Self Control is not the Same as Dieting


Denying ourselves anything we want is never fun.  Self-control in regards to our eating habits isn’t always fun either but when the consequences for unadulterated indulgence lead to shame & guilt then we need to take a look at our self control issue from the perspective of discipline not from the context of control. 

In the story above from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus asked a rich, young man to give up all his worldly possessions to follow Him.  The thing about this request is that Jesus didn’t care anything about people being rich or having things, He cared about things having a person’s heart.  While you might be thinking... what the heck does this have to do with my food choices, stick with me for a minute. 

What if Jesus stood before you today & said, “If you give up ________, you will have the most abundant life I can give you.”  Fill in the blank…is it your favorite burger from the drive thru? The $5 latte you can’t do without every morning?  The bag of chocolate candy you have hidden in the pantry to indulge in when everyone else goes to bed?

What thing has your heart so tightly that if Jesus asked you to give it up, your anxiety level rises?  What food indulgence is keeping you bound to living life tied to that indulgence instead of walking in freedom?

All the time we’ve spent over the years in the form of calorie restriction on yo-yo diets, refraining from food to make up for an “eating mistake” or not eating properly in order to keep a certain waist size, isn’t really self-control, it’s “I’m in charge of my acceptance” control. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness & self-control... Galatians 5:22-23

Self-control is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians.  It’s not listed as a fruit that comes from our own flesh working toward something we want.  Which means that self-control, without the help of the Spirit to grow & develop it in our lives, will never be sustainable. 

On our own, we are fickle people.  We change our minds & give in to whatever feels good to our flesh way too easily. 

With just a small shift in our thinking we can move from thoughts of “I could never give up ____{sugar, chips, etc}” to “I can enjoy all things in Christ at the right moment”.    Just like the rich, young man we talked about earlier, Jesus wants us to hand over whatever has our thoughts & our hearts so we can be free in Him. 

He isn’t necessarily asking you to give up foods that you may think are “bad”, but He is more likely asking you to learn to enjoy those things as a freedom contained in His restraint.

Practically, If I want a chocolate bar, I need to decide, is this a sudden craving that is happening because I am tired, emotional or I’ve fed my body poorly today?  Am I restricting my intake because I want to achieve a certain body image?  Can I ask the Lord to help me in this moment to put off a physical desire to gain a spiritual one? 

Maybe I need to utilize the self-control given to me by the Holy Spirit in this moment in order to enjoy the freedom given to me by Jesus at a later one. 

Paul told us that all things are completely accessible & free to us to enjoy but not all things are always beneficial to us at all times.  {1 Corinthians 6:12}

Simply put, a chocolate bar is completely within the scope of our freedom, but having one every day might not be beneficial for us.  Maybe we need boundaries in place that will keep us on track for healthy eating & then at a time that is appropriate we enjoy a dessert with a friend or family member.  Not hidden away in our pantry, shoveling it in our mouth before we get caught.

Healthy eaters, who have a healthy understanding of food, know it is meant to be a good thing in our lives. Healthy eaters will sometimes choose to enjoy something that may not be on the “perfect” spectrum of eating habits but they understand there shouldn’t be self-condemnation once it’s eaten. 

If condemnation comes after eating a food, then we can know without a doubt that this is something the enemy is using to draw our hearts & minds away from the Father’s love.

The enemy wants us to feel distant, unaccepted & ashamed in the presence of God.  The only way he can do this is to find the thing in your life that makes these emotions rise up in you.

It wouldn’t matter if it were alcohol, porn, sex or drugs.  Those same emotions rise up in people with these issues too.  The issue of food is just as strong & just as detrimental to our mental, physical & spiritual health as any other sin your mind can conjure up.  

Satan wants you to see an object you want {like a big piece of cake} & think how unfair it is that you can’t have it.  The problem isn’t the food that is enticing us, the problem is the vicious cycle of eating that we give in to that causes us to separate ourselves away from God & His perfect will & plan for our lives.