After losing 100 pounds, Cat Sharp, a certified life coach has committed her life to helping more Christian women do the same.
Today on the show, Cat shares with us how she overcame emotional eating and found God’s peace.
- Using food to cope with anxiety and depression
- How God revealed to her that she had a sugar addiction.
- Feeling convicted about her eating habit and making the decision to remove sugar from her household.
- Meditating and using affirmations based on Scriptures
- Learning new ways to manage emotions instead of turning to food.
Resources and Links:
Verses and Scriptures discussed: 1 Corinthians 10:13, Romans 6:16, The law of Moses in the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 30Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hopeforanxietyandocdpodcast
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Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD, Episode 46. I’m your host Carrie Bach. If you’re new to the show, we’re all about decreasing shame, increasing hope, and developing healthier connections with God.
And today on the show, I have Cat Sharp with me. She’s going to talk about her journey of overcoming emotional eating through using scripture and prayer support from others. Now she’s in a position where she’s helping other women who want to achieve the same goals. She’s a very powerful testimony, and I believe you’re really going to enjoy this episode.
Carrie: Cat, welcome to the show. I’m excited about our conversation today.
Cat: Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited too.
Carrie: So you had told me that prior to your weight loss journey, food had become an idol in your life. Tell us that story about God revealing that to you.
Cat: It was such an interesting experience. I had been part of an abusive relationship, had walked away from the Lord for years and was in a deep season of depression and anxiety. I had created a habit of binge eating when I was unhappy, which was a lot. I didn’t realize I had done that until after the divorce, after I had returned to church, after I was starting to seek the Lord as actually my father, instead of just the genie on the shelf that, put them in that role.
When we think that we want to do things our own way, I started to seek Him. I started to feel this conviction about my eating habits. Around this time, our church started a recovery ministry and I am a singer part of our praise team. I joined the ministry thinking I was supporting music, not realizing that the Lord was getting ready to flip my life upside down.
So as I was participating in this ministry, being the helper, I thought I was. I’m hearing stories from our participants about they were bargaining, that they would only use whatever their addiction was on the weekends or when they were with friends or when they would only use this much, but never any more than that, I started to hear myself in their stories and I was saying those same things about food.
I would hear them talk about how they would do really well until they had a bad day. And then they would seek the object of their addiction. I thought, that’s me, I do that. One particularly terrible day,I had started to feel convicted about seeking sugar often and my reliance on that. I had cleaned sugar out of my house completely.
There was no sugar in my house and I’d had a very bad day at work. I remember coming home and opening the cabinet doors and throwing things out of the cabinet. Imagine for a moment, the cartoon where somebody is cleaning out the closet and they’re just throwing things over their shoulder, behind them really quickly. That’s what I was doing and every cabinet in the house. I remember crawling on my stomach in the lower cabinet reaching in as far as I could to get there had to be something in here. I thought there’s gotta be something back here and I reached the very, very back of the cabinet where the corners meet and I pulled out a Ziploc bag with just a little bit of powdered sugar in it. I put it in a bowl. I added a little bit of milk. I started up and I ate it with the spoon and I sat on the floor and I cried. What have I become? How did I get here? And so that was that, “Come to Jesus Moment” that instead of seeking the Lord on this day, that was really, really bad. I had turned to sugar and didn’t even taste it.
Carrie: Wow. I’m sure that was a process that developed over time for you. I’m sure maybe even going back to childhood of relying on that for comfort.
Cat: Absolutely. My mother owned a bakery when I was very young and through my work, through this process over the last few years, I realized that subconsciously I had learned from the experiences in the bakery of my mother, delivering these amazing, beautiful cakes to people for their parties and weddings and celebrations. Food brought joy. I’m from the South and we love each other with food. If you want to show love to someone, you give them food. And so I had kind of trained myself that if I wanted to feel loved or share love with someone, food is how we do that. And then going through a time where I needed love so desperately. I just kept bingeing, trying to feel that satisfaction and never really felt it. Of course, nothing fills that hole when you need the Lord. But at the time I wasn’t in a place that could be that.
Carrie: Absolutely that makes so much sense and I’m in the south too. I would definitely resonate with that. We call it comfort food, or we’re talking about emotional eating and it’s just like, there are changes that happen in our brain too in terms of different receptors and things like that for sugar.
