How to Stop Overeating – God’s Way
Is your tongue writing checks that your body can’t cash? On yesterday, God led me to do a study on the scriptures about gluttony (overeating) and this is the unusual definition He gave me of it: “Overeating is the tongue writing checks that the body can’t cash.” That certainly makes me understand how this habit can bankrupt you in mind, body, and Spirit! In this article, I’ll show you how to stop it.
But first, let me explain why you should work to eliminate this habit as soon as possible. The reason comes from Proverbs 23:21:
“For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.”
Did you notice the scripture puts a person who habitually consumes too much alcohol and too much food in the same category? Both mean that the substance has more control over you than you have over it.
The scripture also explains why this is a serious issue. It says that both the glutton and the drunkard will come to poverty. Money is a God-given resource that takes care of our living expenses and helps to build up God’s kingdom. If your money is not managed wisely (and spending more than is needful on food and alcohol is unwise), then you have less money for giving to your church, charity, and investments that can grow wealth.
I once read that regular overeating costs the average family nearly $500 a year – about $42 a month. What if instead you were able to donate that money to your church, to hunger relief, your child’s college education, or financial vehicle? Many of us are eating our futures away – literally.
The second consequence of eating too much is that the scripture says that it makes you drowsy. That makes you unaware of what is going on around you – you can’t think with clarity and do just enough to get by. You aren’t able to be sober and vigilant as the scripture commands you (1 Peter 5:8) and so are wide open to the enemy’s attacks.
Proverbs 25:28 says, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls. In ancient times, enemy hordes frequently invaded cities, plundering its possessions and carrying the people off into slavery. Having a wall around the city was an essential part of ensuring the city’s protection. It was the first line of defense.
Unfortunately, many people are tearing down their own walls with poor health choices. Growing statistics of obesity and all the diseases that go with it like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and others is the evidence.
The scripture also says that drowsiness ends up clothing a man in rags. We assign little value to rags; they are typically used and thrown away. To me, your clothing speaks to the image you present to others. Do your character and habits show that you are the daughter or son of the Most High King?
Or do you appear as a beggar clothed in rags, lacking self-control, failing to keep your word, or doing just enough to get by rather than striving for excellence in all things to glorify God?
Remember: You cannot reign in life if you live unrestrained! Wisdom requires that you set boundaries as to the behavior you will or will not accept in yourself.
I’m going to introduce you to a word you may or may not have heard before: “Temperance.” It’s an old-fashioned word that means self-control or moderation. When you think of a climate that has temperate weather, pleasant images come to mind – clear skies and gentle breezes. There are no extremes of heat or cold. Such an environment is optimal to live in.
Concerning your spirit (lowercase ‘spirit’ typically means your mind, will, and emotions), you also want your thoughts to be temperate so that your outward habits are temperate. Whenever you do not submit your thoughts, will, and emotions to the obedience of Christ, you leave yourself vulnerable to temptations such as overeating.
Changing the overeating habit starts with a decision. Ask yourself, “Do I control this behavior or does it control me?”
An easy way to tell is to imagine giving up the habit of excess eating from this day forward. Did a feeling of deprivation come over you? If your feelings are neutral or indifferent to it, then you have control over the habit. If you can give up the habit without feeling deprived, then I ask you to eliminate it for the sake of others who may be watching you. This is especially true if you appear to be fit and healthy, but eat to excess when you are around friends or family.
They may get the false idea that you overeat all the time when you likely don’t.
However, if the vision of giving up the habit makes you feel deprived, uneasy, or fearful, then the habit controls you. You are in danger and need to give up the habit for your own sake. Compulsive overeating can cost you your health or even your life.
So a change of heart and mind is required. This is the attitude you need:
“I must change this habit. It is no longer acceptable to me. I must change it now. I am committed to changing, no matter how long it takes.”
Do you hear the resolve in this statement? It naturally leads to repentance. If you need help with in this area, then take it to the Lord in prayer.
After you’ve made the decision that you will no longer accept the behavior in yourself, then speak the previous words out loud with as much conviction as you can.
