Finding Freedom from Emotional Eating

For most of my life, I wouldn’t have said I had an eating disorder. 

To me, “eating disorders” were things like anorexia and bulemia: big, life-altering struggles that required the intervention of doctors, therapists and pastors. 

I never realized that every time I ran to the fridge for a snack when I felt sad, or cheated on my “vegetarian diet” (again), or couldn’t stop myself with just a few potato chips (cookies, cheese sticks, etc.) … I was essentially stuck in the same place as those women with “eating disorders” with more clinically acceptable eating disorders.

I was using food to cover up a craving inside that couldn’t actually be assuaged with sweets, salty, spicy or sour.

Today, many women comment to me that they wish they could eat vegan like I do now. “But I just can’t seem to give up the meat, eggs and dairy,” they quickly add. Others tell me they want to kick the sugar or the cola habit. Still others want to go gluten free, but the thought of no cookies or cinnamon rolls sends them running for cover. 

If any of those describe you, I’m hear to hug you and say, “It’s okay.”

I was there, too. 

The first biggest step I had to take to be free of my constant need for food, was to realize that I was in bondage in the first place. 

After my powerful full-body opening in July 2017, at which time the Holy Spirit began to speak me more directly, I began to realize all the ways I was carrying trauma and hurt in body. I also began to see how that trauma was driving me to hold on to weight I no longer needed.

Because I needed to feel safe, my brain was keeping me overweight—essentially—“hiding” me under layers of fat. And the easiest way to do that was with an addiction to animal-based, processed and refined foods. Did the drive to eat every time I felt sad, or to overindulge at every opportunity, disappear overnight? 

No, not in the least. Not by half. 

But awareness is the beginning of freedom. 

Once I knew what was going on, I could take steps to change my thinking, which changed my dominant emotional state and enabled me to finally change my behaviors around the fridge. 

So if you’re reading this today, and you know that you eat according to your mood, not according to your nutritional need … first, you are not alone. And second, the fact that you have acknowledged this pattern is a HUGE step toward breaking free. 

Because the truth is: 

  • You CAN stop equating food with emotional comfort, in the deepest level of your mind. 
  • You CAN come to a place where you no longer desire food except when your body is actually hungry.
  • You CAN adopt a vegetarian, vegan, raw foods or other alternative diet—once you are in a mental and emotional place where the first two points are already true.

And that’s the real issue here. 

Most women I know who want to change their eating are trying to do so without first shifting their dominant thought patterns and their everyday emotions. 

Adopting that new diet, losing weight or taking up more exercise simply won’t be successful if you try to “power through it” or make it “one more item on your to-do list.” 

Heart change and mind change must happen first. You won’t be able to shift your thoughts or emotions overnight. It WILL require that you confess your addiction to God and ask Him to heal you. It WILL take work to discipline your mind and body. But when you learn how to do that, and learn how to relax into receiving a smaller body, fewer cravings, and healthier food … it can happen.

Many of my my friends and mentees have experienced shifts in their eating as a natural byproduct of clearing their thoughts and emotions.

That’s how it happened for me, ultimately, as well. 

I didn’t totally set out to change my eating. My freedom from emotional eating patterns came as a byproduct of shift my thoughts to focus on God and His love, and learn how to live at the high, even emotional state that He desires for each of us. 

Eating can be a FLOW, just like love, money and creativity.

Release the struggle, and step into ease.

What the “Touch of Jesus” Really Means for Healing

Kochi Beach, India. Photo courtesy of Glynson Bivera

Recently while reading my Bible, I came across the story of a woman’s healing that really gripped me. I’ve read it before, many times, but I never saw it the way I did this time around. It gave me a brand-new way to understand emotional healing that freed me to a whole new level … and I hope it blesses you, too.

“As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.” – Luke 8:42-42 (ESV)

If you’re read the Gospels, you may recognize this as the story of the woman who had “an issue of blood.” Basically, this means she was plagued with some kind of perpetual bleeding for twelve years that could not be treated effectively by the medical wisdom of that day.

This story appears in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:24-34, and Luke 8:42-48. Two of three of the writers note that this woman had spent every penny she had on physicians, but nothing seemed to help. In other words: she was desperate.

Immediately I recognized myself in this text—even though I don’t have that woman’s same physical problem, for many years, I was plagued by emotional challenges that never really seemed to improve. I also thought a lot of other women might share my discovery by recognizing themselves in this story, too.

