Breaking Up the Fear and Food Addictive Relationship: Part 5

self-loathingSTEP FIVE – Admit the Self-Loathing
As fear drives people from guilt to shame, it also affects the way they see themselves. In contrast to self-respect, overeaters develop self-hate. Although they may not be aware of the fact, they have started functioning in a highly self-destructive manner. Bulimic purging is one way to get rid of the fearful aspects of their lives. One bulimic patient kept vomiting throughout her marriage; she was symbolically trying to rid herself of her emotional feelings about her controlling, abusive husband. Once she finally divorced her unfaithful, physically and sexually abusive husband, the vomiting stopped.

Binges and purging are also ways that bulimics are destroying themselves. As bizarre as this repressed logic may be, millions of people do not face the self-hate that is causing their problems.

Of course, despising themselves enlarges the emotional emptiness they have been feeling for so long. Love hunger deepens, forcing the addictive cycle forward. These sufferers are helplessly entangled in a terrible process that can destroy their lives. Even though they make promises to adjust their eating behavior, nothing changes because they have failed to see the whole cycle for what it is: a process!

– Steve Arterburn

What is the first step toward healing? Please join us at our next Lose It For Life Workshop.

Breaking Up the Fear and Food Addictive Relationship: Part 4

costSTEP FOUR – Face the Pay-off
Fear forces people with eating disorders into an emotional bind. Sufferers may be forced into isolation and lose meaningful relationship with other people. They feel unworthy to be full participants in a normal life. The cost is high and humiliating.

People feel guilty about their purging and gorging behavior. They also feel guilty because they cannot control their eating. Even worse is the shame lurking underneath the fear. The shame that originated in their childhood is now a dark sense of worthlessness. And nothing is more difficult to bear than shame. This degrading emotion eats away all remaining self-respect and leaves the person feeling naked before the watching world. And as overweight people grow larger, they must carry the double shame of their extreme weight and its degrading appearance. Addiction specialists feel that nearly all addictions arise from experiences of shame or lack of connectedness, or both.

Facing and accepting our worst fears and then moving into the future is one of the ways our heavenly Father sets us free from the past.

– Steve Arterburn

What is the first step toward healing? Please join us at our next Lose It For Life Workshop.

Breaking Up the Fear and Food Addictive Relationship: Part 3

foodSTEP THREE – Recognize That Food Fuels the Wheel
The addictive process is an endlessly turning wheel until something breaks the cycle. For the alcoholic, the chemical content of alcohol keeps the wheel moving. Food addicts have to accept the fact that food can have a similar effect on them. Let’s enumerate a number of the effects food can have.

First,  food can kill pain. Often people overeat because feeling full gives them a sense of well-being, which pushes away the gnawing anxiety they felt before the meal. Unfortunately, the effects of consistently overeating pile up around the waistline and the overeaters don’t like the way they look. They are actually punishing themselves by becoming unattractive and endangering their health.

Second,  food also has a tranquilizing effect. When we eat, blood sugar levels rise and neurochemicals called endorphins are released to give us a sense of well-being. After a few minutes of trotting, runners often experience a similar pleasant sensation. Food has actually turned into a tranquilizer. The quest for this feeling of well-being turns people into food addicts.

***** The addictive process is an endlessly turning wheel until something breaks the cycle! *****

Third,  food can distance us from others. People who were sexually abused or felt the intense pain of a broken love relationship find that eating excessively can put enough fat around them to keep members of the opposite sex away from them. Consequently, they protect themselves from any further abuse or unexpected rejection.

An oral addiction can also take on many other forms. Smoking, excessive talking, using profanity, grinding teeth, all can be expressions of the same pain. In each of these activities an addictive agent is fueling the Ferris wheel of our addiction. If you are caught in this swirl of confusion, you must put food back in its proper place. You cannot allow the pleasantness of eating to distort what you actually require for your life.

– Steve Arterburn

What is the first step toward healing? Please join us at our next Lose It For Life Workshop.

Breaking Up the Fear and Food Addictive Relationship: Part 2

emotional-painSTEP TWO – Face the Emotional Pain
Being honest about the depth of our emotional pain is extremely difficult. No one wants to get in touch with the root of the pain system, since this renews the loss and deprivation that we’re trying desperately to avoid.

Generally our apprehension twists our opinion of ourselves, leaving us with low self-esteem. Even though our personal accomplishments may be of considerable scope, we tend to see ourselves in a diminished and insignificant position. The result is emotionally devastating.

