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Winning Emotional Battles with Food using Faith and Prayer

Updated on October 2, 2013
drmiddlebrook profile image

Dr. Middlebrook is a fiction-writing coach, author (pen name Beax Rivers), online course developer, and former university professor.

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There are always going to be seasons and reasons for food and festivities; occasions that are filled with a brigade of tempting tastes and aromas. As I gear up for the next battle in what seems like a constant fight against overindulgence, in this Hub, I am going to discuss:

  • Why food must not be allowed to win the fight.
  • Why we must learn to think of food, primarily, as nourishment--not comfort.
  • Why self-control is spiritual nourishment that we need, because God says it is "fruit of the spirit."
  • The need for spiritual defenses to ensure triumphant in battles against overindulgence.

If you're like me, it probably seems like you're always gearing up for another mismatched battle with food. Mismatched, because food usually wins. In these ongoing skirmishes, the opponent always seems to be much stronger, and never fights fair. That's why I know it's nearly impossible for me to win every round in ongoing struggles against food--against overindulgence. In my search for backup to help me in my battles, in addition to remembering Aristotle's cautionary edict about "moderation in all things," for the benefit of health and longevity I also keep in mind these words from 1 Corinthians:

"And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown."

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Food Must Not Win The Fight

The word of God has taught me that even though our Creator gave us frail, mortal human bodies, He did not mean for us to become slaves to our flesh. Instead, He wants us to use the power of the human spirit to rule over flesh, and to not allow flesh and its tendencies to rule over us. As Christians, we are to be ruled by the spirit as we are taught in Romans 8:8-9:

“So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you…”

The Creator's desire that we exercise control over our flesh includes everything and anything that we humans do that can harm us or others. This applies to all aspects of life, and not just the areas that are clearly covered by the Ten Commandments. That means it includes the battles that you and I face with food during holidays--and every other day of the year.

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Think Nourishment; Not Comfort

Food is meant to support our need for physical nourishment. For the replenishing of what our bodies must have for energy and physical strength. But often, we use it as a salve, of sorts, to assuage feelings and emotions that are sometimes impulsive and explosive.

I'm the first to admit that, as an imperfect human, I've engaged in a lot of negative behavior with regard to food and eating that has been harmful to me. For me, and probably for most of us, the relationship with food is a complex one indeed. Many times I find myself giving in to feelings and emotions that drive me to want to reach for food for support and comfort, even though I know I should not rely on food for these things.

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I know this not from studying psychology. I know it from years of fighting emotional battles with food. I also know that feelings and emotions are powerful, but they're also temporary and fleeting. But, if they are allowed to go unchecked, they will undoubtedly control moment-to-moment responses and reactions to many of the more "volatile" situations and circumstances of life.

Reaching for something to eat can become an emotional response to something that happens that feels beyond my control. Then, to combat feelings of helplessness and/or inadequacy to control whatever, too often, without thinking I turn to food for solace, comfort, or distraction.

E-book on Amazon.com, for $2.99. (Beax Rivers is drmiddlebrook's pen name.)
E-book on Amazon.com, for $2.99. (Beax Rivers is drmiddlebrook's pen name.) | Source

Think of Self-Control As Nourishment--It Is Fruit Of The Spirit

In our souls, sometimes we can experience a hunger or a thirst that is not a hunger for food, or a thirst for drink. Still, we look to food and to unhealthy beverages to feed and to quench spiritual hungers and thirsts. And even though eating food and consuming sugar-laden beverages might help, temporarily, to distract us from the real source of such hunger and thirst, the real problem is spiritual, and it stems from the lack of self control. Self-control is the nourishment we're really hungry and thirsty for. It is a form of nourishment, food for the spirit. According to the apostle Paul, it is a "fruit of the spirit," as it is written in Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV):

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Continuously studying God's word has enlightened me to know that God expects us to learn how to exert control over feelings and emotions that confuse us into reaching for food, food, and more food, when what we're hungry or thirsty for is neither food nor drink. The Bible, in 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." Therefore, our sin nature is what causes us to give in to fleeting emotions and feelings; to fail to use self-control, something that God desires that we use in all aspects of our everyday lives.

Eat, drink, and enjoy fun and festivities, but don't overindulge. You'll find even more joy in everything if you learn to exercise self-control.
Eat, drink, and enjoy fun and festivities, but don't overindulge. You'll find even more joy in everything if you learn to exercise self-control. | Source

Faith, prayer, and the Holy Spirit of God can take you and me up and away from being “at the mercy” of feelings and emotions. Self-control, ultimately, is the only thing that can keep us from “self-medicating” with food when what we're truly hungry for is self-control. This is underscored In Romans 8:6, where it is written:

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Once the Holy Spirit empowers your human spirit, you will begin to feel liberated from all of your old shackles. When you lean on the promises of God, you will give your will over to His, and He will empower you with the strength to rule over your flesh. Where we are weak, God is strong. This is emphasized in Romans 8:26 where it is written:

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities…”

Even though you're still just as weak and vulnerable as other human beings, as a Christian, what you have that a lot of others might not have is knowledge of the promises of God. You can walk in confidence knowing that whenever you need to call upon Him; He’ll be there for you.

Next feast, before sitting at the table, resolve to exercise self-control. Your victory will be "filling," and it will last longer than any joy you could get from overindulgence.
Next feast, before sitting at the table, resolve to exercise self-control. Your victory will be "filling," and it will last longer than any joy you could get from overindulgence. | Source
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Turning Food Challenges To Triumph

Following are four points that helped me in my efforts to re-program. Perhaps they can help you too as you begin the process of wrestling with feelings and emotions in order to gain control over out-of-control eating:

(1.) Realize that you alone determine how you will feel at any particular moment in time. While situations and circumstances can tug at your emotions, you can decide whether or not to allow them to upset you. Your spirit can become empowered, through the Holy Spirit, to exercise control over your emotions.

(2.) Know that you can choose to find the positive in what happens, or at least to look for positive ways to feel about what happens. You don't have to simply allow negative feelings and emotions to overwhelm and overtake you.

(3.) Embrace the notion that the verb love is much more meaningful when fighting battles with food, than is the noun love. Demonstrate love for your health, and for your body as a holy temple of God. Ask God to empower your spirit to rule over your fleshly tendency to reach for food--when what you really need is self-control. Allow your love for yourself to be greater than your love for temporary comfort and satiety. Stop reaching for for food and drink to satisfy spiritual hunger and thirst.

(4.) Realize that your feelings are at your mercy, not the other way around. Choose to exercise self-control; to defeat the harmful effects of allowing feelings and emotions to rule your life. Especially when it comes to ongoing battles with food and eating.

© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD

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    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you so much, Melanie Fourie. I'm honored by your visit, and so glad you "love this perspective." Thanks for the thumbs up!

    • Melanie Fourie profile image

      Melanie Fourie 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Love this perspective :-) A thumbs up from me!

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      I agree, Denise, wholeheartedly. Thanks so much for reading. This Hub was one of those I wrote as much for myself as for others. It's an age-old battle, and I know the only way to win it is through the spirit. It has to be about self-control, so I studied that in the Bible. Doing that helped me to see that self-control is a form of nourishment that we can and do hunger for. It is a "fruit" of the spirit, and we need it the same way we need food. Without it, I believe we would eventually overindulge to the point of no return.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for addressing the food problem from a spiritual perspective. It gives new meaning to "self-control" and the need to gain power from on High to exercise it. With our world population leaning on the obese side of the spectrum, we would all do well to put less emphasis on food at our homes and family gatherings during the holiday season. How much better we would feel if we focused on music, games, and fun instead!