The “issue of blood” doesn’t have to be physical. Think about it in terms of any ongoing physical or emotional condition you may be experiencing: migraines, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal issues, eating disorders, negative self-talk, self-doubt, a tormenting lack of confidence: any condition that has robbed you of time, life and (of course) money going to rounds and rounds of doctors’ or therapists’ visits that never seem to heal to the real issue.

That’s what’s made this story suddenly so compelling for me: its complete hopelessness at the outset. This woman had gone out to experts, seeking solutions for a dozen years, and she’d never been able to get them.

And she’d bankrupted herself in the process.

There’s nothing more frustrating or disempowering than having a problem—any kind of physical or emotional pain—that turns into an endless prison you can never get free from. You go to “expert” after “expert,” walking away from each hopeful appointment with a progressively lighter wallet and heavier heart.

Can you relate? Does this resonate with you? It certainly does with me.

When I was struggling with the worst of my physical, emotional and spiritual pain following my divorce—which was really just the crescendo that woke me up to a lifetime of un-addressed trauma—I felt like all I did was try solutions that didn’t solve anything. I lost a ton of money in the process. And though I now walk now in total financial victory and freedom with God as my Provider, part of what He’s providing for right now is for me to pay off some residual debt associated with all those rounds of “treatment.”

In this state of poverty and hopelessness, the woman finally came to see Jesus.

“She came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” – Luke 8:44 (ESV)

Such a simple recounting of a monumental event! The Mark version says, “She felt in her body that she was healed of the disease.” Our woman friend came to see Jesus. She touched nothing more than His garment. And instantly, she was whole.

Can you imagine? Actually sensing with your physical body the moment of release from your prison of pain?

Here we have this woman, who experienced the two-thousand-years-ago version of our modern treatment marathon. The text doesn’t say what her emotional state was, but she must have been desperate, because the Matthew version records her saying to herself, “If I can just get to Jesus, and touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”

If that’s not desperation, I don’t know what is. Other versions record that there was a huge crowd thronging Jesus the day He passed by the woman. She had to fight with the noise and the press of bodies. I doubt she was the strongest woman there that day, especially given her health issues, and yet, somehow, her desperation gave her determination. She strong-armed her way through the crowd and made it to the place where she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as He passed by.

Think about that for a second.

She must have crouched down and reached between the ankles of people at the front of the crowd, just to touch a few threads of Jesus’ garment as he passed. Maybe it had a fringe, or tassels or some other kind of embroidery at the hem. Maybe that’s all her straining fingers could manage to brush.

Yet somehow, she made contact. And that single instant of contact changed her future.

Desperation also led her to take the most efficient action. She didn’t have money this time for more treatments. She wasn’t looking for a physical or psychological explanation for her pain. She just wanted the healing. Straight-up wellness, with no more hooplah, no more ten-step plans and no more excuses.

She just wanted to be well. And it shows … in the desperate measures she took to reach the last person she thought could help her.

I think that’s fascinating, actually, because I noticed in my own healing journey that there were times when I wasn’t really ready for 100% healing. I was ready for an explanation of my pain. I was ready for a treatment plan. I was ready to “do the work.” But I wasn’t really, truly, ready to be completely RELEASED of the weight I had been carrying around. Mostly because I had no idea what life would look like on the other side of my pain.

You might say, “Lisa, that’s crazy. I just want to be free of what I’m suffering in my body, mind and heart.”

I get that. But do you want it, really? Are you fully prepared for what your life will be like when you actually get free?

Sometimes the reason pain prolongs in our lives is because we’re holding on to it. We “get” something out of remaining in the situation we’re in. For me, I “got” a sense of comfort and identity from my pain. I got a twisted sense of safety. It was all I knew.

Inside my pain, somehow, I felt in control of my circumstances. The cage was comfortable and know-able. Everything on the other side was not.

The idea of living in total victory on the other side of anxiety, shame, low self-confidence, gastrointestinal disorders, weight fluctuation and everything else sounded good, yes. But in reality I was terribly afraid of a world where I didn’t face these things. It was the only world I knew.

The rounds and rounds and rounds of treatment—whether provided by a professional or undertaken by me in the form of self-help courses, support groups and hours of experimentation—kept me busy and feeling like I was moving forward. But in reality, they weren’t fixing the issue.

Can you relate?

