And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:32

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Have you ever felt hopeless when it comes to your eating issues? I felt that way for years, and I’ve had many other women tell me they felt the same way. You fail over and over again, and it’s hard to believe you’ll ever break free of it.

I’ve been truth journaling for eight years now, and God has used it to help me break free from worry, resentment, discontentment, living up to the expectations of others, and emotional eating. By far, the hardest one of those to deal with was the emotional eating. In fact, if God hadn’t given me success in some of those other areas first, I don’t know if I would have believed that it was possible to also experience success with emotional eating.

I’m having the same struggle now with procrastination. That also seems to be a huge one to break free from—at least it is for me.

The thing God keeps showing me over and over again, though, is that you have to change the way you think to be successful. I can't just keep trying to force myself to do the things on my to-do list everyday and expect to overcome procrastination. Instead, I need to change the way I think about work, and see it from God's point of view.

Transformation starts on the inside and radiates out. And it’s often just as hard to make yourself work on that inner transformation as it is to make yourself go to the gym (which I have to admit, I don't make myself do).

I’ve often felt like there’s a brick wall in front of me when it comes to certain areas of my life—that it seems almost impossible to even make myself work on the problem.

My only hope is going to God for help and to His Word for strength. If it’s too hard to truth journal, I pray Scripture. For some reason, that seems less intimidating.

What we need to remember in these struggles is that we're in the midst of a spiritual battle. If we're Christians, we have an enemy, and he doesn't want us to break free from the things that control us.

Battles aren't pleasant, and they're not easy. The soldier has to be prepared, and he has to use the right weapons if he wants to succeed.

Today, I encourage you to take up the Word of God and use it in this fight. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it seems hopeless at times . . . but life isn’t always what it seems, is it?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Anatomy of a Binge

Today I’d like to walk you through a common eating situation and show you how to renew your mind with truth journaling.

Picture if you will a woman named Tabitha. Her boundaries are three meals a day and one snack. Before she eats each meal, she plans what’s she’s going to eat for that meal, based on what a reasonable amount would be.

Tonight’s dinner is pizza—her favorite. She plans on eating two pieces and a salad, but it’s so good, she decides to have another piece.

After dinner, Tabitha is cleaning up when she remembers the brownies in the freezer. She eats one brownie while she’s cleaning and later that night, she eats more brownies . . . and some cereal . . . and the leftover pizza.

Tabitha has clearly broken her boundaries. She’s tempted to condemn herself; in fact she’s already halfway there, when she remembers that she’s supposed to truth journal. So she pulls out her trusty notebook (or truth-lie chart) and makes the following entries:

(Note: She will actually be making three different journal entries, because she ate for three different reasons. If Tabitha had taken the time to journal right after dinner, she probably wouldn’t have eaten the brownie. If she had journaled after the brownie, she probably wouldn’t have binged. Still—better late than never, and if she journals now, it will help her to eat well the next day. I’ll list the truths for you under each lie entry so you can follow it more easily.)

Pizza: This is so good, I should have another one.

Truth: This is so good, I should fully appreciate every bite. Two pieces of pizza, well savored, are actually more enjoyable than three pieces of pizza eaten without care.

Brownie: Since I already broke my boundaries, I might as well have another one.

Truth: Since I already broke my boundaries, I must be very careful the rest of the night, so I don’t break them again. Breaking my boundaries once makes me vulnerable—I should pray through some Scriptures or have a quiet time, so I don’t break them again tonight.

1. I already blew it, so I might as well eat more. 2. I’ll just eat what I want tonight and start again tomorrow.

Truth: 1. I haven’t actually blown it—I’ve only eaten one extra piece of pizza and one extra brownie. That’s probably not even enough to make me gain any extra weight. If I were to stop right now, it would be an incredible victory. 2. If I eat what I want tonight, I’ll feel horrible tomorrow. If I feel terrible tomorrow, there’s a good chance I won’t stick to it then either. The sooner I stop, the better. If I stop right now, even though I’ve already eaten an extra piece of pizza and a brownie, it will still be a victory. Learning to stop in the midst of a boundary-breaking session would be a major accomplishment.

