What was the Trigger? The Food? Or the Thought?

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

A frustrated dieter for years, you are finally taking the plunge! You have decided to give  Thin Within a try. You are aware that the “freedom phase” — the beginning stage of Thin Within where you are encouraged to set aside all  dieting laws and rules — is likely to be very challenging for you. You are aware at every turn that eating whatever you feel like eating can be tricky. It has been so long since you have enjoyed chocolate guilt-free, for instance. Regular dressing on your salad instead of fat-free has been unheard of until now. The idea sounds wonderful, but it is extremely frightening to trust this process.

You begin the day tentatively…some toast, an egg, and a bit of yogurt. You are hungry and the food actually tastes good…well, all except the toast–you know it would taste better with some butter, or at least some jelly, but you toss it out instead of risk it. You stop eating when you are no longer hungry and head into the day.

A few hours later, you sense hunger approaching. You finish the meeting with a co-worker and by the time you can break for lunch you are famished. Again, aware that you are allowed great freedom in your food selections, you nevertheless, “play it safe” with a salad at lunch. You want to reach for the regular salad dressing, but guilt overwhelms you. You are just positive that you need to be careful about things like this if you are to lose weight.

You pick up the kids and their friends after school.  It’s the last day of class and they are in a celebratory mood! School is out for summer! They ask if you will take them by the grocery store to get the fixings for hot fudge sundaes. One thing these kids are is naturally thin eaters! Upon arriving home, they scoop themselves modest portions of ice cream, heat up some hot fudge in the microwave, topping the masterpieces with a smidgen of whipped cream, sliced almonds, and chocolate sprinkles. After enjoying conversation and their snacks around the dining table, they head to the TV room for a much-deserved movie.

Now, you find yourself alone in the kitchen. The refrigerator and freezer with aaaaalll those hot fudge sundae fixings stands there as if to say, “What are you going to do?” Your stomach is clearly empty–and no small wonder, when you consider what you have eaten today. The internal battle commences. Will you enjoy some ice cream? Or will you play it safe?

Prayerfully taking what feels like a large leap of faith, you scoop yourself a modest portion of ice cream, drizzle a tablespoon (or so) of hot fudge over it and forego the whipped cream and almonds altogether. Oh! Dare you really EAT this? Sure, you are hungry…but how on EARTH can you justify eating this? It is SO decadent and it really can’t be ok. Making a quick mental calculation for the premium ice cream and the hot fudge, you are just positive that this is an easy 350 calories if not closer to 500. “Surely, Thin Within can’t teach that I am not supposed to do the math!” You wonder how you could possibly lose any weight if you eat ice cream and hot fudge. You are just sure you need to learn to say NO to yourself. You are reminded of what the leader at your Thin Within class said only the night before about being willing, when you are hungry, to select foods you will enjoy. You know you would LOVE to have this sundae. So, you sit down, and try desperately to calm your mind.

You dig your spoon into the creamy ambrosia as hot fudge drips off the edge of the spoon. You savor the flavors slowly while an internal battle continues to rage. You can’t shake the guilt.  “I can’t eat this! This is wrong! If I am going to do the right thing, I can’t eat this! This is so bad for me! I am abusing my body when I eat like this! I am such a failure. This can’t be ok for me–maybe for others, but not for me.”

You force yourself to finish eating the small sundae anyhow–after all, this is “freedom!”  (“Thin Within says so!”) You, however, are plagued by guilt. It is a tremendous load on your shoulders. Even while you chastise yourself, something flips a switch inside of you. “That’s it! I have blown it! It’s over with now. I may as well GO for it!” Guilt guilt guilt and more guilt.

You get an edge–an attitude–you open the freezer door. Reaching for the ice cream you dig out a larger second portion and heat up twice as much hot fudge as the first time. This time, you heap a generous portion of whipped cream all over it, smothering it as if trying to smother your own guilt. Sitting down to watch an afternoon TV show while you eat you mindlessly inhale the second portion of ice cream. You find yourself back in the kitchen taking a spoon to the hot fudge. You hear the kids coming, so you steal away to the bathroom, hot fudge container and spoon in hand where no one will see….

