Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

“Heart hunger is a compulsion to manage our

feelings and emotional moods with food.”

Healthy Eating & Abundant Living, p. 55

My husband and I have enjoyed one another’s company for most of our almost 30 years together. In fact, I can’t think of a time when we haven’t liked doing things together or even just hanging out together in the evenings and weekends–even through some of the most tumultuous seasons. (Maybe he wouldn’t agree! LOL!…Nope, I just called him to ask and he says it’s true.) Right now is one of those very very difficult times for us, but we still enjoy going out to dinner, watching a video, or on a drive. Sometimes, he even plays tennis with me. 🙂

For as long as I can remember, when Bob has gone out of town–something that his job has always required of him–I have experienced my most emotional, vulnerable times. This goes beyond merely missing him. I am not sure if it is somehow connected to what is an irrational fear of abandonment  rooted in childhood experiences or if it is something else entirely. Through the years, though, I have come to see that I am prone to head to the freezer in the evening when he isn’t home. (Not that this isn’t a challenge when he is home, but the pull becomes even more significant when he isn’t home.) Ice cream is my nemesis at times like those. Not just one bowl of ice cream, but multiple bowls. Even better with hot fudge, whipped cream, and nuts.

Fortunately, I have came to a point of realizing this vulnerability.  Planning in advance for this when I know my husband is going to be out of town enables me to be successful. I make provision for my spirit instead of my flesh. I try not to have ice cream in the house when I am in this “weakened state” 🙂  and I make plans to do something specific in the evenings to redirect my attention into something positive and encouraging–a tennis match, an evening spent writing, extra time in bible study, or going out with friends.

Developing an awareness of my emotions and various motivations for eating outside of my primary boundary of 0 to 5 eating, has been extremely helpful for me.

Personally, it doesn’t take much for me to think about eating. Being angry, annoyed, discontented, lonely, envious, frustrated, greedy, lustful, resentful, unforgiving, insecure, judging (of myself or by others), caught in perfectionism, prideful, regretful, stressed, rejected, worried, sad, disappointed, disapproved of, joyful, liberated, entitled, hopeless, justified, tired of the struggle, bored, etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum! These are all reasons I might turn to food outside of physical hunger. My heart insists I feed it at times like this! It seems to cry for food incessantly.

When I am drawn to eat, it helps to ask some questions:

1.) What is drawing me to food right now? Is it stomach hunger? Head hunger? Or Heart hunger?

2.) If the answer is heart hunger, I evaluate what emotion I am currently feeling. (Often, when I am angry, it is a secondary emotion…something else, usually more painful to feel, is the primary emotion. For instance, if someone during my day has said something mean to me, I may feel anger surge up, but what is often at work there is sadness, disappointment, fear.) Giving this question prayerful consideration is a good first place to start.

3.) What is the need that is currently not being met? Sometimes my heart is hungry for love, acceptance, assurance, etc. Pinpointing what it is really hungry for is helpful.

4.) Will food meet the need that is currently not being met?

5.) If I choose to eat anyhow, will eating in response to this emotion actually *cost* me something in addition to the emotion I already feel? For instance, will I be disappointed with myself and will it add to feelings of hopelessness?

6.) Often, when I am drawn to food because of emotion, my focus is on ME ME ME. Is there some way in which I can focus in a more positive direction? Perhaps on the Lord? What about some time spent working on my God List and having a Praise Fest?

Here is what I have found. Ecclesiastes 3:11 seems to indicate that God has set a God-shaped hole inside of me. It is a hole that only a God-shaped “peg” can fill. It cries to be filled. If I don’t understand that it is a God-shaped hole, I will reach for all manner of other “pegs” to fill it. Food is the primary “peg” I jam in there. All the while, the emptiness, the cry for deeper intimacy with God in this moment, calls to be satisfied, longs for me to recognize the only solution to the ache.

Intimacy with our Creator is the only solution to this Heart Cry. I have developed a series at my other blog for developing intimacy with the Lord–even through trials and heartache. The material there is a product of my Thin Within journey, to be honest!

Step 1 – We Get to Choose

Step 2 – Change Our Thinking

Step 3 – Get Equipped

Step 4 – Sing Our Traveling Song!

Step 5 – Fix Your Eyes

Step 6 – Creating a God List

Step 7 – Praise Him!

Step 8 – Praying Scripture

Step 9 – Fostering a Heart of Thanksgiving

Step 10 – Rest in His Embrace

Step 11 – Focus on Others

Step 12 – Practice His Presence

Step 13a – Forgive Yourself

When our hearts are hungry, we want to feed them what they need. At the deepest place, this hunger is one that only a good dose of “feasting on the Lord” can satisfy.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:25-26

What will you do today…or in the next week…to feed your Heart Hunger what it really is hungry for…intimacy with your Creator and King?