Keys to Conscious Eating



I hope that you woke up this morning with this thought on your heart…


I am fearfully and wonderfully made!


We can believe it!

You know what? Here’s the thing… If our God is awesome (and I bet not one of you reading this would say you don’t agree with that), if He is so creative and powerful and clever (and I bet you all agree with that), then He has made our bodies reliably, too!

Like a Thin Within class participant said

He has created our marvelous, fearfully and wonderfully-made bodies to give us signals about when we need sleep, rest, when we are in pain, when we need to expel something from our bodies, and when we need to drink or eat, as well as when we need to STOP eating or drinking.


The trick is that often, over the years, either through carelessness or dieting, we have “shut down” those hunger and satisfied signals.

We want to get in touch with those signals again because they are a reliable means for eating the right amount of food: Eating to live, rather than living to eat.

When I get back in touch with those signals (this may take work, so please be patient and extend grace to yourself!), I find that I will release extra weight to my natural God-given size and then maintain it. No hocus pocus. No counting. No weighing and measuring. Just a naturally, calm, worry-free, way of living for the rest of my days.

Sound good?

knew it would. I know it does to those of you who already subscribe to this approach.

In Thin Within and Hunger Within, we use the Keys to Conscious Eating to help us get back in touch with the signals of hunger and satisfaction.

These are not “rules” but rather are intended to provide boundaries:


Keys to Conscious Eating:

1. Eat when your body is hungry.
2. Eat in a calm environment by reducing distractions or calming your mind.
3. Eat when you are sitting.
4. Eat when your body and mind are relaxed.
5. Eat and drink the things your body enjoys.
6. Pay attention to your food while eating.
7. Eat slowly, savoring each bite.
8. Stop eating before your body is full.

Grace Response: Observation and Correction


Each time we eat – as in each and every time we eat – we try to use each of these keys as boundaries.

• Numbers 1 and 8 are the primary boundaries of eating between physical hunger (called a “0”) and physical satisfaction (called a “5”).

• If we use numbers 2 through 7 as secondary boundaries for ourselves, it helps us to succeed at #1 and #8.

• The goal is to be intentional each time food crosses our lips.

If we set a place for Jesus at our tables and imagine His presence there, if we foster a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving for the abundance that He supplies and that He has made our bodies fearfully and wonderfully, we can do this.

We can get back in touch with our body’s signals and discover a stress-free way to release the burdens of our hearts and the burdens of our life. They are so often connected!

Let’s eat when we are hungry.

Let’s stop when we are no longer hungry.

And let’s run to God for all the other things that ordinarily draw and lure us to food.

Ya with me? 😃




How are you doing with eating between 0 and 5 being your primary boundary? Which of the secondary boundaries do you think could help you more effectively abide by your primary boundaries? Which is hardest for you? Select one of these today to ask for God’s special help with. How can you plan for success?

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39 Responses to Keys to Conscious Eating

  1. Lee May 8, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Stopping before I am full is the hardest for me. Getting lost in the food and the eating experience often lead to overeating. I don’t always employ the keys to conscious eating 2-7; maybe I should give that a try!

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      If I go awry in my eating, Lee, it seems to be in the same way!

  2. Jan May 8, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    Reviewing yesterday…where I blew my boundaries into a started by eating standing up. I am going to try to only eat sitting down, when I’m at zero, and with a calm heart and mind. Thank you for this list.

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Hang in there, Jan! You can do this! It takes time!

  3. Breahn May 8, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    I thank you sooo much for your daily encouragement. I’m only a week and a half in. I am scared that I will be this way forever. I’ve done pretty good, but struggled last night. I thank you especially for: “(this may take work, so please be patient and extend grace to yourself!)”…… Thank you so much!
    Breahn Royal,
    Longview Texas

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Hanging in there is the key! When we get frustrated with ourselves, so often we throw in the towel and eat in frustration. We want to stop that pattern if that is the one we typically follow. 🙂 No more “Failure” eating. No more “Keeping Boundaries is Hard” eating! 🙂 Yes, extend all the grace in the world because God most definitely does!

  4. Lesley UK May 8, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    My eyes have been opened to the amount of time I give to food as my entertainment. On successful days of eating 0-5 I am amazed at how much time I have available during the day. Boredom eating is currently at the top of my emotional eating list. I’ve glimpsed what an eating experience must be like for a thin eater, their irritation at having to stop and take time to eat…this is so alien to me. As Heidi said “eat to live, not live to eat”! I am learning to “do” the struggle, and these past few days have been a challenge. Praying for you and for me.

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

      I was just thinking of you, Lesley. So good to “see” you this morning. You are so right. I used to call myself a recreational eater! Lifting you up, my friend. You CAN do this. In the strength that the Lord gives!

