Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: Love to Eat, Hate to Eat

"their god is their stomach" - Philippians 3:19

Elyse Fitzpatrick is a prolific speaker, author, and discipler of women. She has written over a dozen books and has contributed to the Resurgence on over a dozen blog posts. Published in 1999 as one of her first books, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat is focused on helping women to break out of the bondage of idolatrous and destructive eating habits.

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat is being highlighted here on The Relentless Fight because of how it encourages, empowers, and equips women for the great fight of faith, particularly in the discouraging world of food idolatry.

The book is written to women who feel like they've lost the battle with food, either through overeating, undereating, or struggling with body image (If keywords are helpful: anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, gluttony, eating disorders, self-image). It's designed to give women a renewed focus and identity founded in what God says in His Word, and then offers practical and relevant methods for change, along with several appendixes of resources.

One nuance to note: Often food and body image is painted as ONLY a women's struggle, similar to how pornography and lust is painted as ONLY a man's struggle. But neither are exclusive struggles for men or women, because sin is an equal opportunity enslaver. Body image and lust are HUMAN problems that both men and women often struggle with. That being said, it is generally true that many men struggle with porn and lust, and many women struggle with food and body image.

Here are some brief highlights from the book:
  • Food as an Idol: The book paints a vivid picture of food and body image as an IDOL, as a good thing made into a substitute god. The archetype of "idolatry" (wrong worship) is one of the most helpful and deeply nuanced resources that biblical Christianity brings to bear on our modern struggles with eating disorders and addiction cycles. The title "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat" describes the painful dualistic ambivalence that results from idolatry. We love our idol, and yet we simultaneously hate our idol. Why? Because we believe the enticing promises it makes to us, but feel betrayed and angry when it doesn't deliver and instead backfires with guilt, shame, and death. And food is a horrible idol! It makes crazy rules for you, and when you break them it piles on guilt and condemnation that forces you to run to a false savior. Only Jesus through the gospel can free us from this destructive cycle! "What would happen if you ran to Christ, instead of the refrigerator, to save you from your trouble?" Page 182.
  • Focus on Heart Change, not Weight Change: From a worldly perspective, it would be easy to focus on just the behaviors of eating and seek to change those. But the book goes much deeper to the heart, seeking to uncover what motivates us through our beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, and reorients our hearts back to Jesus! "Remember again that our goal isn't merely weight loss (or gain), but rather a heart and life that reflects the great goodness of our heavenly Father." page 187.
  • Detailed Strategies and Tactics for the Fight: The author is speaking out of her own personal experience of struggling with food and body image, and because of that she's able to share relevant strategies and tactics for the fight.. So AFTER you've meditated on the gospel and are ready to get back into the fight, and you're wondering "what are some good strategies?" then this book is a fantastic resource!! Elyse identifies godly eating habits through the D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E-D Eating acronym, which gives 12 questions to help you examine your own heart to see what your motivation is for eating, to bring greater awareness and sensitivity.You can view the DISCIPLINED Eating acronym on her website here
  • Remember the Gospel, and Keep Fighting: Real change takes a long time, and we often want just a quick fix, as if God would ZAP us in a spiritual microwave to make us instantly holy. So how do we make it for the long term battle? We need to keep coming back to Jesus, and endure in the fight. "The first few times you step into the ring, you might find yourself a little bloodied at the end of the round; but if you keep fighting, you'll soon find yourself standing at the bell. That's because, if you are seeking to please God, He'll be in your corner!" page 186.
In summary, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat is a great introductory resource for folks struggling with food and body image. Practical, helpful, biblical, and focused on God's word and redemption, it is highly recommended. If you struggle, read it. If you don't struggle, you should still read it in order to develop compassion and empathy for friends that struggle, so that you can help and encourage them in this fight. Buy the book here

Feasting on God,
The Relentless Fight

PS: Another helpful resource for food and body image struggles is a talk from Mars Hill Church by Crystal Munson on Gluttony.