Thursday

Welcome!

Etsy shop: FrancescoSessa

July 2014

Welcome to Everyday Food and Faith! You can read excerpts from my book Transcending the Everyday Temptations of Overeating, which begin immediately below.

Many thanks to the Etsy painters whose work enhances each post. I've provided a link in the caption of each image so you can visit the artist's shop.

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Friday

Introduction

Introduction
Many years ago, I naively set myself to the task of finding a solution to the problem of overeating. I figured I should take control of my life and reinvigorate my motivation to eat well and lose weight. After selecting a diet and exercise program, I shored up my willpower and vowed to be vigilant in healthful eating behavior. I also believed that a religious discipline should be added to the effort. Armed with all of this, I thought I’d soon achieve permanent weight loss and be able to share my success story with others. I had no idea what I was in for.
There was so much I didn’t know. I didn’t know that my problem with overeating was going to intensify despite my attempts to take control. Nor did I anticipate that those wonderful times of high motivation were going to shrink. Willpower was going to weaken. The inner conflict was going to get the best of me. It seemed the harder I tried, the more I failed. I’m sure many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Eventually I realized there is a better way—a way of inner transformation. I know that sounds hazy as well as difficult. Yet it’s far more real and reliable than willpower, and far easier than laborious self-monitoring. If we want to conquer any type of temptation, we must put forth our best effort. But, we also need the transforming power of God. From a new vantage point of spiritual living, we may transcend the everyday temptations that have become life-consuming problems.
The four-part format of this book will lead you through four spiritual principles that I believe are essential for positive self-change. This will culminate in the Four Practices for Transcending Everyday Temptations that can serve as a prayerful reminder of these effective and enduring principles. I feel certain the four practices will help you in your own problem with overeating. They will help you find freedom and self-mastery in all forms of temptation.
This book also offers an eating plan that is different from anything you may have encountered before. The Four Habits for Normal Eating are designed to diminish food cravings and naturally reduce food consumption. They will provide clarity and simplicity to your daily eating decisions. These habits will allow you to shift your attention from eating concerns to the greater goals of life.
I’ve interspersed my thoughts with passages from the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs. Quotations from Psalms depict strong human emotion and spiritual longing. These ancient writers were not hesitant to address God directly as they reached out for help. Their religion was a firsthand, dynamic experience. I encourage you to follow their lead and experience God for yourself.
Sincerity is all you need to begin. Be willing to open yourself to the trustworthy love of God. The divine presence will restore you to wholeness and unveil a beautiful world of unimagined possibilities.


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End of excerpt from Transcending the Everyday Temptations of Overeating

Thursday

Diet Weary

Battle Weary

We are very weary in the struggle with overeating. We wage this battle every day while discarded days of defeat mount up rapidly behind us. Yet each day seems like an eternity when resisting temptation.
We’re tired of the familiar pattern in the quest for weight loss: pick yourself up from the last failed attempt, motivate to begin again, learn a new strategy, apply willpower, then keep on self-monitoring. Each new attempt meets with ever-diminishing success. Whether we have ten pounds to lose or one hundred, the pattern is the same.
Occasionally, we see someone emerge victorious, looking healthy and slim. We view them with a mixture of jealousy and admiration. Chances are we had some glory days too. Somehow, we managed to summon the enthusiasm and discipline to conquer the problem, at least temporarily. Yet, we know that trouble lies ahead for that new victor. There will be a gradual lessening of motivation, a growing tendency to cheat on the diet, ever-weakening willpower, and more excuses for not exercising.
We long to give up on the battle and turn our attention to other matters. But how can we? Do we give ourselves over to decreasing mobility, discomfort, and susceptibility to disease—not to mention the depressing search for bigger clothes? Do we just smile and accept ourselves while we continue to abuse our bodies with too much food?
Why is it that there are countless numbers of competent people, who are disciplined in so many ways, yet totally at the mercy of this temptation? This one, very basic aspect of life has become a never-ending, losing battle.
We search through stacks of diet books for answers. We listen to talk shows for a bit of sage advice. We scan the covers of magazines for clues. People step forward to tell us their stories, and there are many suggestions that make sense. A few years ago, I read an opinion page in a national magazine, written by a man who had solved his overeating problem. Every time he wanted to reach for food, he sat down until his feelings of anxiety subsided. He concluded that, if everyone did that, there’d be far fewer weight problems. I wish that were so. He’s lucky he has just one reason he overeats; and to his credit, he found a way to stop his pattern. Many overeaters are not so fortunate. We must fight the battle on many different fronts.
We’re helplessly confused in the complexity of the problem. We overeat for a variety of reasons. As soon as we subdue one reason, another rises up and tackles us from behind. We eat to calm ourselves in emotional stress. We celebrate with food. We eat to relieve boredom. We eat when we feel insecure. We love to taste, chew, and warm ourselves with food. We examine ourselves and search out the reasons for our behavior. It’s apparent that eating has become the catchall response to any kind of dis- comfort, need, or longing.
Food surrounds us constantly, keeping us in a perpetual state of conflict. It’s exhausting to referee these clashing desires. We desperately want freedom from the prison of this inner struggle. We long for some reliable measure of self-mastery amidst temptation. Yet, the power to succeed has completely vanished.
In the numbness of confusion and weakness, we realize that only God can help us. We know we can’t fight this on our own anymore. We’ve stretched the limits of our human capacity to change. We feel powerless. We’ve been knocked down one too many times, and we can’t stand up. With fervent longing, we turn to God. And he is there. We are not alone and we need God desperately.
Tragedy and temptation make us realize that we need God. In crashing waves of tragedy and dangerous whirlpools of temptation, we reach for the hand of God.


