Breaking our addiction to food begins with acknowledging that food addiction is a real thing. Prayer can be the vehicle to get us to that point of acknowledgement by helping us unpack our relationship with food. Regrettably, food addiction isn’t recognized in many healthcare, workplace, and social settings.
How do we know food addiction is real?
If there were no such thing as food addiction, we wouldn’t struggle to lose weight. Those who wanted to lose weight and keep it off would just cheerfully avoid the foods that didn’t support their new lifestyle. If there were no such thing as food addiction, all people would have a simple, healthy relationship with food: we’d happily eat the correct amounts of the right foods. But that’s not how it is in real life.
Food as a modern-day idol
For many of us food has become a modern-day idol that derails us from our health goals. Most people find losing weight to be a difficult and emotional process. That’s because we’re using food to seek comfort when we’re stressed or have an emotional or spiritual unmet need. Trying to feel better by eating is a wrenching ordeal that is prone to failure because food is not designed to solve our problems. Yet the way food is made today sets us up to be dependent because of the high concentration of sugar, oil and fat. This is the reason those who do lose weight often fail to maintain the weight loss over time. At first, it’s hard for a food addict to resist the feelings they know they’ll have if they eat certain foods, such as sugar, fat, and refined flour.
Hyperpalatable foods are made to be addictive
When carbohydrates and fats are refined, they signal the hedonic or reward pathway by providing a rush of dopamine to the brain much faster than if the food was in its most natural state—an intact whole grain, for example. This neurochemical process makes it too hard to stop eating. Producers of hyperpalatable foods are well aware of this. A popular brand of potato chips loaded with oil and salt had the advertising slogan that spanned decades: “No one can eat just one.”
How does one become addicted to food?
How does a person cross the line from consuming food as a natural survival behavior to being addicted to food?
In rare cases, some people have an impaired dopamine 2 receptor due to a genetic defect there from birth. More commonly, however, the problem is more self-inflicted—which is not meant to shame anyone. But a person can impair her own dopamine receptors by chasing too many dopamine “hits.” It’s how most addictions latch hold. It works the same way if you’re getting the dopamine charge from long-term repeated consumption of engineered ultra-processed foods.
Praying about your food choices can help you be more conscious of what you are putting in your mouth. This consciousness can play a role in breaking the cycle. More on this later.
The concept of moderation is absurd
We can tell that most people misunderstand food addiction by the way family, friends, and coworkers believe that “everything in moderation” applies to food. Addiction, by definition, is a condition in which a person is habitually incapable of moderation. Besides, what really is moderation? It’s such an ill-defined term that means one thing to one person and something else to another.
No one intends to get addicted
When you trace back the roots of how that food addiction took hold, it may have developed in childhood or when you were going through a rough patch in your life with a job or relationship. Somehow the emotional eating from a bad day at work became a habit no matter how your day went. But you may not know how to change. This is why prayer can be a bridge to overcoming your addiction to food. Often prayer opens us up to the pain or root causes that may be driving our unhealthy habits. Then we can implement the changes we need to facilitate healing.
Different from any other addiction
Unhealthy food, unlike many other addictive substances, is everywhere: colleagues bring donuts to work, a mom brings homemade cookies to the school meeting, there are disease-promoting fast-food establishments in (of all places) hospitals, and family members coax you into having “just a taste” of that trigger food you’re trying to avoid.
When it comes to improving our relationship with food, we may have to give up all the unhealthy food at once to give ourselves the best chance of resetting our palate. It becomes much more difficult to break free from certain foods when we are still eating them. Right here, praying to break our addiction to food can play a key role on our health journey. It can give us the strength we need to take ‘moderation’ off the table and go all-in.
Why we need to break free
It is so important that the decisions we make about our health are not controlled by our addiction to food. Addiction prompts terrible choices. Bad choices about food can be life-threatening when they lead to chronic disease, just as bad choices could be life-threatening if we were addicted to a controlled substance. This is why praying to break our addiction to food is so important. Prayer can help you acknowledge the addiction for what it is. By inviting God into your health journey, you can draw on His strength.
Breaking free from food addiction will open you up to receive all the gifts God has waiting for you. Being able to live out your purpose is tied to you being healthy. Prayer helps you develop your why for taking charge of your health and nudges you to take the action you need to change your relationship with food and your overall health. If you’re interested in charting a new path for your health and you want to develop a healthy relationship with food, then consider signing up for A Prayer for Your Health 4-Day Challenge. If you’re ready to go all-in, check out the Daniel Fast: A Bridge to Healthy Living 4-Week Interactive Course.