Overcoming the Bondage of Overeating

For the longest time I have struggled to lose the same thirty pounds. It was easy for me to eat right when I was pregnant, and nursing, but as soon as I was done with that season of my life those good eating habits began to slip away and I began "making up for lost time" eating whatever I wanted whenever I got a craving. As soon as those habits took root,  practicing self-control in my eating became a real struggle. Like the Apostle Paul, I knew the good I ought to do--in my case eat in moderation, but I did the very thing I hated to do--eat without restraint. (Romans 7:15)

Then I found a great article from Family Life about conquering this area of weakness. It is jam packed with Biblical counsel on how to be an overcomer in  overeating. So if you can relate to my struggle, and crave to overcome the area of overeating, but need a little motivation to get started, read on and you will be empowered, as I was to discipline yourself in your eating so you can experience the freeing deliverance from unrestrained eating.

Is My Eating Sinful? 12 Words to Help you Decide
Learning the acrostic D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E-D will guide you to the answer.
by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Editor’s Note:  During the January 11 “FamilyLife Today” broadcast, “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat”, guest Elyse Fitzpatrick addressed the bondage women face with destructive eating habits. During their discussion, Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine offered a 12-point list to help you determine whether or not your eating is sinful from Ms. Fitzpatrick’s book, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat. The list is found below.

I have listed 12 questions you can ask yourself in order to determine whether your eating is sinful or not.  To help you remember these points, I’ve developed the acrostic “D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E-D Eating.”  You’ll want to memorize this acrostic so that you can get in the habit of thinking about it regularly.

As you consider the following, some of the answers will be obvious. Others will take some time and careful thought.  Stop now and prayerfully ask God to help you as you think about how to make your eating habits more pleasing to Him.

1.  Doubt:  Do I doubt (for whatever reason) that I can eat this food without sinning?  Once again, it may not be sinful for you to eat a brownie per se, but if you believe that it is sin for you to do so, you must not do it.  Now, you can seek to grow in your understanding of Scripture and strengthen your conscience, but until you can sincerely say, “This isn’t sinful for me any longer,” you had better abstain. The apostle Paul affirms this in Romans 14:23, where he said, “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”

2.  Idolatry: Does eating this particular food demonstrate a heart either of independence—“I can do whatever I want”—or a heart longing for pleasure—“I know that I don’t need this for my sustenance, but I love the feeling of the sweet coldness”?  It is important to ask yourself whether you are eating because you’re hungry and you need nourishment or if you are eating for reasons that, ultimately, are idolatrous.  Let me remind you that an idol is anything (inherently good or evil) that draws your affections away from God.  You can judge whether you’re worshiping an idol if you are willing to sin (in any way) to serve it.  You can also judge whether you are worshiping an idol by observing the streams that flow from your life when you are pursuing your desire.  For instance, if you are damaging your health or acting in ungodly ways (such as spending too much money, being irritable or unkind, seeking your own will), then you are probably serving another god. Remember that the first and foremost command of all is, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

3.  Stumble: If I eat this, will it cause a weaker Christian to stumble?  For instance, if I know that my friend will go on a binge or compromise her beliefs if I give her a piece of candy, or even eat one in front of her, then I should not do so.  It’s not that you should have an oversensitive conscience, saying that a piece of candy is sinful for you. No, the sin would come from the fact that you don’t love your sister enough to forgo what, for you, is legitimate so that she won’t sin.  “It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles” (Romans 14:21).

4.  Coveting: Am I eating this just because I saw someone else with it and I’m coveting it?  This is one place where TV commercials—especially those for fast food—cause many people to sin.  These commercials are written expressly to cause you to covet what you see someone eating.  Don’t forget—your eyes are a powerful channel for temptation.  Observe the way that Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6, emphasis added).  She saw the fruit; she thought it looked good; she ate it.  Satan is still operating in the same way today.  The media is a convenient tool for stirring up discontent with our own circumstances.  Discontent springs out of a heart that is coveting what someone else has.  Scripture, however, says, “You shall not covet … anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

