When you hear the phrase, “eat when you’re hungry, stop when full,” I imagine a shudder runs down your spine. How on earth am I supposed to learn to do that? Rest assured, the process can be done. Below are a few tips that may be helpful as you begin your journey.
1. Pray a “new prayer” before you begin eating
It is common for many of us to pray before we eat, as we find it important to thank God for our food and express our gratefulness in his provision of it. As the prayer has become routine, is often marked by familiar and quick phrases. If you have problems overeating, this prayer simply will not do any longer. Imagine your meal times as new opportunities to mount up for battle. When you eat, you are either going to be victorious by not overeating, or you’re going to fail and feel discouraged at the end of your meal. Consequently, the words you say in the prayer before the meal need be purposeful and carefully selected. A new prayer should include a desire for the Holy Spirit to help you know when you’ve had enough, strength and focus in order to be obedient, and the grace that only God can provide for a victorious eating session. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to “gird up your loins” and be obedient.
2. WAIT until you are HUNGRY
Our bodies have been equipped with this wonderful tool to help us know when to eat: the stomach growl. If you start to eat in RESPONSE to this growl, you will see a major shift in your relationship with food and your ability to learn to eat. This took me a great deal of practice, but once I learned to ONLY consume food when my body was calling out for hunger (i.e., stomach growl, burning, empty feeling), I saw significant progress in my weight loss attempts.
I think of the eating cycle like a dishwasher: when you put dishes in and turn the dishwasher on, you usually do not touch the dishes until the cycle is complete. We should be the same way with our bodies. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING until you feel this sensation of hunger return. At that point, you know your body is ready to consume food again.
3. Eat slowly. Savor every bite.
People who struggle with overeating, are often the same people who struggle with eating slowly. It is so easy to just “inhale” your food, devour every morsel on your plate, and then wake up at the end of the meal and realize you have gone too far. If you slow down when you eat, the first thing you’ll begin to realize is that you have a greater understanding of when you are “full,” as you can allow the food the time to travel down to your digestive system and your brain to get the message that you are nearing fullness. Secondly, you might actually get the chance to enjoy your food. You can savor the texture, flavor, and smell, while actually experiencing the experience of eating. This will make it a bit easier to be obedient when the sign comes that you are full and you need to stop eating. You will have no regrets, as you have had a chance to enjoy your meal and taste the food.
4. Drink between Bites
This will enable you to help digestion and slow down the food intake. You will also get the signal for fullness a little quicker. I recommend water, as it is calorie free, good for you, and allows you to just focus on the food. Remember – any beverage that you drink will contribute to your fullness and will decrease the amount of food you can eat. There are so many hidden calories in fruit juices and sodas. Be mindful as you make your beverage choices.
It is best not to be too distracted while you are eating. As you are practicing “normal eating,” it will be helpful to stay away from eating while watching TV, eating while talking on the phone, eating while reading, eating while having an intense conversation, and eating in the car. If you are talking or participating in another activity while you are eating, it will be so easy to “mindlessly” eat and quickly override your body’s signals of fullness. You must concentrate. Concentration may mean that you talk less, and are more focused during the period of eating. If you are talking, it is best to talk and then take bites, rather than trying to do it all at the same time. It will get easier. You have to be able to focus on the matter at hand: winning your battle with food.
6. When you first believe you feel full, stop eating immediately.
This is where the battle begins. Everything in you will want to continue to eat. Everything. This is where you either submit to God, or continue to do things your way. I guarantee you – you never regret not overeating. Yes, you may be tempted. And yes it may be difficult. However, you will have no regrets. You will always regret overeating. ALWAYS. Do whatever it takes to not eat another morsel. If you are at a restaurant, pack the food up. Go to the bathroom. Sabotage your plate. Pursue obedience at any cost. It will get easier, but at first this will probably be the most difficult step. Pray for strength and “take no prisoners.” If it helps, remember this may make the difference between seeing less pounds on the scale.
7. Remember – eating is not just eating for you
As a person with recurrent weight concerns, eating will be a place where one of your battles with the enemy will be fought every day. The more obedient you become, the more you decrease the chains that bind you. The converse is also true. If you continually overeat at every meal, you will continually feel more like a slave to food. This journey is about you taking a stance and waging war. You are naïve if you think you do not need to have that on your mind as you approach your food choices.
These tips are essential, as you already have a host of maladaptive behaviors that are natural and will take over if you’re not paying attention. This is a guide to help you take on your new way of living, under God, and learn to walk and freedom that he offers. If practiced, these behaviors will eventually become easier and will not feel as laborious as they do in the beginning. Think of these beginning steps as your training wheels on your road to freedom.