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.