We do feel better temporarily in the moment and it makes sense that we can get in a way addicted to food. Not everybody necessarily looks at it like that, but I think when you’re talking about feeling that intense level of craving or need for something sugary, then that makes sense.
Sometimes getting started on making a major life change is the hardest part. I’m really curious about that decision that you made to get sugar out of your household and how that got started.
Cat: I started just like you do every other new habit, right? Made the plans and I did the things, but what I learned very quickly is that my human willpower is very, very limited. After a few days, I got to the point where I didn’t think I could handle the temptation anymore. I was cranky and hateful and short-tempered with my family. I had a headache, my body terrible because I was going through the physical effects of withdrawal. I remember standing at the kitchen table crying and apologizing to my family.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me because my habit was to go to sugar at this point and I was not. So I had to learn a new way of managing those emotions after a couple of weeks of really, really trying to hold on with my own willpower. I hit my knees and there were days so many tears and anger and lashing out at God.
Why do I have to give up sugar? My husband doesn’t have to, my kids aren’t having to, my best friend doesn’t have to. I was angry with him for asking me to give this up. I was that and lamenting that first Christmas was very difficult realizing how many traditions I had that were around candy and cookies and food. That was so difficult. But once I made the decision to give it to Him and I had never actually faxed it before, so I didn’t have that experience. And so I remember studying about fasting and treating this like a fast and whenever I wanted sugar, that was my signal that I needed Jesus and I would go to prayer. I would go to my Bible. I had several, I call them on my 911 note in my phone when I desperately needed some help that I was tempted to jump off the wagon face first into a pan of brownies. I had my 911 note that I would read aloud.
Oftentimes I had a friend that I could call just about any time. She was my accountability partner, interestingly enough, who hated sugar and was teeny tiny. It was almost like God was pulling judgment out of me to get skinny women. It was such an interesting experience and He put exactly who I needed in my life at that time.
Carrie: So tell us about this 911 note. Did that have scriptures on it or was it an affirmation about who you wanted to be on the other side of this journey? Was it like who you are in Christ? What kind of stuff was in there?
Cat: It had a little bit of all of that. I had song lyrics because as a singer, I love music. I had song lyrics in there. I had scriptures in there. I had statements that I had personalized from scripture in there. I plastered my house with truth and what I learned very quickly was affirmations unless they were based in scripture, that did not work for me because if I was trying to claim something that I could not say on the absolute worst day was true. I said my brain called BS and was trying to think the other way.
Carrie: And they would not receive that at all. It’s like, no.
Cat: Exactly. So I had what you could call affirmations based in scripture and I stated them in a way that was either personal towards me or personal towards the journey. I don’t believe that scripture is about me as a person at all. I believe scripture is about my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I don’t love the idea of personalizing scripture for all the time, but in those moments, that’s what I needed. And so like, some of my favorites were of course, 1 Corinthians 10:13, where this temptation I’m feeling is normal. It’s no more or no less than anybody else experiences.
And God’s already given me a way out. I just have to take the door and that was a very paraphrased version, but that was the truth that I needed to hear. This is not any worse than anybody else’s temptation. There are people who are tempted by illegal drugs. I’ve seen that experience and seeing it was almost like a mirror at one point. But seeing that personally and knowing as I read that scripture, this is no worse than anything anybody else is facing helped me not feel alone, helped me not feel helpless.
Another favorite was Romans 6:16. I think I wrote it down because I wanted to share it. Yes, it was stated this way. I am only a slave to that, which I present myself because the sugar had no hold on me. My old habits had no hold on me. I was not a slave. I had a choice and I needed to be reminded that I had a choice in that moment when I didn’t necessarily feel like I did. But because it was based in scripture, I knew it was true.
Carrie: That’s so good. Yeah. Like I don’t have to be a slave to sin or those former things like anymore. That’s a powerful promise. I think understanding our position in Christ as His child is so powerful. Like if we can wrap our minds around it. I think that’s huge and it changes a lot of personal decisions for us because hopefully like we’re following the Lord. We want to please Him and we want to honor Him, but also being in this state of I’m fully loved.
And I’m not always going to get it right. Like some days I’m going to mess up and I need the grace. It can make a lot of changes if you have. I think some of those go-to scriptures for whatever it is that you’re facing. I think we probably all need a 911 note in our phone for whatever issues are most pressing in your life right now. Like I’m meditating on a lot of scriptures about trust right now. Like where the Lord has me and I’m like, okay, like I trust you, I trust you. And here’s some things I can say to myself and when we repeat those truths to ourselves, sometimes it can help align our feelings. Would you agree with that? As we always feel like doing the right thing, pouring in of that truth can help motivate us.
