A few weeks ago, the Lord told me to “starve the skinny idol”. This was shortly after He showed me that I had made “skinny” an idol in my life. It was quite shocking news! Me? Serving an idol? Yup!
I dreamed of having “rock hard abs” or “flat abs”. I had envisioned myself looking like Denise Austen or other exercise gurus. I sought after it. I deemed myself too flabby and went on a quest to “live the dream”. Well, that so-called dream became my master.
“That other person, idea, or dream is your master, and it takes you over without your being aware of it.”*
That’s exactly what happened to me. I lived and breathed this desire to have a certain look. I wanted to be strong and to be at a certain weight. If there was a book about it, I read it. If there was a diet to help me live out my dream, I tried it or at least considered it. I joined a fitness forum online so I could discuss this dream. I counted calories. I tracked points. I stopped eating certain foods. I tried to eat only raw foods. And on and on and on.
I made skinny my “functional god”.
“They’re trapped, they’re deceived, and they’re miserable because they made a functional god of something or someone other than the one true living God.”*
I thought, when I am skinny, I will be happy. I wouldn’t be satisfied until I lost a certain amount of weight or looked a certain way. But even when I lost the desired weight, I thought, “How about 5 more pounds?” You see, the enemy loves that we serve the skinny idol, or any idol for that matter. He wants us to feel like we are never enough. So I thought if I tried a different method, diet, technique, workout program, etc., that then I would have what I wanted. Sure, I asked God for help, but “God won’t help us chase our idols.”*
My heart was set on being skinny. “Idolatry is who or what you worship, what you long for, what your heart is set on.”* And the sad thing is that back in the day, when I started on this quest, I was completely fine the way I was. I believed the lies of the enemy that I needed to be more or less. I didn’t think I was good enough where I was; so without realizing it, I built up my altar and started serving the skinny idol.
This is a photo of me from 2005, when I thought I needed to lose weight:
Oh how I wish I could go back to that young lady (myself) and tell myself that I was fine and to STOP obsessing. I wish I could go back and tell her the truth. I know different ones in my life did try, but I wasn’t convinced. I really thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t have rock-hard abs. I remember asking my husband to take pictures of me when I was sitting down so I could see if my stomach stuck out and rolled out as I was imagining it to be (it wasn’t). The funny thing is, after having two babies, and looking back, those abs look great! Ha!
So when the Lord revealed this idol to me about a month ago, I started to sort of panic. I have served this idol and it has served me. It’s been my familiar friend, my companion, my security blanket all of these years. It’s what I could obsess over; and boy, have I obsessed! “It’s hard [to demolish the idol], not only because they don’t want to leave, but also because we don’t really want to lose them.”* Exactly!
This idol has kept me “fixed”. It’s like a drug. I feel “high” when I focus on the things that feed this idol: like thinking about starting a new diet. “We may experience initial relief, so then we cling to them, making them the objects of our desire. As these objects grow in importance, our behavior becomes habitual and we can no longer satisfy or relieve our needs in healthy ways. Even if we want to break free, we find ourselves enslaved.”** I have looked to my idol to fulfill me; but only God can fulfill me.
I’ve often asked myself why I would give into this idol, this addiction. When I look back to when I erected this idol, there were a lot of things in my life that I felt were spinning out of control. Relationships were changing. Boundaries had to be placed. There was a lot of emotional uneasiness. Looking back, I am beginning to see that instead of depending on God completely, I began to place trust in this idol to help me through. I grasped onto anything that felt solid at the time to hold me up.
Now that He’s revealed this idol to me, I’m accountable to tear it down. In 1st and 2nd Chronicles, it talks about how there would be a new king on the throne and it would say if that king demolished the high places and idol altars or not. Kings built, tore down, and built them up again. I want this idol to come down for good and not ever be built up again. I’m starting to see that it comes down to 2 choices: either I can trust God or I can trust the “golden calves” of the skinny idol. I can serve God or “mammon”, but I cannot serve both.
I didn’t trust God to take care of this area of my life. Oh, I would claim He was leading me (which I think He did at times–to turn away from the idol), but I did NOT want to give up the control of this area of my life. It’s ridiculous because idols only hurt us. “We think they’re more predictable than God is, and they keep us in the driver’s seat.”* Oh yes, I have told God to move over plenty of times. I’m driving! I will get my rock-hard abs no matter what! Trust God? Whatever!
I didn’t want to wait on God. “And so we turn to idols, often just to remove the uneasy feeling of waiting and depending on God.”* I think a lie I have believed is, “God won’t help me, so I will do this myself. He probably just wants me to be fat.” Yeah…not cool! “We are anxious about our idols. We think, “What if I don’t get what I want? What if I lose it?”” I held on dearly to what I wanted because I was afraid God wouldn’t give it to me in my way and in my time. Truth is, God is more concerned about my heart than my outward appearance. Of course He wants us healthy and at our God-given weight, BUT He wants my heart. He is a jealous God. He doesn’t want us bowing down to any other gods. And I certainly made a god, an idol, out of skinny.
