I’ve been thinking about rules lately and how they apply to emotional eating. The question is, “Do rules help us or hurt us in our struggle with emotional eating? Is it the rules themselves that make us feel like eating too much or is it something else?”
Because we know we’ve been saved by grace, and not by following the rules, I think we have a tendency to think that rules aren't very important. But is that true?
1 Timothy 1:8-9a says this: But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners . . .
At first glance we may look at this verse and think, “Doesn’t that just apply to non-Christians? Wouldn't we be considered the righteous?"
Well, yes and no. Yes, we are counted as righteous through our faith (Romans 4:3, 5:1), but no, we're not always righteous in our behavior (Romans 3:10-12, 23). And where we're not righteous, we need the law.
I see this principle at work in my own life. I tend to be "lawless and rebellious" in the area of eating—I feel like I should be able to eat whatever and whenever I want. I don’t like placing restrictions on my eating. Because of this I need a law.
A naturally thin person on the other hand tends to eat only when she’s hungry. She’s not stamping her foot and saying, “I should be able to eat whatever I feel like eating,” because food isn’t that big of a deal to her. She can easily give it up. In her case, it would be legalistic to have rules about eating because she doesn’t need them.
Timothy says the law isn’t made for the righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious. That’s me when it comes to food.
Will the rules keep me from emotional eating? No, they can't save me any more than following the law can save me. Why? Because I'm not capable of following the rules (or the law) in my own strength.
Then, you may ask, if I'm not capable of following the rules, why should I have them? This is the answer - because they show me my rebellious ways and tell me when I need to go to God for help.
Let's see how this works with emotional eating. Let's say my rule is, "I'll eat only when I'm hungry." If it’s 3:00 in the afternoon and I’m craving something to eat even though I'm not hungry, my "rule" gives me a wake-up call. Barb, why do you feel like eating? Are you really hungry or are you going to food to satisfy your other needs? Are you willing to submit to God in this area of your life or are you going to insist on eating whenever you feel like eating?
If I didn’t have the rule, I might not notice that I’m eating for the wrong reasons. The rule itself doesn’t give me the power to eat the way God wants me to eat - but it does show me when I need to go to God to get that power. In that sense, the rule helps me.
Also - it's not the rule that's making me want to eat in the first place. I know it seems that way - after all, don't we start craving food the minute we go on a diet? Yes, of course we do, but we also feel like eating a lot when we're not on diets - we just don't notice it because when we feel like eating, we eat! It doesn't matter if we're not hungry, because we don't have any rules in place to tell us we can't eat when we're not hungry.
What the rule (law) does is point out the rebelliousness that’s already there in my heart - and it shows me that I need to go to God for help - because that's the only way I'll be able to follow the "rules."
Note: Although the rules themselves don't make me eat, the lies I believe about the rules often make me eat - and that's what I'll be talking about in my next post.