ABSTINENCE OR MODERATION?
In the world of Food Struggles the search for the “perfect treatment” continues, and in Christian circles, the question whether one should be abstinent from certain food or learn to eat all food in moderation is an ongoing debate.
What is a woman to do?
Say goodbye to sweets forever, or eat everything, but only one bite at a time?
My Humble Opinion: Stop wondering about it and DO what you’ve gotta do girl!
Actually, both of these “solutions” have merit:
Gluttony, a sin that most ladies with food struggles deal with, is in itself a clear indication that we are dealing with eating too much and the solution should, therefore, be to repent and eat less, through the help of the Holy Spirit of course.
However, a struggle with food also points to the sin of idolatry. Certain food can become an idol when we turn to it to make us happy, calm our nerves, and bring meaning to our lives. In the case of idolatry, we need to repent from idolatry and then remove the “idol” from the throne of our hearts and give our hearts back to God.
All of this can only be done by surrendering our food struggle to God. However, we have a part to play. Numerous verses in the Bible makes it clear that we are stewards over our bodies. Godly wisdom and common sense seem to apply here. An alcoholic would be wise not to work at a bar, and a person with a porn or gambling addiction would be wise to stay away from the computer especially at times when there is no accountability (late at night). In fact, I know people who got so tangled up in chat rooms and online communities that they had to get rid of their computers at home altogether in order to stay free. Shouldn’t we, in the same manner, be wise to remove the food that became a constant stumbling block from our lives? Are we being wise if we go to places where we could be tempted with food that always gets us in trouble?
Some scientists believe that the alteration of the brain, found in drug addicts and alcoholics, might also occur in people who have struggled with food addiction for a long time. If this is true then there should be a period of abstinence from the “addictive food” for our brains to repair before we can safely reach for those foods again (if ever)
Okay, so this is still a very controversial subject and not enough research has been done to say for sure. So let’s not call it a “brain alteration”, let’s just call it a deeply ingrained habit. Do you honestly think that you will overcome this “habit” if you are daily surrounded by the food that is directly linked to past bouts of overeating or binge eating, or will you be pulled into the familiar path of your long-standing habit?
Here is what I’ve learned in my own life through trial and error:
- If I keep my “addictive food” laying around the house, I’m not being wise.
- I’m playing with fire if I start to bargain, telling myself, “I’ve not eaten _______ for so long, surely I can eat some”.
- If I start to feel sorry for myself when I see others eat the foods I can’t, then I’m usually close to the verge of denial and in need of some truth to set me straight.
- I can eat sugar and dessert, but I know exactly which ones are “safe” for me to eat, and it’s no coincidence that those are also good for my body.
THE TRUTH: The food that is on my list of “addictive foods”, and that I need to avoid in order to stay free, is food that my athletic friends will not even dream of touching. In other words: It’s bad for my body anyway, and the sadness I feel for not being able to have it is an emotional attachment, NOT A LOGICAL ONE.
Now I don’t deny that some ladies just have a problem with eating too much. They don’t have an emotional attachment to a certain food, they only desire a lot of food. In this case, it will make total sense to repent from the sin of gluttony and find a healthy food plan such as Weight Watchers or First Place to teach you how to be a good steward and eat smaller portions of food.
However, for the most part, if we struggle with eating disorders and food addiction we have both the sin of gluttony and idolatry present in our lives: We love food and we want lots of it.
This brings me to “A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!”
YOU MIGHT NEED TO TAKE A LOOK AT BOTH: You might need to learn how to eat the right portions as well as get rid of your addictive foods. I’m not saying this lightly at all, it is SUPER difficult, so please don’t try and do it alone. Join a 12 Step Program where others are doing the same thing (preferably a Christian program such as Celebrate Recovery or an OA group that is Christian based and meet at a church) ALSO GET ADDITIONAL CHRISTIAN COUNSELING IF POSSIBLE.
You can also join my 12-week program to learn how to lay down your addictive foods and surrender your food struggle to God.
WARNING: Of course the enemy will tell you that this is just nonsense, it sounds like a diet! Let me assure you, getting rid of addictive foods is NOT A DIET. You are not restricting any food group in order to lose weight. You are getting rid of food that usually doesn’t even belong to any food group, and that you will not dream of giving to a young child. Why? It’s usually sugar and fat coated poison!
