So…I’m fairly confused about the whole healthy eating thing, but I try to make an effort. At least, in between everything else I eat.
Recently, I stopped at one of the “healthy” supermarkets. I perused the aisles like the nutritionist I am not, checking labels and reading ingredient lists as if I understood them. I chose the healthiest lunch items I could find (that I thought I would actually eat), then I headed to the checkout counter to see what the damage would be. As I was waiting in line, I saw some “healthy” chocolate mint patties—looking attractive and utterly harmless perched on their shelf beside the register. The package boasted “only three ingredients!”
It’s not as if mint is some lifelong favorite of mine, so I’m not really sure why I yielded to that particular temptation after turning down so many others. I suppose it was just the simple fact that they were beside the cash register.
It was the next day after lunch when I felt the hankering for something sweet that I broke out the chocolate mint patties. They looked fairly convincing—and I was proud of myself for buying a healthy alternative to what I really wanted.
I took one bite and I nearly spit it into the next room. The whole thing tasted like something that should involve a phone number for poison control. Those three ingredients must have been Simple Green, Soft Scrub, and wax.
Call me what you like, tell me I’ve been ruined by the evils of sugar, read me any book, make me watch any movie—that thing was vile.
Watching people who eat super healthy diets is like going to the circus. Performers who effortlessly walk a tiny tightrope between two poles make you think, “Wow! What skill! What courage!” Then you see acrobats swinging stories between heaven and earth by their hair and you think, “Nope. Not worth it. Not for me at any price.”
Eating healthfully is like backwards barefoot mud skiing through a cranberry bog. For a select few, it is fun and exciting. For the rest of us, it is at best the cruelest of torture; and at worst an unfortunate and unpleasant way to meet your Maker.
Trying to eat healthfully is like trying to find your way through an authentic Iowa corn maze…Enduring the heat and the bugs only to discover that you wasted your energy on yet another dead end. And eventually, feeling so lost that you defy all the rules and head straight through the corn rows for the parking lot.
Seriously. Theories on what makes for the healthiest of diets are as numerous as theories of whatever happened to Flight 370 and just as disturbing. To some, it is all about calories. To others—about gluten… glycemic index…carbohydrates…proteins…organics, fats, GMOs, chemicals and insecticides…whatever…and the market will supply wherever the winds of demand take it and mark them up 15-75% from the “non-health food” alternative. It seems our planet in 2014 is a virtual minefield for would-be healthy eaters…especially those without the means to hire a personal chef.
So what does one do? Live on spinach? Even that, I hear, is not a good idea (too much can give you kidney stones). Nothing seems safe but starving to death.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence for any theory you want to believe. For example, my grandfather is almost 97. He has been a gardener most of his life. He has organically grown green leafy vegetables (the one thing all experts seem to agree are good for you) and consumed them faithfully. He stayed active—playing tennis, swimming, and riding his bike. Not surprising, he has always been relatively healthy.
Aha! Proof that we all need to eat vegetables and exercise regularly!
And he eats a bowl of ice cream every day. Propylene glycol (antifreeze) and all. And he eats baked goods constantly—yep, white sugar and gluten. He buys them from the discount sections in the back so he can get fifty cents off (which doesn’t matter, because most of them have a shelf life that would enable him to bequeath them in his will). And everyone who sold him annuities is going broke.
Aha! Proof that it doesn’t matter what you eat!
Trying to discern what to eat using Scripture doesn’t exactly make things easy. Granted, it does eliminate the “eat nuts, berries, and meats like our ancestors who roamed the earth for millions of years before us” theory (which, if based on a truth, leaves me wondering why all who ate such a healthy diet are extinct). But, it still leaves room for quite a few other “biblical” theories like those who pull a verse out of Ezekiel and turn it into a recipe from God. Hmmmm. Perhaps not all bad, just not all it is marketed to be.
But the Bible does have a lot to say about food just as it does any other area of life. And after some research and some study, this is what I’ve come to so far:
- Be as good of a steward as you can be. Just about all the nutrition “greats” agree on some things: More vegetables, less sugar. More natural, less processed. More raw, less cooked. More exercise, less stress. More water, less Pepsi. We can all use the same general principles that we use to avoid smoking and drugs and try to be good stewards of the temple God gave us. I Corinthians 6:19-20. If you live your life eating pasta while watching television, don’t complain to me that you don’t feel well. You are not going to feel well. Conversely, you probably know your body better than anyone. So if you conclude that it is better if you avoid dairy, or sugar, or gluten, or whatever, I’ll cheer you on. I have a lot of respect for several friends who have taken drastic measures to deal with health issues nutritionally.
- Don’t let food become an idol. Food, or the lack thereof, shouldn’t be the central focus of our lives—at least not under normal circumstances (health issues might require more focus for some people). Philippians 3:18-19. We shouldn’t let it be our source of fulfillment. Sometimes, we are going to need to limit our desires so as not to offend; sometimes we might expand our horizons so as not to offend. Because, after all, if God really wanted His church to follow a single set of strict guidelines, He would have said so. And He didn’t. I Corinthians 10:31
- Be disciplined; use moderation. Sometimes it is healthy for us to deny ourselves our wants for some greater purpose (Isaiah 58:6). Sometimes repentance, sometimes provision for others, and sometimes for consecration to Him. It is healthy for us to discipline our bodies and Scripture strongly discourages gluttony. I Corinthians 9:17; Prov 23:20-22. Ouch.
- Celebrate! Just about every biblical holiday involved food—yes, even the marriage of the Lamb will include a feast. When it’s appropriate, eat well. Leviticus 23:2 And if you are following the other guidelines, it won’t be a problem.
There. That’s it. Those are all my conclusions.
That and the fact that I will no longer buy wanna-be healthy peppermint patties. If I need one that badly, I will buy the real thing. After all, you are what you eat, and I wouldn’t want to be nasty hunk of wax and Simple Green.