  5. marie whitemarsh May 8, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    I too have trouble stopping at a 5. I can wait until 0 but it is the discipline of stopping. I think an action plan would be to decide before hand to only eat what I put on my plate and not sit at the table and keep eating. I think the freedom will come in the doing of it. It boggles my mind why this is so hard to do. I heard Joyce Meyers talk a couple of days ago and she said…some of you cast out devils and pray in the name of Jesus and you are telling me you have no power over a cookie..just to hear that said out loud…wow..there again I have to replace those thoughts…with..I have self control…I am an over comer…maybe saying this out loud during a meal…to break that chain of overeating would be helpful. My other problem is the hectic schedule that seems to make me react and grab food when what I really need is ten minutes of calm….my day is so full of demands and even if I start with time in the Word in the morning by the time five’o clock hits…I am frazzled ..and run to my comfort of food…I cannot wait to get off this roller coaster and just eat in a normal way….

    • Christina May 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Marie, I heard Joyce Meyer say that too! So true!

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      Hi, Marie. WOW. That is a convicting quote! Thanks for sharing it! Definitely the things you are facing are worthy of some truth journaling! 🙂 What if you were to have a 5 ‘o’clock recharge in the Word…a quiet time at that time of day? 🙂

  6. cyndieq May 8, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    Heidi, this was awesome it so wonderful the way the Holy Spirit moves in our hearts. I was just thinking I need pull out one of my books and review the eight keys to conscious eating and here you are posting them on your blog. Now that is the work of the Holy Spirit! To image Jesus’ presence in my home not just at the table but in my home for every I do–my organization of my time, the way I act in my love for Him and my speech and making time for Him a priority as Mary did. Just think to sit at the feet of Jesus as His child and worship Him in love and adoration for what He has done for us!

  7. Melissa Clark Gier May 8, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    Right now, I am working on #1, getting back to eating only when truly hungry. In my devotions this morning, a verse I’d highlighted a year ago was on the same page of today’s assigned reading from the Daily Bread. Psalm 145:15 “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.” I told my sisters yesterday that I’ve felt like Bruce Almightly, asking God for a sign while driving behind a truck full of signs. This verse showing up again this morning was God saying – again! – “here’s your sign!” 😀

  8. brenda, in canada May 8, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    I love the Thin Within approach to releasing weight. I have been doing this for almost a year and leading groups as well. I found stopping the hardest part also. I use a small plate and lately it is my goal to be finished eating but still have at least a few bits on my plate. This shows me that the food doesn’t own me, I don’t have to eat it all and now I don’t even want to eat it all!
    I still need to loose about 25 pounds but I am stuck. I have been going up and down about 2 lbs for about 4 months now. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • Jamie May 8, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      Hello Brenda,
      I pray you have a blessed day…..I to have a up and down issue…I prayed for wisdom in the matter. God showed me I needed to cut back on the salt shaker and drink up MORE water. I cut out all soft drinks. They are loaded with sugar and sodium. Water helps our body’s to flush out toxins and waste from our body’s. I hope this is helpful. God bless you. =)

    • Christina May 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      I’m sure you have done this, but ask the Lord (or to continue to ask and wait for His answer). Sometimes it is adding exercising or more strength training. But the most important part is not giving up. That is so wonderful that you are keeping within your boundaries. I truly believe the Lord will show you.

      • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

        The neat thing with Thin Within is anyone…even those who can’t or don’t exercise…can release all their weight. When we exercise, we are hungry more often and can eat more frequently, true, but if we don’t exercise as often, we are hungry less frequently and, as long as that is our cue to eat (and to stop eating), we WILL arrive at our God-given size! More great news! We don’t have to live in fear when we miss a workout or exercise opportunity (like due to being sick or whatever else). Our bodies will signal us what they need. Honestly! 🙂

        • Christina May 8, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

          Haha! Yes! That’s a great reminder Heidi. Can you tell I’m still in the “diet zone” of trying to figure out plateaus? You are so right! I will sometimes think of people who can’t really exercise much because of a physical disability, but they are still at their God-given size.

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      Brenda…God is doing a new thing… I would refine your hunger numbers. Judy Halliday says the hunger scale is the scale to be concerned with, rather than the bathroom scale. 🙂 I know…easier said than done. But as I closed in on my end weight, I found that my eating changed a lot. It makes sense. It doesn’t take as much food to sustain a smaller size body than it does to sustain a larger one. So, it will be even less food. If that isn’t a godly direction to head…and you can ask God about it…then I would rejoice that God has you right where you are supposed to be, even if it isn’t a “Barbi” body!