You find yourself in the bathroom and, devastated, you sentence yourself, “I will never break free. I have to stop eating foods that trigger me!”

New Thin Within participants often share incidents such as this one. They explain that chocolate, bread, pasta, etc., “triggers” a response that keeps them stuck eating for the rest of the day once they have indulged in something not formerly on their “allowed foods” lists.

But I wonder…is it the actual food that does the triggering? Or could it, perhaps, be the thought that you are eating something that you are not supposed to be eating? Perhaps it is important to renew your mind about food before you eat it. If you haven’t informed your conscience and renewed your mind about the food, then no matter how permissible the food may be from God’s perspective, it isn’t from yours. Romans 14:23 says you may be condemned because you are defying your conscience. Maybe you need to inform your conscience.

But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat,

because their eating is not from faith;

and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Romans 14:23

So let’s inform your conscience just a bit together. Reason with me for just a moment.

Let’s say that you have a choice to eat either a salad with low-fat dressing or a half sandwich with chicken, cheese, and veggies.

There is no doubt that the salad has less calories than the half sandwich.

You feel compelled that choosing the lower calorie option is the better choice, even though you are learning how to eat the Thin Within way.

Consider for a moment, though: What are calories? They are fuel. So the salad offers less fuel than the half sandwich. What this basically means is that while you may be taking in fewer calories in the salad, you will run out of fuel sooner…and get hungry sooner, when you will then have to make another choice about what to eat when hungry or choose to deprive yourself when you are hungry. The person who eats the half sandwich may be choosing the option that is higher in calories…which simply means it has more fuel to offer. The way our bodies run, that just means that she won’t need more fuel quite so soon if she is eating according to physical hunger and satisfaction. She won’t be signaled that she is hungry quite as soon. 

You see, there really is no benefit to eating the item that is less calorie dense when you follow the Thin Within approach.

When I was releasing 100 pounds using the Thin Within principles, I never ate a single salad (I don’t like vegetables). Instead, I ate pizza, desserts, french fries (from McDonalds…I know, this is appalling to many :-)!), etc. I honestly lost all my weight eating this way. When I tell people that, they often say “You must have exercised a lot.” Not while I was still releasing the weight I didn’t. I didn’t do much exercising in addition to normal life (with kids, horses and dogs) until much later, after I had released the weight.

But because I ate these foods according to physical hunger and satisfaction, it meant that I ate small portions and these foods, because they are calorie–FUEL–rich, sustained me. I didn’t need to eat very frequently or very large portions at all.

Some might feel that by eating those foods that are so high in salt and fat that my cholesterol would go flying off the charts. Consider with me again: When we are concerned about these things, it isn’t the thing (like fat) itself that causes these problems in our bodies. Just like it isn’t sugar itself. It is the quantity. When you eat the small amounts of ANY of the foods that you desire, you will not end up with high cholesterol or diabetes (at least it isn’t likely) or any of the other health problems that so many of us relate to eating “too much of the wrong thing.” Portions served in restaurants are HUGE. You can enjoy a bit of any food on the planet and discover that it doesn’t take much to satisfy you AND it will not cause your blood pressure to spike, cholesterol to go up or your arteries to clog.

Back to our triggering example that we began with: I believe that the reason many of us are “triggered” as we try to break free from dieting is because we haven’t informed our conscience about all of these things. We haven’t explained to our brains the truth about food.

The Truth is: No food is more righteous than any other.

Sure, it is best to have a variety of foods with a variety of nutrients–something Thin Within calls “beneficial foods,” but having steamed broccoli instead of chips and salsa doesn’t make someone a better person, a godlier Christian, or a skinnier person either. The key is why we what we eat, when we eat what we eat, and how much we eat. In the past, we were told “You are what you eat.” That simply isn’t true.