***** Self-esteem is a gift only we can give ourselves! *****

We must learn that self-esteem is a gift only we can give ourselves. Rather than a product of accomplishment, enduring self-esteem rests on a sense of self-worth intrinsically ours because we are children of God. I John 3:1 says: ‘See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are!’ We have value because the heavenly Father has placed us in this world as His special envoys. We must recognize and accept this fact as true.

***** In God’s eyes we have supreme value! *****

Whether the president of the United States or a dishwasher, we are of supreme value in God’s sight. Recognizing that fact is one of the most important steps we can take to break out of emotional pain. Experiencing unconditional love from good friends over a long period of time also reinforces our feelings of self-worth.

– Steve Arterburn

What is the first step toward healing? Please join us at our next Lose It For Life Workshop.

Breaking Up the Fear and Food Addictive Relationship: Part 1


STEP ONE – Stopping the Denial
In this article, I will focus on Step One and stopping the denial. While we may have a bundle of good excuses tucked away in our memories to justify every aspect of our problems, we can’t get well until we stop kidding ourselves. Renewal begins when we allow the facts to be the facts. While you may not want to say the words out loud, you may actually be struggling with a love hunger. Take a look at the following story for insight into your own.

Marybelle lived through four years of an abusive marriage relationship. She anticipated a husband like her living father. Because of her great respect and admiration for her father, she never anticipated her husband deceiving and running around on her. When she discovered his adultery, the truth nearly destroyed her. The man had been critical, demanding, unemployed much of the time, and a real cad on top of it all! Obviously, Marybelle’s need for love and appreciation became enormous.

Then, a year after the divorce, Marybelle’s mother discovered she was dying of cancer. Marybelle’s childhood family had been the center of her life. Nothing was more fun than sitting at Sunday dinner around a table piled high with food. Through the years her mother remained the center of the family constellation with all the brothers and sisters circulating around her. During the two years of her mother’s illness, the center of the circle disintegrated. When her mother finally died, Marybelle’s life dropped into a black hole. She described her constant eating as an attempt ‘to fill up a bottomless pit at the center of her life.’ The demise of Marybelle’s marriage and death of her mother filled her with a fear of emptiness. This void, which was really a lack of love, drove her to eat compulsively.

*****Renewal begins when we allow the facts to be the facts.*****

What about you and your story? While admitting a need for love can be extremely difficult, it is the first step out of our addiction. We may have to probe and push to get in touch with the truth, but honesty is the way to start climbing out of the pit.

– Steve Arterburn

What is the first step toward healing? Please join us at our next Lose It For Life Workshop.

What is 12-Step Recovery?



As a seminary graduate and pastor, I was skeptical about much of psychology and recovery programs. I did learn a little more when I watched My Name is Bill W.–the story of the man who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous–but not much. I suspected that group meetings were touchy-feely, superficial gripe sessions that allowed addicts to blame everyone else in their lives for their problems. My greatest reservation stemmed from the commitment to speak of the generic ‘higher power’ instead of acknowledging Jesus Christ as the true life-changing power.

My views changed immediately and dramatically when a new job required a visit to a substance abuse rehab center. I found myself sitting in a group therapy session with men and women from their late teens to 60’s. They came from upper class homes, middle class working families, and the streets. I was amazed that they treated each other as true peers. Their pointed questions and frank confessions scared me, but I recognized that this is what real conversion looks like’people struggling with real guilt having no other hope than experiencing genuine rescue through faith in Jesus Christ. In short, they were living in true Christian community.

12-step recovery is biblical:

In my personal Bible study, I have found the principles that supported the steps. I finally became convinced that the steps were biblical when I recognized that Paul made his confession in 1 Timothy 1:15 as the result of completing the work of the 4th step: ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.’ In verses 8-11, Paul outlines the basis for a searching moral inventory: the 10 Commandments. He then confesses, ‘I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man’.’ In verse 15, Paul then explains why he can complete his moral inventory without fear: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’of whom I am the worst.’ Later, I recognized the prodigal son experienced the admission expressed in the first step when he came to his senses. The 5th step is completely in keeping with James’ instruction in his letter: ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.’ The 12 Steps help addicts face their sin and apply the remedy of the Gospel.