5.  Inroad: If I eat this, will it create an inroad for sin?  For instance, I know that whenever I eat chocolate it opens a door for me to desire more and more and I end up eating a lot of candy over a number of days—much more than I should for good health.  Chocolate also contains caffeine, which I've eliminated from my diet.  So, because of my weakness in this area, and for the sake of better health, it is best if I abstain from chocolate altogether.  Since there is no command to eat chocolate, and I don’t have to have it to maintain health or to demonstrate thankfulness for God’s provision, I can abstain in good conscience.
Here are some additional scenarios: Is there any particular restaurant that you frequent where you spend more money than is prudent, eat too much food, or where you are usually very demanding with the staff?  If you make that bowl of popcorn, will you then sit down in front of the television and waste time?  If you eat one chip, will it create a desire in you to overindulge in chips or other salty, oily foods?  Even if it isn’t sinful for you to eat a particular food, or even if that food is not prohibited by your diet, you shouldn’t eat it if it is a door to other sins.  Rather, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

6.  Praise: Can I eat this food with thanks and gratitude?  Is my heart overflowing with songs of praise to Him?  Can I eat this with a truly thankful heart, or will I be eating in the face of God, with an attitude that says, “I’m going to eat this even though I know that it’s wrong!  I don’t care about You and Your commands!  You aren’t giving me what I want, so I’ll just eat this (or starve myself).”  If you are unable to sincerely thank God for what you are about to eat, then you shouldn’t eat it.

On the other hand, we must not exercise such scruples that we turn our noses up at what God has called “good”—the food that He has created.  God’s creation is to be used and enjoyed by His children, and when we receive it with thankful prayer and with minds that are informed by Scripture, He blesses it to us and nourishes us by it.  Consider how the psalmist describes the Lord’s delight in giving you food to eat: “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).  This is a particularly important point for those who look at food as being bad or evil. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude” (1 Timothy 4:4).

7.  Life: Would eating this food harm my health in any way?  For instance, eating prime rib when I have high cholesterol; eating too much sugar if I have blood sugar problems (i.e., hypoglycemia or diabetes); eating high-calorie food or too much low-calorie food even though I am obese; and starving myself, abusing laxatives, or over-exercising are all practices that will lessen my strength to do God’s work and will decrease the quality of my life.

God holds your life’s span in His hand, but you must not be presumptuous with Him and say, “Oh well, God will take care of me.”  It is true that God cares for His children, but He also gives you intelligence that you must use as well.  Each person must eat what, for him or her, is a healthy diet.  For some, this might mean frequenting the health food store and taking herbs and eating all-natural food.  For others, this might mean being more careful about avoiding foods high in fat or calories, or adhering to eating nutritionally balanced diets.  The decision is yours, and you just want to make sure that you’re not compromising your personal belief system or conscience.  Remember, God has given you a grave responsibility to care for your body; for you to do otherwise is sinful.  “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13 KJV).

8.  Illustrate: Am I modeling good eating habits for others and encouraging them to be self-disciplined, or do I encourage others to self-indulge?  Am I illustrating what it means to be a temperate, joyful, free believer?  What kinds of behaviors am I teaching my fellow family members?  Do I tell them to serve God with all their heart and then show them that I serve food instead?  People are watching, and although it’s wrong to impress others so that they will think you’re great, it’s not wrong to be careful about maintaining a godly lifestyle for the sake of our witness to others; “…show yourself an illustration of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12).

9.  No: Am I able to say no to this even if I know that I can eat it without sin?  From time to time it’s beneficial just to say no to your desires even if you are physically hungry for some particular food.  This is one place where proper fasting comes in.  I must keep reminding myself that satisfying every whim of my body is self-serving, even if I do have Christian liberty. I relish my liberty in Christ, but I must keep my bodily desires in submission to my heart’s desire to please God.  “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

10.  Emotions: Does the desire to eat this flow out of a heart of anger, fear, frustration, or depression?  Anger says, “I’ll show you … I’ll eat this candy bar and you’ll be sorry!”  Fear says, “I may never have the opportunity to eat this again!” or “I might not be strong enough to do everything I have to do.”  Frustration says, “I worked hard today and I deserve this!”  And depression says, “I’m so bummed out, I’m just going to eat this—who cares anyway?”  If you give in to the desire to eat because you are sinfully angry, fearful, worried, frustrated, or depressed, that sin will end up taking mastery of you.  “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).

11.  Distract: Will preparing or eating this food distract me from something better that God has for me to do?  For instance, would I do better by ministering to the Lord or my guests rather than spending excessive amounts of time cooking some elaborate meal and being frustrated that others aren’t as impressed about my cooking as I am?  (Does it really matter if the gravy is lumpy?  Will anyone remember that you spent hours cooking, or will they remember that you loved them and spent time ministering to them in conversation, prayer, and fellowship?) Will I sin by going out to lunch and being more concerned that the waiter gets my order right and then so relishing the eating of the food that I ignore the fact that there is someone across the table to whom I could minister?