“Addiction and disordered eating end and dependence begins when we stop relying on our own will to get what we want and begin trusting God to give us what he knows we need.”**
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be slim, but it’s not ok when it’s ruling my life.
I want the guarantee that I will never be overweight again and that I will lose the “fluff” if I am going to follow God’s ways. But the thing is–nothing in this life is a guarantee! Only God is unshakable and unchangeable. He is our only guarantee.
So what it all boils down to is this–is God enough for me? If I never release another pound, is He enough? If I never have rock-hard abs, is He enough? Yes, yes, yes!!
What does it mean to “starve the skinny idol”? That’s something I’ve been asking the Lord and learning about. When you starve something, you don’t give it anything that will keep it alive, not even a crumb. So what’s kept this idol alive in my life? I can name a few things: obsessing over food, researching food and diets, being fixated on my body, reading anything that brings on the obsession, etc. So by starving the idol, that means not doing any of those things. And it also means changing my focus. We were all meant to serve God and have a relationship with Him. There is a yearning in every person’s heart for Him. But we find things that become “functional gods” to us. I want to serve God. I want to give Him all of my heart, mind and soul. I don’t want to give anymore of my time, heart, mind, or soul to “skinny”. My focus needs to get back onto Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, my Deliverer!
So as I’ve been working on taking down this idol and demolishing it, the idol has tried to remake itself in my life using what I listed above. And the areas this idol has served me has been tricky to pin down at times and it seems like it has 1,000 lives. I wrote this in my journal, “I have to ask God for help if I’m going to spot them, pin them down, and kill them as fast as they appear.”
“Whenever we erect and bow down to an idol, we displace our dependency on God. We struggle to stay at the center of it all through willpower, manipulating people, doing everything in our own strength, trying to look just right, and falsely believing that we are in charge of our life. We think we can do anything through willpower, even control our addictions, but the blessed gift of addiction is that it fails us. If we are honest with ourselves, we eventually reach a point where we must admit we can’t go on like this; that we are out of control. It is God who allows us to see the futility of placing our hope and trust in the false idols of our own making. Then he helps us discover and articulate the aching, unfulfilled emptiness at the core of our being and invites us to take the first step toward God-centered healing.”**
And that’s the thing, I was placing my dependency on this idol, not on God. I thought if I could just control my eating, that then I would get what I wanted. But what I truly needed was the Lord. I’m coming to realize that if there’s an idol, an addiction, or something is just plain wrong, that’s an indication that something within me needs more of God.
The lie is that the idol will make us happy, that it will fuel us. But the truth is that we cannot live on substitutes. My heart will “never be satisfied apart from God in Christ Jesus.”* Only God can satisfy. Substitutes never satisfy. The skinny idol just made me lust for more, more, more. And I was left wanting more.
This is like Paul, in Philippians chapter 4, saying, I will be content whether well-fed or hungry. It’s choosing to be content. It’s getting to that place, that no matter what, we are satisfied in God alone and that He is enough.
Something else I wrote in my journal was this: Going to an idol instead of God is committing spiritual adultery. Ouch!
After the Lord revealed truth to me about this idol in my heart, I realized that I needed a plan to starve this idol and to renew my mind, because there were literally days where “skinny” was on my mind consistently all throughout the day. I didn’t know how to pinpoint the thoughts and take them captive to the obedience of Christ. And so I figured that starting somewhere is better than doing nothing. Part of my plan (and what I’ve been doing) is putting my focus more on Christ. I’m reading through the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and I’ve been reading Galatians over and over again. It’s been awesome! I wake up and instead of thinking about “skinny”, I get so excited to be in the Word and to get to know Jesus more. I’ve also been reading my truth cards more often. I also picked out sets of questions from the I Deserve a Donut app by Barb Raveling to answer in my journal: which has been extremely helpful in renewing my mind (the sets of questions I’ve been using are: Discontentment, Greed & Lust, Envy, Insecurity: Feeling Inadequate, Insecurity: Living Up to Expectations, Insecurity: People Pleasing, and Insecurity: Self-Condemnation). And when I look in the mirror and feel any sense of dissatisfaction, I thank the Lord for my body. Through all of this, and putting my focus on Christ, I have noticed that I’m no longer focused on skinny like I once was. Praise God!
I still have work to do. There are times I’m tempted to go on a diet to have my “guarantee”, so I have to keep pressing on and looking to the Lord and His truth. This is a journey. We learn and grow every day.