      • Christina May 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

        Heidi, that makes a lot of sense about fine tuning your own personal hunger scale. Today I have been thinking about looking at it like seeing how little it takes me to fill up instead of looking at it like ‘how much can I eat before I’m satisfied?’.

  9. Lisa Meyer May 8, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    That’s a great verse Melissa! I am going to add it to my post-it verses. As for the secondary boundaries, I am finding that they do work to keep me free from distractions and keep me focused on maintaining 0 to 5 eating. I’ve had many discussions with Heidi (she is my coach) regarding how to stop at 5 as I always seem to pass 5 by just a bit. Lately I have been setting a plate for Jesus and that helps. In addition Heidi says to prepare a plan for success before the meal that gives me the most trouble which is the dinner meal for me. Like for many others, I am tired and stressed by that time. In any case, Heidi has encouraged me to listen to anything that will keep my eyes on God before the meal such as a sermon, praise music, her audio files, etc . . . . I have to say between her audio files and Barb’s app, I have improve by 50 %. In addition, I keep verses on post-it’s in my kitchen area and before i start eating i do a quick praise-fes. Also, I follow the secondary boundaries even if I don’t want to. For example, sometimes I want to go on the computer or watch TV while I eat, but I don’t do it. At first, it is very hard but i believe it is getting easier now. With God’s great help and the help and prayers of all of you and with Heidi and Barb I am finally seeing more success in this area. I will continue to pray for us to trust God and his guidance in following our 0 to 5 signals. Thanks to all.

    • Christina May 8, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      Lisa, it is very hard for me to not eat while watching TV…and we don’t even have cable TV or any TV for that matter. We just watch movies or I catch up on my favorite shows on my smart phone. But it’s like if I’m in front of a TV, I want to eat. This is why evenings are the worst for me. I put my daughter to bed and immediately I want to stare at something and eat. I’m working on establishing a new habit, but it’s definitely been hard!

      • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

        The Thin Within book calls this “Flesh Machinery”…the *old* Thin Within (secular one) called it “Fat Machinery.” Anything that results in us going on a sort of “auto-pilot” and eating just because someone flipped a switch. When I first began to evaluate my flesh machinery, evenings were the obvious when the kids went to bed, certainly. Like many of us. But I also discovered that when the weather turned bad, it was the same thing! When my husband traveled, when my son threw a tantrum…and on and on the list went. When I began to see these kinds of events like someone had thrown a switch, setting machinery (like gears or something) in motion, I began “dismantling” it all and stopping it before it happened. I still have some today that I am recognizing. I think God takes us to different layers of flesh machinery as time goes on so we can see that we are still in process (keeps us humble! HA!).

      • CMK May 9, 2013 at 9:19 am #

        Christina – I committed several weeks ago to the secondary boundary of eating only at the table while sitting. It really was a “game changer” for me. I have a praise fest or listen to praise music as I prepare dinner and have only had 1 or 2 nights when I ate in front of the TV – and this habit was deeply ingrained. I would think about focusing on just one secondary boundary and see if that helps. Heidi may have said this, but truth journaling helps a lot with this also. What are the feelings that go with the craving (entitlement, justification, exhaustion, etc)? I have done this on the nights when the pull to the cabinet is really strong and I’ve ended up not eating!

  10. Michelle Renee May 8, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    I am really enjoying this study and all the comments. I have been trying to post and keep deleting my thoughts before am finished….new computer blues..:0 At any rate, I was struck by two things: Do I really believe all God says about me? Have I ever really walked in that amazing love and acceptance? I think I begin to, but then end up jumping in to help him out.
    My lies/secrets are this: I am prideful and think if I just work harder and follow the rules, I will be perfect/thin/fit and then be able to relax and that translates into being a success and having value. When I end up miserable and cannot keep up that lifestyle, I turn to God, surrender and become vulnerable, weak and needy. Or that is how I used to see it. I journaled about not really getting the connection between my body and my worth. Like, why is it so darn important to me anyway!
    I know there is another layer here I need to unwrap and want God to set me free…..Then on the very next page is the section: Made in intimacy with God! Bing, Bing, Bing! There it is!!! How amazing is our God that he knew I needed that and I need this and I am going to go from strength to strength in focusing on Him and his provision for me. My truth now:
    Romans 14:17-18 For the kingdom of heaven is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
    Now I have been saying to myself when my mind wants more of anything besides God “Hey girl, the kingdom of heaven is not about those things……. Be kingdom minded, not earthly minded.
    Anyway, thanks for listening and I think journaling in word and using copy paste will be so much better for me. I am praying for each one of us and thanking God for you Heidi. He is using you to lead us into his wonderful light!

