Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Author and teacher Asheritah Ciuciu came to a point in her life where she had to ask herself an important question about food.

Asheritah Ciuciu: Can I really say that I am as satisfied with Christ as I am with a brownie?

Leslie Basham: Today is November 18, 2019, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: The very first time I had the privilege of being a guest in the home of Nancy DeMoss, she was not yet a Wolgemuth, she said to me, “Help yourself to breakfast in the morning. Just go to the frig, and whatever you can find, enjoy yourself.” And so in the morning I snuck out to the refrigerator, and I opened it, expecting the chaos of my full-family refrigerator. Instead I found the refrigerator of a single woman. There were a few waters, a few juices, and some nicely lined up yogurts. And I thought to myself, Oh, she really is as holy as we all think she is! She doesn’t even eat!

But since then I have learned, Nancy, you have an appetite!

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I absolutely do, and I cannot imagine the circumstances under which that’s all that would have been in my refrigerator. I believe you . . . you just said it . . . and I’m sure it’s true. But usually there is a lot more chaos there because we have people coming and going from our home all the time, and I am a foodie

Dannah: Yes, I’ve noticed. I remember a time we were at an Amish smorgasbord together. 

Nancy: Remind me.

Dannah: You were eating a lot of food—happily.

Nancy: Yes. I don’t doubt that.

Dannah: You were in kind of a happy place, actually.

Nancy: I enjoy food. Sometimes I enjoy it way too much. And I married a man who could care less about food.

Dannah: Oh, wow.

Nancy: So that’s been a little interesting in our marriage because he eats to live. Robert could have the same thing to eat every day. He needs no variety. He can have a bowl of cereal for dinner. And I’m, like, I enjoy food a lot.

There’s some Scripture verses that can back that up, but there’s also some verses that tell me that food can be and often has been an idol in my life.

Dannah: I want to ask you about that because when I said that morning in your house, “Wow! Your refrigerator doesn’t have . . .” I think you said you’d been busy, you’d been out of town, or something.

Nancy: I was probably out of town for, like, three weeks or something.

Dannah: You told me about a time when you were traveling a lot and food had become a problem for you. Do you remember that?

Nancy: I don’t remember the conversation, but I would say there is no time in my life that food has not been a challenge for me.

Dannah: Wow.

Nancy: And, again, it’s the heart, not the food. I’ve come to understand that, but I have had heart issues with food for as long as I can remember.

Dannah: Well, I have, too. That’s why I think the guest that we have with us today is going to be such a gift to you, to me . . .

Nancy: . . . and to almost every listener I can think of. As we’re going to hear, this isn’t just a matter of people who are way overweight or who have visible issues with food or eating disorders. Food is such a good gift from God. But it is also something that, starting in Genesis, chapter 3, the enemy used as a means of temptation to lure a woman away from God.

So I think, regardless of what people’s body shapes look like, this is a challenge that I found is really, really common among women. So I’m so thankful that the Lord has brought us someone to help us navigate this.

Dannah: Let’s bring her into the conversation. Her name is Asheritah Ciuciu. She has a ministry called One Thing Alone. She is the author of Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction.

Asheritah, welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Asheritah: Thank you so much, ladies. It’s my joy to be here.

Nancy: And I love the title of that book, by the way. I love the title Full, and I love the subtitle Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction. I bet you worked a long time on that subtitle, because it’s just full of meaning and the kinds of things that our hearts are longing to talk about.

Asheritah: Yes. My publishing team helped with that. It was fun to work with a team of people in publishing. But that’s really . . . it is heart satisfaction, but it’s also that stomach satisfaction. And, like you mentioned, Nancy, there are issues that go way deeper than the food.

Nancy: Yes. And there’s a battle involved.

Asheritah: Absolutely.

Nancy: I’m glad you put the word battle in there because otherwise I would have thought, You don’t really know what you’re talking about if you hadn’t acknowledged it. Because for many of us, this really is a battle. And if it’s not with food, it’s with something else.

