Christian Biblical Counsel: OVEREATING

Overeating

Freedom from Food Fixation

by June Hunt

Television commercials can be quite entertaining—and at the same time reflect a truth that we wish were not true. One long-running commercial series featured a brand of potato chips with the tag line, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” These commercials showed people in different situations tasting one chip, then somehow being prevented from having another. Oh, the agony! They would fidget, sweat, leap tall obstacles and tackle grocers just to get to the chips. And oh, the ecstasy when they invariably managed to finish off the whole bag!

The commercials reflect one aspect of real life, touching a characteristic we all share: When we find something we especially like, we want more! But when this normal desire becomes a compulsive drive—when the drive to eat becomes your slave master, it’s not funny any longer.

“A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”

(2 Peter 2:19)

I.     DEFINITIONS

The potato chip commercials were memorable for the clever ways they showed people losing all sense of proportion and self-control—they always ate the whole bag! For those caught in the grip of compulsive eating, the issue is not quality but quantity. If one scoop of ice cream is good, two are better … if two are better, then three are best! The same applies to drumsticks and doughnuts, biscuits and bonbons.

“It is not good to eat too much honey.”

(Proverbs 25:27)

A. What Is Compulsive Eating?

•     Compulsive eating is a seemingly irresistible impulse to eat.

•     Compulsive eating is uncontrolled eating that is based on satisfying emotional hunger rather than physical hunger.

•     This repeated act is an addiction that can result in physical disorders.

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”

(Proverbs 25:28)

B. What Is Gluttony?

•     Gluttony is excessive eating and drinking.

•     Gluttony typically results in obesity, a condition characterized by excessive body fat that is 20 % or more above recommended weight.

•     In Scripture, the term gluttony refers to a loss of control and a yielding to fleshly desires instead of yielding to God.

“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”

(Proverbs 23:20–21)

C. What Is a Binge?

•     Bingeing is a period of unrestrained indulgence.

—binge eating

—binge drinking

—binge shopping

•     Repeated bingeing can become an addictive behavioral pattern.

•     The Bible gives a warning for overindulgence.

“If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit.”

(Proverbs 25:16)

Q “Is compulsive eating a sin?”

Yes, compulsive eating indicates a lack of submission to God.

“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)

Q “Is there a difference between compulsive eating and other addictions such as smoking or drinking?”

No, the Bible places them in the same category.

“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Proverbs 23:20–21)

 

II.    CHARACTERISTICS OF A COMPULSIVE EATER

One humorous aspect of commercials is the way they not so subtly poke fun at our obsessions. We all know how ridiculous it would be for a professional football player to give up his starting position to some nondescript person in the stands in exchange for a bag of chips. But that is the nature of an obsession: It makes us act in unreasonable—even dangerous—ways. Do the following characteristics indicate you might be wrestling with an obsession?

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

(Proverbs 27:12)

A. The Compulsive Eater Checklist

□    Do you spend a lot of time thinking about food?

□    Do you look forward to an event because of the food that will be there?

□    Do you eat when you are sad, angry or depressed?

□    Do you eat when you are bored or under stress?

□    Do you eat certain foods as a personal reward?

□    Do you eat even when you are not hungry?

□    Do you ever feel ashamed of how much you eat?

□    Do you fear not being able to stop eating once you start?

□    Do you ever feel embarrassed about your personal appearance?

□    Do you ever eat secretly to avoid someone’s knowing what you eat?

□    Do you lose weight on diets, then gain the weight (and more) back again?

□    Do you feel you have to eat everything on your plate or you’re being wasteful?

□    Do you think you could control your weight if you really wanted to?

□    Do you resent it when family or friends express concern over your weight?

If you answered yes to three or more, you could be a compulsive eater!

If at times you feel frustrated over your eating extremes, let this Scripture motivate you.

“The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:18)

B. Symptoms That Result from Compulsive Overeating

Physical

—cycles of excessive eating and severe dieting

—chronic neck and joint pain

—high blood pressure

—diabetes

—kidney disorder

—heart disease

—limited range of motion and activity

—shortness of breath after mild exertion or exercise

—anorexia/bulimia

—gall bladder problems

Emotional

—low self-esteem

—anxiety

—shame

—irritability

—depression

—passivity

—guilt

—powerlessness

—anger

—hopelessness

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

(1 Corinthians 3:16–17)

Note:   If you are experiencing any of these   physical problems, be sure to consult your health care professional.