12-step recovery is progressive:

Working the steps requires following a process that moves the addict from a life of isolation to healthy relationships with others. In working the first 3 steps, you recognize the futility of your efforts to overcome your addiction by your own efforts and acknowledge your total dependence upon the Lord for help. In steps 4 through 6, you face the reality of your own brokenness due to sin and declare your readiness to have God transform you through the Gospel. In steps 7, 8, and 9, you work to repair the relationships that have been broken as a result of your addiction. In the final 3 steps, you work to advance the work already by growing in your knowledge of God and sharing what you’ve experienced with other addicts

12-step recovery is not self-help:

Anyone who hopes to end addiction must work the steps personally, but cannot work the steps without help from others. Groups urge members to find a sponsor/mentor who has already worked the steps or a partner who can work them at the same time in order to provide accountability for working the steps. Demonstrating a willingness to be in relationship through the steps is one of the most important foundations for completing the work. You are choosing to end the hiding and isolation. You must begin by deepening your relationship with God first. If I don’t really trust Jesus, then I won’t be able to trust His people. In the group meeting, you invite the other members to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death. Knowing the God Who has walked that valley first is essential.

12-step recovery is an adventure:

The function of a 12-step group is not a precise science, as group veterans will attest. There are healthy and unhealthy groups. A healthy group fosters wholeness as the members progress through the steps. An unhealthy group permits members to repeat the same confessions they have made previously. Healthy groups can have unproductive meetings and unhealthy groups can have productive meetings.

The single greatest factor influencing a group’s health and effectiveness is the commitment of each member to work the steps. Members must help each other face the external and internal triggers that make up their patterns of addiction. Each person experiences moments of strength and of weakness’moments when it seems much easier to return to the life of denial and blame-shifting than to keep growing by answering that difficult question that has just been posed.

Following the well-trod path outlined by the 12 Steps will help you to escape the pattern of self-defeating behavior that has dominated your life and prevented you from experiencing wholeness through faith in Christ.

If you struggle with alcohol or drugs, we can help — call 800-NEWLIFE (800-639-5433).

If you struggle is with sexual integrity, please see Every Man’s Battle.

Mary Lou Caskey

On today’s radio show, Mary Lou Caskey shared a little about her weight loss journey. She mentioned that her journey started by attending our Lose it for Life Workshop. She also talked about her new book, Show Your Food Who’s Boss.


Overcoming Addiction Builds Character

Steve Arterburn

Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8 HCSB

If you’d like a perfect formula for character destruction, here it is: Become addicted to something that destroys your health or your sanity. If (God forbid) you allow yourself to become addicted, you’re steering straight for a tidal wave of negative consequences, and fast.

Ours is a society that glamorizes the use of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, and other addictive substances. Why? The answer can be summed up in one word: money. Simply put, addictive substances are big money makers, so suppliers (of both legal and illegal substances) work overtime to make certain that people like you sample their products. The suppliers need a steady stream of new customers, so they engage in a no-holds-barred struggle to find new users’or more accurately, new abusers.

The dictionary defines addiction as ‘the compulsive need for a habit-forming substance; the condition of being habitually and compulsively occupied with something.’ That definition is accurate, but incomplete. For Christians, addiction has an additional meaning: it means compulsively worshipping something other than God.

Unless you’re living on a deserted island, you know people who are full-blown addicts’probably lots of people. If you, or someone you love, is suffering from the blight of addiction, remember this: Help is available. Plenty of people have experienced addiction and lived to tell about it . . . so don’t give up hope.

And if you’re one of those fortunate people who hasn’t started experimenting with addictive substances, congratulations! You have just spared yourself a lifetime of headaches and heartaches. We are meant to be addicted to God, but we develop secondary addictions that temporarily appear to fix our problem. Edward M. Berckman

Addiction is the most powerful psychic enemy of humanity’s desire for God. Gerald May

Character builder
Remember that ultimately you and you alone are responsible for controlling your appetites. Others may warn you, help you, or encourage you, but in the end, the habits that rule your life are the very same habits that you yourself have formed. Thankfully, since you formed these habits, you can also break them’ if you decide to do so.

Dieting Means Missing Something!

Stephen Arterburn and Linda Mintle

Diets promote us to miss something based on the premise that we may never be able to eat it again. Sound familiar? Let’s say it’s Christmas and you pass the buffet table at the office Christmas party. It’s loaded with your favorite chocolate eclairs. Usually the thinking goes like this: It’s Christmas. I only get these once a year. I’ll need to eat one, no two or three! After all, it’ll be an entire year before I see these again. I can’t let this chance pass.

Two weeks later you are at a baby shower. The cake has your favorite frosting, rich cream cheese. Oh, can you believe this? I’m on a diet and I can’t eat that cake. It’s right in front of me and I can’t have it. Everyone will enjoy the taste but me. I will miss out—I better grab it while I can.

One month later, you are in Chicago for business. You pass Giordano’s pizza, home of the best stuffed pizza you’ve ever tasted. I can’t be in Chicago and not eat Giordano’s pizza. That would be a crime! But I’m dieting. Even though I could order a small single pizza, I would miss eating all I wanted this one time. I’ll get the big stuffed pizza and take the rest back to my hotel for later. Of course, none of the pizza makes it back to the hotel!