My husband and I go out to breakfast every so often at McDonalds. I get the sausage biscuit. He gets the yogurt and fruit parfait. The sausage biscuit sustains me for four hours–even when I play two hours of tennis. The yogurt holds Bob about two hours, as he sits at a desk at work. Which choice is better? 🙂 (Gosh, I am spoiled, aren’t I?)

Do you see what I mean?

So inform your conscience about food. See if doing so doesn’t eliminate any “triggering” behavior. I really believe it isn’t the food at all. It is the false guilt that kicks in when we think we have “blown it” and want to quit.

When you inform your conscience that you can enjoy the hot fudge sundae with freedom between the godly boundaries of physical hunger and satisfaction, I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that you won’t go binge crazy and gobble down another hefty bowl of ice cream *or* find yourself hiding out in the bathroom with the hot fudge and a spoon.

What do you think? Do you need to inform your conscience about food and give yourself a chance to truly enjoy the freedom you have? What might that look like for you? Can you create a list of true statements about food and use it to renew your mind about food?

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22 Responses to What was the Trigger? The Food? Or the Thought?

  1. Michelle Renee Higgins May 30, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    Good word Heidi!
    I find myself doing these very things. Being 6 weeks back into this approach I am thinking…..” OK, that’s enough fun for you, you can’t really expect to keep eating like this”….. I had some stomach issues last week and wanted to convince myself it was from ALL THAT SUGAR AND BAD FOOD. But what I do know to be true is God does everything right and he does not make mistakes and time will show me that I am where I am supposed to be.

    Here is my main truth about food:
    Jesus is Lord and food is not.
    Food has no power to fulfill anything besides physical needs.
    I do not have a bottomless pit screaming to be filled, I have a God shaped hole that absolutely can be filled to overflowing.

    I was feeling down yesterday from perceived criticism at work and could not wait to get to my car and make a audio file of what I was feeling. I waited to eat so I could pour out my heart to God and let him remind me of who I was and what I really needed. It went against the needs of my flesh to use food for comfort, but fed my spirit and gave me peace…..A much better solution. I pray for all the dear souls here walking in the path of God’s provision and practicing freedom every day!

    • Lesley UK May 30, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Great “truth about food” statement. You are so right to use the word “perceived” with the feelings you experience at work. I too realize that most of my feelings are reactions to my perception of reality, and truth is it’s usually only a reality for me. I am proud of you for waiting to eat till after you sought the Lord – bravo! I will use this tool, thank you for sharing.

    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

      Amen, Michelle. Jesus is Lord and food is NOT!
      Now…about that audio file. Any chance you will share it with us? 🙂

  2. Joyce May 30, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    I love food of almost any kind. I am a weirdo and love salad. I also love deep fat fried cat fish with hushpuppies and lots of tartar sauce. My guilt comes from placing food in God’s place. I go to food to soothe my wounded spirit instead of going to God. The guilt happens and the cycle continues. I desire to learn that going to God is the best, the greatest choice. This is my prayer today: God of mercy and grace forgive me for seeking food to calm and soothe me. Please instill in me a desire to seek you before I go to food. I pray this scripture that God would please help me to:Ephesians 6:13-17 NIV

    Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

    God you are all powerful. You live in me. May I use your power and words to fight off the evil one. You have given given them to me. Thank you most Holy Lord. Amen
    Blessings, Joyce

    • Jamie May 30, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Hi Joyce,
      thank you for sharing that it is the full armor of God we need to put on daily…Amen! 🙂 Ephesians 6. I will go look this up and meditate on it today. Thank you so much. 🙂

    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm #


    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

      I think a lot of people love salad, Joyce. I don’t think you are strange at all! The prayer at the end of your first paragraph is my prayer as well…thank you for putting it into words. And thanks, as always for bringing us the Word of God. I love His Word!

  3. Lesley UK May 30, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    Heidi, I was nose to screen reading this blog – totally focused with my head bobbing up and down in agreement with every word…a bit like when my dog slams his snout against the patio door desperately trying to catch a fly 🙂

    I did chuckle when I read “we haven’t explained to our brains the truth about food”. I really enjoy the freedom from dieting, but my conscience still has the last “guilty” word after I eat a formerly “forbidden” food item. This too will be released over time with practice, right?

