“I feel so guilty when I eat even though I know I’m not really hungry. I’ve blown it. I’m such a failure. I’ll never get this right.”
This is a common lament among women who attend Weight of Grace groups, but it betrays a long history with the diet mentality that relies on rules. Women love to glom onto some sort of rule-based way in which to address their overeating. But eating in response to physical hunger is not a rule that you have to keep or you’ve been “disobedient” or a failure. Instead, eating at times when you aren’t physical hungry is another step in learning to live the way you were designed to live in relation to food because it provides opportunities to assess whether that eating ended up doing for you what you hoped it would.
We all take it for granted that we know when to pee or when we’re tired, but because we’ve been brainwashed by the diet culture to distrust our bodies, we do not recognize that hunger is the natural, God-given mechanism for determining when and what to eat. The Bible so obviously assumes eating in response to physical hunger is natural—Jesus’s disciples picked off heads of grain when they got hungry. Peter got hungry, so while he went up onto the roof, someone in the house was preparing a meal for him. It takes a while, but you can return to living that way—and if you look at small children or people who have never struggled with overeating, you’ll see this is the natural way they relate to food.
You may have to experiment, which includes assessing how you feel after you eat at times when you’re not really physically hungry. And that assessment needs to be prayerful, asking God to show you why you want to behave in a way that isn’t in line with your design.
There is no hard and fast rule, such as “eat when hungry/quit eating when hunger is satisfied,” because that’s what your body is equipped to do quite naturally. You don’t make a rules about whether it’s okay to pee if you need to, do you?
So stop trying to be “right” and just work on feeling physically well. It took me nearly two years to get into the “natural eating” groove, but once you’re there, you’re there for good. You won’t get there by berating yourself for breaking rules, but by recognizing what you’re doing that really isn’t natural for the new person God has made you to be and asking him to show you how to change.