1. PAUSE to Think
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Part of the problem with stress eating is we can eat without realizing we’re eating. Taking time to pause and think is an important first step.
Signs of stress eating are eating out of boredom, eating with shame or anger, craving specific foods when upset, eating to “feel better,” eating to escape problems or anxious thoughts, eating alone, or even eating right after seeing a food advertisement.
It helps to slow down, pause and evaluate before reaching for that chocolate bar, tub of ice cream or any other comfort foods. We don’t accidentally eat anything.
Author Danna Demetre wrote that we need to identify the lies we believe about eating, take negative thoughts captive, construct new thoughts to counteract the lies, and repeat this healthy self-talk until new, dominant thoughts form.
I asked myself, “What is triggering this desire for food right now?”
Sometimes I had an actual nutritious need (body hunger); but with stress eating, I more likely tried to feed a perceived emotional need (head hunger), or I believed a lie about eating, like “Who knows what will happen tomorrow. I’ll eat this bag of Snickerdoodles now!” I had to counter that lie with the truth: God knows my tomorrows, and He can help me resist stress-motivated habits. It also helped to keep a food journal in the kitchen to jot down foods and feelings. Awareness is a powerful tool.
2. PRAY for Strength
The enemy is tricky and likes to confuse and frustrate us (2 Corinthians 2:11). Food is everywhere, from the Food Channel to TV ads for milk shakes, and we love food excessively! We need to pray for strength—not our strength to resist, but His strength to empower. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
As we learn to abide in Jesus more consistently, we can ask God to empower us in our emotional battles and times of need (Hebrews 4:16). We can prayerfully search for biblical thinking about eating and self-control.
As Lysa TerKeurst wrote in her Made to Crave Devotional, “The only way to negate an emotional eating trigger is to match it with truth.”
As I prayed for emotional and mental strength, I also prayed about ways to get moving and strengthen my body as much as possible given my current physical restrictions. Exercise and physical activities—as well as getting off the couch to get involved in a home improvement project, spend time with a hobby, clean out the garage and organize my closet—helped to boost my mood.
This fostered greater ability to contend with temptations and manage my eating. God reminded me that a simple activity like gardening could get me out of the house and exercising muscles. When we feel like we’ve accomplished something, this can help relieve stress.
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