Cat: Absolutely and this is something in the last six months or so that there are many times that as disciples of Jesus, we’re called to do things we don’t feel like doing and oftentimes we like to say things like I’m not motivated to XYZ. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross for me, but He did it. So whenever I start to feel like that, I don’t feel like it, that has been the truth that has popped up is that if I’m called to do a job, I’ll just tell you. I didn’t feel like getting on a podcast chat today. I’ve had a long week, but I have a message that I want people to hear that they’re not hopeless and I have a message that I want people to hear.
Jesus has done something that makes everything. He calls us to make everything possible and I felt so hopeless in that time of my life that I thought there was no way God could ever use me. There was a season in my life I truly thought that my job was to be miserable and I would have joy when I got to heaven. That was what I thought. There’s hope and I know there are women who feel that.
Carrie: Sure, you are utilizing prayer and scripture and did you find that group that you were going to and helping lead the praise like the recovery group? Did you find that helpful as part of your journey as well? Just like hearing other people’s stories and sharing a little share.
Cat: Absolutely. One of the things that we started doing was challenging each other to reframe our statements. We as humans, we like to claim things. I am, whatever. I am an emotional eater.
I am an addict. I am whatever. Like you said, our identity in Christ is such a powerful concept. And that group, we built enough trust with one another, that we started challenging each other to reframe the way we spoke, because what comes out of your mouth is an overflow of what’s in your heart. And as I continue to tell myself, I am an emotional eater or I am a couch potato, I am whatever I’m going to say that way. And so we were challenging each other to recognize what was coming out of our mouth and reframe it to match God’s word and that was the reframe. That was the phrase that we said a lot. It’s a very helpful group and a very helpful experience.
Carrie: Did you have an accountability partner along your journey? Did you have anybody that was helping you? Like in terms of what you do today is you are a coach for women. Did you have a life coach or a nutrition coach or anybody that was helping you along the eating journey?
Cat: Not a coach. I had my group with our recovery ministry. I had my accountability partner and I was a member of a group that was supportive as far as healthy choices on the daily and exercise and things like that. Nobody was necessarily prescribing what to eat, which I think was probably a good thing because I was moving towards not just freedom from sugar, but also freedom from the diet mentality, which had done a lot of damage. Food freedom is a concept that we don’t quite understand really because of the diet culture that we’re in.
Carrie: Yeah. I wanted to talk about that a little bit more because you had talked with me about how diets can be like the law of Moses in the Old Testament. And some diets are very restrictive and I see a lot of my clients, Jojo in terms of what they’re doing and they go from either restricting to completely bingeing and they never find that like a medium of healthy eating. So can you talk with us about that a little bit.
Cat: I’ve started and stopped a thousand diets in my lifetime. During each one, there would be that cycle of I’m doing great. Then there would be the feeling of deprivation and then the dip, whether it would be, I was angry that I couldn’t have what I wanted or sticking to plan, or I would just jump off plan and say, forget it. This is stupid. And what ended up happening was my worth. My value became tied up in whether or not I was following the rules. If following rules made me holy, I wouldn’t have needed Jesus. And so I have to remind myself that my value is not determined on whether or not I stayed under a calorie level, or if I hit a certain level of macros.
And I fully believe that there are times that we do need to follow particular types of plans. I don’t think plans are bad. I think it’s the heart that we have when we go to them. There was one plan for salvation and Jesus Christ. So I don’t think plans are a bad thing in God’s eyes, but we have to make sure that we’re watching our hearts about the plan because if my worth comes from whether or not I follow the diet, that is not what God had in mind for me. That’s me presenting myself as a slave to something and living by a law that I’ve imposed upon myself.
Carrie: And I think what you’re really showing is that any kind of life transformation, like this, has to come from the inside out because whenever we try to make those changes externally first, and it ends up being this white knuckle like type concept, and we can only hold it together and do it for so long.
But if you’re really like having to do the soul searching of why am I seeking out certain kinds of foods when I don’t feel well. Like when I have a really hard day at work, like what’s causing me to run into that direction instead of Jesus, then that’s going to make a much bigger difference.