Asheritah: Yes. A lot of the principles that apply to a food fixation also apply, really, to any other area or struggle. The enemy doesn’t care what it is. As long as he can have us running to something else for comfort and satisfaction and running away from Jesus, he’s okay with that.

Dannah: As I was reading through your book last night, I was feeling very convicted of that thing and realizing, “Wow. I do so often run to food for comfort when I should be running to Jesus.” I have to confess to you that, reading the book and being convicted of how often I do that, all I could think about was bread, and I was drawn to the kitchen last night. I had to have a piece of toast with butter on it.

It was almost as if God’s Spirit was saying, “Yes, you really do need to hear this truth. It’s still a battle that you’re facing in your life. You think you’ve long ago won it, but I want you to fight a little bit more fiercely.” So thank you for convicting my heart.

I’m wondering: When was the point in your life, maybe a story you can tell us, that you realized, “Oh, this is a battle I need to fight”?

Asheritah: Yes. The moment that stands out to me was my first daughter’s first birthday. We had “A Very Hungry Caterpillar” themed party.

Dannah: Based on the book Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar?

Asheritah: Yes. He eats through one piece of cake, one piece of pie . . . all the stuff.

Nancy: Somehow I missed this book. (laughter)

Dannah: Oh, all the moms know it.

Asheritah: Yes. It’s a classic kids’ book. But it was a great party. Everyone was lovely. And we were tearing down the party decorations, bringing them in, and I brought in . . . We had this caterpillar-shaped cake, and I put it down, and I grabbed one more forkful of cake, because it had been so good, and one turned into three, and pretty soon there were only a few bites left in the row, and you know you needed to destroy the evidence, so I finished off the row. And in between the trips back and forth, I demolished half of the cake that was left.

Nancy: Was it kind of mindless? Or was it, like, calling your name? What were you feeling at that time?

Asheritah: I felt completely out of control.

Dannah: I get that.

Asheritah: I remember the fork mid-air and just pausing and thinking, What is going on? I’m not hungry. I had long passed the point of satisfaction. I’m not unhappy. Why am I still eating?

Dannah: Were there people around when you were doing this? Did anybody see you eating the caterpillar cake? I just wanted to say caterpillar cake one more time! (laughter) Did you feel like you needed to hide it?

Asheritah: There definitely was shame. When I heard the door open and someone else would bring stuff in (it was out in the garage), I would put the fork down and busy myself with something else. There can be so much guilt and shame with this, and so much of our overeating is done in secret where people don’t see, but whatever we do in secret will be exposed to the light. But that’s where the enemy wants to keep us. It’s in that dark, secret place where we feel like, “I’m the only one who struggles with this. No one else will understand.”

Nancy: So was this something that you realized was characteristic, or was it just a one-time experience that you thought, Where did that come from? Was this a pattern for you?

Asheritah: Yes. I would say I hadn’t always struggled with binging. I’d heard the term, and I’m, like, “Well, that’s not really me anyway.” But overeating, yes.

I grew up as a missionary kid in Romania. There’s a different culture around food there. There are definitely celebrations with food, and that’s an important part. But when we’d come to the States, there was just so much more variety and all-you-can-eat buffets. After church we’d go and just sit down in the restaurant and eat and eat and eat.

But it wasn’t until I reached college that I realized I was starting to eat for comfort. My parents were back in Romania, and I was alone.

Dannah: Were you homesick?

Asheritah: I wouldn’t say homesick.

Dannah: Family sick?

Asheritah: Yes. I was just kind of feeling the weight of being independent and by myself, and with the family so far away, the freshman fifteen became Freshman thirty for me.

Nancy: It brings back such memories.

Dannah: Oh, my. But you weren’t binging?

Asheritah: No, I would say no.

Dannah: Just eating a lot.

Asheritah: Just eating more than I needed. I wasn’t conscious of hunger and fullness. It was just, “It looks good, so I’m going to eat it.”

