The one rule that keeps me from overeating


I know it—I’ve been terribly practical the last few weeks. Not much dwelling on gospel truths here, but I promise you I don’t plan to camp here forever. Also, today’s topic has to do with an everyday living kind of thing that does (I wish it didn’t) carry over into spiritual reality.

As far as vices go, gluttony is among my top ten at this point in my life. In previous years, it held a much more prominent spot—at times, right in the center of my most difficult spiritual battles. Just now, it is a sort of regular visitor to the list of sins that require my attention. It’s seasonal. I am a seasonal glutton—for weeks at a time, I use food well and enjoy it. But fairly often throughout the year, I get caught in a season of habitual real overdoing.

If I wanted to fool myself, I’d say that this habit has nothing to do with other parts of my life and nothing to do with my walk with Christ. But I can’t fool myself. Practicing gluttony does something to my relationships—with God, with my husband, with my children, and with my dear friends. For me, gluttony is actively choosing to find my solace, my entertainment, and my relaxation in the act of squirrelling away an extra bite here and an extra bowl there.

Food as a way of rewarding myself for a hard day. Food as a way of escaping responsibilities or relationships. Food as a way of avoiding spiritual needs or conviction.

It is a way of taking control of my life in a way I was never meant to control my life. And yes, it’s only one of many ways that I unseat Christ from the throne of my heart. But it is a regular one. And because it is, it needs a battle plan that is suitable to the high stakes.

 

My particular weak spots; my particular solution

First I’ll tell you the pattern, and then I’ll tell you the single solution that I’ve found gets me redirected every time I’ve been through another seasonal bout with gluttony.

The pattern of sin looks like this, in three parts:

  1. I eat everywhere. Hunched over a keyboard. On the couch while watching something. Behind the wheel of a car. Standing in the kitchen. On the floor with my girls. Rarely: in a chair, at the table.
  2. Certain times of the day are regular problem areas. I tend to fall for food hard just after my girls go down for a nap or for bed at night. It’s been a long few hours, say, and when they finally hit the hay, I suddenly feel a release of tension and I signal myself that “it is now time for RELAXATION.” The problem is that I never get the real rest of spirit that I need in those times—because “relaxation” gets mixed up in my mind with “standing by the pantry wolfing down crackers with cream cheese and jam.” (This, for the record, is not relaxing at all. In fact, it usually results in a crabby, blood-sugar crashing mama by the time the girls are up again.)
  3. I take drastic measures to “get control of the situation.” This is a long way of saying that I, like most foolish Americans, attempt to diet. I tell my husband that I’m giving up sugar, or giving up white flour, or giving up eating after supper, or giving up all carbs, or something crazy like that. Most recently when I announced one of these things to him, he looked at me and said, “Oh, honey… you’ve got to stop this pendulum swinging.” He knows me too well. Historically, there’s always some new thing I’m doing that will change my life forever.

ONE RULE that always stops me in my tracks

I’ve resurrected this rule about once a year, and for some reason, forget about it until I really need it again. It’s truly a wonderful psychological tool. This week, I remembered it and reinstated it, and instantly, it did what it always does: interrupts the pendulum swing.

ONE RULE: Eat whatever you want. But you can only eat it at the table, on a plate, while doing nothing else.

That means no multitasking—no phone, no book, no screen. It absolutely encourages family meals. It absolutely precludes standing and eating, or eating on a couch or in the car. It absolutely encourages cooking a thoughtful meal, every time you want to eat.

I understand that this isn’t a rule that will address anybody’s weak spot. I just know it addresses mine (hurried, furtive, distracted eating to the point of gluttony).

I understand that this rule says nothing about nutritional needs. But for me—a person who always has fruits and vegetables in the house, who already knows how to cook a balanced meal, and who generally likes good food cooked well, this one rule allows me to get my mind off of trying to control what I put into my mouth, and puts the focus squarely on preparing a good plate of food to sit down, thank God for, and truly enjoy.

 

The only thing this helps with

If you’re looking for a way to win “cleanest eater of the year” or “bodybuilder of the year” or “self-motivator of the year,” this is no way to do that. But if you’re looking to adopt a habit that will help you to worship God, enjoy your food, and practice a type of self-control that doesn’t involve blacklisting entire food groups, this is it.

Also, it is a great way to bring family meals back to a central mealtime. With very small children, I’ve found that the tendency is to feed everybody pecks here and there at intervals all day long. A handful here, a slice there, a peeled orange eaten on the kitchen floor. This is something I needed to reign in and model for the little ones, too. When we eat, we eat. When we play, we play.

I know. I just effectively said “this is a new thing I’m doing that will change my life forever.” But this time I mean it. This time I really do mean it.

 

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I’ll close with a recipe for this bread I just baked with my little girl which we then sat at table and enjoyed together. It fully qualifies for both descriptors Norah and I use on a good food: “Delicious and nutritious!”

 

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

  • 3 c. whole ground wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ c. honey
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk wet ingredients in a bowl. Add dry ingredients until smooth. Add zucchini. Divide into 2 or 3 loaves (depending on desired loaf height) and bake at 325 for 35-50 minutes.

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