My pastor-counselor, Rev. Roger Bennett, says that we all are addicts in some way or another.
There are socially acceptable addictions which are encouraged like workaholics, perfectionists, and churchaholics.
Then, there are unacceptable, chemical addictions like alcohol and drug addicts.
We can become addicted to anything. Hobbies, pleasure, sex, TV, food, people, and many others.
The root of our addictions comes from the way God made us. He made us to crave a love relationship with Him. When that relationship is marred or broken, we turn to substitutes to fill our emptiness. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Christian or not. Even Christians can feel incomplete and look outside a relationship with the Lord in an attempt to feel complete and whole.
Our instinctive craving to be loved can only be fulfilled through God’s love in us. But, that’s hard to realize since we cannot see or touch God like we can another human being, or for that matter, like we can with food which we can see, touch, taste, and smell.
We come to a love relationship with Christ by trusting in faith in response to His love demonstrated on the cross. Faith then unites us with Him. He loves me. I love Him in return. That’s a love relationship. Food can never be a love relationship because it is inanimate. Oh, we can love food, but it can’t love us back like God does.
Faith works that way with food addicts too. The food addict believes that food will comfort me and meet my emotional and spiritual needs for love and thus, unites us with food. But of course, inanimate food can’t love us back. So, we try and force it to love us. We cry, “Love me! Love me! Comfort me!” Fill my empty heart! Fix me!” But like the golden calf, it is incapable of meeting our emotional and spiritual needs.
The golden calf of food idolatry evolves into a terrible cycle making us loathe our body and our selfhood. So, we look to our addictive agent which is food to anesthetize and tranquilize our emotional pain.
The ultimate consequence of food idolatry is obesity giving us the twin terrors of guilt and shame. We hate ourselves. We are hungry and starving for love. We eat uncontrollably in a vain attempt fill our love-starved heart. The food satisfies for a while, but soon, we need another fix. The cycle starts over again growing in intensity like a tropical storm that intensifies into a full blown hurricane wrecking havoc on our body.
The food addicts never face problems by numbing emotional pain with food. Depression is not relieved and only grows worse. The love hunger remains unsatisfied.
There are many scenarios that can put us on to the painful cycle of addiction which is an attempt to kill the pain from love-hunger. But, all the scenarios have certain commonalities such as depression, a failed sense of self-worth, anger, resentment, rebellion, and a general emotional lethargy and apathetic feeling toward life. Any of these scenarios can trigger our food addiction and result in binge eating.
Food addicts look to food for instant gratification instead of doing the painful emotional and spiritual work that leads to long term and even lifetime satisfaction. It’s much easier to get a quick fix by eating chocolate chip cookies that take the edge off our feelings of inadequacy and fear than wrestle with that emotional pain in a constructive way until victory is achieved. We take the easy way out every time until overeating makes us miserable enough to decide to make a lasting change.
Instant gratification over long term value is illustrated in the Bible story of Esau and his younger brother, Jacob (Genesis 25:29-34). Esau came in from the field exhausted and hungry. “Let me wat some of that stew you’ve cooked up,” Esau commanded.
“First, sell me your birthright,” Jacob replied.
Esau despised the long term value of his birthright which was a double portion of the paternal inheritance for food’s instant gratification. Esau took the easy way out to satisfy his need for food. He regretted that for the rest of his life.
When we reach for the junk food to satisfy an emotional craving or the emptiness in our heart, we are immediately gratified in exchange for the long term value of healthy eating and weight loss. We have to stop, think, and ask ourselves, “Is it really worth it?”
Food is readily available and relatively inexpensive. Food is enticing and is everywhere around us. It is on every corner, on television, radio, and the internet. Friends post their favorite recipes on Facebook including yummy desserts that you can almost taste.
The advertisements promise, “Eat our product and you will be happy.” But the cost of overeating and indulging in junk food costs us dearly like it did Esau. Is it really worth a few minutes of pleasure by eating cookies, chips, and junk food again and again and sacrifice our hard work at weight loss? We are either going to break free of our food addiction once and for all or be doomed to spin in the habitual cycle of our addiction.
It’s not surprising then that so many of us are food addicts. In fact, two out of three Americans are obese, and current studies show that most are not even trying to lose weight and regain their health. They can’t break out of their food addiction even though they may have a feeble desire to do something about it. Perhaps even worse, they deny that they have a problem with food. They are effectively powerless like an alcoholic who can’t stop drinking.
So, how do we break the self-destructive cycle of food addiction.
First, we look to Jesus as our model who is our strength and power. We cannot unbind the ropes of addiction in our own strength. We’ve tried that and failed. You may be like me. I tried skipping meals. Didn’t work. I bought a six month gym membership. Went one time. I tried fad diets. The worst was the ‘beet diet.’ I made it two weeks on that one. I tired ‘magic’ drinks by going on the Slim Fast shake diet. Didn’t work. I tried seemingly everything. But, I tried in my strength not the Lord’s strength.
In looking to Jesus, I found that Jesus’ human craving for food was only satisfied when He asserted God’s supremacy over every other desire including the legitimate desire for food. What mattered most to our Lord was Him pleasing His Father.
That same atitude must be our attitude. And when we are confronted by irrational ideas to binge or eat unhealthy, we must use truth from Scripture as our weapon like “My grace is sufficient for you…When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). And, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
After we admit that we are food dependent and surrender this addiction to the Lordship of Christ, then we make a conscious decision to change our lifestyle as it relates to our health. We move from unhealthy food to eating small portions of healthy food. The decision is liberating. Soon, we find energy that we never had. We find pounds slowly melting away. We find motivation from the results that help us stay committed to our decision. After creating this new lifestyle, we find that it is now a new habit which has taken just twenty-one days to have formed. We are transformed into a new person!
That’s all there is to it! But, it’s much easier said than done because of food’s prevalence around us. the strong temptations to indulge, and the emotional dependence we had on food.
Yet, it CAN be done! Believe. Decide. Commit to healthy eating, and create a new lifelong lifestyle! I’m doing it. You can too!
Remember. I can’t. God can. I’m going to let Him. God cares about every aspect of our life, including what we eat and drink. There’s a way to eat and drink that brings glory to God. That way is eating small portions of healthy food resulting in slow, steady weight loss and adding some activity like regularly walking thirty minutes or more each day. That’s what we want and pray for!
Our body is where we reside. It’s where the Spirit of God resides. Let’s overcome our food addiction. Let’s do some repair work and make it a fit habitat that we can be proud of and that honors God!
Heavenly Father, I have loved food more than I have loved you. I have made food my idol. I have turned to food in times of stress, anxiety, and conflict for comfort and strength.
I confess that food became a poor substitute to fill my hungry heart that You alone can fill. Forgive me.
I admit that I have a weight problem. I feel guilty and ashamed of my fat body. Forgive me. Cleanse me from my guilt and shame through Christ’s blood with your forgiveness. Make me new again. Help me have a body that I can wear without apology.
Give me a vision and keep it ever before me of what I can look like in a slimmer body. I want to honor Christ with my body. It’s painful to admit that it isn’t honoring you the way it looks now.
You, O Lord, are gracious, kind, loving, and merciful. You are all powerful. I am powerless. Please give me your grace and strength to break me out of my food addiction bondage.
I ask for your strength and power to step away from over-eating at every meal whether at home or when dining out with friends and family.
Keep me faithful in my commitment now and throughout my life to lose weight, keep it off, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.