Did the Devil Invent Comfort Food?

What do you think about when you think about food?
The rich taste? The enchanting smells? The fresh ingredients?
What you might not think about is how attached you feel to your food.

Food creates a bond between the eater and the feeder.
This can be seen when babies or animals are fed. They relate the sensations and sustenance with the one who feeds them. If the feeder is unavailable emotionally the process is short circuited.
The result is that the eater becomes attached to the food instead of the feeder. The bond of joyfulness and appreciation that should be given to a person is given to a temporary, and often unhealthy, experience. We know this instinctively, as is seen in the term “comfort food.”
This bad eating habit is an ancient problem that is reflected in the scriptures.
One way to understand the original sin of Adam and Eve is that they chose the food over the feeder. This provides a helpful way of thinking about many of the problems we encounter as individuals and as a culture. Often, we can’t shed pounds, no matter how hard we try. As of 2014, 2/3 of Americans are obese.
Although there are many reasons for this problem, we need to recognize the psychological culprit that is making us fat: We have become bonded to our food.
By misplacing our sense of attachment, we miss the natural function of food. Food should foster a sense of attachment to the feeder. In other words, food helps us love and appreciate God.
How would your relationship to food change if you took the following 5 steps:

1. Start with appreciation
Think specifically about how it smells, tastes and makes you feel. Be reminded of how many don’t get great food like this. Prayerfully tell God how gratefully you for your food.

2. Confess to God that you need help
Admit your tendency to care more about the food than the feeder. Ask for help to enjoy the meal, and remember it is from him.

3. Ask God for help recognizing His presence during the meal
Jesus is called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” Ask for help recognizing his presence as you eat.Confess to God that you need help. Admit your tendency to care more about the food than the feeder. Ask for help to enjoy the meal, and remember it is from him.

4. Don’t eat alone
Sharing a meal provides great accountability, because another person will know what you eat. More importantly, it provides a special moment to build a bond with another person instead of the food.

5. Take your time
Meals are a chance to grow in appreciation of God’s provision, deepen bonds with others and receive the sustenance you need. This cannot be rushed. Settle in and enjoy the moment. Over time, your relationships to God and others will fill you in a way comfort food never will!

Choosing healthy foods and counting calories can be helpful, but they do nothing to address the heart that lies behind many bad eating habits. Both scripture and modern attachment theory help us to understand that the problem is our dangerous attachment to food. Bond with God instead, and you’ll take an important step to developing a new, healthy relationship with food.

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  • Really interesting! I will definitely put this into practice 🙂

  • Great blog!
    I have been plagued with emotional eating lately, and this blog helped to pinpoint my unhealthy attachment to food. I will be using the 5 ways to replace the attachment to food with the Creator, using worship music to calm and soothe my spirit and soul while I am slowly, appreciatively enjoying the dining experience. Thanks Jim!
    love, Camille

  • Thanks for posting this!
    It’s as though you were reading my mind about this topic. I’ve learned to keep food as a means to sustain and enjoy rather than to entertain and comfort. By doing so unintentionally started to actually do all five tips you listed over the last 6 months or so and have noticed a huge change in how I view food now. Seeing it as a gift to be enjoyed and when praying before a meal actually taking the time to feel the appreciation and give thanks has been a wonderful experience of growth for me personally.
    Thanks Jim!

  • I really appreciate this, I’m wondering if as we strengthen our attachment to God, it will be easier to not eat alone? That’s a problem for many of us.
    Do you have any thoughts on drinking? Sugary drinks or diet drinks can be a problem too….

    • Drinking liquids is a big factor and fluids may be more important in bonding for men than solid food. Men tend to bond to whoever brings them drinks – starting with mother’s nursing them. Sugar add a whole new dimension because sugar scores high as a pleasure feeling that will temporarily have the same force as a joyful attachment. So you could say that the chemistry of sugar and of drinks is particularly likely to derail our attachments when they are not served up with high joy from the “feeder.”

  • Thank you for explaining the “why” behind comfort eating and articulating the process to overcome. I look to employ it.
    But if you could help me with something I have been puzzled by, I would REALLY appreciate it:
    I was very overweight and for some months prayed about losing weight. Everytime I saw an ad on TV for Weight Watchers I sensed a nudge from the Holy Spirit to join. When I finally submitted and obeyed (even from the very moment I wrote the check to sign up for the program in 8/09), the intense preoccupation with food left me.
    I proceeded to lose 62 pounds in 9 months (5/10)almost effortlessly. I’m guessing I kept the weight off for about a year (5/11). And slowly began to add the weight back on. By 5/13 I had gained 18 pounds back, and now by 6/14, I have gained 38 pounds back. And I am once again preoccupied with an anxious desire for food.
    I would be interested in your thoughts on how or why did that “anxious-eating” switch in my brain/heart get switched off, then on?

  • Eating is meant to attach us both to people and God. There is a possibility that being part of a weight loss program helped you feel more connected with others. There is also the possibility that your anxiety is connected to feeling “out of control” with yourself and your eating – a sort of vicious circle. Eating and weight feels out of control – we eat to feel comforted and in control (short term) and the result (long term) is feeling more out of control and anxious. In that case a structured eating program greatly reduces the out of control feeling. If you are familiar with either Emmanuel prayer or Emmanuel journaling you could try connecting with God and then asking the question of what does God what you to know about your anxious eating. See what you find out.

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