“I was so bad. I shouldn’t have had that dessert.”
“Even though I was full, I finished the rest of my plate. Guess I’ll have to make up for it tomorrow.”
“Don’t tell your father about our treat this afternoon. It will be our little secret.”
“Tomorrow my jeans will remind me of what I ate today.”
Food guilt is common. Everyone has experienced it at some point – a specific action or behavior that elicits a sense of deep remorse and regret. It can create feelings of shame and even worry. Sometimes it compels us to hide and pretend “it” didn’t happen.
As Believers, we know that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) – so why do we still feel guilt? How can we escape the feelings that entrap us and hold us captive, preventing forward movement?
Food guilt not only has the power to set us back, but it can push us back into a cycle of restricting and binging. Instead of living a healthy lifestyle, we return to striving for ‘good days’ and limiting the number of ‘bad days’ on the calendar. Some people stay in this cycle their entire life, never breaking free.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed]. Galatians 5:1 (AMP)
Interestingly, it is possible to be “burdened again to a yoke of slavery” even after becoming a Child of God. We are called to live free, but we have a choice.
Do a Walk Check
As we look further into Galatians 5, Paul charges us to “walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” And the fruit of the Spirit – the actual, visible sign of walking “in the Spirit” is self-control.
Wishing for more self-control to avoid over-eating or making unwise choices gets you nowhere. Only “walking in the Spirit” yields the fruit you want.
To get rid of food guilt – for good – you have to commit your fleshly desires to the only One who is able to help you walk out freedom each and every day. We know that sowing and reaping hold true – it’s a law. But, we also know that walking in the Spirit allows us to overcome the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
So, what exactly does this look like in real life? Here are some practical ways you can exercise mental freedom in the area of food:
Choose Complete Surrender
This is where most of us go wrong – we choose more control, structure, and rituals over ultimate surrender to the only One who knows best. We look for formulas, meal plans, books, fitness programs, and healthcare professionals to “save” us and solve our mental turmoil over the next best step. But, when we lay aside all the unknowns and questions in complete surrender, only then do we allow our Heavenly Father to step in and take charge.
Food guilt is in response to actions or inaction – specifically, ones that don’t make us feel good. A natural response is to reprimand ourselves and create more rules and restrictions. While this form of behavior modification may work temporarily, it doesn’t work long term because it doesn’t address the heart.
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 (NIV)
If we ‘think’ we have found the right way, we really haven’t – our ways don’t work for long. But, in complete surrender, God will make the way known.
If guilt is condemning you of all you haven’t done, ‘should do,’ or didn’t do well enough, don’t expect a more controlled lifestyle to become the solution to better self-control. While it sounds counter-intuitive, giving up complete control allows God to swoop in and lead you to your next step of freedom.
Intentional people decide before acting.
Intentional people value long-term expectations over short-term gratification.
Intentional people prepare for the rough days.
Intentional people are not deceived by the allure of momentary pleasure.
The Ephesians were warned to “take up the whole armor of God to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13). To think that we are immune from mental, emotional, and physical battles is absurd and untrue.
Guilt can be real or imagined. In fact, we can accept a guilty conscience due to conversations, perceptions, and actions of others. But, when we become more intentional about our own actions and beliefs about ourselves, it allows those guilt-ridden feelings to slide off us easier.
Pray Before Eating
It is a common act to bless the food before eating, but how many of us really pray?
This is a prime opportunity to speak truth, thank God, bless the food, and connect with the One who actually made your body. He knows the tiny details of how your body works, responds, and behaves. And, He created food to tantalize your taste buds and to be enjoyed. It was proclaimed to mankind that the food He created was ‘good’!
However, many of us have turned the blessing into an insignificant ritual. We rush through it saying the same phrases we’ve said for the last 5 years, without investing any thought or putting any real meaning into it. Like brushing our teeth, it has become a routine, a specific pattern in a long list of daily actions.
But you can change that!
Prayer is an intimate way to connect with our Creator, the One who knows us, sees us, formed us. He wants food experiences to be pleasurable, delicious, and an opportunity to nourish the body He gave us! Prayer before a meal can be much more than a blessing. It can become an opportunity to submit our bodies to Christ, ask for discernment and wisdom, thank God for body signals, and celebrate the remarkable flavors of his edible creation.
He doesn’t want you to get up from the table with food guilt. Isn’t it refreshing to know that even through all the distractions during a meal, He can actually signal to you when your body has had enough? What freedom! What confidence!
So, what’s the play call?
First, stop beating yourself up – your value is not in what you do, but who you are. YOU are a child of the Most High King – own it because this identity is yours!
Your Daddy didn’t call you to a life of perfection. He invited you to daily Spirit living. He gave us a keychain with specific keys to unlock a rich, abundant life of power. You don’t have to live under the control of food guilt. Conviction can lead to repentance, but don’t stop there.
Choose to become a powerful person, not dominated by feelings of regret and guilt, but motivated by the Spirit.
Repent. Accept grace and forgiveness. And then recommit to walking in the Spirit. Food guilt will still come knocking at times to undermine your authority. But, you will have truth – your ticket to freedom.