If you knew that there was a severe storm headed your direction, would you prepare for it? Most of us would probably say, “Yes! I would prepare.”
I live in Colorado, so I have prepared for many winter snow storms. If I knew one was imminent, I’d prepare by going to the store to stock up on food. I’d make sure I had candles and warm clothes in case the power went out. I’d charge my handheld devices. The opportunity to prepare is the advantage of knowing the storm is coming. It’s pretty intuitive for most of us. Interestingly though, emotional eating is very similar and yet, we rarely plan for the storms of life as it relates to food and disordered eating.
Recently, a dear friend of mine was explaining how she’s being intentional about “planning her storms.” I love that term. I’ve coached many women on this concept and apply it to my own life, but something about that description is powerful isn’t it? The gist of what we were describing is the understanding that the storms of life WILL come. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. The question is this - when they do come, are you prepared for them? Do you have a plan in place to help keep you protected from the storm?
I am convinced that the vast majority of women who struggle with binge eating suffer unnecessarily simply out of a desperate effort to suppress it. I believe they need only a new storm plan.
When the Lord freed me from binge eating, He really showed me that a critical piece of the puzzle was allowing myself permission to feel and experience the sensation of wanting, or needing, to eat something strictly for emotional reasons. For me, allowing myself to feel it without FEARING it was huge! Rather than desperately trying to ignore the feeling, or attempting to “will it” away, I just felt it and prayed about what I was feeling. Do you know what happened? It produced a giant exhale, great peace, and, ultimately freedom.
Last Friday afternoon I was exhausted. It had been an amazing, fulfilling, but intense and tiring week. I’d just finished the final day of volunteer teaching in my son’s classroom. I’d coached several women. I had multiple obligations and appearances to fulfill for our family business. I had just taken on a freelance writing assignment, and I had checked off an impressive personal to-do list for the week. By God’s grace, He’d helped me to successfully balance a very demanding week with joy. It didn’t “look” like a “storm was coming.” I was in a good place emotionally and spiritually. Had I not experienced a similar scenario in the past I wouldn’t have predicted a storm. Thankfully though, we become wise through experience. I now understand that after such a demanding week I can accurately predict a subtle “emotional storm.”
My final commitment had been met. As I drove away from my son’s school I felt relief. While I felt filled with gratitude, I appreciated the respite and time to relax and restore I had ahead of me. I also felt an old and familiar sensation. I wanted to eat many, many, many chips (MANY!). Why? It was simply the relief, the release of the stress I’d carried all week. It was the deep exhale – the letdown of all I’d felt the pressure to carry all week long. Craving carbs is a common response to stress. For me the craving is typically after high levels of stress. I’ve learned this about myself, so I can plan my storm.
There was a time in my life when the feelings I was having would have caused me extreme anxiety and fear. I would have been terrified, knowing that I was on the brink of a binge. I would have fought it. I would have attempted to coerce myself into thinking about all the “healthier” alternatives I should choose as an option to binging. I’d probably have even tried choosing something I deemed a “better” or “healthier” choice first. Indefinitely though, I would succumb. Teamed up with my partner’s guilt and condemnation, I would give into eating the chips I wanted in the first place. However, I would be overcome with feelings of defeat, weakness and failure. Rather than enjoying a plate of chips, I would literally eat as many chips as possible - to the point of discomfort, since I’d already “blown it.” Historically, from there it would tailspin out of control into a full-blown binge. It was both tragic and preventable.
Today, I give huge praise and glory to the Lord for shedding healing light on this struggle for me. Now, instead of the sad scenario I just described, I enjoy the safety of my storm plan.
That particular Friday, I knew driving home that I fully intended to enjoy a “chip buffet.” I wanted a sampling of every chip. Every chip! Rather than fighting it, I planned it. I pictured it ahead of time in my head. In detail, I became intentional about my CHOICE to enjoy chips as a blessing to my body. Chips a blessing to my body? YES! Can a plate of chips be healthy? Absolutely! Now, are they the most nutritious food? No, of course they’re not. But, that wasn’t what I was consuming them for. They were not intended for nutritional purposes. I was enjoying them as a form of planned self-care.
One huge element of overcoming binging is to come to a place of peace, understanding that the foods you crave are “allowed.” No food, in and of itself, is bad. Bad is a value term that food simply does not deserve. It gives it way too much power. When we have a plan, we take that power back to ourselves where it belongs. I fully enjoyed the chip buffet because I chose and planned it. It’s a blessing, so I can say out loud, “Praise you God for this blessing, whew, that hit the spot, it was exactly what I needed.” Then, I can move on with my afternoon. No condemnation. No guilt. No going crazy worrying that this was the last time I’d be “allowed” to enjoy chips, so no need to eat the whole bag and everything else I could get my hands on before I “snapped out of it.” Instead I enjoyed peace, freedom, and the spirit of power the Lord has given me, and that He has given YOU!
(My glorious chip buffet)
There is huge blessing to be enjoyed when you plan and choose the foods that are important to you. When you feel the sensation of needing to eat for emotional reasons, what is your plan? Maybe for you it’s not salty chips, maybe it is ice cream? So, you keep a couple of pints of Halo Top ice cream in your freezer and plan to enjoy the whole thing.
Maybe for you it’s less of an emotional response, and more of a regular weekly, or monthly occasion? Maybe it’s date night? Maybe you plan to enjoy fast food with your family once a week? Maybe Friday is pizza night? Maybe you meet girlfriends for creamy coffee drinks on Saturday mornings? Maybe after church on Sunday your family goes for doughnuts? Maybe it’s tied to hormonal shifts and you plan for more rest and more chocolate?
Whatever your individual “storm” looks like, I encourage you to lift the ban, loosen the restrictions and allow the Lord to shine His light of grace and victory on it. Having a plan for allowing food to be part of healthy self-care is freeing for the mind and a blessing to the body.
Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”
Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 24:27 “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”
Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
(Remember you can always reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more support.)