Frustrated, stressed, and frankly, not wanting to deal with the problem at hand, I grabbed the bag of chips and started munching away in hopes to feel better about the difficult situation that had just arose.
Twenty minutes later, the chip bag is empty and now I feel guilty for eating a snack I didn’t need or enjoy—and the emotions I started with are still unresolved on top of all that!
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?
It’s likely we have all been there—knowing what we should do, but actually doing the opposite because our emotional response ruled the moment.
Why do you eat? It is no secret that God created humans to need consistent fuel, which of course, comes from the wonderful variety of food God created for us to eat each day. God created the perfect foods that contain all the good nutrition we need to promote good health (see Genesis 1:29). God even cared so much that He gave us taste buds to enjoy all of the tasty foods He made! Wow, what care He has for us!
Sadly, many are using food for reasons other than fuel. Sometimes we find ourselves eating, not because we are physically hungry, but because we feel sad, lonely, anxious, angry, scared, happy, out of control, exhausted, or for other emotional reasons. This happens to everyone occasionally, but when it happens too often it can become a real problem and negatively affect our health.
The desire to commit to eat better is the first step toward living a healthier lifestyle. But not really knowing why you eat can create obstacles to achieving success in your health journey (and even your spiritual journey!).
The simplest rule is to be aware of why you are eating, and if it is not hunger then commit to getting to the bottom of those feelings.
Food is for fuel and nutrition, not to fill our emotional longings or quench or spiritual needs.
Do you ever find yourself eating for comfort? What about scanning the pantry because you are bored? Or just eating pizza and cake because everyone else at the party is eating pizza and cake?
Consider your eating patterns in the last few days. Can you remember any situations when you turned to food because you desired…
When we habitually turn to food to fulfill these needs, we tend to neglect going to God to fulfill them.
Strong emotions demand a response and trigger a need. That need can lead us to seek the Lord’s face or, regrettably, cause us to seek a less fulfilling, temporary substitute like food or otherwise.
Is it possible that God created our emotions for the very purpose of drawing us to seek Him, relate to Him, and worship Him?
What if we got in the habit of first thinking about our physical hunger level and our emotional state, then praying about our needs and choices, and then eat if we need food for fuel. However, if we determine it is not the food we need but the emotional fulfillment we crave, then we ought to seek God for how to best meet that specific need. After all, God is true love, joy, peace, comforter, care giver, and our lasting reward!
Eating out of habit or in response to an emotion rather than true physical hunger can derail the best of intentions when it comes to weight management.
Break the Cycle
Emotional eating can become a habit and move you away from the healthy choices you want to make. Emotions are a constant part of life.
Unlike defining life moments, daily things like stress, anger, worry, depression, tiredness, lack of sleep, and sometimes even happiness, can cause a response to eating in place of dealing with the negative emotion or enjoying the positive emotion. Let’s face it, most people typically don’t crave a salad or broccoli during a stressful situation. More commonly, you might crave chocolate or crunchy chips!
Cravings are often a response to highly emotional situations. If something can provide instant gratification, boost your mood or energy level - it meets a need - even though it is temporary.
This is commonly referred to as Emotional Eating. The cycle of emotional eating is something we have all experienced. It is very common in society as food is offered to us for practically every emotion, event, and social gathering that we have.
The good news is you can intercept this cycle and make strides toward better choices by identifying the triggers and implementing practical strategies for yourself. Here are some ideas to get you started using the acronym P.R.A.Y.
Here are a few additional strategies that can set you up for success!
- Place a sticky note on the pantry door and refrigerator door that reminds you to pray first
- Eat on a regular schedule so you do not allow yourself to become ravenous
- Journal about your feelings--write down your thoughts, emotions, and true needs
- Set a timer for 10 minutes to pray, wait, and make a rational plan
- Know what relaxes and recharges you, and spend time doing those things regularly
- Cherish and cultivate positive relationships
- Schedule quiet time daily to read the Bible and renew your mind
- Get adequate sleep each night
- Eat a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet to help manage food cravings
- Have healthy food choices front and center in the house
- Seek counsel from a trusted friend, pastor, or Medi-Share Health Coach for added support
Choose a few of the suggestions above to implement this week. Make the preparations necessary right now to set yourself up for success in this area. Next time an emotional eating episode begins, you will recognize it for what it is and use the P.R.A.Y. method to defeat it on the spot!
God’s Word teaches that when we are weak, He is strong! He loves us in our shortcomings and strengthens us with His power and strength in our time of need. Isaiah 40:29 says “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
With the Lord’s help, the chains of emotional eating can certainly be broken; so P.R.A.Y.!