 

 

III.   CAUSES

In reality, no snack food can create an obsession. (Manufacturers only wish they could make that claim.) The causes for compulsive overeating are much more complex and deep-rooted. The compulsive eating of many people is based not on physical hunger, but on emotional hunger or a craving for the love and gratification they missed when they were growing up.

As you search for the truth about your past and now see the truth within your heart, honest answers can be the first step toward healing.

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”

(Psalm 51:6)

A. Situational Setups

•     Overweight parents (establishing poor eating patterns in childhood)

•     Overcoming other habits by self-will (substituting one bad habit for another, such as compensating for a loss by replacing smoking with eating)

•     Childbirth (gaining weight during pregnancy)

•     Mild depression (eating for emotional comfort)

•     Change to a less physically active lifestyle (changing jobs, retirement)

•     Specific drugs (taking antidepressants, steroids, hormones)

•     Underactive thyroid gland (decreasing production of fat burning hormones)

•     Hormonal changes with aging (Changing metabolism affects the rate the body burns fat.)

•     High caloric eating patterns (preferring fried foods, sweets, starches)

•     Protection from sexual attraction (fearing attention or fearing being attractive)

B. Root Cause of Compulsive Overeating

The attempt to meet one or more inner needs through eating

•     Unconditional love

 

eating   foods to feel nurtured

 

•     Significance

 

eating   foods to feel a sense of control

 

•     Security

 

eating   and hoarding food for fear for deprivation

 

The problem with using food to meet any of these inner needs is simple—it can’t be done! No thing or human being can meet your needs and satisfy the longings of your heart; only God can. When you allow Him to fill you—when you submit your life to Him—He gives you His power to have victory over your compulsive eating and to have joy in your life. Getting your habits under control may take a while, but today you can take the first step.… You can embrace the hope and freedom that God is offering you.

How to Experience God’s Hope and Freedom in Your Life

#1  God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.

—  What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To condemn you? No … to express His love for you by saving you!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)

—  What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To make everything perfect and to remove all sin? No … to forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life!

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

#2  Your Problem … is Sin.

—  What exactly is sin? Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)

—  What is the major consequence of sin? Spiritual death, spiritual separation from God.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

#3  God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.

—  Can anything remove the penalty for sin? Yes. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

—  What is the solution to being separated from God? Belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)

#4  Your Part … is Surrender.

—  Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of gaining God’s approval.

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)

—  Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26)

The moment you choose to believe in Him—entrusting your life to Christ—He gives you His Spirit to live inside you. Then the Spirit of Christ gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person He created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:

Prayer of Salvation

 

“God,   I want a real relationship with You. I admit that many times I’ve chosen to   go my own way instead of Your way. Please forgive me for my sins. Jesus,   thank You for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Come into my   life to be my Lord and my Savior. Through the power of Your Spirit, enable me   to have victory over my compulsive habits. Teach me to find my satisfaction   and fulfillment in You alone. Make me the person You created me to be.

In   Your holy name I pray. Amen.”

 

What Can You Expect Now?

If you sincerely prayed this prayer, look at how God says He will work in your life!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

(2 Corinthians 12:9)

With the Holy Spirit in your life, you can trust that even when you feel weak, you will have God’s supernatural power working in you and through you for His glory.

Wrong Belief:

“I can’t sustain enough willpower to resist the foods that give me pleasure.”

Right Belief:

The issue is not the power of my will, but the power of my God. Christ’s Spirit within me is able to change my focus from food to a faith that He will fulfill my deepest needs.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature [flesh] have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5)

 

IV.  STEPS TO SOLUTION

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

(1 Corinthians 10:31)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Daniel 1:8–21

Obedience to God Brings Physical and Spiritual Strength

•     Daniel made a commitment to obey God.

 

v. 8

 

•     God backed up Daniel’s resolve with   supernatural support.

 

v. 9

 

•     Daniel requested only vegetables and   water for his meals.

 

v. 12

 

•     Daniel became noticeably healthier and   better nourished.

 

v. 15

 

•     God blessed Daniel with great knowledge   and understanding.

 

v. 17

 

C. Fakes and Fads That Don’t Bring Lasting Results

•     acupuncture

 

•     reducing machines

 

•     diet pills

 

•     shots

 

•     fad diets

 

•     special clothing to melt fat calories

 

•     fasting

 

•     starvation

 

•     hypnotism

 

•     surgery

 

•     laxatives

 

•     vomiting

 

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

(Romans 12:2)

D. Do’s and Dont’s of Dieting

Don’t say, “I am dieting.”

Do … Say, “I’m learning to eat healthy foods.”

Don’t keep unhealthy food around you.

