“It’s just a little snack!”
“I am going to eat healthy today!”
“Oh…if I get the house clean, I will have a little treat.”
“I am swearing off of all junk food.”
Food phrases come in all shapes and sizes, but I have discovered that certain words and phrases can be “little foxes” spoiling the “vineyard” in my eating life!
“Snack” – In the past, I, like many other people, would use the word “snack” to mean “free” eating—an “eating occasion” that doesn’t count. 🙂 It didn’t matter if I was hungry or not (or so the reasoning went) because it was “just a little taste of something.” While it probably wasn’t really a “sit down meal,” these “feedings” (as my naturally thin sister refers to them) count! Now, I prefer not to use the word “snack” at all because it carries years of meaning from my dieting background. If I DO refer to a “snack,” it typically means sitting down and enjoying a smaller portion of anything when I am at a 0 and just shaving off my hunger—not eating all the way to a 5…like stopping at a “2” or “3” on the hunger scale. True Thin Within “snacking” happens only at a 0 and it does, indeed, “count!” I know this isn’t a “fun” revelation. 🙂
I find it most helpful if I consider every single time food crosses my lips as a “meal.” With Thin Within we come to realize we don’t need that much food to sustain our very efficient bodies. So, if every time food crosses my lips I think of it as a meal (or “feeding”), I am more likely to use more discernment about what I choose. This is a basic boundary for us. (I can see you cringe…But where has NOT having this boundary really gotten us?) In the past, the quantity of food that I now consider a “meal” might have been called a “snack.” This is another reason why I don’t use the word “snack” much any more.
Think About It: If you have been doing Thin Within very long, consider the size of your portions and how they have changed. Is it possible that what you now consider an appropriate-sized meal you might have formerly called “just a snack?” How might this continue to change over time as you refine your hunger numbers?
“Junk Food” – It is popular to believe that some foods are “junk.” When we think of certain foods as “junk” it usually means we have declared those foods as “bad.” While it is true some food choices are better than others to feed my “perfect 0,” when I call something “junk,” I imply that the food is the culprit to my weight and eating issues. The truth is, *I* am the culprit with the way, the why, the when, of my eating. Food is not immoral in any way. It is not the culprit in my eating challenges. Instead of thinking of food as “junk food” (or not), I prefer to categorize foods the way that Thin Within speaks of in the second (Discernment) phase, as “teasers,” “pleasers,” “whole-body pleasers,” and “total rejects.” If I like the way a food tastes, but I feel lethargic after eating it, it might be a total reject or it may be a “teaser.” But I try not to think of it as “junk food.” The problem is typically more with ME and what I will DO with those foods than it is with the foods. (Even with a food that has no nutritional value, I find it helps me to just call it a total reject.)
Think About It: Are you like me? Needing to take responsibility for your eating instead of laying blame with the food? I have found that when I refer to foods as “junk” I beat myself up for eating them…which just sends me into a downward spiral. By referring to them, instead, as “total rejects” or “teasers,” I remind myself how *I* respond to them is what matters.
“Treat” – Ever notice that the foods that are in the “junk food” category are also often those referred to as “treats” as well? Calling something a “treat” sets up whatever-food-it-is as desirable to me. I end up seeing it as a reward. Do I really want to call food a “reward?” If I do that, it definitely lures me to eat outside of 0 and 5 whenever I am deserving of a “reward” and we know that I am always deserving of a reward (supposedly)! If I am happy, I deserve a reward. If I am sad, I deserve a reward. If I worked hard, I deserve a reward. If I run errands, I deserve a reward. If I stay home and vacuum, I deserve a reward. What if we think, instead, of things like “Time alone reading a good book,” or “A long hot bath” as rewards? Consider non-food blessings. 🙂 If I think of food as “treats” then those foods are in my mind as something I get when I am “good.” This sets me up for failure.
Think About It: What are some other non-food ways you can “treat” yourself? Is there any chance that viewing some foods as “treats” is hindering your victory? Do you find that some of the foods that you may have considered “junk food” are the very foods you have also considered “treats?”
“Healthy Eating“ – What IS “healthy eating?” It is most helpful to me to consider it “Living within God’s parameters.” Or eating according to physical need (empty) and physical satisfaction. Eating whole-body pleasers when my body needs food is my idea of “healthy eating.” It is important to note that my whole-body pleasers may be different from everyone else’s! This is NOT a one-size-fits-all approach! Healthy eating isn’t about which foods, but why (because of physical need) and when (when I am hungry). To think of “healthy eating” this way is definitely not the norm. Usually when we think of “healthy eating” we think of people who eat fruits, veggies, and lean meat and it isn’t about being hungry or not. I have known people who do not “eat healthy” even when they choose foods that seem more nutritionally dense. They still over-eat and don’t have a healthy relationship with food. Maybe you know some whole food connoisseurs or vegans who struggle with their weight just like others who eat primarily “junk food.” This really isn’t about the food, but about why we eat.
Think About It: What does healthy eating really look like for you? Is it what you choose to eat? Or is it when (hungry)? Or how much (enough to satisfy only)? Or a combination? What if you were to select only fruits and vegetables and lean meats, but eat for emotional reasons without regard to physical cues–would that be “eating healthy?” If you grab for the pita crisps instead of the Oreos when you just had a fight with your daughter is that “Healthy Eating?”
