Who hasn’t struggled with “acute repetitive hand to mouth disorder?” Ok, I mean snacking.

But I’ve had my fair share of face time with this “disorder.” I’m a bit of an anxious overeater. Sit me next to a bag of anything sweet or crunchy and I will eat until it’s gone or when I die, whichever comes first.

Snacks are seductive, dressing themselves up in pretty packages and emitting enticing smells. They give us just what we crave: immediate pleasure, stress relief, and comfort when life wears us down. The promise of imminent delight has real pulling power, like an inviting vortex. The reward? Like cool water in the dry desert.

Snacking is enjoyable. The pleasure of the experience makes the habit quite tricky to overcome.

But maybe you’ve noticed that the immediate gratification of snacking comes with a long-term price tag. Have you detected the cost in any areas of your life? Health? Weight? Quality of life? Self-perception? Relationships?

Stop for a moment and ask yourself where is my snacking costing me right now? Is the price getting too high?

The older I get, the more quickly I notice the cost of things that compromise my health. But even more than that, I notice things that compromise my spiritual health. Snacking costs me in both ways, physically, and spiritually. Now I recognize my snacking is a symptom. It’s the check engine light signaling I need to bring myself to the Lord and allow Him to both diagnose and  remedy my problem.

Inputs and Outputs

In the routine of life, we stop noticing the little things we do.  Alarm off. Lights on and off. Electric toothbrush on then off. Coffee maker on then off. How many of these mindless on/off transactions punctuate the day?

Our routines ride on the smooth rails of mindless repetition. Even how we eat is routine, unless you live in the wild and hunt every meal. Your snacking? Routine. It seems like another switch you flip each day.

Input, Oreo. Output, pleasure. (Repeat)

Shouldn’t this be easy to reverse? No Oreo. No problem. Right? Not so much. The nanosecond of neural nirvana (aka the yummy) following the Oreo input makes “Oreo-off” a whole different ball game.

In fact, reversing the Oreo (or any snack) habit is quite the quagmire. Why?

An Oreo (and the legion of other snack demons) is just a cookie until you, the Oreo eater, become aware of it. Upon awareness, senses engage. Sight, smell, touch, taste, and even hearing have been alerted. Pleasure is on the way. Godspeed for the fool who gets between me and my Oreo.

Am I exaggerating? A little, but to make an important point: to break the habit of snacking, you might think, I’ll “just say no,” but you’ll be bringing a dandelion to a gunfight. You’ll need bigger guns to win the Oreo war.

What will it take? Here are a few ways to equip your mind, heart and hands to help you face off with your snacking.

Engage Your Mind to Understand it Better

I recently read a great book about habits. According to James Clear in Atomic Habits, there are three levels of change that pertain to habit making and breaking:

  • Outcome change
  • Process change
  • Identity change

The least effective way to change a habit is at the outcome level. This is the “just say no” strategy.

Isn’t “just say no” what you would automatically think to do first? Well, now you know, it packs as much punch as box of burnt matches.

Process change is more powerful. As Clear says, “we don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.” So, rather than saying “my goal is to goal to quit snacking,” we would do better to establish systems or routines that help us kill the habit, day by day.

Identify change is the most effective and powerful approach. As James Clear says, “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become.”  If you have said to yourself, “I can’t stop snacking,” then you have an identity challenge to confront.

Clear is not a Christian author, and naturally doesn’t speak to the identity solution we have in Christ.

How exciting is it that as believers in Christ, we have the identity problem already solved!? The word of God dispels and uproots the beliefs we have about ourselves that are inconsistent with who God says we are. I confess, I still actively work on living in my new identity.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

As it relates to a habitual stronghold, the work of Christ has broken its power. Our work is to trust Him more than we trust what we say to ourselves. Then, practice walking in it until the truth has replaced the lie.

Examine Your Heart and Read the Emotional Smoke Signals

When it comes to anti-munchie combat, my record is spotty. But one thing I know for sure, the temptation to munch bubbles up out of my emotions, mostly negative ones like worry and discouragement. As much as I hesitate to bring up the “s” word, those emotions and all their negative cousins are rooted in my sin.

I don’t like feeling these emotions, so I grab a pen and my journal and begin to unravel them. Fear of the future? Impatience with circumstances? Do I crave the kinds of assurances God doesn’t offer? Do I harbor dissatisfaction about life’s uncertainties? Yes. My self concerned flesh sits on its own throne and asks God to come and fix my world.

My craving looks like carrot cake, but it’s really a craving (emotional demand) for God to give me things He doesn’t give – because He is a perfect Father. How long has it taken me to realize, by His Grace He wants me to learn to want more than immediate emotional gratification. Way more.

He wants me to crave His best. I want childish things, short term comforts. God wants me to have Him and enjoy Him fully. When I do, those lesser things I craved fade away, and I see the childishness of those desires.

Is your snacking inflamed by unexamined desires or unmet expectations? Your Abba Father awaits to give you more.

Execute Improved Processes

Do you want to quit the 9 PM bowl of ice cream? You’d be wise to consider an inside out strategy. It will be hard to change a behavior without addressing what’s under the hood.

Clear’s book was insightful to connect self-belief and behavior. It reflects a Biblical truth: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs.” 23:7 NKJV

What comes out of us in word and deed reflects who we are and what we believe. In a nutshell, if you’d like to change your snacking behavior, or any other, It might look something like this:

Renew Your Mind

Paul teaches us that transformation comes from a spiritually renewed mind.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

So, what will you do? No need to go head to head with the cookies. Go to the Lord for His transforming work in your minds and hearts? My failures at hand to hand combat keep pointing me back to Him for the deeper help I need.

Reroute Your Behavior

Temptation will be part of our lives until we meet Jesus. Some temptations are predictable and avoidable. Most of you snacking falls into this category. This is a blessing in disguise. First, we have clear instructions and promises when it comes to temptation. You know these well:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:13

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

So, we lack no help from the Lord when it comes to escaping.

Second, the predictable nature of our habits means we can build better strategies that help us do the hard work of stopping. James Clear’s book offers many clever insights and suggestions to build good habits and break bad ones.

In a nutshell, with some adjustments to your routine, you can make your bad habit less accessible attractive, and satisfying, while making it more difficult to engage in.

Although we continually need the Lord to do His changing work within us, James Clear’s practical and doable insights are a helpful complement.

Repeat, Repetitively  

Consistency. “If only I could be more consistent,” is the most common refrain I hear. Why can’t we? Our flesh nature is selectively weak and lazy, especially when it comes to doing anything that lacks an imminent reward.

When you have time, I’d encourage you to look up all the verses pertaining to endurance and perseverance. You’ll quickly be reminded Who and what our endurance and perseverance lead to. An incredible reward awaits us.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 4:7

And we’ve already been given a down payment on the greatest reward.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

Are you wondering how we got from eating Oreos to meeting Jesus? Well, if we are in Christ, then all we are and all we do (and all we struggle with) is under the shaping hand of our Father, molding us into the likeness of Christ. If any area of our lives is in the way of God fulfilling His promise of sanctification, He’ll bring it to our attention and invite us to lean on Him for His help.

Be encouraged, that if the Lord wants to change anything in us, it’s to continually make more room for Jesus. And if change seems hard, look to all we have now and will have eternally in Christ.

 

At Stop Dieting For Life, we teach you how to turn to the power of Christ to fight and win this very real and very difficult battle.

For further reading check out my books, available on Amazon:

I Once Was Fat but Now I’m Found: Part 1 – First Steps to Food Freedom

I Once Was Fat, but Now I’m Found: Part 2 – Move Over Emotions, Make Room for Truth