Oh Lord, all my longing is known to you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

Psalm 38: 9–10

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End of excerpt from Transcending the Everyday Temptations of Overeating

Wednesday

Rest

Etsy shop: JodyBallArt
Excerpt #3
Lean on God

The time has come to stop everything and rest a while with God. Sit down next to him and lean upon the everlasting arms. You need to be alone with God. It is good to rest with him when you can’t even think to pray, or when you can’t take a step forward. 

You don’t need to do anything or say anything—just rest.

God is very close to you. He is a magnificent presence in the universe yet also very near to each one of us. The creator is loving and merciful, as well as powerful and just. We are not alone in the universe, nor are we alone inside our own minds. He is our intimate companion.


We can trust God’s love. He loves each one of us with a great affection. We are precious to him. His love nourishes us and heals our inner wounds. Seek comfort and reassurance from the divine heart. We can depend upon him with simple, childlike trust. He understands us and he knows our frailties.


We may also trust his great power. We can feel secure that, with God, we can overcome all problems. With God there is always a way. In him, there is victory no matter what happens. There are fresh perspectives and unforeseen answers. With God, we can feel safe despite the outward circumstances of life. We may trust his promises and abundance.


We need to experience God, and that experience is very personal. He can be our perfect parent, closest friend, adored teacher, or beloved sovereign. Some may prefer the image of Divine Mother. I refer to God as “Father” most often, because the word evokes in me a trusting intimacy as well as an image of benevolent power. My use of male pronouns reveals that preference. The name you choose for God should fit what feels right to you and what you need.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; 
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2–3a

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End of excerpt from Transcending the Everyday Temptations of Overeating

Tuesday

Unburden

Etsy shop: karenilari
Excerpt #4
Lay Down your Burdens

After a time of rest, don’t be afraid to tell God anything that comes to mind. Lay down your burdens. Share your confusion. Tell him that you don’t know where else to turn. Acknowledge that you feel overwhelmed. Divulge your feelings of defeat. Your regrets about overeating may be numerous: I feel out of control ... I dislike what has happened to my body ... I’ve dulled my mind and robbed my energy ... I don’t trust myself anymore ... I’m sick and tired of my ways.


As you are opening yourself to God, you may find that painful feelings about other things will surface. It is well known that emotional pain causes us to be more vulnerable to the temptation of overeating. We try to soothe the inner pain with the balm of food. Name your feelings as best you can. Confess, or acknowledge that you feel afraid, angry, worried, guilty, ashamed, bitter, or jealous.


Feel free to confess anything you feel bad about. Acknowledge your mistakes, errors of judgment, inattention, insensitivity, and anything else you might regret. Don’t prejudge your confessions by reserving confession only for blatant acts of selfishness or resistance to God. Slowly unwind the tightened knot of false security. Release your grip on what troubles you. Release your painful feelings to God. Release your fears and failures into God’s care. Empty out so that there is room for God’s healing love to come in.


Confession calms when we’re full of conflict and defeat. It actually feels good to confess when we’re lacking the desire to move forward, when we feel powerless, and when we’re confused. Confession has a restful quality. In confession, we let down our guard of self-defense. Just be honest. You no longer have to put up a front. You’re simply stating what is, without explanation or embellishment. It is an honest statement of what you know down deep. It’s what you can see when all pretenses are gone.


Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25:16–18

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End of excerpt from Transcending the Everyday Temptations of Overeating

Monday

Dependence

Etsy shop: lauraposs
Excerpt #5
We've Depended on Food

In the calm clarity of confession, we begin to see that we depend upon food for many reasons. We reach for food to fill an unnamed emptiness, when we need to feel whole and secure. We search out food to calm down, when we need to unwind and relax. We use food to break out of boredom, when we need a spark to stimulate. We turn to food for fun, when we want some pleasure out of life. Food is our comforter and our protector. Food is our tranquilizer. Food is our energizer. Food is our entertainer.


