TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses eating disorders. If it is not healthy for you to read this at this time, please do what is best for you.
I’ve thought about this blog post for a looong time, but I felt too hypocritical.
Something that God convicted me of for a long time was the amount of time I would spend watching these videos on YouTube. Basically, “fitness influencers” post videos documenting everything they eat in a day.
My main problem with them is that I believe that the vast majority of people with a healthy relationship with food are not watching these videos. I now know that I only spent so much time watching them because I was starving – in the midst of my eating disorders and recovery.
Now that I am most definitely out of an energy deficit (I know this because a “normal” amount of food actually fills me up rather than leaving me more ravenous), I don’t have the urge to spend all of my free time watching other people eat.
I do feel nervous to talk about this, because I know there will be people who it doesn’t sit well with. But the Lord has put it fiercely on my heart, and I do feel called to share what I know to be a struggle of many, because these videos get millions of views.
Watching other people eat, knowing what they ate, and comparing it to what I ate, was a major sin in my life.
It was an idol. It was something that I replaced God with in my life. And it left me feeling unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and longing for Truth.
Google searches for “What I Eat in a Day” videos have been steadily rising over time, more than doubling over the last 15 years. It’s largely driven by internet users in the U.S., Australia, the U.K., and Canada.
These videos might seem harmless. They might even seem silly. But they are not only an indication of our society’s incredibly problematic desire to imitate celebrities and our disproportionate value of thinness — they’re also dangerous.
– Bree Rody-Mantha, The Financial Diet
But, like any sin, it was alluring. I would want to keep watching, knowing deep down that the act of doing so kept me sick, kept me thinking about food and my body and comparing myself to others, and kept me in the world of eating disorder thoughts. I knew it wasn’t good.
So, the thing is… I do believe that the vast majority of people who watch these videos are either:
1. in the midst of an eating disorder,
2. recovering from an eating disorder,
I know that there are some exceptions, ie. people who are passionate about nutrition or just curious, and maybe some people looking for recipe ideas. But the comment sections on these videos; the thumbnails; the things that people keep coming back for are the comparison – wanting the affirmation that what they eat in a day is okay.
The diet industry in the United States alone is worth nearly $75 billion. Though over 95% of diets fail, with dieters gaining more weight after a diet than they lost.
Now, some YouTubers have put a neat healthy and helpful spin on this trend. My favourites are Nutty Foodie Fitness, Stephanie Buttermore, and Linda Sun.
But I know that they are exceptions. Most YouTubers in this fitness influencer category will get a ton of requests for and views on “What I Eat in A Day” videos, and much less on any fitness/other content. This, in my own opinion and experience, is because people who have a healthy relationship with food and fitness don’t spend all their time watching video after video of other people doing fitness. People with eating disorders, however, can’t get their minds off of food because they are starving themselves.
One of the most addictive things about these videos for me was the satisfaction of knowing that I was eating so much less than even the “skinnest and fittest” influencers there were. I would watch video after video to confirm it.
But of course I was. I was in the depths of anorexia. I just couldn’t see it at the time.
So, here is my unpopular but very important belief:
“Food porn” is the not-talked-about but saturated sin in our society that needs to be addressed.
“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
“For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags” (Proverbs 23:21).
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16-20).
“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both” (1 Corinthians 6:13).
These only SCRATCH the service of the beautiful Truths in Scripture that have convicted me in my idolatry of eating only the cleanest/healthiest/perfect/most little amount of food. The same verses will convict someone struggling with food addiction, or any other kind of addiction/idolatry. That’s one of the things that is so beyond incredible about who Jesus is: He shows us how fickle our fleshly desires are, because they are so different from person to person.
The good news is that intuitive eating is becoming “trendy” again. The bad news is that it’s also being painted as a diet in itself, often causing its partakers to still obsess over food, obsess over hunger/fullness cues, and “trick” themselves into thinking their body never wants to go near “bad food.”
It’s all a game. It’s all a lie. It can be so toxic. And the only way I healed from it, the only way I possibly could have, was Jesus. Believing that His Word is the only firm foundation, and knowing that it spoke against idolizing what others eat and wasting my time doing so. Doing the work of understanding where the lies in my head came from and allowing Him to speak Truth over them. Letting Him in, getting on my knees before Him, and crying out to Him for help–stopping trying in my own strength. BELIEVING that the “letter of the law” was not my god (read Romans 8, my friend. Pray it over yourself).
I still have my struggles that I have to repent of and let Him teach my from. I still struggle with believing that my body is healthy at a heavier weight; I am getting help for this. I still sometimes get sucked into “What I Eat in A Day” videos out of old, bad habit. But the conviction is so strong, and the Lord helps me to say no. And every time, I am glad that I do. He reminds me of the life (that is oh-so short, and oh-so PURPOSED to be lived for HIM and HIS PEOPLE) that is right in front of me; the husband that is right in front of me; the people that are right in front of me; most importantly, that HE is right beside me, around me, and within me.
I’m not saying we can’t get food inspiration from others. The rise of food blogs and the increasing influence of home chefs-turned-cookbook-authors have helped make things like home cooking and meal prep more accessible and interesting (Canadian book retailer Chapters Indigo’s list of bestselling cookbooks has just as many works from self-taught bloggers-turned-authors as it does from pros like Jamie Oliver and the late Anthony Bourdain). Food is personal, and yet it should be shared. When we invite others into our lives through food, we are telling them about where we come from, what we like and what excites us. But we’re not telling them to emulate us.Bree Rody-Mantha
Friend, if you relate to any of the above (whether about WIEAD videos, idolization, sin, addiction, etc.), I am here for you and would love to pray for you. Feel free to reach out via Instagram at @cassandraafulford.
But first, talk to Jesus.