Eating Disorders and the Victim Mentality

If you hit the “rewind” button on my life and traveled back in time about five years, you would find me in a very difficult season of recovery from my anorexia. Struggling to make sense of who I was and who I needed to be. Doubting I would ever love myself or even like myself. Wanting to be skinny above everything else.

As that season lingered, I felt like I was trudging through heavy, dirty mud. Craving answers to my questions but not being willing to accept the answers before me. The questions that I often thought—but rarely said aloud—included these:

“God, why is this happening to me?”

“Why is my life plagued with lies and torment from Satan?”

“Why do I have to weigh _____ pounds and wear a size _____?”

“God, why won’t You take this away from me?”

“Why can’t I just be recovered?”

Woe is Me

When I struggled with anorexia but particularly when I struggled with recovery, I let myself succumb to the victim mentality. This mentality believes that I didn’t choose anorexia but it, unfortunately, chose me. The victim mentality involves the notion of a cruel God who leads His children into eating disorders and doesn’t help them fight against Satan’s crippling lies in order to recover.

While I was anorexic, I definitely felt guilty for hiding my destructive lifestyle. But anger and resentment didn’t fully fill my heart until I started my recovery.

“It doesn’t feel like God is helping me,” I used to say. “I feel like I have to be the one to fix this.”

Honestly, there was some truth in my thinking. As I discuss throughout my new book Real Recovery: What Eating Disorder Recovery Actually Looks Like, God won’t wave a magic wand in the air to make your eating disorder disappear. That’s a completely unrealistic expectation.  

However, to believe that God is absent from our healing or—worse—to believe that He is carelessly causing our harm is to completely disregard basic biblical truths.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry for help and save them. The Lord watches over all who love Him, but He will destroy all the wicked. (Psalm 145:17-20 NASB)

A Better Mentality

So if the victim mentality is the wrong mentality to have as you struggle with an eating disorder and recover, what is the right mentality to have?

The victim mentality says, “I struggle with an eating disorder because I’m a helpless victim and God is out to get me.” The better mentality says, “I struggle with an eating disorder because I’m a broken sinner but God can help me find healing.”

There’s nowhere in Scripture where God says it’s okay for His children to pin their sin on others. We have to own up to our sin. And despite how hard it is to admit that developing an eating disorder is sinful, that’s what it is deep down. It’s choosing to make the pursuit of a very specific (and unattainable) body more important than everything else. In short, it’s idolatry.

Of course, there are many things that can influence the development of an eating disorder, such as mental illnesses and psychological disorders. Ultimately, however, eating disorders develop as a result of selfishness and idolatry. Thankfully, the victim mentality doesn’t have to plague your recovery. You can choose a better mentality—a mentality filled with humility, submission, and hope.

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