Question: "What does the Bible say about eating disorders (i.e. anorexia, bulimia)?"
Answer: There are three major eating disorders: anorexia, in which people purposefully under eat; bulimia, in which people binge on food and then purge; and the most common, binge eating, which is plain gluttony. Polls taken have reported differing numbers, but at least 1 out of every 10 women will have experienced an eating disorder at some time in their lives, and some polls suggest that as many as 1 out of 4 will. This could be considered epidemic! Eating disorders do not only affect women, either: approximately 10% of those with an eating disorder are men.
Eating disorders have many reported causes: stress, personality traits (obsessive compulsive, perfectionism), media, and unhealthy relationships. The blame is passed around freely, too. "I'm too stressed out at work to eat;" "If I want to look like that model, I need to lose just a little more weight;" "My husband will love me more if I'm skinnier;" "So I'm gaining weight--everybody is obese these days!" However, it really only comes down to one thing: self. Each of us makes his or her own decisions on what we do with our bodies and how well we take care of them. To have an eating disorder is to focus on yourself, to the exclusion of everyone else--even God. It is to engage in unhealthy, dangerous, and potentially deadly habits without regard to consequences. It is selfishness, and biblically it is disobedience. It is sin.
A commonly known verse in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, yet rarely is much thought given to it. "Or don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (NLT)" Add to this passage such passages as: Romans 14:7-8 (NLT), "For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord;" Romans 12:1-2 (NLT), "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is;" and 1 Peter 1:13-16 (NLT), "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God-who chose you to be his children-is holy. For he himself has said, 'You must be holy because I am holy.'"
Eating disorders, quite obviously, do not fall into line with Scripture. They reject a Creator Whose love for mankind transcends physical traits (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Peter 3:3-4). Eating disorders are in disobedience to God's command to take care of oneself, and to be holy. A life of holiness, a life given over to God, is a life taken well care of. Our bodies are not our own--God owns them. We are stewards of all He gives us, and we need to be good stewards of our bodies as well. It is with self-control that we deny both gluttony and starvation, and it is with transformed minds that we see past the superficiality of our culture's demands and reject the eating disorders that would otherwise destroy each of us.
If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, get help. Seek out advice from your pastor, or contact a biblical counselor for help, encouragement, and accountability. Jesus Christ has the power to break the bondage of eating disorders, but it will often take biblical and dietary counseling for the person under such bondage to realize their predicament. The verses above can help in this realization, and can even be a biblical "litmus test" to root out the truth of one's sin. From there it becomes a matter of decisions, as it was at the onset of the disorder. May God be glorified with each person's decision to live a right life that is pleasing to Him.