Friday, January 2, 2015

10 Steps for Defeating Gluttony

I need to start this post by reminding you that I write as a sinner.  I have suffered the ill effects of  a sin-soaked lack of self-control in many aspects of my life.  I have done stuff like sit in the living room floor and eat an entire large pizza as an after dinner snack. So please know that everything I share here is as a recipient of forgiveness and grace. 

1. Banish temptation from your house.  I have a friend, who as a matter of regular spiritual discipline, refuses to buy potato chips.  They are a temptation to her.  Given a bag she's afraid that she might sit and eat them all.  When she's out with friends she can eat a few but keeping them in the house is an invitation to sin.  Jesus suggested that we should be willing to cut off a limb to prevent sin, surely exiling a food or two is not too radical. 

2. Share.  We live in an apartment building with a bunch of people we love.  So when we make a dozen pumpkin muffins (a family favorite), we each have one for breakfast, save two for my husband's post-workout snack and the other six get shared with our friends. When we make pie, we eat half and give half away.  It's impossible to over-indulge on food you don't have.  So if you know that you're in a dangerous situation, give it away!

3. Realize it's a heart problem.  Gluttony never starts with the food in hand and pop culture proves it. The problem begins in the heart.  We complain constantly about our bodies, singularly and in groups.  We do this regardless of our actual weight, health, or attractiveness. For a fascinating example check out this very ironic Special K commercial ( Pinterest overflows with pins of "food porn" (pictures designed to produce mouth watering lust) or pins of scantily clad unnaturally thin or morbidly obese women demanding dieting and exercise. There are literally thousands of pins focused on eating (or not eating). I almost made a board full of examples to share with you but I didn't want your heart to hurt like mine.  

4. Admit that calories are NOT the key. I'll tell you, a person who is really struggling with gluttony can as easily abuse a box of 100 calorie packs of diet cookies as they can a box of oreos. "Dieting" itself can be an inappropriate focus on food as opposed to being a godly effort to conquer gluttony. A person who has self-control is in no more danger from a pumpkin pie than they are a bowl of pumpkin soup. Truly some foods are more tempting than others. Yet the real problem isn't the food, it's the flesh.

5. Don't tempt others. As women we often have control over the menu.  At my house I have become the master of not cooking more food (especially foods that I know are particularly tempting) than we actually need. We can be responsible for simple acts like getting the kids to clear the table when everyone's done eating rather than sit and nibble. We can put the cookies away when everyone's had one (rather than leave them on the table).  When my family was really struggling we filled plates in the kitchen and then went and sat down. When the food was out of reach, it was easier to judge if we really needed a second serving, especially for the kids.  Every good cook loves to see people eat her food, but if we push second and third servings then dessert on our friends we may be tempting them to sin as surely as if we were wearing a bikini to dinner instead of our blue jeans. 

6. Don't judge.  If you think you can look at a person and see if they are struggling with gluttony you are sorely mistaken.  Not only is obesity often as much a result of poverty and inactivity as gluttony, but people of very "normal" weight can struggle as deeply with gluttony as any overweight person especially when you consider that like all other sins the problem begins with the heart.  If you've ever been mastered by a sin, have mercy on your fellow sinners.

7. Accept grace. Few things are as destructive to a Christian's growth as the pendulum of ignoring sin on the upswing and wallowing in the shame on the down. Comparing notes on cellulite, swapping recipes for the newest diet trend or bemoaning the fact that you haven't been the gym in months, is neither confession nor repentance.  If you failed, join the club. "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (1 Timothy 1:15).  All there is to do is pick ourselves up, confess, repent and accept the overflowing mercy and forgiveness of God.

8. Pray instead of eat.  On a number of occasions when I am sad, anxious, upset, angry, bored or tired I have been driven to eat.  Now ask yourself, what should I have done instead?  Pray.  I should have poured out my sorrow, fear or anger to God.  We won't even talk about the ridiculousness of a Christian being bored while there are yet prayers that need praying. 

9. Pray before you eat!  I'm not talking just about saying grace although I'm all for that.  I mean if you know that you are going into a situation where you'll be tempted (say an all you can eat buffet with friends who are themselves going to overeat and will encourage you to do the same) pray before you go.  Take a day in November to be grateful for the food you have and prepare you heart for the onslaught of temptation that is the holidays. Remember one of the lines in the Lord's Prayer is "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."  Prayer is key.

10. Be free.  Jesus is our example in all things even this.  He was able to fast (Matthew 3) and he was able to feast (John 2).  He was such a regular guest at dinner parties that the Pharisees accused him of being a glutton and a "wine-bibber."  Can you imagine him furtively sneaking off to the kitchen for a pint of Ben and Jerry's?  No. He had perfect control of his flesh; he walked everyday in the Spirit.  He was free. 

If this is a problem you've never struggled with, gluttony, I would be beg your mercy because I'm sure you have sins of your own.  If this is a problem you've faced and conquered or just continue to face, I would love to hear your strategies!  Leave us a comment and let's encourage each other!


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