I’d like to introduce you to two women you may know:
Every morning when Angela wakes up she makes her green power smoothie with each ingredient carefully weighed and measured and studiously entered into her calorie tracker. She grabs the lunch bag she packed the night before with portioned-out healthy snacks and a lunch that she carefully planned to fit perfectly into her macros. At work she walks zealously past the donuts in the break room and gives her co-workers standing around them a look that says “shame on you” as she proudly places her lunch bag in the fridge. Throughout the day the food she packed leaves her hungry and wanting something more but she diligently fills up her water bottle and pushes her appetite aside.
After work her coworkers are heading to a nearby restaurant for happy hour and invite her to join them, but she makes an excuse not to go. The truth is she knows that they will order lots of delicious food and drinks and she doesn’t want to be the “weird girl” sitting there not partaking and drinking soda water. She’s actually earned somewhat of an undeserved reputation as a snob because she often turns down invitations when she knows she won’t be able to bring along her own carefully prepared food. Instead, she heads to the gym and industriously plods away on the elliptical machine for an hour. She takes a selfie of herself in her workout clothes in the locker room and posts it, #gymrat #fitnessaddict #healthychoices.
She knows she should stop but just can’t.
All her willpower is spent.
At home she pulls a meal out of the freezer and heats it up. She always spends her Sunday afternoons cooking and prepping all her food for the week ahead. After supper she makes a small “healthified” dessert from a recipe she found on Pinterest and sits down to find something on Netflix. She tries to focus on the show but her thoughts keep wandering to food. She decides, a little more won’t hurt – I can exercise an extra 30 minutes tomorrow. She opens her pantry to see what looks good and pulls out the jar of almond butter and some gluten-free crackers. She grabs a banana and heads back to the TV to eat her snack. Eating directly out of the jar without measuring feels so wrong but so freeing at the same time. As she eats she shames herself in her head and calculates how much extra elliptical time she’s going to need the next day. She knows she should stop but just can’t. All her willpower is spent. When she gets to the end of the almond butter she feels absolutely disgusted with herself and decides to “do penance” for her lapse by jogging up and down the stairs in her building until her muscles scream for relief. She falls into bed, hot tears of regret and frustration on her cheeks. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow will be better. It has to be.
Rosie heads straight for the donuts in the lunch room when she gets to work. She wants to make sure she gets her favourite kind before they’re all gone. She munches on it while she makes her coffee. She grabs another one on her way to her desk. She sits at her desk checking her email while she enjoys her coffee. She avoids eye contact with anyone passing by, she doesn’t want to engage in any conversation until she’s had her caffeine fix. Once it’s hit her bloodstream, she heads back to the break room to chat with her co-workers and, in truth, to help herself to another donut. No one saw her have the first ones anyway. Mid-morning she pulls out one of the treats she keeps stashed in her desk, they help the time go by. Lunchtime rolls around and she heads out to get something from a local fast-food restaurant. She knows she should probably order a salad, but there are so many yummier options. She orders a combo and has the fries finished by the time she gets back to her office. Awhile after lunch she feels bloated and uncomfortable and in desperate need of a nap. She’s familiar with this routine however, and heads to the break room for a “pick me up” – more caffeine and sugar. When she sits back at her desk she discreetly unbuttons the top button of her pants and gets back to work.
She really should start another diet tomorrow,
but food is just so good and so available.
After work she heads to a hot new gastropub with friends and they order a bunch of appies to share. She takes pictures of everything and posts them, #foodie #foodgasm #nomnom. She’s careful not to eat more than any of her friends, they might judge her. When she gets home she orders Chinese and sits down with it to find something on Netflix. She’s not really even hungry after happy hour, but she can take the leftovers to work for lunch anyway, right? She eats mindlessly until she feels full and goes for just “one more” spring roll – they taste so good. She starts another episode and lays out on the couch, trying to find a comfortable position. After awhile she’s bored and restless and heads to the kitchen in search of dessert. She grabs the half-empty carton of ice cream and finishes it off. She hides her empty containers at the bottom of the garbage can so that her roommate won’t notice them. By this time, she feels uncomfortably full and disgusted with herself. She really should start another diet tomorrow, but food is just so good and so available. She falls into bed, hot tears of regret and frustration on her cheeks. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow will be better. It has to be.