This took you three and a half years to go through this journey and process, right?
Carrie: How did you persevere on that journey? Were there times where you were like, “Nope, I’ve lost a plate. I’m okay. I’m good. This is good enough”. Like, “I don’t want to have to do this anymore”, or “I want to go back and have some sugar in my life”. Like, what was that like on those hard days?
Cat: It’s so interesting during these three and a half years. It started with the sugar, that conviction about the sugar and the way that I was turning towards it too. Whenever I was in an emotional state and what ended up happening was I was studying who I am in Christ because I thought that would be helpful, but I didn’t believe any of it.
So then I needed to dig deeper. I started praying to the Lord, I want to know You helped me know Your character and that led to believing. And that was months and months and months, and I would just seek the names of God in the Old Testament and how He revealed Himself to His people. Over time, as I got to know God in a more intimate way, I started believing the things he was saying about me and the things He was saying about what it meant to be a child of God and what it meant to be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ the holy spirit.
I started believing those things and one thing that hit me when I was studying in the Old Testament was the story in 1 Samuel, I believe it’s Chapter 30 where David and his men come back to their town. The town has been burned to the ground and all of their wives and children have been taken by another army. Everybody is distraught. They’re talking about killing David because it was his fault. They’re away from home and all this stuff. I don’t remember the verses five or six verses in it say, David encouraged himself in the Lord. I thought that’s a bad day. Like David’s whole family was gone, his house was burned to the ground and the whole town. Everything was gone and David encouraged himself in the Lord.
And I thought if David can turn to Jesus in that, I have no excuse to turn to brownies. I learned from the Old Testament stories and from the Psalms good examples of how we can react and respond when we have those bad days, because God knows that we have sad moments and we have painful moments. We have angry moments and the Psalms are full of experiences that you can read where David or the Psalmist were right. I’m upset. I’m sad. I’m scared. I’m lonely. I feel abandoned. I feel attacked, but You are good and I will praise You and it always turns back to praise. So that’s what I learned during that time, it’s okay to be sad, but I have to remember where to put my attention and that’s to the Lord.
Carrie: Did this process just transform your prayer life in terms of getting really down and really honest with Jesus in terms of what you were feeling and thinking and experiencing?
Cat: It did. I think the very first time I ever prayed was, “Lord, Your will be done” and I truly meant it during that season. I remember it very clearly. My niece was, I believe, eight years old and had gotten lost in the woods and it was cold. They live in Alaska actually and I got a call. She’s been missing about an hour now. We’ve got cops out, dogs out, we’re running to look for and it was going to get dark soon and I hit the concrete floor in our garage on my knees. I started praying for her to be found and at the time my sister was not following the board. We were raised in a good Christian home. She was living in a way that was very opposite of what we’d been raised in just like I had been during a season. And I remember feeling, what if this is what draws my sister back to God’s will, and I started crying and I said, Lord, Your will be done,
Your will be done, Your glory, be brought through this experience. That’s what I prayed and I remember feeling almost guilty for praying for 10 minutes. She was delivered to the house and a car. She had stumbled out of the woods on some street. Somewhere, a lady in a blue car stopped and said, honey, are you okay?
And she said, I live over there and she takes her home. They don’t know who the woman was. My sister is following the Lord right now and I’ll just never forget that experience of truly saying that whatever it is that needs to happen here, Lord, we want Your will to be done. And that was the scariest prayer, I think I’ve ever prayed, but yes, it did revolutionize my prayer life.
Carrie: Getting to that place of full surrender is so hard. Sometimes it’s so hard, whatever we’re facing, whether it’s emotional, eating, or anxiety or something. I think of even people that are struggling with anxiety coming to that, understanding that maybe this is what God is using in their life. Like Paul’s thorn in the flesh to minister to other people and maybe it’s what God’s using to transform their character.
So I like that your prayers weren’t just like, okay, take away this desire for sugar. I don’t want to have that anymore because I think that can be an easy place for us to fall into. Okay. Take this hardship out of my life, take this desire for sin out of my life, take this anxiety out of my life. Whatever it is that we’re like, just get rid of that God. Okay. Can we just eliminate that out? Like eliminate the hardship and instead, you really saw it. Okay. God teach me about Your character through this experience. Teach me when I understand Your character and who You are, then I can understand who I am in relationship as Your daughter and that guides your other processes.
I think in terms of life change.