I’m not trying to convince you that you have a food addiction if you don’t have one. So please don’t get mad at me if you believe strictly in moderation and a healthy non-restrictive food plan (plus surrender to God of course) has helped you find freedom in the past. I also make room in my program for ladies who want to take this route instead of eliminating any food, because there most certainly is not a one-size-fits-all approach for everyone. I discuss the different options in Week 3 of my program.
I’m just asking you to be honest with yourself on these few matters:
- Has your life become totally unmanageable again in spite of following a healthy food plan?
- Do you have constant sadness and depression that lingers under the surface of your life again?
- Have you been free of this oppression before ONLY when you got rid of your addictive foods and given your heart back to God?
In the end, you know yourself, and if you let the Holy Spirit search your heart, YOU WILL KNOW WHAT TO DO!
Hope this helped you ladies make sense of the big debate over Abstinence and Moderation.
Here are some resources for you:
NEW: INDIVIDUAL COUNSELING online or in Beaverton Oregon
Call Heleen at (503) 914-2749 or Schedule online: www.LifeSolutions.io
Click on the image below to learn more about the 12 Week Online Program: Women Struggling with Food
Read my story. Click on the image below to download my ebook: God will I ever be free?
Appetite for Freedom WORKBOOK and DVD.
A great resource for small groups or individual use.
Click on the image below to find out more:
9 thoughts on “Should I Give up Dessert Forever?”
Good post. Well, I have written about this issue and experienced it first hand, and here is what I would say: abstinence is critical in the beginning phases of repentance (I won’t use the word “recovery” because eating disorders aren’t organic illnesses); once the addiction is broken (“put off”) and God honoring eating patterns have been established (“put on”), it’s okay to add those treats back in in moderation. They are no longer “binge foods” and can be enjoyed with thanksgiving.
I would not give this advice for the use of alcohol for someone who was formerly a drunkard, but for food, yes.
Typically, simple sugars and fatty, fried foods are what “trigger” the bulimic or overeater to binge. When someone is re-learning to eat, she does need to learn discipline and self-control (which is a fruit of the Spirit, of course). Eliminating those foods from the diet, WITHOUT ELIMINATING ENTIRE FOOD GROUPS, will help eliminate undue temptation, and if she eats healthfully, she will not experience those intense cravings. However, once she is free of the disordered eating patterns and obsessive thoughts that fuel it, it is fine to enjoy those things in moderation. If her mind is renewed, eating in such a way will not produce guilt or anxiety, but freedom.
One note, though – I would never, EVER encourage anyone to go to a 12-step group – even if it claims to be “faith-based”. The whole 12-step philosophy breeds a new kind of bondage – that you will “never be recovered; always in recovery” (which directly contradicts 1 Corinthians 6:10-11). The model of “group therapy” they use, unfortunately, is not biblical, and fosters an unhealthy dependence on the group itself, rather than on God. I do think counseling is a great option, but it must be truly biblical counsel.
Just my $0.02! 🙂
Thanks Marie. I always value your opinion as a strong Christian Counselor.
I am aware of the strong stance against 12 Steps Programs, and although my program has nothing to do with the 12 Steps, I do have some positive personal experience in this area. I have lead Celebrate Recovery Groups for women with food struggles for a season and found that it can remain “God focused” and “freedom focused” if it’s not an ongoing”recovery” group.
Our groups only ran for a year, and helped women with the physical ramifications of a food struggle. Many of them weighed far over 300 pounds and the huge amounts of sugar and fat most of these ladies consumed daily made it impossible for them to focus on anything but food. They had to remove the “drug” or “crutch” if you will before being able to even think straight, let alone pick up a Bible. The accountability and encouragement that these groups offered helped the ladies immensely to get through the difficult few months of withdrawal (irritability, depression, fatigue etc) and renewal of their minds.
However, you are right, most 12 Steps programs are done in the manner of ongoing “recovery” which is not Biblical.
I want to apologize to you ladies if this seemed confusing. I developed my program because I was not satisfied with what the 12 Step Programs (even the Christian ones) had to offer.
I ONLY recommend this as a tool, in the same way the Forum in my Online Program is just a tool, and should not become another “crutch” that you pick up. I believe that once we’ve surrendered our struggle to God He will use anything, including a group like this, lead by a strong Christian who acknowledges that God is the only true healer and that the work He has begun in us, He will bring to completion. However, I can not deny that this is not the norm for most of these groups. So ladies, if you consider joining a support group, please remember that forging a new relationship with Jesus where you surrender all of your life to the Holy Spirit’s control, MUST REMAIN YOUR MAIN FOCUS. PEOPLE CAN NOT SET YOU FREE!! JESUS IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE THE ONLY TRUE SOURCE OF FREEDOM AND HEALING FOR YOU.
