Have you ever eaten when you aren't hungry? When you're stressed? Frustrated? Sad? Just bored? Whenever I'm stressed or bored, I head straight to the pantry to look for anything and everything chocolate!
Enjoying good food is not at all a bad thing. Our book from Bible study says that, "our faith does not call us to reject food and drink as bad things, but only to use them within reason and, as ever, with respect for the common good and the love of God and others." Taking pleasure in food only becomes a problem when we enjoy food to the excessive point of loving it more than we love God.
Does emotional eating count as loving food more than we love God? I think it very well might. There's something about food that gives us an immediate sense of comfort. It temporarily helps us deal with the emotions. But that's the thing - it's only temporary. In our study, Father Barron said that our obsession with food is not only a substitution of a finite good for an infinite good, but it also points to our hunger for God. We often use food to try to fill a hole that can only be filled by God.
So how can we deal with emotional eating? Father Barron said the antidote to gluttony is asceticism. Asceticism involves disciplining your lower desires and natures to allow a higher, spiritual nature to emerge. I know a lot of non-Catholics think we're a little on the crazy side for practicing fasting and abstinence, but there really is a lot of merit to it. Now, fasting just to fast does not really accomplish anything, and if you complain about it the whole time, it's not really going to do anything, and you might as well not even fast. It's what you do in the midst of that hunger and that sacrifice that really counts. It's spending that time in prayer and reflection. Taking the time away from the comfort of food. Connecting with God on a deeper level. Recognizing your ultimate dependence on him.
"And in response he said, "It has been written: 'not by bread alone shall man live, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' "
- Matthew 4:4
Here are some of the practical tips Father gave for dealing with gluttony:
1. Spend a day fasting - but don't just fast for the sake of fasting. Pray, pray, pray. Much more than you normally would.
2. Skip a meal once in a while and spend the time you would have spent eating in prayer. Or, donate the money you would have spent on lunch to the poor. Or both!
3. Leave the table before you are completely full. Do not eat until you are so stuffed you don't want to move.
4. Once in a while, abstain from eating something you like. I really admire a couple from our church because they said that they abstain from something they enjoy every Friday. They do this to grow closer to God.
Okay, so I've quoted it before, and I'll probably quote it a million more times, but the wisest words come from St. Augustine. We try to fill that space that only God can fill with so many other things, including food.
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”
God is the one and only who will fulfill our needs, comfort our hearts, and bring us true peace when we most need it.
So next time you find yourself looking for something to eat deal with your emotions, stop and ask yourself a few things. Is this what I really need right now? Is this going to help my problem in the long-term? Should I spend some time praying about my problem before looking for something to eat? Try praying about whatever you are dealing with before you eat anything.
Do you struggle with emotional eating? What do you do to keep yourself from using food to deal with difficult times in your life?