Dannah: So you wouldn’t classify yourself as a woman with what would be diagnosed as an eating disorder, but more along the lines of the rest of us. We struggle with food.

Asheritah: Probably. I mean, physically, Nancy, you mentioned, this isn’t just for people who are overweight. I’ve always been on the round side of average, but it wasn’t until that caterpillar cake episode that I realized, “Something needs to change. I now have a daughter, and I want this to be different for her.”

My mom had struggled with overeating. My grandma had struggled. All the way up our line, this had been a generational struggle. And now looking at my chubby one-year-old, I thought, This has got to stop.

Nancy: I’ve heard you talk about the term, “food fixation.” I don’t know that I’ve heard that term before, but as soon as I read it in your book, I thought, I know exactly what she’s talking about. But why don’t you define that for us.

Asheritah: So I would define food fixation as “an inordinate amount of thinking or obsessing with longings or thoughts for food.”

Nancy: So it’s not always overeating. Some people, it’s just being totally fastidious and obsessed with the health characteristics of food or so many carbs, or it can just be thinking about food all the time, even if you’re not eating too much of it.

Asheritah: Yes. I think of it as a pendulum. On the one side, you have comfort eating—which a lot of us do. On the other side, there’s still this obsession with counting calories, micronutrients—where are my foods sourced—and not even for medical reasons. Some people have legitimate special diets for a medical reason, but I think there’s a lot of fear now among us about, “Okay, how do I eat right?”

The American Psychological Association has come out now with this classification of “orthorexia”—an obsession with correct eating. And that can be an issue for many people as well.

Dannah: Wow. So there’s orthorexia and anorexia and bulimia. These are things that we would consider disorders. I guess overeating . . . is that disordered eating? I mean, it’s not classified as an eating disorder by any association.

Asheritah: Right. I think there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done. I love reading and learning things, and, again, scientists are starting to look at sugar addiction and carb addiction as a type of eating disorder.

Dannah: Really?

Asheritah: I would say that moment with the cake would probably show early signs of that. There are parts of our brain that light up when we do something that’s enjoyable, and that starts a habit. And so our brain says, “Oh, that was good. Keep doing that.”

But there’s also a part of our brain that is discernment that says, “Okay, that’s enough. Now, stop.”

And what happens to sugar addicts is that discernment center gets hijacked, and so our pathway no longer goes through there. The neurons just go through, “Oh, that was good. Keep going.” And there isn’t that stopping point.

Dannah: Wow. I recently saw a chart of addictions, and it was showcasing how much dopamine and how the neurochemicals are dismantled with certain things. It started with, I think, heroin at the top, porn addiction, alcohol addiction, and sugar were on the list. And my heart just went, “Oh no!” because every time I fast—for spiritual purposes or even just sometimes for health purposes—I have about three days of a sugar headache.

Asheritah: Yes.

Dannah: So obviously, I have some level of that in me where I’m feeding myself sugar.

Asheritah: Yes. Actually, I was surprised to find that in the early 1900s when Alcoholics Anonymous was first started up, and people joined these groups, in their manual, they recommended eating sugar to wean themselves off of alcohol. It is just as powerful of an addiction.

Dannah: Wow!

Nancy: A substitute.

Asheritah: Yes.

Dannah: Every time I go off of sugar, I feel so much more powerful. I tell my husband, “I feel like Superwoman”—after I get through the headaches.

Asheritah: The withdrawal symptoms.

Dannah: Yes. I feel alert, energetic. I don’t hit that lull where I’m sleepy in the day. I don’t have any headaches. I just feel really good. So obviously, even though I love it, it’s not great for me.

Asheritah: It’s also everywhere. I think of my grandma and my great-grandma in Romania. They would bake one cake on the weekends, and it wasn’t all iced and everything. It was just a simple sheet cake, and that’s all the sugar they had. And then they would portion that out to last a whole week.

But now you wake up with sugary cereal for breakfast and a sugary latte or a mocha, and then you have a sugary Diet Coke or whatever, with lunch. 