I would like to talk more with you on this topic Marie. I’ve learned a lot from you and I’m always open in allowing God to “grow” me though His Word and other godly people:)
Well put, Heleen!
That makes a lot of sense about the extreme overeaters you were able to minister to – and yes, accountability helps a lot. They are doing a “Thin Within” group at my church now, and the ladies are loving the fellowship and accountability as they surrender this area. So YES, groups that have Christ at the center can truly help folks. I have read your program and LOVE it. I’m so glad you’re offering a biblical alternative and showing women the power of the Gospel to set them free. You are awesome, sister!!
Hey Heleen, Yesterday and three days before, I went on a binge. Of course last night and today I felt completely miserable and I can feel all the “yuck” sweating out my poors. I struggle with this and i am so tired of the struggle. I go on a “fast” from the foods I struggle with, get in right standing for a bit and then fall back into the same trap. I am so tired of this constant battle. I want freedom, but I can’t seem to find it. Last year I did wonderful for 8 months! 8 MONTHS! Then I found myself back at the beginning of the struggle..all over again. I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel so ashamed and weak.
I am so sorry to hear that you have been struggling so. I know all about the never ending battle and the feeling of utter despair and shame. It is the enemy’s age old trick to keep us in a place of bondage.
Please go have a look at my free ebook and Week 1 on my Website, this will give you hope that God can set you free and wants to heal you from this disordered way of relating to food. You are not alone Laurie. Many women have set their feet on a journey to find healing by surrendering their hearts and minds to God, and they are walking it out right this minute.
Please send me an email if you would like to talk some more. I pray right now that God will use whatever and whom ever He wants to bring you to a place of total freedom in Him.
Have a look at this post on here as well:
In His Love, Heleen
This is a great blog post! I agree that having addictive foods around is not a good thing. I work in a restaurant and find it very challenging to serve foods and beverages that are triggers for me. I feel like I am in a war zone for 6 hours a day, fighting to say “No” to these triggers. Changing jobs is not an option for me. I know that with time and prayer I will be able to resist, but it is very challenging at the moment…I am struggling. Do you have any advice about this? I am SO BLESSED by your website! It has been a lifeline for me. Thank you!
It would have been ideal if you didn’t have to work in the food industry, at least until you got rid of food addiction in your body. Unfortunately we can not always change our circumstances…From my own experience I can say that when I get rid of the food addiction in my body (go through 21 days of not eating my addictive foods) I am ten times more able to resist temptations (even if it’s under my nose – my son tends to bring home all kinds of goodies). But if I’m still in the grip of food addiction and I’m still “allowing” myself all kinds of junk food here and there, my resistance is just so much lower. It is already such a huge spiritual and emotional battle, so if we can eliminate the physical struggle IT HELPS SO MUCH. Please look for a food program that can help you get rid of your addictive foods, if you have not done so yet. Or email me and I will be happy to recommend some.
I will start my 21 days of detox today. I am going to eliminate all sugar from my diet. Maybe white flour but for sure sugar. Please pray for me. It shouldn’t be too hard as I already drink diet sodas and black coffee. I just need to stay with no treats and I should be fine.
I am learning so much from your blogs. I do have a question about deciding to abstain from a given food… I find that whatever I am eating there is always the food that is the tastiest – the treat. So if I get rid of chocolate, greek yoghurt, fruit salad and cheese – secondary ‘treat’ foods will take their place – cheesy oatcakes for instance. There will always be a ‘treat’ food. So although that abstinence makes sense for things that are truly addictive, abstinence in the realm of food may simply shift the focus from one treat food to another… the logical conclusion is that you end up only eating foods that are distasteful to you or not that enjoyable. For this reason, I believe that ‘legalising’ all foods allows your body to express its preference and takes the sting out of the foods that are especially tasty. I have not got this balance quite right yet and still struggle to eat small portions of ice cream – however, sometimes I simply don’t want ice cream and I don’t buy it, even though I have given myself permission. For me this is the best route because I will always succeed in finding a food to idolise whatever the list of permitted foods I give myself.