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Emotional Eating

You are a spirit. You have a soul (your mind and emotions). And you live in a body. To access the abundant life that Jesus promised us, we have to take care of all three of these areas. Just like the Holy Trinity consist of three different persons yet is one in the same God, you too are a trinity since you’re made in His image. God has emotions and we do too. Life isn’t fair or easy, and at times, life really hurts. Yet we often ignore the needs of our souls. I have a story and I know you do too.

Being raised by a Vietnam vet wasn’t easy. Watching my mom work multiple jobs just to put food on the table when I was young wasn’t easy. Feeling discarded and unimportant most of my childhood wasn’t easy. Working full time while attending college wasn’t easy. Experiencing my heart breaking during relationship breakups wasn’t easy. Dating an emotionally and physically abusive man wasn’t easy. Learning how to overcome an under active thyroid wasn’t easy. Raising babies and working simultaneously wasn’t easy. Surviving a marriage crisis when I was pregnant with baby number 3 wasn’t easy. Burying my father-in-law way too early wasn’t easy. Having to give up running because of a physical injury wasn’t easy. Being wronged by those that I love wasn’t easy. Accepting that I can not fix all my relationships wasn’t easy. Watching my kids fail and being unable to stop it from happening wasn’t easy.

What’s your story? Have you even taken the time to think about it? We all have a story. All of us are broken and beloved individuals. I imagine the world you live in is quick to point out your brokenness. Does your soul know you are beloved by God? Don’t be too quick to answer. Your emotions and reactions are likely to reveal what your soul truly believes. What is the state of your soul? Or another way of stating that question is… What is the state of your heart?

Emotional Eating can be defined a lot of ways. No matter how you define it, if you’re eating and you’re not hungry…. then you’re partaking in emotional eating.

Since the beginning of time, food has been used as more than just a source of nutrition. Food is used to celebrate special occasions, comfort in times of grief, provide a way to share within a community, and express love and affection. (Not to brag….. BUT I make a mean sugar cookie…. and a celebration is NOT a celebration in my book without some of my fabulous sugar cookies.) None of these things are wrong, but all of these things can get out of control if we allow ourselves to eat our emotions.

Get to the Heart of It

For us Americans, food is far from scarce. Hence, we often use food to meet our emotional needs as much as our physical needs. This has become such a bad habit! Unfortunately, many can’t even recognize that it isn’t food they are craving. Many are actually hungry…possibly even starving for God. Spiritually speaking, there is a hunger for God that is often not recognized for what it is. It may be an empty feeling, rejection, hurt, inability to control a situation, confusion, shame, guilt, a sense of longing, even loneliness in the midst of people. We start looking for ways to make the feelings go away. In a sense, we begin to look for food that will fill the hole or mask the pangs of hunger within.

What is the Difference Between Physical and Emotional Hunger?

Physical Hunger

  • Comes on gradually

  • Can be satisfied by any number of foods

  • Once you are full, you are likely to stop eating

  • Doesn’t cause feelings of guilt

Emotional Hunger

  • Feels sudden and urgent

  • Causes very specific cravings

  • More likely to eat beyond a feeling of physical fullness

  • Likely to result in feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment afterwards

Are You an Emotional Eating?

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?

  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?

  • Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?

  • Do you reward yourself with food?

  • Do you regularly eat until you are uncomfortable?

  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

When you catch yourself eating when you're not hungry or giving into a binge, spend some time with God in reflection so together you can figure out why it happened. I often find myself telling my clients, this isn't really a nutrition problem… it's a heart problem. Don’t make the mistake of filling up on food when you really need to be filling up on God, His word, His truths, His strength, His Spirit, and His power.

Hope is to our soul what energy is to our body. Just like our bodies must have energy to keep going, our souls must have hope to keep going. “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 Sometimes we simply make the mistake of feeding our bodies instead of our souls. To put it differently, it’s not our bodies that are starving and that need to be filled, but our souls.

Trusting God with your feelings is an act of worship. God can handle your emotions. He gave them to you, after all. He can handle your anger, doubt, fear, shame, questions, grief, and even your complaints. Be honest. Tell God exactly how you feel. The right response to unexplained tragedy is not “grin and bear it” but honestly telling God your struggle. Lamentations 2:19 says, “Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.”

And when you don’t know what to pray, remember… And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:26-28)

The valleys in life are dark places and many of us turn to food when we need to be turning to God. Have life’s difficulties caught you off guard? Do you wonder if God is good? Are you puzzled over how a frustrating, hurtful, or shocking event could possibly contribute to anything good? Though you may not see the good yet (or ever in this life), keep your eyes on God. If He weren’t going to use that situation for your good, it wouldn’t have happened. He has to sign off on every single thing that touches your life. That’s not to say He wanted it—God is not the cause of evil, but He is the solution.

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