How to *Prevent* “Preventative Eating”


What IS preventative eating?

Well, it’s what you do when you are preparing to go into a situation where you know you won’t be able to have food: a courtroom, a class, a seminar, church service, classroom situation, doctor’s appointment, DMV line, etc. Since you know you will not be able to have food for an hour or two (or longer) and you are concerned you will get hungry and not be able to eat, preventative eating is stocking up ahead of time–eating when you aren’t at a 0 or eating beyond 5 in preparation for the situation that may be ahead. It is eating so you won’t get hungry when you don’t think you will be around food.

There are some obvious problems with this. 🙂 Like there is nothing about it that respects the 0 and 5 boundary that God has asked us to respect!

We also have no idea if we will get hungry then or not. Not for certain!

This video explains a bit of what I am talking about. (If you are an email subscriber, please visit the blog if the video isn’t viewable.)

We often discover that if we are careful to give ourselves permission to eat to prevent hunger, it often leads to “I have broken my boundaries once already, so I may as well break them the rest of the day” sort of eating. Or “I have blown my boundaries” or what Barb Raveling calls “Failure Eating.”

As I shared in the video, there are a couple of ways of handling a situation like this.

  1. Plan your hunger so that you are at a 0 with time before the event to have a meal that will be likely to sustain you for the period of time you won’t have access to food.
  2. Carry a small bag of nuts with you to “shave the edge” off the 0 if you do land there during your class, appointment, or flight. A few cashews or almonds can go a long way and then you will have the pleasure of enjoying a meal at 0 after your class, appointment or flight.
  3. Renew your mind about being hungry before you actually are and then allow yourself to pray your way through “0” to the “other side” and enjoy that while you are hungry, your body is likely using its very efficient stores to fuel you!

When you are tempted to stock up and eat before you head off to a situation where you may not have access to food for a few hours, consider using these questions:

Preventative Eating Questions

1. Why do you feel like you should eat now?

2. Would you break your boundaries if you chose to eat now?

3. Are you willing not to eat right now?

If yes, consider what God’s solution might be to this situation. What do you think HE wants you to do?

If no, consider doing the justification or entitlement questions. It sounds like this is more about having an excuse to eat than it is about a legitimate concern to eat.

3. Should this be an exception to your 0 to 5 eating boundaries?

Yes – Why?

If the answer is YES, then how will you know when you are justifying eating and when you have a legitimate reason to eat? What will be the standard?

Given what you know about yourself and your history, do you think you can trust yourself to be honest about breaking a boundary?

No, if not, then do you really need to consider this option any further? What options are available to you instead? Are you willing to do one of them?

4.  Are you afraid of being hungry? Why?

Where does fear come from?

What would God want you to do to deal with this situation?

5. What options can you consider to avoid being hungry during the class, appointment, or seminar without breaking your 0 to 5 boundaries?

6. Is avoiding hunger during your appointment, flight or class a need or a desire?

If a need then what possible solutions are there that you can use while respecting your boundaries?

If a desire, consider doing the justification or entitlement questions.

  1. Are you willing to experience discomfort if doing so means honoring the boundaries that God has established for you?
  2. Is alleviating your hunger or the possibility of being hungry worth the spiritual, emotional, and physical consequences that you will face if you break your boundary and eat to prevent hunger?


Much of my “preventative” eating has been rooted in fear. Maybe you can relate! We may be afraid of being uncomfortable …hungry… and not able to get to food. When we dismantle this fear and evaluate it, it really helps to diffuse the emotional volatility that is a part of it.

For me, I feared being hungry and without food because of abuse related to my childhood.

God wanted me to allow myself to get hungry…and to experience his presence in the midst of my fear and my physical hunger. He wanted me to see that there was nothing to fear. That my fear was rooted in lies that I believed.

Renewing my mind about this was vital to break free from “preventative eating” and so I have to review truths such as these when I am tempted to eat to prevent hunger ahead of time:

  1. Being hungry is not so painful that I can’t manage it.
  2. When I am hungry there is nothing terrible that will happen to me.
  3. It is TRUE that I will have food sometime relatively soon.
  4. The comfort that I need and that I sometimes turn to food to give me is only found in the Lord (and he sometimes uses people).
  5. No alleviating of my potential discomfort is worth the violating of my boundaries.
  6. Who knows? Maybe I won’t even BE hungry before the event is over with. I just don’t know!
  7. Food will be available when the event is over. If I am at a 0 I will be free to get food.
  8. If I am hungry for a while, I will be ok.