    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      LOL! Lesley, I can picture you doing this since we have had lunch together a couple of times. You are so funny! Yes!!!! It WILL be released over time with practice.

      One of the things we can do when we catch ourselves doing this kind of thinking is RENEWING OUR MINDS. Take whatever thought it is captive and tell ourselves the truth about the food. I think I will be posting a fun clip about that later this week…HEHEHEHEHEHEH!!!! In any event, tell yourself the truth. Is it SIN to eat that? Is it the food that needs to be fixed?

  4. Jamie May 30, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Good morning Heidi,
    I chuckled when I read the part about your husband having the yogurt parfait and you having your sausage MC Muffin. ; )
    More nutrient packed foods definitely do last you a lot longer. I have an egg or two for breakfast and slice toast with real butter and coffee with my real cream half and half or my flavored creamers, like Belgian chocolate toffee! one of my favorites. That will stay with me for 3 to 4 hours. When I eat oatmeal not as long. 2 to 3 hours. I will add things in my oatmeal now like butter and almonds and apple and cinnamon. This morning I put in almonds and almond milk and brown sugar. It was very satisficing and filling. I had my mug full of my favorite coffee and hazelnut creamer with ice…Yes! Ice coffee. I like it when it is not so cold out. Today I am going to make that conscious thought about food density. Pray and give God thanks for every thing I put into my mouth. Like you said, there are no evil food. I am really enjoying this freedom and God tell us in his word that we are free to eat whatever or drink whatever with Thanks giving….
    Colossians 2:16
    16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

    Colossians 2:20-23

    King James Version (KJV)

    20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

    21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

    22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

    23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.



    Reformation Study Bible

    Buy the RSB now

    2:16, 17 In Colossae, the Sabbath was kept and festivals observed in order to placate supernatural powers or angels thought to direct the course of the stars, regulate the calendar, and determine human destiny. This, Paul says, is a form of bondage from which Christ came to liberate men and women.

    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

      I think my hubby would argue that the yogurt parfait is a more beneficial choice than the sausage biscuit, but, for me, I need what I enjoy and what will make me feel the best. Having something as sweet as the yogurt on an empty stomach in the morning, typically doesn’t work so well for me. I love the way you and Joyce always bring the Word of God. I love it.

  5. Jamie May 30, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Here are some more of my study notes on verses, 20-23 of Colossians 2.

    King James Version (KJV)

    20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

    21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

    22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

    23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.



    King James Version (KJV)
    by Public Domain

    Reformation Study Bible

    Buy the RSB now
    It is my prayer that God will use His word to sett us all free in Christ Jesus our LORD. True freedom and deliverance is only in Jesus. All the way’s of the world and man’s religion and rules and laws and doctrines of demons will do us NO good! God is our Savior and deliverer. Not man or his witty inventions and food laws. God will see us all through our journey….Keeping my eye’s on Jesus Christ the author and finisher of my faith.

    2:23 self-made religion. God accepts worship offered according to His will revealed in Scripture, not religious exercises done at the dictate of presumptuous human whim (Matt. 15:9). The idea that God must be worshiped only in the way He has instituted has had a profound influence in Reformed churches.

    of no value. The Greek of this verse is very difficult. It apparently means not only that the ascetic disciplines Paul is opposing are worthless, but that they are actively harmful, exciting their own sort of “indulgence of the flesh.” This is precisely what the Reformers—preeminently Luther—saw themselves up against in the extra-biblical rituals that had emerged in the medieval church.

  6. mariewhitemarsh May 30, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    I think the issue for me is eating not past a 5. I love to eat ice cream and in the past would have two or three bowls but now…half a bowl would suffice but combating that head hunger…it looks so good…we really have to set our boundaries in our minds before eating because if I am going to allow myself some of these forbidden foods…and I am not mentally ready with a boundary..I am like a kid in a candy store..my stomach can tell me that is enough but my head is going…one more spoonful would be ok…the games we play with our head hunger..

