If there be a man before me who says that the wrath of God is too heavy a punishment for his little sin, I ask him, if the sin be little, why does he not give it up. – Charles Spurgeon

I just finished The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A. Kessler, MD.  Besides a inside scoop on the food industry and the marketing of overeating, or its alias in the book,”conditioned hypereating,” Kessler provides in-depth analysis of the biology and neurology of overeating.  He details the inexorable links between the flavor stimuli designed to tempt a gluttonous response.  

Now I know why it’s all I can do to walk past the Cinnabon trailer at the county fair.  (Beyond the sensational scent-it has to do with neurochemistry.) And why a “succulent, seared Italian seafood filet” looks and tastes better and even fills you up more than a simple “seafood filet.”

An informative read for sure.  My food radar is definitely up as I scan menus and ingredient lists.  I am not unaware of the food industry’s schemes! More importantly, I’m tuned in to the mental rehearsal and intentional planning that is essential to maintaining a healthy weight.  I know that haphazard eating, without thought to the stimuli-response-habit cycle often result in overeating.  

But what impressed me more than anything else in The End Of Overeating, I’m quite sure, was totally unintended by Kessler.  Near the end, he examines what “success” in the face of the overeating battle looks like.  Here are a few excerpts (bolding and underlining, mine):

…you see that food has kept you trapped in a cue-urge-reward-habit cycle.  Only then can you accept that food rewards are short lived and that their more enduring effect is to sustain your desire to keep eating.  That’s when you realize that if you stay trapped, you’ll never eat enough to feel satisfied, and that’s when you’ll stop expecting food to make you feel better.    -pp. 234-235

Soon you’re inventing excuses for pursuing reward.  “I’m entitled to this…It will cheer me up…I’ve been good this week…I can eat just a little.”  In a series of small steps, you put yourself into a position where it becomes easier to access a reward, an internal battle begins (“Should I eat this or not?”), and your determination to say no eventually buckles.

…For others, the greatest challenge comes after reaching their sought-after weight, when they recognize that their struggle will never be completely over and that the battle with conditioned hypereating is lifelong.  Accepting those realities helps to keep you vigilant. -pp. 232-233

The slave to sin/hostage to overeating analogy was inescapable. Justifying the “little” sin snack. The internal battle-I do not do what I want, but the very thing I hate. Feeling entitled to “just a little” sinful pleasure. Realizing that sin keeps us trapped by its fleeting “rewards.” Moses lived it for us.

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the children of God, rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Both my dear friend Julia and a committed co-worker have lived this war in the past year.  Looking for a greater reward, they demonstrate unceasing vigilance to overcome.  Each has lost >80 pounds.  Both have confided that they see the battle against overeating will require lifelong vigilance.  Their reduced calorie diets, minimal sugar and refined carbs, and self-control are not temporary, but new norms.  

I’m getting it, too. Behind C. H. Spurgeon, who knew

The reigning power of sin falls dead the moment a man is converted, but the struggling power of sin does not die until the man dies.  

With Oswald Chambers, who knew

Life without war is impossible whether in nature or in grace…Health is the balance between physical life and external nature, and it is maintained only by sufficient vitality on the inside against things on the outside.  

There’s really only one way out of bondage.  In all the tantalizing forms Overeating and her sneaky, spiritual cousin Sin take, defeating them requires embracing at least these two truths: 

  • the short-term pleasures of partaking are just fleeting compared to the eternal reward. Yup, as I inhale the aromatic scent of the Cinnabon, I must think: A moment on the lips, forever on the hips.  Delightful going down, but not so much 730 calories later.
  •  that epic victory and real freedom are simply impossible without war.  I realize I’ll have to fight the Sinnabon until the day I die! It’ll be easier to resist the more I do, but I’ll probably still be tempted decades down the road. 

When the grace of God appears, he teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passion and lead self-controlled upright and godly lives as we await our glorious Hope.  In his marvelous, matchless grace, our Lord Jesus  promises us even greater rewards when we keep fighting the good fight, with his mighty power- our “sufficient vitality” at work within.   

Death to the Sinnabon!

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One Comment

  1. Good post. A friend of mine who recently lost a bunch of weight over a long time period (b/c she changed her lifestyle instead of following fad) commented to me the other day that when people asked how she did it and she told them a lot of hard work and perseverance and commitment to the "bigger goal" they seemed miffed. Like it wasn't the easy answer they wanted. No "secret weapon" there! (Interestingly, I've felt the same way a few times when asked about writing a novel.. lots of hard work and delayed gratification!)

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