Look up the following bible verses and write down what you learn about the need for preventative eating:

  1. Psalm 37:25
  2. Psalm 81:10
  3. Psalm 73:23-26
  4. Isaiah 41:10, 13

Can you find any others? If so, share them with me so I can add them to this list.

What blessings are in store for you if you stand against the temptation for “preventative eating?”

Do you have any events this week, any appointments, errands to run, meetings to attend where you might be likely to engage in “preventative eating?” What strategy will you prayerfully employ so that you don’t break your boundaries?

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18 Responses to How to *Prevent* “Preventative Eating”

  1. Joyce April 23, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    Oh, my, how you have spoken to the very root of my problem. I discovered just prior to reading your blog, when my stomach is full I feel secure (also related to childhood trauma). If I am hungry and food is not near I feel insecure. I am telling myself it is OK to be hungry. In these times God , my husband, my children love me and have not left me. I have a sensitivity to tree nuts and I often take a cut up apple and/or a cheese stick with me. God is really using you to minister to me. Thank you, Joyce

    • Heidi Bylsma April 24, 2013 at 6:33 am #

      Wow, Joyce. What a powerful insight God has given you. Thanks for your kind words. God is amazing, isn’t he? 🙂 I love him so much!

  2. Lee April 23, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    You nailed me with this one, Heidi!! I have an appointment today that will run past my normal dinner time and I was already resigning myself to break my boundaries, yet one more time. Thank you for giving me determination to be true to myself and my boundaries.

  3. Minda April 23, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    “Are you afraid of being hungry? Why?” I don’t know the specific reason but I know hunger is a trigger for feeling like I’m on an electric fence. It happened yesterday, four hours after lunch and I didn’t have a snack with me before heading to the grocery store after a doctors appointment where I was informed I needed to lose 60lbs. I ended up stopping for a psuedo healthy snack before going to the grocery store. What concerns me most is how panicked I felt and how I wasn’t able to think clearly about boundaries or anything else for that matter. Ive written down Heidi’s statements in my journal, (ie. I can manage hunger, nothing terrrible will happen to me etc.) and maybe I can have them with me next time a mini panic attack surfaces. There is a lot of sadness for me surrounding this issue of feeling hungry. Not sure why…maybe I need back in therapy:)

    • Heidi Bylsma April 24, 2013 at 6:36 am #

      Minda, there might be some really important things that God wants to heal. It is worth exploring. If you haven’t yet, you could read through the Halliday’s book Thin Again. Also published as Silent Hunger, Get Thin Stay Thin,and most recently, Hunger Within. There are a lot of insights that God brought to me through the reading, praying through, and journaling through that book!

      • Minda April 24, 2013 at 6:45 am #

        Just ordered the kindle version for my ipad. I can’t seem to get enough TW literature! Thanks for the tip.

  4. doublejay4me April 23, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Heidi, this study is truly changing my life. Old, secret places are being broken away–finally! The renewing of my mind and truth journaling are two tools I hope to use for the rest of my life. Thank you.

    I was wondering if you have all of this info located somewhere that doesn’t include pictures and the videos so that I could print it all out. I know I will want to look at all the lessons and your words many times and it would be nice to have a hard copy on file.

    • Heidi Bylsma April 24, 2013 at 6:38 am #

      Hi, Doublejay. I think you can ask Barb about the bible study questions. She and I have been talking about offering for sale a DVD/workbook product that has it all in one place. I don’t know if there would be an interest in that. Perhaps if we do that, we could provide different options…like just the workbook or just the pdf files or…well, whatever else! I will be working on this project for release in June or July I think.

      The good news is, Barb is diligently working on a new bible study that I am sure will be AWESOME as well! I will be sure to let you all know about it when she has it available!