    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      Marie, I love ice cream as well. My take on that is “If I eat half as much twice as slowly, I will enjoy it just as long!” The last bite is the last bite no matter when it comes, so if I slow down it will take just as long as if I have two or three bowls. I like to use a mug now for ice cream. You are so right. I have to decide ahead of time to keep my boundary in tact.

  7. sistasmile May 30, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Rea!ding this post had me cracking up at myself! Often when we are isolated in our thinking we think no one else has had the same experiences! The scenario was me to a tee…..I have informed my brain all things are permissible however all things are not beneficial at one time or another! I have just completed the heal study for week 4 and am feeling some kind of beautiful today! My body is the temple of the Holy spirit that God has given to me, therefore I will honor my body, with eating between 0 and 5 and I will also incorporate exercise….my exercise right now is to walk at least three times a week and to incorporate Dancing, dancing, dancing!!!!!! I used to be a dancing machine!!!! So blessed by this study and all of you. Love Aretha SistaSmile! A passenger told me last night that people who smile more live longer! I told him thank you I will do more of it, He said my smiling was the reason he mentioned it. 🙂 I also found it God-onic that my tag is #SistaSmile. Have a great weekend and ttyal

    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      Hi, Aretha. So glad you were able to check in. I imagine you are flying somewhere right now while I am reading your words. I am heading to Houston tomorrow for a few days. I would love to know what airlines you work for…wouldn’t that be funny if I ran into you some time! Anyhow, you are so right. We tend to think no one else does the silly things we do or thinks the silly things we do. The truth is, we are SISTERS. We struggle with so many of the same things. I am so glad that the HEAL study has been having an impact on you! WOOT! WOOT! So, how goes the dancing? Have you gotten any music out and kicked up your heels? You might like that Dance Praise game I was talking about. SUCH fun!

  8. Linda May 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    This is such a great post and had me re-living things I went through when I first started eating within the boundaries of hunger/fullness. You are so right Heidi, about eating what you crave. I find I am more satisfied and can go longer between meals when I eat what I really want. And I don’t think about food as much either and can really put my focus on God!

  9. Sara May 31, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Hello Hedi
    I am new to Thin within this week. I started reading the book and ordered the workbook study. I totally am amazed at this approach i been searching and praying for something different for years! This is awesome. I totally agree to this approach. I noticed already the freedom and the awareness about so many thoughts and emotions. But most importantly drawing me closer to my Jesus! I seen how i have eaten. It looks at it a whole new way. I thank you for this blog that you are doing. I wish there were support groups formed around this. I do think i will need a accountability partner! So if anybody needs one give me a shout !!! Thanks!

    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      Hi, Sara. So glad to see you here. Please feel free to post to the Accountability page here at the website. Then look at the posts there and see if you might want to connect with one of those ladies. If so, then shoot me an email at heidi bylsma at gmail dot com and I will try to link you up with the person you select. 🙂 WELCOME!

  10. Tina June 2, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Your posts have been so edifying lately. God has been using them to speak clearly to me.
    I am very encouraged to read you do not like vegetables. I have never liked veggies and guilt myself into thinking I will never been healthy and at my God given size if I don’t start eating veggies. It is good to read that you lost all that weight using only the hunger fullness scale. Thank you for your ministry. I look forward to your post evy morning.

    • Heidi Bylsma June 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      Thanks so much, Tina, for the kind words. I am truly touched! 🙂

  11. Christina June 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    I think I read this when it first came out, but today it felt like I was reading it for the first time. These are all truths that God has been speaking to me. And I loved your example about the McDonald’s breakfast sandwich vs. the yogurt parfait. And I think it’s neat that you released 100 pounds and didn’t even eat many (or any?) vegetables. The Lord is so efficient. He has given us freedom to make food choices. He says that He has sanctified ALL food in His name! He keeps on bringing me back to that truth. I’m so excited about the freedom in eating that He is releasing in my life…especially in my mind!

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