Do … Keep healthy food prepared for snacks.

Don’t weigh yourself every day.

Do … Record your weight once a week.

Don’t eat fast!

Do … Chew slowly.

Don’t reward yourself with food.

Do … Enjoy the rewards and blessings of the Lord.

Don’t eat at restaurants without planning.

Do … Predetermine the best foods to order when eating out.

Don’t keep your new plan a secret.

Do … Share with a friend or support group.

Don’t shop for groceries on impulse or when you are hungry.

Do … Shop with a prepared list.

Don’t get caught off guard by temptation.

Do … Have an alternate plan.

Do …  •    Read Scripture and take God at His Word.

•     Call a friend.

•     Read a book.

Don’t fail to set goals.

Do … Set a target weight and realistic, short-term, incremental goals.

Don’t start a new eating plan during a crisis, illness, holiday or high stress situations.

Do … Consult a doctor before beginning any new eating plan.

Don’t adopt a plan just because it worked for someone else.

Do … Adopt a personalized plan that will work for your individual lifestyle.

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

(Proverbs 22:3)

E. Think Thin!

Think of yourself as the person God created you to be.

•     God has given me a new nature in Jesus Christ.

•     God has given me all I need to live a self-controlled life.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)

Have the correct motive for losing weight.

•     I want to take good care of my physical body, the “temple of the Holy Spirit.”

•     I want to be free from the bondage of self-indulgence.

•     I want to be healthy and live the life God has planned for me.

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)

Identify the real reasons you overeat.

•     Am I responding to a lack of love … because of ?

•     Am I responding to feelings of insignificance … because of ?

•     Am I fearful and insecure … because of ?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)

Nail down a personal commitment to obey God.

•     Acknowledge your need for change.

•     Acknowledge that you are powerless to change.

•     Acknowledge God’s power in you to change.

•     Acknowledge His constant presence within you.

“If your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:17–18)

Know how to listen to the Lord.

•     Listen to God through His written Word.

•     Listen for His leading through the Holy Spirit.

•     Learn to identify Satan’s lies.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

Turn your focus to things you should eat.

•     Develop a knowledge of good nutrition.

•     Choose to eat healthy foods.

•     Don’t give up if you blow it.

“Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” (Romans 14:20)

Have an exercise plan that will increase your metabolism. Vary the plan.

•     Walk for 30 minutes a day four or five times a week.

•     Ride a bicycle 30 minutes a day.

•     Do aerobics for 30 minutes, three days a week.

•     Walk up the stairs instead of using an elevator.

•     Make a commitment to join athletic activities with friends.

“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” (Proverbs 15:32)

Initiate a daily journal.

•     Keep a small notebook with you.

•     Choose a Scripture to think about and memorize daily or weekly.

•     Write down when and what you eat with its caloric or fat value.

•     Record your thoughts and feelings.

“A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.” (Proverbs 21:29)

Nurture your relationship with God.

•     Pray throughout the day that your choices will reflect the self-control of Christ.

•     Meditate on specific Scriptures (especially those about self-control).

•     Ask God to remind you of His protection and power over temptation.

•     Thank God for His faithfulness to you.

•     Know that God never gives up on you. (If you blow it—start again!) God is faithful!

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

F.  Success Is Just a Choice Away

“Now choose life, so that you … may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.”

(Deuteronomy 30:19–20)

I Choose …

to give control of my life to the Lord Jesus Christ

to change my eating through the power of Christ within me

to live to please God, not to please my appetite

to make wise choices when tempted to eat unwisely

to make right choices when tempted to eat excessively

to glorify God and reflect Him through my body

to focus not on food but on faithfulness to the Lord in my life

to let God be my God—not to let food be my God

Although I’ve failed in the past, with God’s help I don’t have to fail in the future!

There is only one God; therefore, if   food is your god, God can’t be your God.

—June Hunt

 

selected bibliography

Perkins, Bill. Fatal Attractions: Overcoming Our Secret Addictions (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1991).

Coyle, Neva, and Marie Chapian. The All-New Free to Be Thin. Rev. ed. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1993.

Gregory L. Jantz, Hope, Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A New Approach to Treating Anorexia, Bulimia, & Overeating (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1995).

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Minirth, Frank, Paul Meier, Robert Hemfelt, and Sharon Sneed. Love Hunger. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.

Vath, Raymond E. Counseling Those with Eating Disorders. Resources for Christian Counseling, ed. Gary R. Collins, vol. 4. Waco, TX: Word, 1986.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Overeating: Freedom from Food Fixation (1–13). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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