Ever heard of stress eating? Using food to cope with anxiety and stress has become its own epidemic in the United States. Food is so easily at our finger tips that it has become a “go to” for stress management. Sometimes we are aware of it and other times we are not aware of it. What are your stress foods? Cheetos? Chocolate? Cookies? Whatever the foods, the ability to let go of them and not stress eat is very difficult and we often do not know how to break the cycle. We see the numbers going up on the scale and perhaps we half-heartedly make a Cheetos joke, but do we really want to stop? If we do want to stop, are we feeling at a loss for how? If you are feeling ashamed about your stress eating, you are not alone. The struggle is very real.
Watching TV or zoning out on a smart phone are likely the two most common settings for stress eating. And this makes sense because we are numbing our minds with technology, which puts us out of touch from our bodies. For others, the stress of everyday life is just so much that stress eating is done throughout the day to try and manage the stress. When we cannot eliminate the stress, it is really hard to stop stress eating.
So what do we do? When we cannot take away the stress, how can we handle the stress without using maladaptive stress eating? Here is an exercise to think about. When the urge to reach for the chips, cookies, or the stress food comes, take a deep breath. Let us use Job 27:3 as our meditation verse: “So long as I still have life breath in me, the breath of God in my nostrils…” The breath of God in our nostrils. Think about this. Take a deep breath and exhale with this in mind. We have what we need to manage our stress in our very bodies. We have the presence of God. Now, it does not feel that way when we are overwhelmed by the stresses of this earthly life. But stress eating a bunch of junk food is not the answer and we know it. Instead of turning to earthly food, let us turn to our Father in Heaven and seek after the food of eternal life.
When we are stressed, our minds will search for ways to calm the stress in our bodies. While food seems like an easy solution, it really makes us feel guilt, shame, and bad physically. It also can disconnect us from the Spirit, because we can become even more out of tune from our bodies because of the stress eating. Stress eating is a habit that did not just happen after one occurrence. It happened after time and time again of reaching for the Cheetos. So we must practice, again and again and again. Before reaching for the food, breathe, call to mind the words of our Lord. The food of this earth will not take away our stress.
As simple as it sounds, taking a deep breath, it can be really hard to remember to do. But let us try it. Let us call to mind the passage from Job when we breathe in through our nose and out of our mouths. Let us turn our minds, hearts, and stomachs to our Lord and call on his strength. We can even pray with the hymn that says “Breathe on me breath of God and fill me with Life anew, that I may love the things you love and do what you would do.” Breathe with the music. Or we can turn our minds to our favorite scripture verses or hymns in our time of stress. Food that truly will heal us and will help us in the stress of this life. Conquering stress eating takes commitment. It does not have to involve an elaborate plan to go to the gym every day. It can start right at home, with awareness, a deep breath, and turning our minds to our Lord. A plan to use the food that will benefit us in eternity and not the earthly food that neither solves nor helps us reduce our stress.