“And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.’” – Luke 8:45-46 (ESV)

So our woman friend is desperate. She goes to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and somehow succeeds. The text says, “And Jesus perceived that power had gone out of Him.” Some of the versions also say that He looked around and asked, “Who touched Me?”

His disciples thought He was crazy—because so many people were touching Him in the throng that day. How could it possibly be clear, who had touched the hem of His garment?

This desperate woman finally abandoned all the treatment plans and went straight to the Source of physical, emotional and spiritually healing. And Jesus, the Son of God, knew immediately when she had tapped into His power.

He was busy, but not too busy to notice her need and deliver the answer she sought.

Wow. That really hit me hard.

When we abandon our reliance on “treatment plans” and go straight to the Source of healing, He will know. Instantly. He’s not too busy to notice we’ve reached out to touch the hem of His garment. And today, with “instant access” to Jesus through prayer, we don’t have to push through a crowd to do it.

Please understand, I’m not saying you quit your doctor-approved treatment or stop going to your support group. I repeat: I am not encouraging you to go cold-turkey on your healing activities. I believe 100% in many healing practices, share them here and practice then myself.

But I am asking you to examine your heart and question whether, deep down, you truly believe that Jesus can free you from everything you’re facing, to the point that you will no longer need those healing practices or treatment plans in your life at some point? And whether you’re ready to let go of that pain so your hand is empty enough to reach out and touch Him?

So much of our physical pain has a root cause in our dis-ease of mind, emotions and spirit. As we allow Jesus to heal those root causes, many, many physical symptoms will ease or disappear completely. It happened to me, and it’s happened to many other women I know!

It might not happen instantly as it did for this woman. But by reaching out for the touch of Jesus, we ignite something powerful that will ultimately result in our healing if we submit to the process. And eventually we’ll feel the healing that’s happened deep inside.

That’s what happened to our friend, the woman. She felt that the disease (or dis-ease, as I prefer!) had gone out of her body.

Think about that.

Rarely in the Bible is it recorded that someone felt the healing. We hear that they got up and walked. Or that they could suddenly see. Or they could speak and praised God. But the feeling level is not often recorded. Not in the way it is here. As women we are so much more attuned to our feelings, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this woman’s story is one of the few in Scripture where we read that she felt the healing.

Jesus felt the power go out of His body. The woman felt the healing come into hers. And it was that feeling, that sense, that encounter-from-a-distance that finally brought them face to face.

“And when the woman perceived that she was not hidden, she came trebling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” – Luke 8 :47-48 (ESV)

The Scripture records that Jesus stopped and asked who had touched him. In this environment, the woman was quickly forced to come out of hiding in the crowd and fall down at Jesus’ feet and confess what she had done. To me, the way the text is written, it suggests that the woman wanted to remain hiddden. Perhaps she was ashamed of her condition, or she was fearful He might reprimand or punish her for “stealing” a bit of His power.

Ultimately, however, she could not remain hidden. She had to ‘fess up in front of everyone. And when she does, Jesus treats her with compassion and even honor. Instead of reprimanding or embarrassing her, He blesses her for her faith.

“Go in peace, Daughter, your faith has made you whole.”

Your faith has made you whole.

Interestingly, Jesus never says, “My power made you whole.” Or “Your faith and my power, working together, made you whole.” He says, “Your faith has made you whole.”

What if the only thing standing between us and the healing we seek—for our minds, our emotions, our spirits and our bodies—is the faith to believe it’s truly possible?

What if we’re going everywhere else for answer, because deep down, we don’t really believe Jesus can provide the healing that we seek? And direct us to the exact people and resources that can help us heal?

I didn’t truly believe that for a long time. I intellectually knew Jesus as Healer. But I ran everywhere else for the treatment I needed instead of going straight to Him. This is strange, because there’s no crowd between me and Jesus, as there was for the woman. I can go directly to Him. And yet I didn’t.

I let all the other “healing stuff” stand the way–not as tools to be used by Jesus in my life, but as substitutes for Him as the Source.

As I said, today I believe wholeheartedly in many different methods of healing, and I teach them here on my blog and in my private counseling and coaching. But if it isn’t all coming from Jesus as the Source … it’s just not going to have long-term transformative effective.

This spring, even as I’ve experienced a tremendous season of shedding in my life, I’ve also taken huge leaps forward. I’ve opened my heart back up to life and to really, truly, fully living in a place beyond fear. And this story means more than ever to me now.

