3 Ways the Incarnation of Jesus Helps Disordered Eating Recovery

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I could just eat that “one more bite.” It’s right here on the tip of my fork, ready and waiting, the perfect last bite to a delicious meal. It’s completely within my power to consume it, to get that “just one more” bite of deliciousness, because who knows when I’ll ever get another opportunity to eat this particular food prepared in this particular way that I’ve enjoyed so much? If recovery is one day at a time, can’t I just go back to my program tomorrow? 

This seems like a weird time for the Incarnation to pop into my mind. 

It’s not, of course, that weird at all. God knows exactly the best way to invite me to stay on my program, to stay in cooperation with His grace, to get out of my own thoughts and back into the kingdom of heaven, even here, even now in this fallen world. 

This fallen world is where God chose to set the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. In the act of the Incarnation, like that “just one more bite” that I could take, there are so many things that the omnipotent God of the universe could have done, so many rules He could have bypassed, so many people He could have asked to surround Him more with immediate comfort and less with His long-term mission.

Jesus Christ, true God and true man, did none of those things. 

What did He do, and what do those things teach us about how to recover from our compulsive food behaviors? What could God Incarnate know about disordered eating recovery? A lot more than we might realize. When I think of the Incarnation, God offers me three principles to remember whenever that “just one more bite” calls to me. 

Just because I can doesn’t mean I’ll be happier if I do. 

God the Son, in submitting to the parameters of the Incarnation, accepted limitations that we humans can’t even imagine. The Fall made this world uncomfortable at best, traumatizing at worst. God could have changed the rules for Himself so that He could have been more comfortable, safer, happier, more well-loved, and yet He didn’t. He stayed within the lines He had set down because that was the only way to enter into convincing, trustworthy relationship with us, His beloved children in need of His rescue from death. 

He had to show us how humans reach eternal life: through the sacraments and the kind of sacrificial love that leads to eternal life. To do so, He had to follow His own rules and not reach for escape that would have taken Him and us off the path to resurrection. 

For me and my program, eating that “just one more bite” would be my stepping outside of the parameters that lead me to health, wholeness, and holiness. Christ Incarnate shows me that, just because I can do something now, doesn’t mean doing so will lead to eternal joy.

I can embrace the imperfect.

Along the lines of changing rules to suit one’s comfort, Jesus had every opportunity to either make every earthly person, place, and thing around Him perfect—or to avoid living among us altogether. Again, He did neither of those things. He came among us first as a helpless unborn child, then as a little boy, reliant on the people around Him to care for him until He could do so Himself. 

One of the hallmarks of disordered eating is perfectionism. This manifests in what we demand of ourselves in terms of achievement and behavior. This also shows up for many of us as perfectionism about food. Some of us pour time and energy into chasing exotic tastes, obsessing over trying new restaurants, or having temper tantrums over food that isn’t “just right.” In His Incarnation, Jesus shows us that we don’t need people, places, and things to be perfect. We just need to show up to those places with those things, ready to show those people God’s unconditional love.

Choose relationships with people who support God’s grace. 

God did not choose just anyone to be His immediate or even extended family. When we think of the humanity of Jesus, it’s logical to think about the first person to participate in His Incarnation: Mary, conceived without sin. God also chose Joseph, a righteous man, to be His son’s example of grace-filled, earthly manhood. Jesus also had Elizabeth and Zechariah to give Him John the Baptist. Behind Mary were her saintly parents, Saints Anne and Joachim. Obviously, Jesus grew up to spend time with that rogues’ gallery of apostles, like Peter who denied Him, and Judas who betrayed Him. However, in His formative years, God made sure His son had the guidance, support, and example of people closest to Him who were already on His side.

Through my recovery process, I’ve come to realize that I used to spend a great deal of my time with folks whom I now call my “eating buddies.” Hanging out with the enablers included expectations of gluttony, which pre-recovery me was more than happy to accommodate. Now that I’m in recovery, I’ve had to make some tough choices about the people in my closest circle of support. I’ve had to step away from my “eating buddies” and cultivate a community of people that’s much more like the Holy Family—a family in which I can more peacefully be holy. 

So, sure, it’s well within my power to eat that “just one more bite.” Doing so might make me think for a split second that, at last, I’ve perfected the human eating experience. It might also make me feel a little less lonely because it will help me fit in with other people who are going through life convinced that comfort, not holiness, is the intended end of human experience. 

In my human flesh, I can remember how Christ’s human experience speaks to us through the story of His resurrection. That “just one more bite” might call to me and call very, very loudly. Thankfully for my recovery, God’s still, small voice is much, much stronger. 

Catholic in Recovery provides a rich spiritual foundation for your program to break free of disordered eating. Look under our “Find Healing” in the above menu for meetings and resources to help you experience your own resurrection.

Erin McCole Cupp, certified trauma recovery coach in training, is recovering from compulsive overeating, binge eating behaviors, and developmental and betrayal trauma. She writes and speaks about mental health and addiction recovery from a Catholic perspective. Check out her latest course “Real Food: Catholic Virtues for Permanent Weight Loss” at erinmccolecupp.podia.com.