Discover 7 Unhelpful Approaches to Eating-Which One Are You?

unhealthful approaches to eating

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After three years of hosting this healthy living blog, I’ve concluded that there are specific unhelpful approaches to eating that may prevent you from a life of soulful healthy living. Getting serious about a healthy life means bringing these patterns to light. Once you recognize your unhelpful approach, then you can take the next step in establishing a healthier one.

As you read over the unhelpful approaches, you may find characteristics of yourself in one or more of the patterns. I can certainly vouch for exercising several of the methods as I developed my healthy living journey.

Pendulum Approach

Until 1987, one of the most famous exhibits at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History was the model of Foucault’s pendulum. Throughout my childhood and well into my twenties, visits to the museum meant standing at the foot of the pendulum and watching the massive rod swing back and forth.

Sometimes, I would be lucky enough to get to the front of the exhibit. As the rod passed by me, it would generate just enough wind to move a lock of my hair as it oscillated. Watching a pendulum is mesmerizing and peaceful.

Pendulum eating is anything but peaceful.

If you practice the pendulum approach, it might look something like this: you are the sensai of the no carb diet— for three months. Friends bowed to your steel-like willpower. Within those three months, not one carb crumb passed your pursed lips.

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You lost 15 pounds and bought a new wardrobe to fit your svelte body.

You suddenly realize that this isn’t really how eating is supposed to be so the pendulum swings to the extreme and now you don’t think twice about consuming a burger bun the size of Rhode Island and the bagful of fries from your favorite fast food chain.

Rest on Your Laurels Approach

You know you need to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle, so you do 30-day healthy eating program like Whole30. The program resulted in great success for you, and you’ve never felt better. A few weeks later you fall back into your old habits of piling your grocery cart with processed foods.

You feel as though your success in the eating program grants you the freedom to resume your former unhealthful eating and lifestyle habits.

Code Red Approach

Your blood test came with highly elevated cholesterol, and your physician suggested that you need to “watch your sugar.”  Now you need to get serious about this healthy living stuff, so you subscribe to a few healthy living blogs and purge your pantry of processed foods. You swear off fast food during the week and only order sugar-free lattes.

The problem with this approach is that as soon as your cholesterol drops a few points, you will fall back into your old eating and lifestyle habits.

Dip a Toe in the Water Approach

You’ve dipped your toe in the water of healthy living by incorporating a recipe into your family meal plans. You see the benefit of a lifestyle of healthy living. Next, you follow a few healthy living lifestyle people on Instagram. Deep down, you want to go further in your lifestyle change because you realize it makes sense.

But you are afraid of change.

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Unsplash: Gabriela Sanca


You can’t fathom getting into the water up to your waste. Wading out knee-deep in healthy living scares you to death. For two years now, the view from the edge of the beach is the only perspective you’ve known.

Brave on and take the next right step in healthy living.

Eureka! Approach

Remember in high school reading about the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes who upon discovering his scientific principle of volume ran wildly through the streets of Syracuse wet and naked shouting, “Eureka”?

Well, that’s about how it is (minus the running through the streets nude part) when we find nutrition in a pill or powder that promises to, let’s say, “block fat.”  We falsely trust the supplement to perform nutritional jujitsu on the two slices of “chocolate chip cookie dough” cheesecake we just ate. That is not healthy living. That is dreaming.

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Supplements can plug dietary gaps, but nutrients from food are most important. Your aim is to build new eating habits before using supplements.

Often, disease and chronic illness call for a partnership between healthy living and dietary supplements.  Eating is fundamental; therefore it deserves to be a priority in your life.

Catharsis Approach

I borrowed from the ancient Greeks again to name this unhelpful habit. Catharsis means an emotional purging or cleansing. When applying this practice to food, it resembles something like an emotional contract that you make with yourself after a food hang-over or a binge.

Maybe during a stressful situation at work or home, you ate an entire sleeve of Do-Si-Dos Girl Scout cookies. To calm your emotional eating storm, you drink a Diet Coke for lunch. Rather than target the emotion that triggers food behavior, you continue to cleanse and purge after every over-indulgence.

Ironclad Approach

Perhaps you found success in a specific food protocol or program. You’ve never felt better than when you adhere to the dietary guidelines of the program. It works for you. Great. Just don’t allow the regime to dictate your every food choice.

Suppose that you are on an eating program that forbids sugar, you now refuse to drink the grape juice during communion. God is greater than any food program. Unless you have an acute disease or addiction, drinking one-fourth of a teaspoon of grape juice won’t hinder your healthy living progress, but it could affect your spiritual life.

Food is a tool to nourish your body and nurture relationships.

How to Find a Balanced Approach

Consolidate the information and insight learned regarding your eating and lifestyle approach.

Pray about your insight and your willingness to change. Ask God for strength and resolve in establishing healthy eating and living.

Pursue healthy living goals that honor God and demonstrate gratitude and love.

See food God’s way, as a tool to nourish your body so that you can nurture and serve others.

Please use my FREE Healthy Eating Starter Kit as a tool to a soulful healthy living lifestyle. The kit includes yearly/monthly/weekly/daily goals, food journal, daily planner and more.

A Final Word About Healthy Living

First, let me say that healthy living matters for several reasons, but I am going to mention just two here. First, healthy living matters because there is a biblical mandate to responsibly and wisely steward our body. I like to call this healthy living soulful because the focus is out of obedience and worship rather than merely self-serving.

Second, obediently and mindfully caring for your health helps to avoid chronic illnesses and diseases. It is easier to fulfill your God-given duties in good health.

Healthy living is not your ticket to a disease-free life. It will be easier for you to battle illness with a healthy immune system rather than one compromised by negligent eating habits.

The Next Step

Maybe you are confronting your unhelpful eating approaches for the first time, and I am excited for you to take the next step forward into healthy living. It always helps to be among friends who are forging a similar path.


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  1. Janene Eldred on March 23, 2019 at 1:16 pm
    You are talking about me, sister!! I can't change eating habits for more than a couple weeks, max. Sometimes less than 24 hours. I will be praying about this. God bless you!
    • Denise Sultenfuss on March 23, 2019 at 5:38 pm
      Janene, thanks for taking the time to stop by and share a comment! Is there a way I can help you establish a better approach?
  2. Candi Randolph on April 10, 2019 at 1:03 pm
    I love this post! It's humorous and down to earth, and it hits home with so many people, myself included. I'm on a good, healthy, consistent path now, but tend to go back and forth with my eating habits. Pinned for future reference.
    • Denise Sultenfuss on April 10, 2019 at 4:36 pm
      Hey there Candi, thanks for stopping by and sharing! I am glad to know that someone gets my humor!

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