How about you? Have you made skinny an idol in your life? Have you served the scale or the food? Where do you turn when the going gets tough? Are you clinging to a “functional God” or the one true living God? Ask the Lord to search your heart and He will show you. If you are afraid you won’t like what you see, know that He is there to forgive as we repent, and He is there to help to get us where we need to be. He will help us follow Him, but He won’t help us chase our idols.
P.S. You can hear more about what God has revealed to me in this Sound Cloud file I recorded:[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160296439″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
*Quoted from Gospel Treason by Brad Bigney
** Quoted from Hunger Within by Arthur & Judy Halliday (chapter 6)
Oh Christina, I so needed to read this today. I have been vacillating back and forth with my idol of diets and nutrition research. I have bought and returned, bought and returned, given away and taken back so many diet and nutrition books that I have lost count. This is a huge idol and stronghold in my life. God has used your post to convict me about returning to Him, His way and His timing and leave the diet mentality behind me for good. I am so needy and so weak in this area, but His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I have to remind myself of that many times a day. I want to return my focus to Christ. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Kathy, I have been there with all of the books. I’ve bought books, read them, not read them, burned them, bought the same books again, etc. And now when I am tempted to read them, the Lord is right there gently reminding me that He is enough for me and that the boundaries He’s given me (Thin Within) is where He wants me. I will be praying for you!
This me word for word. It was like looking in a big mirror today. I am so glad God gave me this today as I’ve been dabbling in thinking again I need some diet, some program, some big food restrictions, and I’ve been feeling desperation and like I’m going to have dire life threatening issues if I don’t get back on a program right now. I’ve been even dallying in the back of my mind with things like needing lapband or something. I’ve been a fitness instructor, a crazed fitness/health/nutrition junkee. I’ve been fine when I thought I wasn’t and am now truly very overweight and wish I could go back and be what I thought was so horrible at the time. I need Him. That is all.
God is unshakable and unchangeable, He is our only guarantee. Oh, I love that! Thank you so much for sharing from your heart, Christina. Your words resonate with my heart in so many ways. Only God can satisfy . . . how true that is. So thankful to be on this journey with you! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your heart in this area….i felt like you were talking about me. You have given me hope and courage to deal with this idol once and for all in my life. It has crept into my life so insidiously and controls my thoughts way to many times in a day. I am praying for strength and wisdom to demolish this idol and this stronghold in my life. Thank you for sharing honestly.
Sue, thank you for your sweet reply. I want to encourage you to starve this idol. No more chasing. 🙂
This was sooooo good! I am saving it for future reference! Thank you so much for writing this!
Thank you for your post. I really related to your story about idol of skinny, or as I call it idol of thinness.
I’m 53 and have battled EDs since I was 15. The EDs have swung from anorexia/restriction to binge/comfort-eating, yoyo-ing up and down. At my lowest I’ve been skeletal but felt ‘good’. The deception and pull of the lies was so strong. And even today, though I’m a ‘normal weight’ I don’t feel right in my own body. My body represents shame and self-loathing and self-hatred (I’m a survivor of incest from age 3).
This last year has been a painful time of depression and self-loathing; foolishly trying to numb the pain I feel inside me with the food; self-medicating with the food. I’ve had some reasonably long periods of recovery but again last year my weight plummeted to 40kgs (I’m 5 foot 4 inches) and I looked too thin others told me. Then I ‘crashed’ and began comfort eating again and gaining weight and feeling ashamed.
Through all of this I’ve felt deeply shamed because I love Jesus and have never let go of crying out to Him for healing and deliverance. At church they speak of their victory and their joy etc and I feel like a ‘fraud’.
I came to know Christ when I was 19 but I was so damaged, and at times still feel so. But I’m thankful for Jesus! He has and does patiently walk with me through this daily battle against the ED thinking and the voice that screams ‘You’re too big, you’re ugly, you used to be so thin what’s wrong with you…why can’t you starve yourself you glutton..’ Of course all of this just fuels the hopelessness and I turn (foolishly) to food to numb the pain.
But I try to not give up but keep coming back to the Lord with my sin, my struggles…daily, sometimes minute by minute, or hour by hour. I truth journal (I’m new to T/Within), I write letters to the Lord, I cry out to Him, He holds me and tells me not to give up and to keep battling. Today I’ve poured my heart out to Him in my journal, and read my Truth Cards. (My T/W book is still coming in the post all the way from the UK and is taking forever when one lives in New Zealand)….I’m devouring the T/W website and blog.
Thank you Heidi and everyone for your posts. Today again the idol of self/thinness screams at me that my body is too big, I feel too heavy, a stranger in my own body… but I’m hanging onto Jesus and trying to seek Him, not my ‘golden calf’ of self/thinness.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was a great encouragement but not only that – it is a reminder of the hope we have because of the love and power of our saviour, Jesus Christ. God bless.