\What Many Emotional Eaters Are Missing

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

A Letter to Mom – Please Don’t Use That Word

Dear Mom:

As we sat having breakfast you said, “I want you to go home. I’m fine. You have been here 4 days.Your family needs you, and I am not going to be a burden to you or any of my children.”

Ugh, that “b” word. Burden.  Mom, you are not and never have been a burden.

You know what is a burden? NOT being with you every minute of every day right now is a huge burden on my heart. To know you are sitting in your living room, knitting or doing puzzles, by yourself, with the cancer tumors growing daily, breaks my heart.

As I push the grocery cart through the store, I remember the grocery store you took me to when we lived in upstate New York. They had a little café where you’d buy me a powder doughnut and grape soda. It was such a treat…what a sweet memory. Then I’m snapped back to the present, and I visualize you by yourself, your tumors hurting you, and I cry.

When I’m pumping gas, I remember the big white Chevy station wagon we had when I was 5.  Then, I look back at my own car, snap back to the present day, visualize you by yourself, and I cry.

How can I let these days go by and NOT be with you. Each second is so very precious…

Being with you is not a burden—it has always been a privilege and a joy.

You see mom, I love you so very much, and I’m going to miss you.

You want to know what “b” words you are?

You are a blessing and you are brave.

You bless others with your servant’s heart and your sweet demeanor. In what would be your last visit with your head and neck oncologist, you took him homemade bread. You had promised him you would bring him some, and although the first batch didn’t work, you were determined to make another.  As you walked in that office, one hand gripping the gift bag, your other hand gripping  my arm, my eyes filled with tears. What a bitter sweet moment.

When your Hospice nurse was visiting last week, two other Hospice employees called, rather than get annoyed, you thanked them profusely for calling and told them how you looked forward to their visit.  With your stomach hurting, several tumors being aggravated by the simple act of sitting, you were polite, humble, and friendly. (I was annoyed–they knew you had someone visiting form their office, why did everyone have to call right then and there??!) What a blessing to have such a positive outlook amidst so much pain and suffering. You bless us with the lessons of love and patience you continue to teach us.

This past Christmas you knew would be your last, and you wanted to host it at your house. You decorated, you cooked, you smiled, and you laughed the whole day. But I saw you doubled over and holding your stomach when you thought no one was looking.  We gave you extra long hugs that day because we all knew it would be the last “Merry Christmas” we’d say.

You were so very brave that day.

When you had your first surgery, we knew it was ground breaking, but it wasn’t until a follow-up visit, that we found out you were only the second person in the world to have this surgery. Dr. Z asked if he could film you with his iPhone. You were so sweet on that…I teared up because you were so sweet and innocent. I wondered at what medical meeting he would show this, and would the audience know just what a brave, sweet, dear mother and wife you had been?

And you were brave through every appointment, scan, surgery, and consultation. With every doctor’s visit, each test result, each procedure, you said, “God has His plan for my life, and if this is His plan, He’ll take care of it. I’m not afraid to die and be with Him.”

The doctors didn’t know how to respond—how do they respond to someone with such incredible faith?

And your faith is the GREATEST gift you have given us. You always told me that no matter what happened, God had a perfect and good plan. And even now your strong belief in God carries you forward. Your Bible is always with you near the couch or near  your bed. Each night you read and study it. When I come in to give you a good-night kiss and you are sitting there, your small body on that big bed, with your Bible open on your lap, I want to freeze time, I want to cry, I want to scream out to God.

You are such a blessing, why does God have to take you now?  I’m not ready? Where did life go?

You bless me with stories. You give me small things you want me to have – a figurine, a bracelet, a Christmas ornament. I hang onto every word as you tell me the story behind each. You lovingly wrap things up and tell me to give it to my children. I write down each story and pack it with the item. I want to hold onto every moment of your life.

How did those moments pass so quickly? Why didn’t I appreciate them more?

Mom, one last favor before you are called home to Jesus, please don’t use the “b” word – burden—again.

You blessed us in so many ways…

Love you always.