5 Questions I Ask to Prevent Overeating
We all have our struggles with eating--some restrict, others binge. I'm on the latter end of the pendulum. If you are a restricter, this post may not be for you. That interview is coming soon!
My main problem is that I struggle with fatigue. Drink coffee, you say? I have, and I do in emergency up-at-4am situations (thank you, Wanderlust Roasters), but on the whole it makes me feel a little crazy inside. A little too jittery. It took me 10 days to wean off it completely, and I'm not about to head back into that habit! So I turn to carbs instead. It's not the best solution, I admit, which is why I'm writing this post. Having a job where I write at home right next to a kitchen full of delicious food (because I also love to cook) is so greatly tempting for me. And when I get into a tough spot, I eat my way out of it (that's my unhealthy Enneagram 5 coming out).
I like to have order in my life, and when I eat more than I know I need, it feels out of order. I could just come up with a strict eating plan, but that doesn’t fit with the Spirit of truth I know, nor does it work long-term.
How about scheduling? I recognize the rhythms of fasting and feasting according to the liturgical calendar, and would like to abide by the weekday nourishing and weekend noshing with friends. But somehow, I still seem to eat too many handfuls of bean tortilla chips, no matter how "healthy" they may be.
The place of food in my life reminds me of this well-loved quote I found in the book Prayer by pastor Timothy Keller, "You should not begin to pray for all your want until you realize that in God you have all you need." I should not begin to eat all I want until I realize that in God I have all I need. I mean, the metaphor doesn't completely line up since I actually do need to eat as a human being, but it does help loosen my grip on feeling like food is always the answer, rather than relying on the Great Provider for my strength. Because in all, food is good (so good). It’s just not when I make it a habit of idolizing it.
So, here are a few questions I have been asking myself when I am tempted to eat more than the occasion necessitates.
Am I satisfied?
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied." Matthew 5:6
I've been memorizing this verse with my daughter, when it finally sunk in as I stuck another energy bar in my mouth, trying to satisfy the hunger. Food wasn't satisfying me. I wasn't sure if my hunger signals were off or because I'm nursing and feel hungry 24/7, but it felt like no matter how much I ate, I wasn't satisfied. My stomach always wanted more.
I have a riddle for you: What roars like a lion, devours everything in sight, but is never satisfied?
If you answered sin or satan, you're right! *ding ding ding* I admit, it’s not a very joyful answer, but I feel congratulations are still appropriate.
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8
Okay, one more question: What is the one thing that can stop this beast?
Yep, it's the Sunday school answer: Jesus! *throws confetti* You go Glen Coco.
When Jesus died on the cross, he put an end to this madness of always wanting more more more but never feeling satisfied. His pure righteousness satisfied the lustful desires of sin. My need to always to fill myself with more more more so I can be enough enough enough is fulfilled in how Christ poured Himself out (His kingdom is always the reverse of my natural instincts). His sacrifice was enough. I am enough. It is enough.
When I turn to food I first ask myself, "am I satisfied?" If my soul isn't satisfied with Christ, it won't be satisfied with food. My stomach signals take their cue from the state of my spirit, not the other way around. Simply asking this question reminds me that I am filled with Christ, and He is enough. Then, I can go about making food choices that are good for me.
2. What do I not need?
More often than not, I have an abundance of food (and clothes, and stuff in general), so asking myself this question helps me identify the excess that weighs me down and leave room for the good things first. Asking myself this reminds me that I’m strong in the Lord without external comforts. It makes me feel confident and helps me focus on the goals I do have. Like eating so I can have energy to go up and down the stairs for my children, or have enough brain energy to write posts like these.
Here are a few ways I have used this question, followed by an affirmative of how I can use my energy instead.
What do I not need? More candy while I scroll. I need to stop procrastinating and be proactive.
What do I not need? More carbs. I need to get to sleep earlier.
What do I not need? More alcohol. I need to be filled with gratefulness and not with a strong drink at the end of the day. (I mean, not EVERY day)
These things are great, but if I "need" them, then I become dependent upon them and can't appreciate them as a gift but rather feel entitled to them (and possibly resentful when I don't get them).
Before I take that second helping, instead of justifying why I might need more, because I've been a good girl all day and I deserve it, I ask myself, "What do I not need?" That question comes out of one who knows she has a spirit of power, love, and self-control.
3. Have I had the correct portion size?
When my heart can't be trusted, I turn to numbers. How much do I physically need for the day? This doesn't have to be some mystery, I can actually find it out. When I'm feeling out of sorts and unaccountable, I will start logging my food in My Fitness Pal, which helps give an estimate on how many calories I need based on my height, weight, and activity level. I only do it twice a year maybe, but it does help me recalibrate how much I need versus what I'm taking in.
That way, I can put my choices in black and white and have some external railings to make me feel like I'm not taking in more than I need, not eating extra food over time that could weigh me down. I realize that "calorie counting" can be very detrimental for some, but for me, it can be freeing to have a type of food budget. Then I'm not constantly wondering how to eat.
Once I am aware of the portion sizes and how much energy each contains, I can ask myself if I have had the right kind of food. If I’m still hungry after a meal full of balanced veggies, protein, and complex carbs, I’ll drink water. Because many times, I’m just thirsty. If that doesn’t work, more veggies, please! If I’m still hungry, I’ll get more protein. You get the deal. And by that time, my stomach has at least had time to process being full.
4. When can I eat again?
Sometimes when I'm eating (especially when I'm overly hungry), I shift into survival mode, thinking "EAT ALL THE FOOD BECAUSE THE ICE AGE STARTS TOMORROW.” This exaggeration may be an ancient sentiment that is helpful in dire situations, but thankfully, I rarely have to worry about where my next meal comes from. This attitude can be assuaged by not letting myself get too hungry, and also by looking ahead in my schedule.
Can I make it another four hours until 4pm when I'm able to sit down and have a snack? Yes, yes I can. Then I set that internal timer to 4pm and don't eat until then. Because if I'm at home, it's really hard to not want to snack all the time when good food is sitting there in the pantry.
Just as a food budget can help me determine how much I need to eat, the clock can help me determine when to eat. Questions 3 and 4 take a backseat to the more intuitive questions 1 and 2, but they can certainly be helpful tools to keep my priorities in line and my heart at peace.
5. Does my stomach need to rest?
Another big temptation for me is to eat at night before bed. Granted, I'm hungrier now nursing a baby so often I do eat something, but I still need to ask myself this so I can allow my digestive track to take a break. There's a reason why we don't eat overnight, because our body needs to rest.
Eating generates oxidative stress, and when we let it take a break, cell repair can happen. Overnight fasting is also the time to reset hormones that control appetite, sugar metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. This helps generally reduce inflammation, decreasing cancer risk, and maybe even helps out my thyroid. Ive got to let my stomach rest so it can work properly.
Do you struggle with eating more than you need?
What tactics help you?