Two Ends of a Spectrum
Chances are you recognize some of Angela or Rosie’s behaviours in yourself or someone you know. I know that I have been versions of both of these women, sometimes even in the same day! For both of them, food has been given a place in their lives that it was never meant to occupy. They represent two ends of a spectrum: a master at one end and a lover at the other.
For Angela, food is a harsh taskmaster. Everything she puts in her mouth has to be carefully calculated and regimented or she feels out of control. People on the outside may think she’s super healthy and has it all together, but she’s living in her own private prison and desperately unhappy. She is trying so hard to follow her nutritional doctrine perfectly, but because “perfect” is unattainable, it always leads to feelings of defeat and hopelessness.
“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh.”
For Rosie, food is a lover and the best part of her day. Food is always there to offer her excitement and escape. Even if she eats “sensibly” during the day so no one will judge her, in her heart she is planning a secret rendezvous with food that no one will ever see or know about. She is trying so hard to find joy and acceptance, but because food is a lifeless idol it can only offer her heartburn and weight gain.
“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 26: 1) Most of us have not erected pillars or figures of stone in our houses or yards, but that does not mean we are not carrying idols in our hearts. An idol is anything that you give your strength to or draw your strength from. It is where you go to get your life. It could be what you run to as a refuge. This could range from something as mundane as food or as far reaching as your involvement with social networks.”
Food was never meant to be a religion or an idol, but it has been both for me. I have spent hours planning and logging what I eat and then proudly screenshotting my macronutrient pie charts. I have also sought comfort and escape in a carton of ice cream and any other sugary concoction I can whip up from the contents of my cupboards. This is the reason why this blog is titled “Friends With Food.” I have been learning to bring food back into its proper place in my life: the “friend zone” – neither a master or a lover.
Friends With Food
Trying to solve the problem on my own, I tried various diets and read books about learning to eat mindfully. Unfortunately, learning to conform my outward behaviour never got to the heart of the problem. My heart problem. I would never find true freedom or peace with food until Jesus was the very centre of my heart and the Lord of every facet of my life.
“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other.”
There is only room for one God in my heart. I have a physical appetite for food, but I also have a spiritual appetite that only God can satisfy. He lays out the banquet for me, but I have sit myself at the table and feast. My spiritual appetite is as real as my physical appetite, but if I don’t acknowledge it or seek to feed it daily, I will try to silence its hunger pangs with food or other carnal things.
“Jesus answered… It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
Food is both a good gift from God and a tool for our health.
We do need it to survive, but it didn’t have to taste good.
Like all pleasurable things it is meant to be enjoyed
within healthy, life-giving boundaries.
Food is both a good gift from God and a tool for our health. We do need it to survive, but it didn’t have to taste good. Like all pleasurable things it is meant to be enjoyed within healthy, life-giving boundaries. The boundaries are easier than you think – you don’t need to follow a complicated eating regimen to enjoy health and your relationship with food. We will talk about discovering a method of eating that’s right for you more in a future post. For now, start to pay attention to the role food plays in your life:
- Do you feel trapped in rules and regulations of how, when and what to eat?
- Do you feel like how you’ve eaten in a day determines whether you’re “good” or “bad”?
- Do you feel like food is one of the only things that offers some excitement in your life?
- Do you run to it for comfort?
- Do you hide what you eat and feel ashamed?
Jesus is offering you relationship instead of rules.
I have amazing news for you. Jesus came to set you free from feeling like you have to follow a certain set of rules to be ‘good enough.’ And He came to set you free from believing the lie that anything in this world can satisfy the desires of your heart. He is offering you relationship instead of rules. He is the living and breathing God, available every moment to add joy, comfort and peace to your life. If you don’t know Him, ask Him to be the new Lord of your life and set you free. Where you feel trapped or bound by your relationship with food, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower you to walk out the freedom that has already been given to you by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
“So do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too.”
Your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need. He knows what your body needs to thrive and He has what your heart needs to thrive. Make feeding your spiritual appetite a priority each day and then begin to commit what, when and how you physically eat to Him:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”