Note: If Tabitha is feeling like she’ll never change, it would also help her to journal those thoughts. It would look something like this:

Beliefs: 1. I am such a failure. 2. I will never get over this problem.

Truth: 1. I am a child of God who had a bad night of eating. This isn’t surprising. I can’t expect to overcome this without going through some struggles and failures. 2. I will never get over this in my own strength. However, If I continue to apply the truth to my life and go to God for help, I will get over it. His truth will set me free.

Here’s an example of a Scripture prayer Tabitha might pray based on Galatians 6:9, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up:

Scripture prayer: Lord, I failed again, and I feel like giving up. It seems I will never get over this problem, yet you tell me I’ll reap a harvest if I don’t give up. Lord, help me to persevere. Help me to keep bringing my thoughts to you for renewal. Help me to keep trying to follow my boundaries. Teach me what I need to know to overcome this problem. I’ll persevere, Lord, even though it’s difficult, because I want to reap that harvest. Give me strength and help me follow my boundaries today.

Do you see how this works? The thing you always need to remember is that God changes us from the inside out. It’s not the boundaries that will change you. It’s not a certain style of eating. And it’s not your will power and determination.

What will change you is the truth. And you learn the truth one situation at a time . . . by the renewing of your mind.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stop Beating Yourself Up!

Let me ask you something. What usually goes through your mind after a bout with emotional eating? Do you immediately go to God and try to see the situation from His point of view, or are you more likely to just react and leave God out of the picture?

Let’s look at some of our common responses to eating failures and see what motivates these responses and where each one leads:

1. Beat yourself up (figuratively). I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. I’m such a failure. I’ll never get over this problem.

Where does this response come from? Is it remorse because you went to food for your emotional needs, or is it regret that this will really set you back in your weight loss efforts? At least for me, it was usually the latter. God doesn't condemn me for messing up, but the world does condemn me for being overweight, and it was the world I was more concerned with.

We have to be careful to remember that this isn't really about the weight. What it's really about is a life dedicated to food that needs to be dedicated to God.

Worrying about the weight often distracts us from going to God for help with the problem. Why? Because we're so busy condemning ourselves about the weight, that we're not looking to God to see how He feels about it.

To be honest, I think Satan is happy with the fact that we're so obsessed with our weight. Look at Revelation 12:9-10. Satan is the accuser of the saints. Why does he accuse us? Because it works! If we’re busy beating ourselves up, where are our eyes? Are they on the truth that sets us free or are they on the lies that enslave?

God doesn’t condemn us. Look at Romans 8:1 and John 8:1-11. He loves us and not only that He understands what we’re going through, because Jesus was tempted in all things Himself when He lived on earth (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Condemnation leads to discouragement and hopelessness and often depression. This isn’t God’s way!

2. Rebel. You know what? I’m sick to death of these stupid boundaries. Besides, isn’t it a little legalistic to say I have to have boundaries anyway? Having rules just makes me want to break them!

Remember Eve and Satan in the Garden of Eden? The first thing Satan did was try to get Eve to think that God’s rule about the tree was ridiculous. Eve listened and must have agreed. She broke the rule. What she didn’t realize was that the rule was protecting her. Life would have been better for Eve if she had followed the rules.

It’s popular in our culture to say we shouldn’t have to follow anyone else’s rules. Rules restrict. Rules enslave. Having rules just makes us want to break them.

If this is true, then we shouldn’t have any problems once we give up the rules. In other words, if it’s the rules that make us want to overeat, all we have to do is get rid of the rules, and the desire to overeat will disappear. If only life were that easy.

