Let me be honest with you in regards to my lifelong food journey. Health was not on my mind the first 20+ years of my life. My mom was ahead of the curve in her knowledge of good vs. bad for you foods while she was raising my sister and me, so I had some advantage there, but there were still a lot of unknowns at that point. The internet wasn’t in our lives for most of my childhood, with it’s all-knowing wisdom and health guidance. Junk food and pop were the societal norm, which meant every time I was with my friends (which was a lot), junk was front and center on the menu.
I was blessed with good genes, and weight wasn’t an issue for me. I saw no need to consider the food I was eating at all as long as gaining weight wasn’t an issue. So I carried on my merry ways, eating pizza and candy, and guzzling Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper every chance I got.
Fast forward to age 23. Newly married, both of us working full time, living off cheap ground beef, lots of cheese, pizza, and pasta. Most fruits and vegetables usually found a place in the fridge where they would stay put until they were rotten enough to throw out. I laugh about it now, but really – what a sad picture of nutritional health!!
Fast forward a year…I get diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. With my mom on my team doing crazy amounts of research, we discover it’s recommended for people with MS to do a low fat diet. I buy every low-fat item at the supermarket but continue to eat crazy amounts of sugar because, guess what? Sugar’s low-fat! Lucky me – I can continue eating most of my candy and drinking my corn syrup laden pop since, of course, it’s fat free!
Fast forward another year. I’m slammed with MS symptoms. Something’s got to change. Apparently this low-fat diet isn’t the magic bullet we were hoping for. After much research, I change medication and begin taking Low Dose Naltrexone. (Oh, and I finally learn about healthy fats and begin adding them back in. About time.) The LDN is helping, but I feel like there’s more I can do.
The eight years following were a time of trial and error, reading articles, books, talking to doctors and friends. And then a dear friend introduced me to the Whole30. I knew something needed to change, and this was a way to see if any of the foods I was eating were a problem for me, and to sort of “reset” the body. I was immediately in.
For thirty days my diet consisted of meat, fruit, nuts, olive oil, and more vegetables than I care to remember. By the end of the thirty days I felt So.Good. I felt confident in my health. Confident. That was huge for me. I felt like I didn’t even have to wonder about when my next flare up would be. I felt like if I ate only those things I could CONTROL my health. Dun dun duuun….
Let me just stop here and mention this. Guys, it’s hard to eat that perfectly. Time consuming, ginormous grocery bills, hours in the kitchen chopping vegetables kind of hard. It basically became a part time job since, you know, raising and homeschooling three kids and church planting didn’t keep me busy enough. 😉
Over the past several years since that time, I have had periods where I’ve really buckled down and focused on eating as well as possible, and I’ve had periods where I think “I feel really good, so I’m sure I can relax my food standards and be just fine…” But inevitably, it comes back to bite me.
So yes, I’ve learned that I feel best when I eat my best. Simple, right? To that I say HA! If only.
Every day is a struggle. Although the sugar addiction is gone, praise Jesus, I never stop wanting it when it’s available. I never stop dreading spending hours in the kitchen prepping healthy food. There always seems to be a food related battle going on in my mind.
I begin to have thoughts like “Well, if God hasn’t healed me from MS, I guess I have to take matters into my own hands…” And then I proceed to feel guilty about every bite I take that is not actively making my body healthier. I become meticulous and sometimes obsessed with what I eat and what I actively avoid eating.
I begin to trust in my own ability to heal my body from the inside out with food. Food is medicine, right? That’s what they say, at least. And I believe it’s true. To a point.
But when does healthy eating become an idol? You know, one of those pesky things warned about in the Ten Commandments, which is to be avoided lest it be honored more highly than God himself?
I’m sure there are scholarly answers to this question, but let me tell you my personal answer. Healthy eating becomes an idol when you find yourself trusting it more and more and trusting Jesus less and less. When you feel like you’re in control of yourself instead of God.
Yes, we need to be responsible about what we put into our bodies. Our bodies are temples – dwelling places for the Holy Spirit. That’s a big deal. So we do need to be smart here and play our part responsibly…just not to the point of trusting food for our wellness more than we trust God for our wellness.
Knowing this makes it easier for me to be okay with doing my best and resting in his grace and provision for the rest. Some days my best looks pretty impressive, food-wise. And some days my best looks like choosing chicken nuggets and unsweet tea in the drive-thru between my son’s ninja class and our church group, instead of that greasy double cheeseburger and Dr. Pepper that’s calling my name.
It’s when we proceed full speed ahead by our own wills and leave Jesus trailing behind that those idols appear. It shouldn’t take long to discover there’s a giant idol in our path, blocking our view of our trustworthy Lord. And when we finally knock that idol out of our way, we have an open path to Jesus’ outstretched hand. As long as we proceed in partnership and relationship with Jesus at our side, we can find the rest and strength we need to keep doing our best.