I’m sure you know about Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary.  Martha had a problem with distraction.  She was busy preparing a meal for Jesus, who was their guest, and she was frustrated that Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet rather than helping her.  She complained to the Lord and He put the whole thing in perspective: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so may things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

12.  Enslaved: Does it bring me under any kind of bondage?  For instance, caffeine has a powerfully enslaving effect and you may need to question whether it is right for you to bring yourself under its bondage.  What would happen to your Christian witness if you didn’t get your shot in the morning?  Would you continue to be filled with thanksgiving and praise?  There are other things that can enslave us, such as donuts every morning or popcorn every night.  In fact, almost anything can enslave us.  If we find that we just have to have such-and-such every day, that would be a good time to practice abstinence until you know that you have mastered this desire.  If you practice habits of bulimia, you must ask yourself whether this food is something that has habitually led to a binge.  If you battle anorexia, you will need to ask whether eating this will entice you to starve yourself or over-exercise tomorrow.  You may have the Christian liberty to eat this food, but is it profitable?  Will you be mastered by it?  “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

You may be thinking there’s no way that you’ll be able to remember all these words.  But if you ask for God’s help and start right now, you can do it.  Start now by writing out the letters D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E-D Eating and see how many you can guess correctly.

With consistent effort, in little time I’m sure you’ll be able to remember the words.  Once you remember the words, you could also memorize the Scripture verses that accompany each one.  Then, when you are tempted to eat sinfully, you can fight the temptation with Scripture, just as Jesus did.

Taken from Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Used with permission.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Copyright © 2013 Brooke Espinoza.



42 comments:

  1. Great post and so much to think about. I have struggled with this honestly since as young as I can remember. (PS thanks for linking up at Motivating Mondays at CEO of Me!)

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    1. Thanks, Misty! I pray this helps you in your struggle as it continues to help me. God bless you mightily!

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  2. Wonderful! Thank you for your thoughtful post.

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    1. Thanks, Helene! Glad you enjoyed this. God bless you abundantly!

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  3. As someone who has struggled with overeating, I think this blog post can be particularly helpful for those who don't realize that their over/under eating is tied to a deeper spiritual/mental level.

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    1. Thanks, Jen! I totally agree, "this blog post can be particularly helpful for those who don't realize that their over/under eating is tied to a deeper spiritual/mental level." For me I think fear drives some of my overeating. Like when I'm at a restaurant and I know what I should choose and fear says, "But if you choose that you'll miss out on eating what you really wanted to eat." So then, for me it becomes a choice between self-control and self-indulgence. When that happens I resort to my go-to verses for victorious living.

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  4. Wonderful post, gave me a lot to think about as I work on becoming healthier, thank you!

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    1. Thanks, April! Glad this blessed you! God bless you richly!

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  5. Great and important questions.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

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    1. Thanks, Glenda! Glad you enjoyed them! God bless you lots!

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  6. Great post! This will be an encouragement to many women! Thanks for linking it up this week.

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    1. Thanks, Kate! That's my prayer! God bless you mightily!

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  7. The book is awesome isn't it? VERY conficting.
    Elyse Fitzpatrick has written so many great resources.
    Hopping in from Hip Homeschool.

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    1. Yes, Betsy! It is awesome! And I agree, "VERY convicting." Glad you stopped by! God bless you richly!

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  8. I read this a long time ago. Should find my copy and reread...

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    1. Sennie, I'm like you--I enjoy reading books that I've gotten a lot out of in the past. It's good to be refreshed. God bless you abundantly!

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  9. So much to ponder in this post - self control, in every area of my life, has been a weak spot. Thank you for making me think... (sigh).

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    1. Lori, I can totally relate. Growing in discipline regarding my weak areas is my overall goal this year. God bless you lots!

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  10. Wow! What an amazing article and such a different perspective. I had the distinct impression several years ago that drinking diet, caffeinated, carbonated drinks would impede my ability to hear Heavenly Father's voice. When I slip and drink it anyway, I feel the weight of my "transgression." Even though there isn't a commandment about not drinking Diet Dr. Pepper, I still know that it isn't a good fit for me. I LOVED that first section that said, "Until you can sincerely say 'this isn't a sin for me any longer,' then you must abstain!" What a totally different way to be accountable. And what a completely different way to think about food. The entire list is awesome. Thank you SO much for sharing this.