No, if God thought rules were bad, He wouldn’t have given us the Ten Commandments. However, He does want us to be more than rule followers. He’s looking for hearts that want to follow Him, not just hearts that want to follow the rules. Remember Romans 12:1-2? We develop hearts that want to follow Him through the renewing of our minds. Each breaking of the “rules” gives us an opportunity to renew our minds.

3. Escape. Go to sleep, watch a movie, get caught up in a good book—anything to make you forget how much you just ate.

I think this response is generated in large part by our desire to have easy lives. We don’t want to go through the hassles of having to deal with this weight issue over and over again. We just want to be through with it.

Does escape really help us break free from emotional eating though? Are we happy when we escape? No, of course not. It’s always there in the back of our minds bothering us. We haven’t really solved the problem by escaping.

4. Bring your thoughts captive to the truth. Try to remember what you were thinking when you broke your boundaries. Write it down and replace the lies with the truth. Pray some Scripture. See the situation from God’s point of view.

This isn’t a common response, and it’s not an easy response—but I’m hoping it becomes your habitual response! In my next post, I’ll walk you through how this would look in an actual situation.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Plan for Success

I said in my last post that I would tell you some practical things to do to change the way you think about food. That's true. I will. Unfortunately, I feel compelled to give some more theory before I do that! (If you can make it through the first part of the post, though, I'll give a nice practical list at the end.)

I want you to think back with me to your young childhood. How did you learn that eating for fun and comfort was a good idea? Did your mom sit you down when you were five years old and say, "Honey, don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't eat whatever you want whenever you want. Food is there for us to enjoy. Don't worry about the consequences. Just eat what you feel like eating. Oh, and would you like some ice cream?"

I'm guessing she didn't. I bet it was more like this:

She gave you a treat when you were hurt, because she wanted you to feel better, and she knew treats did the trick. She let you eat all your holiday candy in a couple of days, because she wanted it out of the house, and she was tired of hearing you ask if you could have some. She said, "Let's go have some pizza and ice cream - we deserve it after all that yard work!" And you were happy to oblige.

Your mom had good intentions, but she didn't realize what her words were teaching you about food.

Now I'm not knocking moms. After all, I am one. In fact, I've done every one of those things with my kids. It wasn't until I wrote Freedom from Emotional Eating that I realized what I was teaching them:

Food will make you feel better. It's okay to overeat on holidays. You deserve a treat when you do hard things.

It would be wonderful if that same mom could sit us down and say, "Honey, I was wrong. It's really not good to eat whatever you want whenever you want. That won't make you happy. No, it's much better to have boundaries and stick to them. So why don't you just change your way of eating, and life will be much better!"

Well, it would be wonderful if we could change that easily, but I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. Why? Because we learned lots of lies about food growing up and it takes a while to "unlearn" them.

We learned those lies situation by situation, and I'm afraid we have to unlearn them the same way.

That's where renewing the mind comes in, and now we'll get to the practical part. I believe there are five things you need to do if you want to change the way you think about food:

1. Choose a set of lifelong boundaries. These boundaries must be flexible enough to fit into regular life, yet strict enough to disallow opportunities for emotional eating.

2. Make up your mind not to eat one bite outside your boundaries. This is very important, because it helps you develop the mindset that you only eat at certain times. What you want to do is train yourself to only think of food at certain times of the day (either at a meal or scheduled snack or when you're hungry). (And no, Pavlov's dogs do not come to mind.)

3. Renew your mind every time you eat outside your boundaries. What you're doing with this is re-thinking all those things you learned growing up. Truth journaling, lie-truth charts, and Scripture prayers all work well to renew your mind. (One note on truth journaling, it's far more effective to write it down rather than do it in your mind.)

4. Get someone to hold you accountable, not to sticking to your boundaries (although you can do that too if you want), but to renewing your mind every time you break your boundaries.

5. Abide in the Word of God. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit, and we get the fruit by abiding in the Vine, not by trying as hard as we can to muster it up only when we need it. Instead, we change our desires by replacing lies with truth, and we gain self-control by abiding with God and spending time in His Word.

