Women’s fitness magazines flood the Facebook newsfeed with tips for tightening the abs, toning biceps, and getting a killer back side. The weight loss testimonies energize those struggling to live healthier so we won't go through another year of our lives categorized as overweight or obese.
There are monitors to log our heart rate, count our footsteps, and track calories burned—every minute of every day, we can be tuned in to key pieces of information that help us determine calories expended.
So, with all of this information available to us why are so many of us still overweight?
Afterall, it’s really just math, isn’t it—calories in exceeds calories burned? So, if we just do more time on the treadmill, swim more laps, and increase dumb bell reps, we’ll burn more off than we take in. It’s that simple, isn’t it?
For those of us who struggle with weight despite the bicep curls and Zumba class, it’s deeper than the calories in vs. calories expended equation, because despite our best efforts, our eating always puts a heavier emphasis on the calories in part of the equation. It’s about the WHY we tend to take in more calories—some days FAR, FAR too many calories.
It’s called emotional eating. Many of us struggling with our weight overeat because we seek solace, calm, or control by eating. We are relying on food to fulfill an emotional void. Some emotional eaters have been told most of their life that they are fat (although they really are not), and they are just living up to the label.
The Typical “How to Cure Emotional Eating” Advice
“Experts” advise emotional eaters to overcome their behavior by keeping a journal of eating habits. Then, we’re directed to look at the journaled information and analyze it for emotional triggers and behavior patterns.
Another suggestion for curing emotional eating is to find alternatives to food that you can turn to for emotional fulfillment. This is akin to asking an alcoholic to simply replace the liquor with water. Food, for emotional eaters, is a drug. There are deep-seeded emotional causes and simply advising an emotional eater to find an alternative to fulfill the emotional problem is useless advice. Emotional eating has an emotional weakness behind it.
Why The Typcial Emotional Eating Advice Doesn’t Work
Despite keeping a food journal and taking long walks to fend off eating, the emotional eating continues.
Why? Because with both suggested “therapies” we are placing the burden of curing the problem right back on ourselves.
Rather than turning inward and trying to resolve this ourselves, we should cast the burden of emotional eating on God—He is all we need.
“Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
More Effective Stategies
- In place of a food journal keep a prayer journal. I caution against a detailed food journal, because you are going to slip up. There are going to be days when you slide back into a binge, having to write that in a journal or skipping that day in the journal will make you feel like a failure.
By keeping a prayer journal, you are focusing on the the positive–your relationship with God and total reliance on Him. There is no failure in that.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." John 10:10
God wants to wipe away the emtions that are stealing your joy so that you may live unencumbered by the pain that drives you to overeat. He wants you to be able to enjoy the people in your life. He wants you to be able to play tag or enjoy a pick-up game of kickball with your kids.
There is a pain or burden that is the root of the emotional eating, be on your knees in prayer to recognize the emotions, thoughts, experiences that are keeping you from loving yourself enough to treat your body respectfully.
- Find pieces of scripture that remind you of the strength He provides and write them on prayer cards you can keep in your pocket. When you find yourself wanting to eat out of an emotional need, stop, read the scripture, and pray.
He is on whom we must rely to walk us through this struggle of emotional eating and the underlying cause—be it fear, loneliness, anxiety, emotional abuse, physical abuse…
Truly, what we need to overcome the cause of our emotional eating is peace in our hearts which only He can provide. There is a pain, an emotion, a years-long pattern that needs healing.
Come to truly realize that it is okay to love yourself to see yourself as a good person, deserving of a healthy body.
Whatever is keeping you from treating your body well, it’s time to give it to God.
In Ephesians 2:10 it says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
God planned you and He wants us to be happy. We are His works and He put us here for good things—this He had planned well before we arrived here. Rejoice in that—you were wanted here, you have a good purpose. Trust in His plan for you.
So, love the person He has made in you. Release what is keeping you from loving yourself enough to treat yourself well. You deserve to be able to play kickball in the back yard with your children or enjoy a family hike on the weekend…and you can achieve the level of physical health and fitness to do these activities.
“You will keep in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever.” Isaiah 26: 3-4
As we read the weight loss sites, blogs, magazines and view videos, it can be difficult to remember that while those are good tools for physically caring for your body, there is the underlying emotional and spiritual health that requires a total reliance on God.
The exercising, the healthy recipes, and the FitBit are all tools for helping you reach the physical fitness goals, but we first need to be at peace with our past, who we are now, and who God made us to be.
We find that peace only by relying on God for strength, mercy, and grace.
"In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8