Part way through the holiday season seems like good time to explore your mouth. Not in a dental hygiene kind of way, but if you need your teeth cleaned, go for it.
Here’s my question: Who is the boss of your mouth?
If you are a grown up, this may sound like a ridiculous question. Aren’t you the boss of yourself? Aren’t you in charge? Don’t you call the shots?
Four ways you are not being the boss of your mouth
Your eating is controlled by other people.
When the opinions of others are determining or influencing what you put in your mouth, you are not being the boss of yourself. Do you acquiesce to your friends’ plans to spend the evening eating nachos and doing shots? Does your family “insist” that you eat every carby, sugary thing they can squeeze onto the counter? Can an office mate’s enticement to “cheat with me” over of plate of brownies cause you to throw out your better intentions?
Your eating is controlled by tradition.
This is like the ghost of Christmas past, reaching through time to dictate your food behaviors. Do you eat unhealthy treats during the holidays because they remind you of happy days gone by or people you miss? Do you buy and prepare all the old unhealthy foods because “that’s what we always do”? Do you worry about disappointing your lovies if you aren’t the magnanimous provider-of-all-sugar that you used to be?
Your eating is controlled by situations.
You have temperate aspirations, but then circumstances conspire to force you to eat unhealthy foods, or more foods than you had planned. If your sprinkle happy coworker leaves a plate of decorated cookies in the break room, do you feel compelled to try a few? Will every holiday party result in post-festivity regret? Will a stressful trip to the mall for that hard-to-please cousin culminate in a Cinnabon orgy?
Your eating is controlled by your own cravings.
Every addict knows that giving in to cravings leads to slavery, not freedom and autonomy. This is the most confusing way to be controlled, because, in the moment, your cravings feel like “you.” But cravings just represent a jumbly mess of low blood sugar, unresolved feelings, and wonky brain chemistry bent on a quick rush of dopamine. When you convince yourself that you just have to have that peppermint bark, despite your clean eating strategy, your cravings are controlling your mouth, not you.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Self control is a righteous thing. Being the boss of your mouth is a excellent ambition. How can you work toward more control over your eating?
Four Ways to be the boss of your mouth
Make a plan for your food.
You need a game plan for your eating. Everyday. How else will you know you are on track? How else will you know that you have succeeded? Despite the initial work that mapping out your menu requires, planning brings peace and confidence. Time invested in organizing your food will be returned abundantly in the strong satisfaction of matching your actions to your ambitions.
No need to stumble your way through the month, tripping over every social occasion. Going to a potluck? Don’t count on other people’s food to meet your dietary requirements—bring your own. Attending an office party? Eat ahead so you aren’t starved and irrational. Spending the day shopping? Pack a little cooler with healthy snacks so the food court doesn’t tempt you.
Learn to say no to others.
Your mouth is a boundary for your body and you control what goes in it. Unless you are a small child or in prison, no one else should be dictating how you eat. If you haven’t learned to say no yet, this will feel a bit unnerving. But fear not. People of goodwill respect the firmly stated boundaries of others. (“No, I don’t eat sugar.” ” I’ll pass on that ice cream.”) People of ill-will, well, why are you still trying to please them?
Learn to say no to yourself.
This requires some discernment. This morning you were committed to continuing your quest for a healthy weight. But right this minute you want that cranberry scone. How do you know which self to obey? If you are spending any time in prayer, I think you will know. The intentions you made while you were humbly seeking the Lord? Those likely represent your self as a person led by the Holy Spirit, your self as an image bearer of God. Your sudden, random desire to eat more pie? That’s just a craving talking to you and you can say no to that.
Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.
National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Women’s Weight Loss Programs
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