If I were going to add one more thing to the list,it would be, "Don't condemn yourself when you mess up!" But I will save that for the next post.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Romans 12:2 and emotional eating

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Today I’d like to take Romans 12:2 and apply it to emotional eating. Let’s take it one section at a time.

Do not be conformed to this world.

I can think of many ways we conform to the world that cause us to eat too much. Here are a couple of them:

1. We’ve adopted Hollywood’s idea that we have to be gorgeous and skinny (and so we eat in despair when we aren’t).

2. We’ve adopted our culture’s idea that because we deserve to be happy, we should be able to eat whatever we want whenever we want.

Neither of these ideas are scriptural. God says it’s what’s inside of us that counts, not what’s outside (1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 31:30, Luke 16:15), and He doesn’t go along with the “you should get whatever you want whenever you want” idea, either. If fact, He actually expects us to give up things for Him (Matthew 16:24-25).

But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The Greek word for transformed here is interesting. It’s a change that starts on the inside and is manifested on the outside. In other words, God’s not asking for an outward show of obedience. He wants to change our hearts, so that we actually want to obey Him.

How do we do that? By the renewing of the mind. We must change the way we think if we want lasting behavior change.

So that you may prove (test) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

There are two Greek words that can be used for prove or test. Peirazo means to test with no expectation or with the expectation of finding it bad. Dokimazo means to test with the expectation of finding it good. Guess which Greek word is used here? Dokimazo.

That means that if we do die to self, get transformed from the inside out, and take on God’s thoughts rather than the world’s thoughts, we'll find that His will is good.

On the other hand, if we just go for the outward conforming—following a set of boundaries out of brute force rather than a heart that actually believes life is better when you follow the boundaries—we’ll find that His will is not good.

Why? Because we haven’t been changed from the inside out. We’re still essentially hanging on to our own will fueled by our own set of beliefs.

We may be conforming to a set of boundaries on the outside, but inside, our hearts are telling us that we should be able to eat whatever we want whenever we want. Sooner or later, our hearts will win out, and we'll be eating like crazy again.

No, for lasting change to take place, we must be transformed from the inside out.

In my next post, I’ll show how this is played out in a practical way—how to change the way we think, so that we actually want to stick to our boundaries.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Not even one bite

When I first started writing my Bible study, I checked out all the books I could find at the library that contained information on emotional eating. In the process, I discovered a whole new section of books that I hadn’t seen before.

Did you know that in addition to the “diet book” section, there’s also a section of books on eating disorders and compulsive eating? I read some of those books, and they were very enlightening.

One of the common threads that ran through the books was the admonition to stick religiously to an eating plan. To eat even one bite off the plan, the books said, was to put yourself in dangerous territory. It could lead to a binge.

I remember thinking at the time that this was the missing ingredient in my own struggles with food. I had my eating plan already in place at the time—a simple plan of allowing myself three meals and one snack each day.

The problem was that I sometimes had a bite here and a bite there that wasn’t on "the plan." While these bites didn’t add up to many calories, they still weren’t good for me. What they did was weaken my boundaries—the boundaries I had put in place myself to protect me from emotional eating.

Unfortunately, weak boundaries often lead to broken boundaries. What begins as a crack in the dam soon becomes an all-out flood—and I had my share of “floods.”

The books made me see the necessity of following the plan exactly. In other words, not one bite outside the boundaries. Not even a lick of the fingers. Nada. Nothing.

I determined to be more faithful about following the boundaries, and you know what? It made a difference. A big difference. Sticking rigidly to the plan made it easier to actually follow the plan.

Whether your boundaries are hunger or meals, I encourage you to follow them exactly. Don’t eat even one bite outside your boundaries—because even though it's hard to stick to your boundaries, it's a lot harder to stick to them after you break them than before you break them.