I mentioned that another word for temperance is moderation. When I read that word, I immediately thought about a moderator in a debate. Did you know that there is always a debate going on inside of you as to which choices you are going to make each day?
You as the moderator get to choose who wins each debate. Your actions show you which side won!
Here are the actions to take to ensure that you are eating only to satisfy your body’s needs and that the right side wins. The concept is called SANE eating. The acronym S.A.N.E stands for:
- Start when you are hungry
- Appreciate every bite
- No food is forbidden
- End when signaled
A word of warning before you start eating SANEly (in your right mind): When you practice eating with temperance (moderation), it is going to feel weird and wrong at the beginning. You will be amazed at how much you eat when your body is not hungry and how often you are tempted to eat past the signal point. However, the more you practice this in faith, it will start to feel normal and right. So stick with it until your change comes.
In addition, 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises you:
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
So be humble and ASK for God’s help in prayer when you are tempted to go back to your overeating behaviors and ask Him to show you the way of escape. He will do it as you wait upon him. Now for the SANE eating principles:
Start When You Are Hungry
You may not have allowed yourself to become physically hungry in a while, but eating to satisfy bodily hunger is the way God designed you.
Pause whenever you have the desire to eat. Place your hands on your stomach to tune in and ask, “Is my body hungry?” If the signal is coming from your tongue or your emotions (thoughts), then they are trying to write checks that your body can’t cash! You should not eat yet, otherwise you’ll have an overdraft.
Do the following instead:
Drink a glass of water, brush your teeth, or chew on a stick of sugarless gum. Make sure the gum has an intense flavor, such as mint or peppermint. Wait 10 minutes and then check again.
Do not merely sit during those 10 minutes; find another task to occupy your time. Preferably, the task should be a physical one, such as going for a walk, tidying up, or engaging in a hobby. The goal is to distract your mind (where the tempting thoughts are coming from) and get focused on your body.
After the 10 minutes is over, ask yourself the question again, “Is my body hungry?” By then, you should have either a definite “yes” or “no” answer.
For “no” answers, ask yourself another question, “Why then do I want to eat?” If it’s emotional eating, then take out a piece of paper and start writing a letter to the Lord about what is going on and asking for help. I think praying on paper is one of the most powerful tools you can use.
Another way to tell if your body is hungry is after placing your hands on your stomach, rate your hunger according to the following scale:
- 5 – I have no hunger pangs at all; in fact, I am full from a previous meal.
- 4 – I have no hunger pangs at all; I’m not full, but I am satisfied with the moderate amount of food in my stomach.
- 3 – My stomach feels vaguely uneasy. I have a little food in my stomach, and I could eat something.
- 2 – I feel hunger pangs; I have no food in my stomach. I definitely need to eat.
- 1 – I feel strong hunger pangs; I have a headache and I feel slightly nauseous. I can’t think straight; I want to eat everything in sight.
Your goal is balance —not to experience the severe hunger of level 1 and not to eat when you are at levels 4 and 5. If you allow yourself to get as low as a level 1, then your brain will not care what type of food you get as long as you eat. It thinks you are starving and will likely crave high fat, high sugar foods to raise your blood sugar level up as quickly as possible.
On the other hand, if you eat at levels 4 and 5, you will be giving your body food that it doesn’t need. Since it’s not needed, this food will likely be stored in your fat cells. Again, you are writing checks that your body can’t cash!
Ideally, you want to eat when your hunger level is either 2 or 3. At that level, your body does require food, plus you will have the presence of mind to make wise decisions as to what to eat. When you eat when you are hungry, your body can easily cash the check.
Appreciate every bite
Have you ever wolfed food down so fast that you didn’t even recall eating? Taking time to sit down and savor your food may seem like an indulgence, but it is an important component to your weight loss efforts. Here is why.
An area in our brain called the Appestat monitors our food intake and sends signals to indicate when we have had enough to eat. But the Appestat is a bit of a slowpoke; it takes 20 minutes of eating before registering satisfaction. Many of us hurriedly consume our meals within the space of 5-10 minutes. If your brain has not signaled that you have had enough, then it is quite possible for you to eat twice as much as your body really needs. So, you want to take time to enjoy your meals, silently thanking God for each bite, and giving the time to do its job.