Despite the continual uncertainties I live with as a single expat woman in an expensive Gulf country, where I’m dependent on my employer for my visa and have a lot of needs to meet with one paycheck each month, and a lot of other challenging circumstances in my life … I have total peace.

Why? Because Jesus is my Source. It’s touching His garment in faith that delivers everything I need …. physical, emotional and spiritual.

So ask yourself today, “Where is my dependence?”

Is it in the doctors and the treatment plan? Or the next ten-step healing program? Have you gotten so caught up in healing modalities and all the things you need to “do” to heal, that you’ve forgotten to go straight to the One Who wants to heal you from the inside-out, with complete victory and no residual “side effects?”

Perhaps at the most basic level, do you really, truly believe you can be healed at all?

That’s perhaps the most powerful thing about the woman’s story. Despite everything she had been through with doctors and treatment-induced poverty, she still believed it was possible to live completely free of the condition that was literally leeching her life source–her blood–out of her.

If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble to get to Jesus.

Healing from any condition only becomes possible on the day we take the limits off. And we do that by having faith in the Only One who truly Iives beyond the limits of this world.

When you do, you may not experience instaneous healing in your body, but you will begin an amazing process of healing that will lead you, step by step into a life beyond your “label” and a calling that overpowers your “condition.”

Touch the garment of Jesus. Let Him call out to you face-to-face, and you most certainly will find more freedom in your body, mind and emotions than you ever thought possible.

I know, because it happened to me.

When I let go of all he treatment plans, and decided I did really want to live beyond my condition, and that I believed Jesus could do it … things changed. Radically. My flow of pain became a flow of healing and power.

So can yours. The flow of blood …. or negative thoughts, or gastrointestinal pain, or emotional heartache … or whatever “issue” is robbing you of your life force today …. can become a flow of health, healing and purpose beyond your wildest dreams.

Jesus is passing by today, beautiful woman. Will you reach out to Him?

7 Things That Happen When You Get Emotionally Free of your Past

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Sometimes, on the healing journey, it can feel impossible to believe that you will ever be free of what happened to you. You’re a goal-oriented woman, and you love to have a target to aim your arrows toward, or a finish line to run for. But when it comes to your emotions and healing from your past, that target, that line, always seems to move.

Some days are okay. Some days are terrible. You’ve been told it will “get better,” but what does that even look like? How will you KNOW when you’ve reached a place of freedom?

At one level, freedom is a lifelong event, and it’s entirely personal. Each day, we can make choices that take us closer to God and closer to total surrender and joy in Him, which will naturally break off the bonds that have held us back. That exact path may look different for each woman, of course. But the process is the same.

However at another level, I can testify from my own experience: you WILL know, that you know, that you know, when you become emotionally free. You WILL start waking up each day with the significant conviction that you are no longer moved by what happened to you: that your life is blank slate now, not a museum to the past.

Believe me, it’s the best feeling in the world.

“But wait,” you say. “I feel like a one-woman triage unit every day of the week, and that still doesn’t give me a lot of help.”

I totally understand. I did too, when I first started this process. Here are seven (concrete) things that you can also expect to happen when you break away from the pain of the past and allow yourself to be totally renewed. If you haven’t experienced these, don’t feel bad. Rejoice that this is what you can look forward to, and keep walking forward on your healing process.

1) You have no desire anymore to talk about “what happened.”

The biggest hallmark of emotional bondage is the fact that your pain will always come spilling out of your mouth—not matter how hard you try “not to talk about it.” Ask your girlfriends; if they are honest women, they will tell you if every coffee or wine date devolves into your personal trauma session. When I was in the worst of my pain, I instinctively looked anywhere I could to get relief. (Anywhere, that is, except to God!)

Stopping yourself from speaking when you are dying inside is not what I’m talking about. When you are in the midst of your pain, you must speak about it long and freely to whomever will listen. But the MARK of having received full healing is when your past wounds no longer define your present reality.

When you get to the place where you are truly no longer moved by what happened to you, and you rest in total peace that God has transformed your pain for good, you won’t even remember to talk about it. People will bring it up, and you’ll be thinking, “Wait, what? Oh right, that thing …” You might even be startled when people bring it up, because your former pain no holds you in a vice-grip deep in your soul.

