Why I Eat Too Much

At a recent church potluck, there were bowls and plates of goodness spreading the table: creamy hummus and crunchy pita chips, gourmet cheese plates, soft homemade naan and spicy masala, fresh veggies with caesar dressing, and roasted garden okra. I had recently found out I have Hashimotos, so I ate the things I could…and ate too much. The okra plate was right in front of me, so I kept eating them because they were so good and healthy, which isn’t usually an issue until there’s not enough for everyone else.

One of the little girls swung by the table and started munching on okra, and something in me said, “Uh oh, she’s eating the okra! That’s what you want! Take some more before it’s all gone!” And whether I realized I was responding to that thought or not, I took a few more pieces. I didn’t take the last piece (because everyone knows you’re not supposed to eat the last one), but in doing so, I deprived the other girls of the okra, for goodness sakes! I was competing with an eight-year-old for food that was more than plentiful. What is wrong with me?!

I’m going through a Revelation Wellness study called Weigh Less to Feed More where we read a passage on Exodus, but it keeps coming up in my life:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not...
In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
 Exodus 16:4, 13-21
The Israelites gathering manna, by Ercole de' Roberti

The Israelites gathering manna, by Ercole de' Roberti

In verse 4, the Lord provides a daily feast for the Israelites and waits to see if they will obey Him and take what they need...or disobey and stash it. Sounds a whole lot like my situation. There was not only plenty of food at the potluck, I had a fridge full of food at home. Would I take what I needed, or get more than what I need? I failed the test that night, and I knew it. There actually aren't many times when I pass that test, which is why I feel I need to work through my issue of eating too much.

I would like to use the victim card and say that I have a chronic illness. I'm already limited by the types of foods I can eat, so I shouldn't be limited by the amount of food I eat. But I know a diagnosis is not an excuse. 

The Lord only gave the Israelites two types of food for forty years: meat and manna. On the autoimmune paleo protocol, I am basically allowed to eat two things for a few months: meat and veggies (plus lots of other good things like all kind of fruit and fresh herbs). So why do I feel so restricted and that I can never get enough?

I eat too much because I don't trust God enough. I don’t trust that He will provide what I need, so I eat more than my fill. And what happened to the food that people tried to hoard because they didn’t trust that God would show up with their daily bread? “It bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them” (Exodus 16:20). This is not a verse against leftovers, because I think having leftovers are good and a sign of God’s overflowing abundance (see Matthew 14:20), but it’s a verse about obedience. Will I eat what is good for me? Will I stop when I’m satisfied? 

I look for satisfaction in food rather than God. I keep eating after I’m full thinking, “this tastes good, and eating makes me happy. I like being happy.” But every single time I eat too much, my stomach feels like that rotten manna: yucky. The bread from heaven has turned into waste because the definition of waste is excess. I had too much, and it turned into garbage. I felt full and satisfied, but kept going. That shows me that I yearn to fill up on goodness, but I'm using food to fill me instead of the Spirit. 

Excuses, Temptations

The more Scripture I know, the more the enemy is gong to try and use it against me.  Whenever I stop to contemplate if I should keep eating, grab seconds, or get a snack when I’m not hungry, my flesh argues like Satan against Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11):

Argument: But what about feasting? God's kingdom is full of feasting.

Truth: There are times for feasting and fasting. The Israelites had feasts on the Jewish calendar, but they weren’t every day or every meal. 

Argument: But what about tasting and seeing the Lord is good?

Truth: That can be done in one bite with communion.

Argument: But what about showing respect to the cook and eating everything?

Truth: I first have to respect the Lord, and I can certainly show love by trying a bite or by taking what I can eat and enjoying that. 

With my new diagnosis, I was caught unprepared at the potluck table. I couldn't eat much, so I felt deprived. Now, I have planned to bring plenty of protein and vegetables to satiate my physical needs so I don't "steal" food away from others. 

Many times, I just need to drink a big glass of water and walk away. I probably just needed more water anyways. If I have decided that I’m done, I’m satisfied, I’m good where I am, I have to either cover the food up with a napkin or clean it up so I’m not tempted to eat more than I need. 

I know it may not "look" like I overeat, but I know it's a problem for me and gets in the way of my true satisfaction in the Lord. Plus it makes me tired, sluggish, and unable to do the things I need to do! I want to live differently, and I believe God gives a Spirit of power, love, and self-control. He also gives practical tips like portion sizing, measuring water intake, and a nerdy affinity for creating plans of action:

My Plan For Overeating

  1. Say a blessing before I eat a single bite of food. Do you notice how the people in the picture above had to get on the ground to gather their manna? That was a posture of humility. Me praying before eating is a similar gesture of thankfulness. It makes me pause and thank the Lord for His provision (and may prevent some excess snacking), and remember that He is the one who provides the food in the first place. He satisfies my body and soul. Praying also sets the pace for the meal and helps me slow down and savor.
  2. Describe the food in my head or out loud. Is it sweet? Crunchy? Savory? Bitter? Doing this will help bring awareness and appreciation to the food and elevate my experience with it.
  3. When I’m feeling full but want more, drink a whole glass of water. In Weigh Less to Feed More, they ask us to rate our hunger on a scale of 1-5, 1 being hangry and 5 being overstuffed. I want to feel like a 4 after meals: satisfied. I only took what I needed. 
  4. Move on! I enjoy food because it tastes good, but it’s also a pleasant experience. Sometimes I don’t want to leave the table because I am avoiding doing something like writing or house chores or leaving the company of friends. Eating is a gift, but it is also there to empower the rest of my life that I need to live. 

I now recognize that my eating patterns reflect my heart problems. I don’t believe I’m enough, so I fill myself with food. I forget that I don’t have to be enough of anything, because God is enough, provides plenty, and I am rich in Christ (Colossians 1:7). When I am tempted to eat too much, He is enough. And when I go to Mexican restaurants with friends, I will request the chip basket be placed outside of my reach. 

Your Turn

Do you have an inner battle with eating too much? What are you hoping to achieve? Where are you feeling deprived? 

How has God met you in the middle of it?