Last night, I watched a special on the TLC network called ‘I Eat 33,000 Calories a Day’ about four people who were in bondage to food addiction. Their weights ranged from 468 pounds to over 700 pounds.
The two men were confined to bed and had to rely on others to take care of their most basic needs; one of the women lived her life in the small area between her bed, the kitchen, the bathroom, and a recliner parked in front of the television.
And the “lightest” of them all, a woman at 468 pounds, was still mobile but stated “I’m killing myself slowly every day.” These stories illustrated to me the terrible toll emotional and stress eating can have on people if left unchecked.
As I listened to their stories, a clear pattern emerged as to what was going on with them. Although they were different sexes and races, they were all confined to the same prison. I recognized it so well because I had once lived there. I came to call it the “Loopy” cycle. Here’s how it went:
Food became the way I dealt with life. I experienced stress and emotional upsets, which led me to crave sweets (candy, cookies, cakes), refined carbohydrates (breads, pastas, white rice), and high fat foods (chips, french fries, burgers, and other deep fried items). I would feel good immediately after eating, even high, but then came the crash—I would feel drugged, lethargic, sleepy, irritable, anxious, and depressed. Lacking energy made it difficult to even try to exercise.
All I wanted to do after work and caring for others was crash in front of the television.
Of course, living this way made me gain weight. This led to stress and feelings of emotional upset. And this led to more food cravings. Do you see why I called the cycle “Loopy?”
After I had the chest pain that ended up being the motivation for my own weight loss, I begin to come out of the Loopy cycle and into the Power cycle. I want to share with you some of the things I learned that set me free. Here are three questions to ask yourself to determine if you are caught up in the Loopy cycle:
1. Is Food a Stronghold in Your Mind?
In the special I watched, one of the women stated, “Food is one of the first things I think about when I wake up. It’s one of the last things I think about before I go to bed.” Are your thoughts occupied by thinking about what you are going to eat, anticipating how it is going to taste, and craving how it makes you feel?
I must admit when I was struggling with my weight, that is exactly how my thoughts went. In Isaiah 26:3, the scripture says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”
I did not have perfect peace because food was occupying the place in my mind where God should have been.
2. Is Food Making You “Loopy”?
Do you experience stress, anxiety, depression, irritability, and emotional upsets frequently? It may not be your fault. If your diet consists mostly of sugar, high fat, and refined carbohydrates, it is likely these foods are interfering with your brain function.
To maintain emotional stability, the brain must maintain a delicate balance between three chemicals: glucose (blood sugar), serotonin (a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of calm and relaxation), and beta-endorphin (the body’s natural pain relievers). Processed foods disrupt that balance.
To get out of the cycle, you must eat foods that stabilize the production of these chemicals to return the brain to balance. Which foods? These would be foods high in ‘B’ and ‘C’ vitamins and the mineral Zinc. You also need foods high in fiber.
Most of these are found in fruits and vegetables (see Genesis 1:29). You also need to include “good” fats in your diet to help your brain recognize when you have had enough to eat.
3. Are limiting beliefs keeping you trapped?
Your words create your world. Every person in the special I watched spoke in negative, victim language: “Food is a struggle.” “It’s a constant battle.” “There is no cure.” “There is nothing I can do about it.”
Take the following test to see if limiting beliefs are holding you back:
Stand in front of a mirror. Take a few deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. When you feel relaxed, say these three statements:
I am a size____________ [Make the statement the size you want to be rather than what you are now]
My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
I maintain my ideal weight easily and joyfully
As you spoke these statements aloud, did any negative or doubting thoughts come up? Did you experience increased tension in your body? If so, this points to limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
This conflict causes you to say you want to lose weight, but do things that lead you in the opposite direction. Limiting beliefs also contribute to stress and anxiety, which feeds the cycle of compulsive overeating.
It’s time for people of faith to take back our temples and walk in the power God has given to us.