“Healthy Food” – This is like the other phrases that describe food, like “treat” or “junk food.” The problem with “healthy food” is it, again, seems to indicate that if I fix the food, then it is good to eat it…even if I don’t NEED food at that time. Sure, some foods are more nutritionally dense…more nutrition “bang” for energy “buck” and other foods are more “energy dense”…a lot less nutrition for the amount of energy consumed. But food is really inert, neutral, amoral. It isn’t the food that is healthy so much as how I relate to it. Is it “healthy” to eat a large salad when I am not hungry? I guess every person has to make this decision for herself, but the answer for me as a faithful Thin Within participant and veteran…NO. Eating anything when I don’t need to eat it isn’t healthy. It becomes recreational eating again! Categorizing foods into “healthy food” and “junk food” keeps me from owning my need to scrutinize the why and when of my eating choices. I have found it much more helpful to consider foods as teasers, pleasers, whole-body pleasers and total rejects for the reasons I shared above. I also have found that if I set up a category of “healthy food,” then if I want to be “healthy” I end up trying to force myself to enjoy those foods. While I am all for expanding our culinary horizons and venturing out into new tastes and textures, if I don’t like something and eat it just because it is a “healthy food” then I am setting myself up for a fall.
Think About It: What are whole-body pleaser foods or meals for you? Would it be helpful to you and support your godly goals to consider food this way instead of “healthy food?” Or as “beneficial foods?” I am not advising not to care about nutritional value, certainly, but giving an eye to nutrition and an eye to how foods make you feel might help you not try to force yourself to eat only foods that have certain nutritional content…so often that backfires! Or is that just me? 🙂
“Sort of Hungry” – Hunger/satisfied signals exist on a continuum. But I try to stay away from speaking about being “sort of hungry,” because I have found that if I do this, it “sort of” justifies “sort of” eating! 🙂 In fact, there are even times when I need to strip the hunger scale back to simple terms: “Hungry” or “NOT Hungry.” If you are experiencing limited success with your 0 to 5 eating, consider if you are possibly pre-empting “hungry” by entertaining the idea that being “sort of hungry” justifies eating.
Think About It: Do you find yourself eating when you are “sort of hungry” or “a little bit hungry?” Is that working for you? If you are not seeing the physical results you think you should be seeing, maybe honing in on a true zero … completely empty… will be helpful.
“Kind of Full” – If I am “Kind of Full,” that means that I think I “still have room” for more food. Maybe I need to see if my body is satisfied with less food, rather than if I can get away with more! (If you have a history of restricting, I am not speaking to you. Please know that God wants you to eat what you NEED to sustain good health!) Again, for me personally, it has helped to go to “bare bones” with my terminology with the hunger scale. Instead of looking at “AM I at a 5? Or is this only a 4 and I still have room for more food?” I need to look at “HUNGRY” or “NOT Hungry.” “Kind of Full” is definitely in the “Not Hungry” category. If I am NOT HUNGRY it is time to stop eating. Getting rid of “Kind of Full” helps me be faithful to the boundaries that God has set for me.
Think About It: Do you push to see how much food you can eat before you have pushed too far? Or are you happy with eating until you know you are not hungry any more and call it good? Again, if you are not seeing the physical results that you think you should be seeing, you may want to evaluate this. One strategy that has been helpful for me (when I do it!) is to have a boundary of always leaving some (even just a bite or two) of food on my plate. Sometimes, this gets fed to the family dog, but I find that it helps to cure me of my tendency to be greedy! (But builds bad begging habits in my dog!)
How About You?
Are you willing to eliminate these words or phrases from your vocabulary to see if that might help you move closer to the victory that you desire? What other words or phrases do you find might be like “little foxes,” hindering your realization of the victory that you know is yours?
Thank you for this! I’m going to print it out as I find myself thinking many of these things! I have said the same for rewards, snacks, treats, sort of hungry, etc. My “rewards, snacks & treats” have added up to more food than I’ve needed & it shows. This reminds me of my new boundary, am I hungry at a zero or not? Thank you, thank you again!
Hi, Michelle. I am so glad it is helpful. 🙂
I’m so glad you posted this! I’m guilty of using the “sort of hungry” and “kind of hungry” phrases–but I am learning! I’ve also realized, without making a conscious effort, of not looking at a snack as a snack as in the dieting realm. I just look at it as a mini-meal. Waiting for that “0” is really the best.
SO true, Christina. 🙂
Perfect! : ) This encourages my heart to be more honest with myself. I’m hungry or not! No nibbling like a mouse. God help us all to be more aware of our true stomach hunger. Not head hunger. In Jesus name amen.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”
We can, indeed!
This is so encouraging. I like your black or white way of thinking when it comes to hunger/fullness. I will put these thoughts into practice for sure from now on. I also like the way you called careless eating, recreational eating. This hits home with me. I find myself eating recreationally a lot. That would be one of my little foxes. Thank you for your ministry Heidi!
Thanks for your kind encouragement, Tina. I appreciate it!