Knowing how to overcome temptation when it comes to food is not always easy. As Christians, we have the truths of the scriptures and the Bible but yet we still struggle… Learn how God can help you overcome by planning your victory through FAITH! Hello, Freedom.
You are sitting on the couch, trying with all your might to keep yourself glued there. The draw to the refrigerator feels polarizing and you just don’t know if you can fight it anymore.
You walk past your child’s leftover bagel trying not to make eye contact– once, twice, three times. You reach to toss it into the trash to eliminate the temptation and the cold, crusty bread somehow finds its way into your mouth.
Food temptation, it’s everywhere around us. Whether you are trying to make healthier choices or looking to become more self-controlled, there is no shortage of the sugary and salty assaults on those efforts.
In this post, we are going to talk about how to overcome temptation with food and how thoughtful planning paired with your faith can propel you past those persistent cravings.
What is Temptation?
How and why are you tempted? A temptation is a desire that conflicts with your core values. For Christians, this also includes desires that conflict with God’s values.
As I am sure you have noticed, temptations are individual, based on our personal convictions and character weakness:
- A thief who justifies stealing as their rightful compensation for a difficult life isn’t tempted to take that which is not theirs–they just do it.
- A person who has no conviction to steer clear of chocolate cake is not tempted to eat it–they just have it.
What matters to you is what makes the intensity of temptation increase or decrease <— This is important to remember.
Overcoming Temptation in the Bible
If you have attended church for any length of time, you have probably heard more than one sermon in regards to resisting temptation.
In God’s Word, we are admonished to:
- Pray that we will not enter temptation (Luke 22:40).
- Endure and escape temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- Flee temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22).
- Expect testing/temptation (1 Peter 4:12).
The Bible talks a lot about overcoming overeating and we can even see specific tests in regard to food.
In Genesis, we find the first temptation of man and woman. As you know, Eve willingly yielded to the pressure of the enemy to consume food God had instructed her not to have. The food was pleasing to her eyes and she had to have it (Genesis 3:6).
Eve is not alone.
I have spoken to countless clients–women who are smart, capable, and at the top of their game in life. BUT, they continue to be overtaken by the desires to overeat.
No matter how frustrated you or I may get by our failures with food, we’re not alone. Food has been a source of enticement for all time. We are not failures; we are human and there is help for overeating.
We also read about the Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11. After Jesus fasted for 40 days, Satan slyly tried to trip Him up with food and pride and power. Unlike you and me (and Eve), Jesus drew on the power of God’s Word and overcame!
Why We Fall
So why do we, garnishing the best of intentions, still fall? If you are anything like me, you’ve listened to sermons, read Scriptures, and considered tattooing “don’t eat” across your knuckles. You do everything you know to do and yet you still fail.
Much like we can hear and read about how to fly a plane, we cannot learn to do so until we spend some time in the air. We need to memorize checkpoints, rehearse procedures, and practice with helpful instruction.
To simply try not to eat when you are tempted is better than not trying. But, you can’t expect yourself to be consistently successful without intentional and purposeful preparation and practice.
We fail because we expect that our best intentions are enough. They are not. We need more.
How Do You Plan (to overcome temptation)?
Think about your last vacation. How did you prepare?
Most of us spend some time researching where we are going, figuring out the best way to get there. We are thorough, looking for potential obstacles so that we can avoid them altogether.
We do things such as schedule in a cushion of time, call to confirm reservations, and pack an extra set of clothes in our carry-on in case our luggage gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle.
This holiday is important to us and our preparation is proof.
Do you have a plan on how to overcome temptation with food? Obviously being victorious with food is important to you because you are here. But maybe your preparation doesn’t reflect its importance. That changes now!
Plan to Plan
Planning for one-time events (such as vacation) and daily temptations are different. When making a plan for food temptation, we want to look at creating new behavior patterns that become habits. Habits, like brushing your teeth, are things we do most of the time.
And, this is great news because it means that each time you successfully implement your plan, it’ll get easier.
Here we will break down food temptation into 3 pivotal moments that often happen around unhappy eating choices. From here you can start to identify your own patterns. Then, below, we will use those events to create your own plan.
Temptation Phase 1. The Cue
Your plan starts with a cue. A cue is a consistent and (unfortunately) reliable event that happens in the early stages of the temptation to eat outside your window. It often starts with a brief thought and then progresses to a tug-o-war of “should I or shouldn’t I eat?”
Here is where justifications run rampant. You may think something like:
- “I’ll just have one.”
- “I need it.”
- “It doesn’t matter.”
- “I don’t care.”
- “I deserve it.”
We make excuses (it’s amazing how creative we can be!) that open the door to THE ONE.
Ideally, your plan of how to overcome temptation will begin and end in phase one. However, for beginners, this is unlikely. What will probably happen is you will catch yourself in phase two or phase three. Then, with practice, awareness and tons of grace, you will begin to recognize the earlier steps in your process.
