There are many ways we cope with stress. Some people drink, take drugs, shop, play video games, exercise, watch Netflix, or eat. Yes, eat. We see stress eating in movies all the time. Someone has a breakup, loses a job, has a bad day and they dive into the ice-cream or other goodies. But guess what? When we stress eat, we feel even more stressed. Not a great idea.

In fact, using food to cope causes two negative consequences: weight gain and guilt. It could also lead to an eating disorder. A negative cycle begins as you reach for the food when stressed: Stress hits, we eat, feel guilt, then, our feeling of defeat only leads to more eating. Next, we feel terrible, make self-disparaging remarks, or excuse our behavior, feel even worse, and, you guessed it, eat more. We give up and give in. We tell ourselves that the food is more powerful than we are, and that we can’t defeat this inner urge or impulse. We are left feeling hopeless. It’s a cycle we must break. I have strategies (the PAUSE Principle) to help you from my book, “Press Pause Before You Eat.”

And one more thought, you might also be stress eating out of spiritual hunger. If so, the PAUSE Principle can be applied spiritually equally well. Check out my book for the stress eating strategies, because here is the application for spiritual hunger:

P–Purpose to look at your spiritual hunger. Are you trying to fill a void with food?

A–Attend to feelings of restlessness, boredom, lack of purpose and discontent. Don’t medicate these feelings with food or any other substance.

U–Understand that spiritual hunger requires spiritual food. What are you really craving? More intimacy with God or meaning in life? Jesus is the bread of life. He promises to satisfy our hunger.

S–Strategize ways to improve your spiritual intimacy with God. Develop a quiet time, regular reading, studying. Consider a Bible study, small group in a church, a prayer group, etc.

EExecute spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reading of the Word, renewing the mind, and becoming more intimate with God. Put legs to your faith by living in obedience to God’s Word.

Stress eating may have many causes, but one of them could be a spiritual restlessness. St. Augustine said, “You [God] have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find our rest in You.”

God doesn’t promise to remove stress from our lives. If we breathe, we will have stress!  But God does promise to fill us and to keep us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him. And He promises His presence, His comfort, and His blessings as well. So, fill up on spiritual things.

Next time you are stressed and tempted to eat, instead, reach for the bread of life, drink from the living water and be satisfied.

Stress eating