    • Christina May 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Michelle, when I first went through the HEAL book I remember asking myself (or God) how could I really have been “fearfully and wonderfully made” because I was an ‘oops’ baby. My mom was pregnant at 19–not even married to my dad. I was very loved, but when I would read that scripture I would cry because I was conceived in sin–so how could I be wanted. The Lord has spoken truth to me though! Praise the Lord!

      • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

        That is awesome, Christina. God is sovereign. That doesn’t sit right with some of us. Others of us get immeasurable comfort from that fact, though…that if God allowed it, it is good…somehow, somewhere, sometime…and anything is redeemed in the hands of our beautiful, wonderful, God. I can’t imagine cyberspace without you, Christina! 🙂

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

      Hi, Michelle. Wow…great stuff in your post. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. You have ministered to ME today. No doubt about it. You all give so much to me when you share here. It makes my heart swell with joy…

  11. Jamie May 8, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    PRAISE GOD FOR A NEW DAY, His mercy’ mercy’s are new every morning. Father God blessed me with a jewel this morning. My sweet husband had breakfast made for me this morning. 🙂 THE other gem I got from Father God this morning was a heart filled with his peace and love. Peace about me eating what was set before me. No fear! WOW! Free to not weigh and measure out every bite…God has loosed me from fear and control. I was hungry when I ate to and stopped at full. No fear! =) 2 Tim 1:7.
    I believe that God is teaching me to rely on and trust in Him. I pray for God’s temperance, self control which is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. God bless us all with his grace today. Amen. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind” 2 Tim 1:7.
    I believe God is rooting out the spirit of fear in my life. 1 John 4:18-” There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out all fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      Wow, Jamie. Awesome!!!!

    • CMK May 9, 2013 at 9:21 am #

      Freedom! His Truth is setting you Free! I am loving that – that I don’t dread/fear eating out, meal planning or having to make myself a different meal. What a gift from your hubby.

  12. Christina May 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    This post really spoke to my heart. And I really like the simplicity you shared. I like how you said boundaries #1 & #8 are the primary boundaries, with #2-7 being secondary boundaries. Seeing it like that really helped me understand the simplicity of it. I also like the part about extending grace to ourselves, that this will take work, but by following the boundaries, we WILL release weight and get to our God-given size. That was a huge encouragement to me!

    I started reading through the HEAL book last night (while eating something–oops!) but as it sat on the table during breakfast and lunch today (unopened) it was a great reminder to follow those secondary boundaries.

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

      I am so glad that it simplified it a bit, Christina. I know I have a tendency to make things much TOO complicated sometimes. Thanks for the encouragement.

  13. Sherri May 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Thank you Heidi for encouraging me to start the weight loss Bible study. My “renewing my mind” goal is to think about God more than food.
    I’m having a really hard week and failing miserably at 0-5 eating.
    I’m encouraged by all the posts, I don’t feel so alone.
    Any encouragement, emails, friendships, texts, and prayers would be so appreciated.
    Very thankful for this site and for all of you!

    • Heidi Bylsma May 8, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Yay, Sherri! So glad you dove in. I will make a suggestion, though. The Renewing of the Mind goal works best when it takes a proactive approach about a lie and ponders truth instead. So “Think about God more than food” is a bit vague and hard to really pinpoint. Like for instance, my goal was to relish 0 to 5 eating as a good, godly, wonderful way to eat that I could delight in. So three times a day, I went over about 10-15 statements (my list grew over time) about *why* it is a good, godly wonderful way to eat. 🙂

      If you want to think about God more than food, you may want your renewing of the mind goal to be to add three new things to your God List (more on that tomorrow) and to have three praise-fests each day…or each time before you eat…or any time you think about food as well…or something like that. That is a bit more measurable and will give you a sense of success, I think! Just a thought!

  14. Linda May 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    I need to stop looking at the clock when I eat. I often get hungry earlier than I want to and try to hold off till the “proper time”. Today I started wondering why I would do that. So what if I eat lunch at 11 instead of 12? I think that by holding off eating when I am truly hungry sets me up to eat beyond a 5.

    I really got a lot out of everyone’s post- thank you all for your input!

    And Heidi, thanks for the reminder of the keys. Eat when you are sitting has always been the one I try to follow as I never, ever binge when I eat sitting down!

  15. Mar Osborn February 10, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    Heidi, in reply to your, “are ya with me”? YOU BET! Always such good wisdom & advice from you, Heidi!!!! Thanks so much!

    As always… praying for my TW prayer buddy, our TW Group, and all of the TW Groups everywhere, and lastly… praying for all that need help in this area to be brought to TW 🙂

  16. Carol Gemmell February 10, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Feeling “hunger” again is something I’m realizing hasn’t been my primary reason for eating. Stopping when I’m full is a habit I will need to work on. I think #7, “Eat slowly and savor every bite” will help me to do that. Thanks!

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