books don’t change people and so tools for continued help are necessary.
Overall this is a phenomenal work that balances theological truth and practical application well, in order to help people make true and lasting change. Readers will find that far more frequently the examples and applications used by the author apply specifically to compulsive eating, with mentions of anorexia and bulimia throughout. In that regard those who struggle with underrating may struggle to make the connections to their situation as easily as those with a compulsive eating habit. Nonetheless, the principles themselves are universally applicable. I found this is a great tool with lots of practical help. It is sensitive to medical issues – in fact the book was positively reviewed and endorsed by several M.D.s – and demonstrates a great grasp of the internal struggle with food – loving and hating to eat. Readers with destructive eating habits will find this a compassionate and helpful tool. Counselors will find it an insightful guide to being helpful. I highly recommend Love to Eat, Hate to Eat.
Thank you Pastor Dave! Great synopsis! I just bought the book and now will read it with more understanding, thanks to your review. Much appreciation!