Finally, you want to relax and make your mealtimes as stress-free as possible. If you are stressed, your body manufactures Cortisol. Among other functions, this hormone contributes to the storage of fat around your midsection. By taking time to savor your meals, you can help relieve stress and prevent this mechanism from taking hold. In addition, you will get more pleasure out of your meals, so you will be satisfied with eating less.
No foods are forbidden
This guideline might surprise you if you are accustomed to restrictive eating. You can have any food you want.
Having said this, a smart strategy would be to become educated on the effects that certain foods have on your body. Some foods have a positive effect and will lean your body down and some foods will have a destructive one and make it more likely that you will store fat.
Since your body constantly remakes itself based on your food intake, the beverages you drink, and the movements you make, you want to consider your choices carefully. If you want to build a high quality body, you must give it high quality building materials.
While you won’t “forbid” yourself to have certain foods, realize that some foods will slow down your weight loss goal and make it harder for you to make healthy choices. These foods are:
- White flour products
- White rice
These foods are simple carbohydrates, which mean that the body can break them down quickly into glucose (also known as sugar). When your body breaks down these foods, it releases the sugar into your bloodstream. The body produces insulin, a hormone that is designed to move sugar into your muscle cells where it can be burned as fuel, thus lowering blood sugar.
In some cases, the blood sugar is lowered rapidly. This causes a domino effect: With a lowered blood sugar, your body wants to bring you back into balance as quickly as possible. Food cravings are triggered. You crave foods that are high in fat and sugar. Your body sees this as a necessary measure, thinking it is in a crisis state and these foods will bring your blood sugar up quickly. The insulin that your body produced also encourages fat storage, so the extra food you consumed will likely be stored as fat. Your body’s health account is in “overdraft” status.
In addition to fostering weight gain, these types of foods make it more difficult to make wise choices. Your thinking becomes unfocused and you experience mood swings when your blood sugar fluctuates to extremes. This makes it more likely that you will make poor food selections.
A wise practice to adopt is paying attention to how you feel after you eat certain foods. Did your body like the food that you ate or not? Some clues that your body may not like a particular food are:
- You feel drugged, numb, or suffer from “brain fog”
- You feel bloated or nauseous
- You feel sluggish or sleepy
The food you eat should give you energy, not deplete it. If a food affects you in a negative way, start recording the reaction. This will give you a helpful guide so that you can start eating food that your whole body likes, not just your tongue. It will also assist you in deciding to limit foods that affect your body negatively. The best strategy would be to eat them only on rare occasions or to practice portion control when you do eat them.
End when signaled
When your body has had enough to eat, you experience a nice, pleasant feeling. You don’t have hunger pangs and you feel comfortable, but not full. On the hunger scale, you are at a level 4. This “signal point” can also be called the fat point because if you eat more than your body needs, what happens? Exceeding your body’s calorie needs for the day will cause the body to store the excess as fat, as mentioned earlier. Again, overdraft!
To ensure that you stop eating when signaled, you will need to pay attention while you are eating. That means when you are eating, you should only be eating, not multi-tasking with T.V. watching or reading a book.
Eat until the point when your body is no longer hungry. Three to four bites after that is usually the signal point for most people, but you will need to monitor yourself to discover your own point. When you reach it, stop eating. If you continue, you will go into overdraft. Take the attitude that you would rather store the extra food in a container and freeze it for later than store it on your body.
Now that you have the SANE eating principle, work on practicing it every day until it feels normal and right. Then you know that the habit has become automatic for you.
At the end of each day, evaluate yourself: “Did I eat temperately?” If so, you are on the right track. But if not, then discern what is causing you to stumble then adjust your approach the next day until you perform that step consistently.
Eating temperately seems like a small thing, but it isn’t. Remember, Satan used the temptation of food to usher sin into the world! So failing to take control of this “small” area can lead to big consequences. Jesus tells us in Luke 16:10: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”
Practice temperance in your eating and I believe it will strengthen your faith and your character so that you can experience more of the abundant life Jesus promised!
Be blessed in health, healing, and wholeness,
Author of the ‘Take Back Your Temple’ ebook
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