Cat: It absolutely did. He used this experience to show me where I don’t like to use the term control freak, but I absolutely was. Everything had to go my way and it had to be organized and if things didn’t go according to plan, I lost my mind. So that came out during that time and I was convicted of that. My husband and I got married and I had been a single mom for a long time to a man who wasn’t very nice to me. The thought of letting him take control of our finances or be the head of our household, not gonna happen, I was the boss. Through this three and-a-half-year process, the Lord started to convict me of the way He had set up a Godly marriage and I was not allowing it to happen in my household. I remember crying to my husband and supposed to step back and let you be the leader of the household and whine and cry. But the Lord has completely flipped my life upside down, completely flipped my life upside because I committed this one thing to Him.
He used it to show me His character and His love for me and all the things that were possible here and the way that He can use even my broken parts to encourage other people. I don’t love telling the story of me climbing on the stomach in the cabinet. That’s kind of embarrassing. I don’t love telling it, but I do know that there’s somebody who’s going to be encouraged by that and know that I’ve had one of those kinds of days.
Carrie: Like someone’s will say, I’ve had one of those kinds of days. Like, I’ve been there. So tell us a little bit about your coaching practice and what you do there.
Cat: I love helping women like me. I love helping women who have dieted their whole lives and are still overweight. Women who may not yet be ready to admit that they might have a little bit of an issue with emotional eating. Women who want to honor the Lord, but don’t know how.
No, there’s something more than just the diet. I’m not a personal trainer. I am not a nutritionist. And so I don’t give advice on those specific things, but I do love my Bible. I just start asking questions and we get in prayer together and we get in the scriptures together. It’s a wonderful experience just to see peace and food freedom for women who have been slave to the diet mentality and their value in the number on the scale, because that’s so prevalent.
Carrie: Yeah, unfortunately. There’s so many people, even people who aren’t overweight and have put value in what the scale says or what their body looks like and so much embodied dissatisfaction out there. But that’s a whole, whole nother topic. If you could, as our time is winding down to a close, like if you could go back in time, what encouragement or hope would you provide to your younger self?
Cat: I think that I would take her by the hand and tell her that there is no need to be ashamed, that all of the things that she’s embarrassed about and ashamed of. Jesus knew all of that when He died for her and she doesn’t have to stay there.
Carrie: That’s so good. One of our purposes of the show is to reduce shame. So I think that falls right in line. With what we’re trying to do, to help people understand that when we have these stories and we’re able to speak about them out loud and address them and get help and find supportive communities within the church, that can be incredibly transformative as it was in your experience as well.
So thanks so much for sharing your story and your wisdom of how you got to where you are today. I really appreciate it.
Cat: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been an honor to share.
Carrie: This episode reminds me that we all have a powerful story inside of us. And sometimes we just need that courage to be able to step out and share it with others who need to hear it. So maybe that encourages you today to be a little bit more vulnerable at times, and encourages others who are in a place where maybe you’re a former self has been.
I wanted to let you all know that we’ve been getting inquiries through the Hope for Anxiety and OCD Podcast Website about seeing me for counseling, which is really nice of you guys to want to see me.
However, there’s two issues that we have to address. First is that due to licensing requirements, you really have to be in the state of Tennessee in order to see me. We did not have a national counselor licensure although we are still holding out hope and would like to have it one day. Hopefully with telehealth becoming more prevalent and popular that will expand.
However, that’s not where we’re at. The other issue that we’re having is that, that’s just not a good place for those inquiries to come. And so if you really are in Tennessee and you want to see me for counseling, please go to the By The Well Counseling website. There is a link there through our podcast website. Both websites will take you to each other. So just make sure that you are on the right one for the right thing. If you are looking to give us show suggestions, tell us what the show means to you. Tell us about potential guests. Then definitely contact us through the Hope for Anxiety and OCD website.
And if you’re looking for virtual telehealth counseling in Tennessee, you can contact me at the By The Well Counseling website. I hope that provides some clarity for everyone. If we don’t get back to you right away, it’s because unfortunately, sometimes you end up in a spam folder and we have to find you and rescue your message out of there.
But I know that between my assistant, Ella and I, we do seek to respond to all inquiries. So if you haven’t heard back from us, please send us another message. Thank you so much, everyone for taking the time to listen today.
Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By The Well Counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum until next time may you be comforted by God’s great love for you.