As we look back on how we’ve used food, a pattern begins to take shape. We use food to provide ourselves with:
  • Security
  • Relaxation
  • Stimulation
  • Pleasure

We depend on food for fundamental feelings of security, relaxation, stimulation, and pleasure. Food, a basic source of satisfaction, is used to provide basic feelings of well-being. If this is true, perhaps this idea can be taken one step further. We can match these rather modern, psychological words with the following, ancient words of higher spiritual meaning:
  • Love
  • Peace
  • Hope
  • Joy

Notice how love matches security. Peace easily corresponds with relaxation. Hope coincides with stimulation. Joy fits well with pleasure. Much has been written about the emotional hunger for love, as being a primary cause of overeating. That wonderful insight gets to the heart of the human need for security and self-esteem. Yet we see there are other hungers we are trying to satisfy. We may search for a sublime sense of inner peace. We may long for a light of hope in the midst of discouragement. We may want more out of life, even the promise of joy.

Love, peace, hope, and joy—are these what we seek when we engage in temptation of any kind? Are they elevated feelings, perhaps spiritual emotions? Can we sum them up in one word—happiness? If so, then we come to understand that we’re searching for happiness when we overeat. We’ve depended on food, rather than God, in our search for happiness.

Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding,
... Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy.

Proverbs 3:13, 17-18

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End of excerpt from Transcending the Everyday Temptations of Overeating

Sunday

Food Cravings

Etsy shop: smallimpressions
Excerpt #10 of Part III
Four Habits for Normal Eating

Overeaters know the techniques of weight loss, but we know very little about normal eating. Pounds are lost during times of high motivation, but because we don’t understand how to eat normally, the pounds quickly return. Years of dieting have driven us even further away from the ability to make natural eating decisions. We’ve become slaves to our food cravings, insensitive to stomach fullness, confused about what to eat, and subject to stress-induced eating.

The good news is: overeaters can learn to eat normally. Presented here are four practical habits to recover normal eating behavior. If you form these habits, food cravings will diminish and food consumption will naturally decrease. In addition, food decisions will simplify, and stress-induced eating will subside. In short, you will actually begin to feel like a normal eater.

The Four Habits for Normal Eating are convenient, easy to remember, satisfying, and natural. There are no special recipes to prepare and no detailed menus to follow. This is a reliable and flexible plan for all eating situations. It will help you steer safely and surely through the eating day.
This plan did not suddenly occur to me one day. It evolved from experiences and observations I made over a long period of time. As I tried different eating plans, I began to keep track of the underlying physical reasons why I overate. I realized that I wanted to design a plan that would help to alleviate these causes. One of the first causes I noticed was what I call the taste-thirst connection. So this is where I will begin.
The taste-thirst connection to food cravings
Overeaters have terrible troubles with taste. The pleasure of taste lures us to food and keeps us fascinated. We overeat, in part, because we love the taste of certain types of food. Sometimes we enjoy these foods so much we say we’re addicted to them. For many people, chocolate is the food that feels addicting. For others it is salty snack food. Still others are drawn to an array of tantalizing foods.
The snack food industry exploits that incredible longing for taste. It produces an endless variety of colorfully packaged treats created by combinations of sugar, salt, fat, and chemicals. Convenience foods make it too easy to indulge our taste buds all day long. We try various ways to suppress the appetite; but for those who are lured and fascinated by taste, the urge to eat is still there. Some overeaters overindulge only at mealtimes. Yet, many of us love to snack with abandon between meals.
By contrast, thin people drink beverages between meals. I noticed this when I was at a shopping mall one day. A thin young mother passed me, trying to console her fussy pre-schooler. I overheard her say, “Let’s go get something to drink.” It occurred to me that if the young mother had been overweight I might have heard, “Let’s go get something to eat.” That is certainly what I would have said. I would have gone in search of a tasty snack food. After that, it seemed like everywhere I looked, I saw thin people depending on all manner of sugary beverages to get them through the day. They did not concern themselves with the calorie count or sugar content of the beverage. At parties, the thin people would sit back, content with a regular soda or glass of wine. Heavier people would cling to a sugar-free soda, while glancing furtively at the snack table.
I also noticed that thirst played an important role in how much food I consumed. If I was thirsty, I ate more. Often, I didn’t even know I was thirsty. I would misinterpret my thirst as the desire for food. Food was the answer to all discomfort, even the discomfort of thirst.
As I observed these things, I wondered if the typical overeater has a stronger than normal taste urge, in addition to difficulty in discerning thirst. Do these two problems work together to increase the desire to eat?
I began to believe that thirst, combined with the desire for taste, becomes a powerful physical inducement to overeat. It’s possible this is what brings about many strong food cravings. Taste and thirst both originate in the mouth, not the stomach. It’s as if the desire for taste is intensified by thirst. Even the experience of binge eating seemed strangely like drinking. The rapid and continuous consumption of food is strongly suggestive of gulping water when very thirsty.
Based on these subjective observations, I decided to allow, if not encourage, myself to rely upon a wide variety of beverages. In doing this, I hoped to take a giant step toward satisfying, or at least calming, that mischievous taste-thirst urge. I was also simply copying what I observed normal eaters doing.
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End of excerpt from Transcending the Everyday Temptations of Overeating