  5. CMK April 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    I haven’t been able to do today’s study yet, but preventative eating is a big one for me. I’m so glad we are looking into this, Heidi! I’ve realized that I bought into the lie of “eating for your metabolism” (related to one of the many diets I did). As I have worked through the study these past few weeks, I have renewed my mind about diets and portions and good/bad food, but the fear of having my metabolism get even slower still holds on. I didn’t want to get stuck “missing a meal” and then affect my metabolism – I need to truth journal on this!
    I will say that on Sunday, I had a hair appt right after church. I brought some almonds and ate a few and was fine (yes, hungry, but survived) til I got home at 3. I ate a little bit of food then (not to 5) and was still nice and hungry for dinner. The missed meal wasn’t really missed much!

  6. CMK April 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I am so thankful that the Lord is renewing my mind about food. The other night I had a social/preventative eating situation that I handled very differently than I would have in the past. I had a 7pm mtg that was partly social (wine and snacks) and “business.” In the past, I would have eaten dinner so that I wasn’t hungry for the food (I don’t normally eat in social situations – partly left over from dieting days and I have food sensitivities so sometimes there isn’t a lot of choice for me). Then, I would watch everyone else eat while I was “good” but then I would feel resentful, deprived and possible eat what I brought on the way home. So, I skipped dinner, ate a small plate of fruit and cheese and hummus (not everything on the plate either) and enjoyed it with a glass of wine. It was so freeing!

    • Heidi Bylsma April 25, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      I am thankful that you are experiencing the renewing of your mind about food, too, CMK. Sounds like a HUGE victory! WOOT!

  7. Carol April 25, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    There is one day a week when we do not have time to eat between 8 am and 2 pm. No, I cannot even sneak nuts. I get shaky, light-headed, cannot focus when that happens so I eat before 8 am even though I am not hungry then. I don’t understand how to plan morning hunger. I rarely wake up hungry. Suggestions?

    • Heidi Bylsma April 25, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      Hi, Carol. It takes practice, but it is possible. The night before, have your last meal earlier, or eat less, or enjoy foods that are less sustaining. Each person is different, but, for me, if I have a meal high in protein…like with meat as the primary focus the night before, the next morning, I am less likely to awaken hungry. If you know you have one day a week when you hope to be hungry say by 7am, then I would play with having your last meal end by 6pm the night before (I count snacks as a meal!). If that alone doesn’t do the trick to cause you to awaken hungry, then play with the amounts of the foods you would prefer to eat…have a bit less…stop eating at a 4. If that doesn’t do the trick (extend grace to yourself as you experiment with this), then perhaps be sure that the foods you find most satisfying and enduring aren’t the primary focus of that meal. Many people find fruit and vegetables satisfying in the moment, but not as sustaining in the long run–so you could try to enjoy fruits or veggies that you love to eat, but as more of the focus of the meal than as a side dish. Does that make sense? Does that seem like there are some possibilities there? 🙂

  8. Carol April 30, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    Heidi, that does make sense and fits perfectly with what a friend and her husband do for the evening meal. They call it ‘One Plate’. They have veggies and fruits and just a bit of protein as their evening meal but then nothing else. No seconds—which I should never eat anyway—no snacks. It works for them and I’ve been toying with the idea of eating lighter meals so I think I’ll give it a shot.

    Thanks so much!



  1. WLBS Review: Social Eating/Preventative Eating/Following Boundaries is Hard Eating | God is Doing a New Thing - May 3, 2013

    […] Preventative Eating – We don’t like to be uncomfortable. We like to prevent a situation where we know we are likely not to be near food–not to have access to food. Sometimes, this motivates us to break our boundaries and eat to prevent hunger. Or to eat an extra amount of food so we are sustained longer, even though we know we are past 5. Eating to prevent hunger is still eating outside of our boundaries. We reviewed some strategies for coping with this concern and saw that really, it is a rare situation indeed when I will be without food of any kind. Planning my hunger so that I can eat within my boundaries just before a situation when I won’t be able to have a meal is one approach. Another is to carry a few nuts with me. Finally, another option is to be willing to be uncomfortable–to be hungry, knowing I can have a meal after my appointment, seminar, or courtroom appearance is over. God can grow our character! […]

  2. THIS IS TOO HARD (and Preventative Eating) Week 12 | God is Doing a New Thing - September 2, 2013

    […] Visit this page here at this blog. Take some time to read the introductory material and to watch the video on that […]

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