Lose this mentality and lose it for life! When you diet, you keep restricting yourself in ways that set you up to fail. Dieting means you’ll be missing the good stuff, when in fact you could have just a taste, or just one piece, or just one slice of the good stuff. You wouldn’t gain ten pounds. But thinking you are going to miss out on something sets you up to overeat. What you can’t have, you want. This idea goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were given the freedom to eat from any tree in Paradise, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That was the one tree Adam was told to avoid. When the serpent came to tempt Eve, he began by questioning what God had instructed. He sowed doubt in Eve’s mind. The very tree Adam and Eve were to avoid, they ultimately ate from! Think about it. They could have eaten from any tree but one! Eve was deceived and thought she was missing out on something, and Adam disobeyed with her. From the beginning, dealing with restriction has been a problem.

There is always a choice; to eat food, eat less of it, or skip eating it entirely. A little of something may satisfy our want. The problem is we eat without thinking and focus on what we might be missing. Again like sin, a little of something forbidden usually ends up being highly desirable. Rather than being self governed, we give in to the temptation.

Please remember there are no ‘bad foods’ (well, perhaps there are no bad foods other than the deep fried Twinkies at your local fair), but there are wise choices. Actually this is a grown-up idea. Most people over twenty-one can have anything they want, but this doesn’t mean they should indulge in everything just because they can. There are activities we should choose to do in moderate amounts, like watching TV or sports, and others we should do more often, like playing with our children. Finally, there are other things we shouldn’t do at all, like viewing pornography. In every case, we have a choice. Though we don’t have to miss a thing if we don’t want to, it is very important to note that though everything may be available to us, it is definitely not all good for us. This is especially true of food.

Join us for a weekend of encouragement and healing: Lose it For Life.

Think Responsibly!

There once was a TV commercial for a liqueur where the guy is trying to put ice in a glass. He picks one out of the bucket only to have it fall on the floor, a second, a third and finally he just pours the drink into the ice bucket and sticks a straw in it! The best part is the announcer’s voice saying ‘Drink Responsibly.’ Is it just me that sees the irony in that statement? I mean the whole idea of a commercial is to sell the product, right? It’s kind of like the nutritional guidelines being posted at the local fast food joint. Do I really want to know what’s in my cheeseburger? Well yes, as a matter of fact I do, that is if I want to think responsibly.

What am I putting into my body? (A scarier thought: who has prepared it? Eek!) What am I bringing into my house that will be a temptation for me? (Chocolate, soda, etc.) You get the idea.

Exercise is a big area in which we like to be irresponsible. I mean who hasn’t come up with the excuse ‘I don’t have any time to exercise’? There are so many excuses for not being intentional about exercise. Exercise is taking responsibility for your physical health, as far as it depends on you. We can’t always prevent certain diseases and disorders because we live in ‘jars of clay.’ However, we can do the best with what we have and experience the rewards!

Once a man got his truck stuck in the sand. Not on purpose of course, but it happened and he needed help getting unstuck. The tow truck arrived and the man warned the driver of the sand. The driver said with great pride ‘this truck won’t get stuck, it’s got (fill in the largest engine, wheel base, etc.) and there’s no way it’s gonna get stuck!’ So the driver got into the tow truck, drove about 5 yards and yes you guessed it, he got stuck! Well they took the winch 100 or so yards, hooked it to the man’s truck and pulled him out of the sand. Then the man hooked the tow truck up to his truck and pulled the tow truck out of the sand. The tow truck driver said a sheepish thanks and drove off.

Many times we put ourselves into ‘sand’ and pride ourselves on being able to not get stuck. We may even be warned by those who have been stuck.

Thinking responsibly requires wisdom and discernment. Watching where others have been, what led them into the sand trap, and how to avoid getting stuck in the first place. What have you learned about yourself? What are your sand traps? Who do you need to call if you get stuck?

Back to the commercial, nowadays the alcohol commercials also encourage having a designated driver. Again, thinking responsibly requires some planning. If we haven’t planned for exercise, it probably isn’t going to happen. If we haven’t planned to eat healthy, the junk food just jumps into the grocery cart (not really, but it seems that way!).

Begin to think responsibly about your life today! No matter what time of day it is when you are reading this! What is the next right thing for you to do? Maybe you are at work, plan to walk for your lunch hour. If it is late at night, go to bed and get a good nights rest. There are so many areas where we do not want to take responsibility for our lives! This is your life. Are you who you want to be? Think responsibly. your life depends on it!