How to consume food without letting it consume you
JUDY LEE | JUly 2, 2019 | 4 MIN READ
“What should we get for dinner? What about [fill-in-the-blank]?”
These simple questions bring up about 10 more anxiety-inducing questions in my brain: How much will the food be? Am I even hungry? Do I have to think about leftovers? Is it too heavy? Too light? How many calories are there? How much fat, carbs, protein, sugar, sodium? Am I even in the mood for this food? Should I suggest something else before it’s too late, or will that make me that one picky eater of the group?
Thinking about what we’ll eat is normal and necessary. We need to figure out what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and plan accordingly by choosing a restaurant or shopping at the local supermarket. But regarding food outside of its true context of being a gift from God will lead to an unhealthy relationship with it. Food, which was meant for our enjoyment and consumption, begins to consume us. And for some people, including myself, it becomes a disorder.
There’s nothing fun about disordered eating. I was obsessed with everything related to food: how much I eat, when I eat, why I eat.
It started out with simply wanting to drop a few pounds for my prom dress. Then healthy eating and dieting quickly turned into meticulous macro calculating. Soon I planned each of my meals, snacks — anything that went into my mouth — down to the smallest detail. Anything outside that perfect plan stayed outside my stomach.
My appetite and hunger was no longer the one in control of my body. Instead, it was my mind and the new way it had been wired to eat only the way I “should” or “could.” Food was no longer a thing to be enjoyed, but something that I needed to control.
Disordered eating is a lonely illness. It’s not widely recognized as a proper medical diagnosis, but brings all the shame of an eating disorder. It’s a problem without a fixed solution, and for its sufferers, it feels like a pit we can never climb out of.
In Christian circles, it can be even worse: What kind of prayer do we ask for when we struggle with thinking too much about food? “Please pray that I’ll stop calculating my meals?” It’s not exactly the prayer request that brings sympathetic nods. Most people have no idea how to respond to eating-related struggles. For them, eating is such a natural, intuitive act, an everyday gift to be enjoyed as it should be. In my comparatively unnatural and abnormal relationship with food, I didn’t know where, and I didn’t want to ask for help. I was stuck.
But I found solace in Paul’s charge to eat by faith.
In Romans 14, Paul addresses the early church’s controversy surrounding clean and unclean foods. He charges Christians to stop passing judgment on one another for what they ate, but rather “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (v. 19). He concluded this section by saying, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (v. 23, emphasis added). In other words, even eating should be an act of faith.
I was blown away with the idea that we could be faithful with our food. This is an encouragement to all of us who feel shamed and condemned for our obsessive habits. We can think about food in a healthy way. We can celebrate food as a gift and not an idol. So how can we do this? Here are three simple ways we can eat by faith and glorify God through His gift of food.
1. Eat with gratitude
God blessed us with not only desiring food, but needing food. We fuel our stomachs with the same goodness that brings delight to our taste buds. The thing we need is also the thing we love — that alone is a miracle to give thanks for. “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:6). Scripture is clear on how we as mere receivers can honor the giver of our gifts: by showing gratitude.
2. Eat with thoughtfulness
Thinking about what we’ll eat doesn’t mean we have to worry about every single meal. Worrying, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:25, is the opposite of what we should be doing. But we can still think about food in light of our gratitude: What does it mean to eat resourcefully, for the benefit to our bodies and budgets? How can we be good stewards of what God has given us by using food to further and not hinder our well-being? How can we share food with those around us? Ultimately, it’s remembering that food was made for us, and not the other way around.
In addition, Anything we do should be uplifting, not hindering, to the body of Christ. If your obsession with food is getting in the way of peaceful fellowship with your brothers and sisters, it may be time to check your thoughts. Putting others first can be a paradigm shift from obsessing over food to thinking about how your relationship with food affects the people around you.
3. Eat with joy
This should be the goal of every eating experience in recovering a healthy relationship with food. We first-world consumers have the world’s banquet at our feet. We have all the resources to enjoy the diversity of foods that God has created, and we can enjoy them. “Every tree in the garden” was meant for us in our blessed state (Genesis 2:16). I have a feeling that heaven will include a paradise of culinary concoctions far beyond what we’ve come up with on earth.
For those of us who have suffered with disordered eating or obsessive thoughts about food, none of these steps may be easy. I pray that a change of mind and more importantly, a change of heart by the power of the Spirit will remind us that “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (14:17). Let food be a part of our lives, not everything. Let our gifts be good, and their Giver far greater.
Judy Lee is a English Writing major at Biola University. She serves for the Youth Ministry at New Life Presbyterian Church of Orange County, and is a lover of all things Shane & Shane, iced coffee, Asian food, and the color peach. She is currently working on her first novel. Her fashion blogs and writing can be found on her Instagram and website, The Urban Royal.