Please note: I am not referring to activism on behalf of abuse victims, giving your personal testimony, or other types of important “speaking out;” I am referring to the obsessive need to share your pain with others in order to somehow get healing “from” their attention. The attention can’t heal you; only God can!

2) When you think of the people who wronged you, you feel only compassion.

Yes, what happened to you was terrible. Perhaps it was a collection of “somethings” that happened and there’s a parade of perpetrators a mile long: at home, at church, at school, in the community, etc. You may struggle to believe it will ever be possible not to feel the rage and grief that rise up every time their name or face flashes before your mind. But believe me, beautiful woman, it is.

You will know God has healed you emotionally when you can remember these people in your life or walk past something that triggers their memory and yet feel nothing but compassion for them—because you recognize that their own tremendous pain drove them to what they inflicted on you.

3) Your IBS, upset stomach, digestive issues and anxiety heal themselves.

Please keep in mind I am not a doctor and cannot give you medical advice. However, I can offer the laywoman’s observations: in my own life, and those of other women I watch heal emotionally from the darkest, most painful events you can think of, I have witnessed physical symptoms completely break off of those women as they reach healing.

In my own life, when I was in the worst of my emotional pain and disempowerment, I struggled with stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, digestive issues and unstoppable anxiety. As I submitted to the healing process by opening up to God’s love, taking control of my thought patterns, shifting my diet, incorporating gentle yoga, praying daily, etc. I began to notice a drastic reduction in symptoms. Ultimately, this resulted in several miraculous healing experiences. Today, I am symptom-free … without the aid of doctors, surgery or expensive drugs.

4) You naturally stop self-medicating with TV, greasy food, social media or shopping.

Many women tell me they admire my choice to eat meat-light and wish they could do the same—but they say they can’t keep themselves from “cheating” with junk food. If staying consistent with healthier eating choices, managing your spending, limiting your TV and social media time is hard … then you can mark it down, you are still in emotional bondage.

Each of these “indulgences” is perfectly okay and enjoyable in moderation but can quickly become an excuse to get our good feelings from somewhere other than God and ourselves. Needing anything outside of ourselves, exactly who God made us to be, to feel good is by definition a form of bondage.

When you are emotionally free, you won’t “need” these things any more and/or can enjoy them in moderation. Or choose to give them up altogether and not feel deprived at all.

5) You reclaim “painful places” and create new memories in them.

How did I know I had fully healed from the pain of my divorce? When I sat for two hours in the very same coffee shop where I had my last private conversation with my ex-husband … and didn’t even remember that event for about two hours of sitting there. I was SO in the moment, enjoying my work, the coffee and the space, that I did not even recall that my marriage had essentially dissolved in that space. This was not an act of disrespect to my marriage or that conversation; it was a marker that I had finally move on to create new memories in that space.

That is what it truly means to reclaim a space for your own after trauma has marked it. When I came back to my hometown, Milwaukee, after nine months of traveling, I felt that my emotional “set point” had been reset, because I could walk into places that preciously were emotionally loaded from my marriage and divorce, and feel totally free to “own” them again and make new memories that aren’t mixed up with what happened before.

6) Other people’s poor choices no longer affect your joy.

This is a fairly simple one, but wow is it powerful! When you become emotionally free, you reach a place where you realize that YOU are the only person you are responsible for. Yes, you can pray for others. You can seek to be a positive influence. You can give of yourself. But at the end of the day, you are the ONLY person you can truly change.

When you relax into that space where you are no longer responsible for everyone else’s well-being, you can truly release your emotional bondage and your attachment to the idea that other people need to change … which is nothing more than a distraction from how YOU need to change.

7) You feel genuinely happy for no reason.

I know, dear heart. I know it’s hard to imagine this when you are in so much pain right now. But the day will come when all those “weights” on your heart will come lifting off, and you will float down the street, truly in love with you life, no matter what is going on in your material, lived experience.

This will be possible because you will know, that you know, that you know, that your Redeemer lives, and that you are being held by the Everlasting Arms, in the grip of the Everlasting God who never faints or grows weary. The ancient yogis spoke of BLISS, and I believe this is it: the ability to dance your way through life, amid sunshine and rain, because what is happening inside you is no longer contingent upon what is happening outside.

Reading this list and feeling like you could never scale this impossible mountain of emotional healing? Wondering how to let go of the weights that are holding you back — so you can enjoy these seven signs of emotional freedom?

More on that another day.