Isn’t overeating like alcoholism?

Q: Isn’t overeating like alcoholism? Won’t I have to fight the desire to overeat my entire life?
A: The short answer is “No.” The reason this is not true, especially for the Christian, is that God designed people to eat moderately and gave us internal mechanisms to know when and what to eat and when to stop eating. Just look at small children. If they’re not hungry, it’s very difficult to get them to eat. If they are hungry, they cry and whine until they’re fed. They naturally know when they need to eat and when they’ve had enough to eat because they can feel it in their bodies. As we get older, various factors cause us to distrust or ignore these innate signals. It takes time, but we can relearn how to eat according to the natural physical signals we experience but have learned to disregard. As believers, we are free from the compulsion to sin (act apart from how God made us) (Romans 6:17-18), so we are free to explore the reasons we have ignored our natural relationship to food and free to start thinking and acting in new ways as we are guided and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

5 Responses to Isn’t overeating like alcoholism?

  1. I am not sure I can totally agree on that answer. I am planning on doing this Bible study and do believe that there are other reasons I overheat and that to truly overcome my overheating I need to trust and rely on strength from the Lord, however, I do believe that modern man made foods are addictive much in the way of alcohol and drugs. There is scientific evidence showing that artificial sweetness prompt us to eat more and that high fructose corn syrup is metabolized in our body in ways that disrupt the natural signals God gave our bodies.
    I obviously know that this isn’t the only reason, but if we are to solely base overheating on the premise you are, how do you explain severely obese toddlers and young children? Yes I believe that parents are culpable somewhat in these situations but even with my own children I am well aware that when given the natural unprocessed food that God put here, my daughter Olivia will barely eat, but if I would willingly place applesauce, m&m’s, cornbread muffins from a mix, or even spaghetti with sauce from a can, she would more than willingly over eat. So to make your answer completely accurate we would also need to make sure we are eating the natural unprocessed foods that God placed here for our bodies to work the way God intended.
    I am not saying this to debunk or criticize your answer but because I have become more interested and versed in healthier eating I am aware of addictive properties in our man made food supply.

    • There are many decisions we make about our eating based on what nutritional information is available to us, and I’m not against that at all. My best understanding about how food works and how our bodies work (and I’m not a scientist or doctor) is that we have natural signals, just like the physical cues that alert us to the need to pee, that alert us to the need to eat. If you believe that certain foods get in the way of those signals operating properly, then it is good to test out whether eliminating those foods from your meals and snacks better enables you to sense your body’s physical hunger cues. I think that children are influenced at a very young age to associate certain foods with primarily emotional, rather than physical, satisfaction. I’m not personally convinced that any foods, even those with which we’ve “tampered” in our attempts at “progress,” are “addictive” in the same way that nicotine or heroine is. I think it’s much more likely that certain foods are very strongly associated with emotional payoffs that draw us back to them in a manner that seems like “addiction,” but it’s emotional/psychological/spiritual, not physiological.

  2. I actually think food is worse than nicotine or heroine or alcohol. Those things aren’t needed to function. They can be eliminated. Food, however, is a necessity and can’t be avoided, and relearning those cues that you mentioned is much more challenging than learning to do without something.

  3. I am interested in scientific brain research and have read a few articles on the association of overeating to food addiction. A recent study by the Yale Center for Food Policy and Obesity found a interesting reaction in the brain, by those tempted with sugary, high fat foods. “What they found was that the brains of subjects who scored higher on the food addiction scale exhibited neural activity similar to that seen in drug addicts, with greater activity in brain regions responsible for cravings and less activity in the regions that curb urges. The researchers also found that the brain activity indicative of addiction was found in both lean and obese subjects who scored high in the test for food addiction.”

    Scientists are not ready to confirm that overeating IS truly an addiction, but there are some compelling similarities.

    However, this doesn’t mean we leave God out the picture…if overeating is an addiction. I have worked the AA 12-step program and I believe what makes it work is when the ‘addict’ admits they can’t handle it alone, they must give it to God. When I hand my struggles with overeating over to God, I am always more successful. It is His Holy Spirit in me that helps me to get through those cravings, unhealthy desires. I can certainly try to tough it out, grit my teeth (so my mouth doesn’t open) and avoid the overeating….but I almost always fail. It is when I give it to Him, that I experience the freedom and the success.

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