Dannah: We really do have dessert for breakfast in America. In other countries, they’re not so sugared up on breakfast foods.

Don’t you think that food fixation is just an underlying symptom of something much deeper going on in our hearts?

Asheritah: Absolutely. I think that really is the key—understanding—because God created us body, soul and spirit. I think sometimes we try to approach this food fixation issue just from the dieting approach, just the physical approach—“Eat this, not that,” and portion control. All of those can be wise principles.

But unless we address the spiritual and emotional issues that are also part of this food fixation, we can’t experience the victory that Jesus has come to give us. He tells us that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and he’s done that with food in so many of our lives. But Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life to the full.”

Nancy: So in dealing with that, if we don’t get to the heart issues, we’re going to become even more fixated on food in trying to fix the food fixation, and really, the food can become the enemy. The thing we’re trying to battle is food, which just gets even more fixated on the food. Right?

We had this conversation last night at the dinner table—the three of us had dinner together—and I found myself, after you guys left the house, at 10 o’clock at night I’m lying in bed reading your book, Full. I’m comfortably full, and I’m thinking about this leftover piece of chocolate peanut butter square we had for dessert. It was delicious.

Dannah: It was.

Nancy: We had just a satisfying portion of it. I had no need for this, but it’s now all I can think of. So I’m battling the peanut butter chocolate square and, still food fixated, but not getting to the underlying heart issue of: What do I look to for comfort? Where do I get my satisfaction? And I think that’s where you are so helpful, Asheritah, in this discussion.

Dannah: When did you get to the point where you realized that this is a spiritual issue? There must be an event or a story behind that.

Asheritah: Well, actually, after that caterpillar cake episode, I went on this popular diet that restricted everything that’s addictive. I went through the classic withdrawal symptoms, and after the first week or so, I went through that “empowered” phase of “I don’t crave food anymore.” And I felt like, “I can do this. This is great.”

But after about a month of that, the pendulum had swung to the other side, and I’d become so obsessed with eating the right things and the right portions and the right way, and my husband and my mom kind of sounded an alarm and said, “You’re going too far in this.”

It wasn’t until that point when I said, “Okay, Lord, then I don’t know what to do. If a diet isn’t going to fix it, I don’t want to go back to that place of enslavement. Where do I go? What do I do?”

I wish I could say that I hit my knees right there after the caterpillar cake, but it took me trying to fix it in my own strength and realizing I can’t, to finally say, “Okay. You’ve given us Your Word and Your Holy Spirit. Lord, would You guide me through this and show me what’s at the root of this issue in my life?”

Nancy: And what did He show you? And what did that process look like for you? I know it’s been a journey.

Asheritah: It has been. I would say that was in October that it happened, and then it was probably in February or March of the next year. I just kept praying, “Lord, I want more of You, and I need You to help me in this.”

He brought me to the Psalms. David says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” And then in Psalm 63 he talks about, “You are my God. Earnestly I seek You. My soul longs for You. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.” And I think this caught my attention: “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods” (see v. 5).

And I paused, and I thought, Is that true of my life?

I had grown up in a Christian family. I’ve loved the Lord as far back as I can remember. I’d dedicated my life to ministry in high school. At this point I was blogging. I was writing about helping women find joy in Jesus. But that verse stopped me in my tracks to say, “Can I really say that I am as satisfied with Christ as I am with a brownie? That I would choose Him over my favorite food?”

And right there in the sunroom a few weeks later, I was reading through Isaiah, and Isaiah says, “Why do you go to what doesn’t satisfy? Come, come to Me,” the Lord says.

And in that moment, the Lord said, “Do you love Me more than sugar?”

And my initial reaction was, “Of course! I love You more than anything!” Right? Because that’s what I had been taught to say.

And the Spirit pressed on my heart, “Take a break from sugar. Fast from sugar for forty days.”

And I said, “Well, Lord, we don’t really need to do that. Like, I can just tell You how much I love You. I don’t have to prove it or anything.” I know that my salvation is not in my performance. Jesus paid it all. It’s all about Him. But He kept pressing this issue.