Temptation Phase 2. The One
When our justifications have their way, we make the choice to eat outside of our best intentions. This is the first little veer off track. This is the one bite, the one piece, the one slice, or the one scoop.
In all honesty, being at this point is NO BIG DEAL. One serving won’t make a huge impact on your progress. It’s what happens next that makes or breaks your quest for food freedom.
Temptation Phase 3. The Reaction
How do you react when you have a food slip? Do you throw in the towel for the rest of the day and vow to start tomorrow or Monday?
This is a sign of the diet mindset, a.k.a. all-or-nothing eating. This line of reasoning is what sinks our ship.
I would go so far as to say that your ability to let The One go determines your overall success. Because, when The One is not a big deal, it starts to naturally fade.
Here we see the three steps of progression that mark most food temptations. Do you see yourself in any of the descriptions? If so, no worries. Creating a plan is going to really help you!
Make a Plan to Overcome Temptation
In making a plan, it helps to be mindful of each of the phases. Regardless of when you start fighting back, your plan will have two steps:
We can’t change what we are not aware of so Step 1: Recognition is key. This is when you become fully aware of the battle you are in and you make a choice to fight or wave the white flag.
Which moves you into step 2: Action. Your action steps are a plan of what you will do when cravings hit so that you do not have to think when you are under pressure.
Humans are pretty predictable. Our brains love routine and will work to create predictable patterns, like it or not. Your dance with tempting foods is likely triggered by just a few circumstances. Get that? This means that you do not have to be on full alert ALL the time. Rather, you can train yourself to respond in a new way to those common triggers.
What Are Your Triggers?
Think about the last few times you struggled with food. Was there a common day, time, mental state? If you cannot recall, begin to take note starting now.
I challenge you to identify your 3 most common triggers. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- During baby’s naptime
- Between 3-4pm when your energy starts to wane
- When the kids are unruly
- During your cycle
- After a stressful day
- When you get home from work
- During dinner prep
- After the kids go to bed
- When you feel unloved
- Being overcommitted
- Feeling anxious about your future
Your top three clarify the times and spaces that you will need to be on guard. Let these feelings and circumstances become a new cue to pull out your plan on how to overcome temptation with food.
As I mentioned before, you may not notice you are being tempted until you have already given in. It’s ok, simply start the plan then and there to build your habit base. Then, when you do recognize it sooner– you’ll be ready!
Here’s where we get super practical! Now is the time to pick out 3 sequential activities that you will do each and every time that you are faced with food temptation.
The purpose is to create a new pattern for your brain to follow. So rather than unwelcome emotions cueing a food frenzy, they will cue healthful habits that will make you healthy and whole.
Here is a list of several activities that you could try. Please know, there is no pressure to get it “right” the first time. This is your experiment and it may take some time to figure out what works best for you.
- Pray. Write out a prayer and read or set the timer for 1-minute.
- Recite Scriptures. Choose Bible verses on overeating that lighten your load and brighten your outlook. Write out ahead of time on 3×5 cards.
- Play worship music. Make a playlist on your phone.
- Do something physical. Physical activity releases dopamine and moves your brain out of the craving zone. Try jumping jacks, push-ups, squats, or if you are really crazy- burpees!
- Try something creative. Much like physical activity, creativity moves your brain out of that obsessive place. If you have access to a creative project, great. If not, simply daydream about a home project or craft that you would like to do.
- Do something fun. Once again, if you cannot physically do a fun activity, plan it.
- Flee the scene. Where will you go, wherever you are?
- Go for a walk. Around the block, around the yard, around the house (just not the kitchen!).
- Get outside. Sunshine is a wonderful elixir. If you have access to it, consider using it.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Have hot tea.
- Text a friend. Let them know ahead of time so that you can simply say “pray for me.”
Hopefully, from this list, you were inspired to pick three easy steps to take in response to food temptation. These need to be actions that feel appealing to you. Remember, you are competing with accessible, tasty food, so your plan needs to be simple, easy, and effective!
Now, write it out, in detail, and keep it with you.
Living Your Plan to Overcome Temptation
Consider this plan a living document. It is plastic in form, meaning that it is always changing to better meet your needs. Over time, your plan can ease up until it disappears altogether.
Imagine the joy of sitting down on the couch after a stressful day, the kids are in bed, and you happily sink into the cushion to give yourself what you truly need- rest and relaxation. There is no need to fight the magnetic force of the fridge. You are overcoming temptation and your spirit soars!
How to Overcome Temptation Recap
- Being tempted with food is nothing new. Give yourself some grace and don’t entertain frustration. Rather, use that energy to create a solid plan to overcome the cravings.
- Recognize that your slips with food were possibly due to a lack of thoughtful planning.
- Download your Binge Proof Action Plan.
- Determine the circumstances that most often occur before temptation arrives.
- Decide what triggers will cue the action portion of your plan.
- Pick 3 actions to take “when” and prepare, as needed.
- Practice, adjust, and repeat your plan.
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Author, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.