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    1. Thanks, Haunani! So glad this blessed you! I got so much out of this article, too--and her book, Love to, Hate to Eat. God bless you richly!

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  11. Hi Brooke, great post here. I will definitely be looking that book up. I am so tired of the constant 'food' issues in my life. I don't want it to dictate to my life anymore!!! Thanks for linking this post up with Winsome Wednesday. Look forward to seeing you there again next week!
    God bless
    Tracy

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    1. Thanks, Tracy! I know just how you feel: " I am so tired of the constant 'food' issues in my life." You'll enjoy the book. I got so much out of it! It's one of those books that I read with a highlighter in hand. :) God bless you much!

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  12. This is a great post! I struggle in this area myself. I'm bookmarking this post so I can come back to it! I may have to look into getting that book as well. Thank you for linking up on my blog today!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! So glad it blessed you! I'm really enjoying your blog. God bless you richly!

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  13. Thanks Brooke! There is a pan of peanut butter cookie bars in the kitchen that draw me to it when I walk by. DISCIPLINE! Have a lovely day!!

    Neighbors About Town Blog

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    1. You're so welcome! Oh I would be drawn to those peanut butter cookie bars, too! As you discipline yourself to avoid temptation (if that is a trigger food for you) just know you're growing in self-control a beautiful fruit of the Spirit. When I feel tempted, I know my only way to not give in is to be like Joseph in Genesis when Potiphar's wife cornered him and tried to seduce him. Joseph fled and didn't look back. A great way to respond to temptation. God bless you abundantly!

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  14. Brooke, this is such a great post! I love the DISCIPLINED Eating acrostic. Because of food and chemical sensitivities, I'm extremely limited as to what I can eat. Because of that, I don't really struggle with my weight, but I DO struggle with allowing the few foods I CAN eat to become an idol... Thanks so much for sharing this!
    Blessings to you ~ Mary

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    1. Thanks, Mary! I loved this acrostic, too! Glad this was a help to you! God bless you mightily!

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  15. Great article! I would love for you to share it on my blog...I have a link up every Thursday called Thriving Thursdays

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    1. Thanks, Crystal! I linked it up yesterday (#12--had a problem with my pic), but feel free to share my post on your blog, too if the Lord leads. God bless you richly!

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    2. lol...yeah, I was going through the posts today (I usually try to visit/read through on saturdays), and realized that. Thanks for sharing!

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  16. I heard a few minutes of this broadcast and meant to look it up. And of course, forgot! Thanks for sharing, I feel like it was just for me. =)

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    1. Jenni, what a blessing! I'm so glad the Lord used this mightily to minister to your heart and bless you! I love when I read something that ministers to me and like you said, "I feel like it was just for me." That's the best! God bless you richly!

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  17. I need to listen to this broadcast and add this book to my Goodreads list. This sounds right up my alley right now. I am so struggling with my weight. I recognize that I am filling myself up with the wrong things. Thanks for sharing this at the Prairies Brooke. I appreciate it.

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    1. Michelle, I'm so glad this blessed you. God bless you richly as you seek to overcome this struggle in your life. Remember you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13), and that includes achieving victory in this area of your life. You can do it!

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  18. I've struggled with this for a long time. The biggest key that is helping me overcome it is learning to listen to my body. God created our bodies to tell us when to eat and when to stop, as well as what to eat and what to avoid. I do think we also need to come to a point where we recognize food is neither morally good or bad. It's fuel for our bodies. For myself, when I stopped labeling food that way, it took away the power I was giving it to make me feel guilty or self-righteous, depending on my choice. Interesting post!

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    1. Thanks, Andrea! Glad you enjoyed this. I agree, it's important to listen to our body regarding when and what to eat. You're right, "Food is neither morally good or bad. It's fuel for our bodies." Makes me think of what Paul said, "“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor. 6:12) Though he wasn't referencing eating here, I can still see how this verse could apply to eating. I can eat whatever I wish to eat, but just because I can, doesn't mean everything I could eat is beneficial. So happy for you that God has delivered you from feeling "guilty or self-righteous, depending on my choice." God bless you abundantly!

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  19. Lots of good advice. It should be helpful to many who have this problem. Some of us probably have it and won't even admit it. Thank you for sharing.
    Blessings,
    Charlotte

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    1. Thanks, Charlotte! So glad you enjoyed this. God bless you richly!

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    1. Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it. God bless you lots!

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Thank you for taking the time to share. May God bless you richly!