Nancy: Not because sugar is in and of itself sinful.

Asheritah: No.

Nancy: It’s a God-created thing. It can be a good thing in proper context and use.

Asheritah: Yes.

Nancy: But the abuse of it was revealing a disordered affection.

Asheritah: It had become an idol in my life. And, Nancy, I didn’t realize it until I didn’t have it. Corrie ten Boom says, “You cannot know that Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have.”

So when my security blanket is taken away from me, when I can’t run to the pantry, then where do I go? At first, it’s tempting to fill that void with something else. “I’m just going to take my mind off the cake, and I’m just going to watch a TV show, or I’m going to go work out.” But Christ said, “No. Come to Me. Come to Me.”

So in that fasting experience, that’s when the Lord just really just began revealing layers upon layers of how this is a spiritual battle.

Dannah: Wow. I’m thinking of a time when . . . You and I share the same alma mater; we attended Cedarville University, graduated from Cedarville University. There’s this little pizza parlor there, Colonial Pizza.

Asheritah: Yes.

Dannah: Every time I go back, that’s one thing I will binge on. It’s a memory. It’s a comfort memory. This one particular time I was going back to speak there; I was doing a Daniel Fast. So the Lord had me in a season of discipline.

Nancy: What’s a Daniel Fast?

Dannah: A Daniel Fast is modeled after Daniel in the book of the Bible where you eat grains and vegetables. It’s really about just being set apart for the Lord. It’s not about a diet. “If you’re not praying and spending time with the Lord during that, you are dieting,” I always tell women.

But I battled with the Lord. I was, like, “Father, I am going to Cedarville. Colonial Pizza is there. Don’t You want me to take a break?” And I really felt Him saying, “Am I enough?”

And I want to tell you, in that hotel room, I battled because my flesh wanted to make an exception. I knew the Lord would forgive me. I knew His grace was big enough. He could handle a pizza. It was very difficult. I woke up, spoke at chapel the next day, came back to the hotel room. And in my hotel room, I had one of the clearest moments and times and encounters with God that I have ever had in my life.

As I opened the Word, just for private study, just to be with Him, it was as if He were sitting right there. It was such a sweet reward. And, for me, that was a pivotal moment to understand just how deeply engrained this issue with food was in my life.

Nancy: Sometimes it’s because we’re filling our hearts, our minds, our time, our lives with stuff, with food, with TV, with things that are not inherently sinful. We have bodies. They need to be fed. But if we’re having a glut over those things, that may be why we don’t really have an appetite or a longing for Jesus.

Asheritah: Yes. Jesus says that He will send His Spirit, and He will be our Comforter. But, ironically, few of us have experienced the comfort of the Holy Spirit because we numb those emotions with something else, or we fill those cravings with something else. But when that’s stripped away . . . Dannah, I just love how you shared that story. That is where the Holy Spirit meets us in a powerful way.

Dannah: I think you’re going to want a copy of this book because it will help you identify where you’re still struggling with food issues and give you practical ideas on how to overcome those problems.

Nancy: And, Dannah, one of the things I really appreciate about this book—there’s a section at the back that includes a food fixation assessment. There are scenarios that it describes, and says, “Is this true of you? Is this true of you?” And it helps you to evaluate: Do I have a food fixation?

I found myself as I was reading through that, realizing, “Wow. There’s more work the Holy Spirit needs to do in my heart to help me continue on this journey of being set free to love and worship Christ more than food or anything else.

Dannah: If what we’re saying is convicting your heart, we would love to get a copy of Asheritah’s book in your hands. It’s titled, Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction.

We’d like to send it to you to say “thank you” when you make a gift in any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959. Be sure to ask for a copy of Full by Asheritah Ciuciu.

Tomorrow I’m very excited because we are going to talk about the lies we often believe about food, and I think that will help us to identify exactly where we need to use God’s truth to rearrange our thinking about feeling satisfied and full. So join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you find true satisfaction. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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