The Whole Food Dilemma

Like most of us, I like to think I’m a healthy eater. In high school, I counted calories, always read the nutrition facts, and loved a good lean cuisine microwave dinner. I recognized the direct correlation between what I ate and how I looked, and that equaled “health” in my mind.

Then I read Seven. Jen does a food fast in month one, probably because that’s what comes to mind for most people thinking of a fast. Ashley and I started with clothes first, because we knew how much we needed repentance in the materialism area.

However, as I read through the food chapter, I realized how altering this mentality could be.

Fast forward to October 1, and we began. Four weeks of only eating 7 foods. Here were my seven:

  1. eggs
  2. spinach
  3. chicken
  4. sweet potatoes
  5. whole wheat bread
  6. apples
  7. natural peanut butter

I used to go on fasts and diets to lose weight, and maybe as a perk I would also be healthy. I never really thought much about what I was putting into my body, or that those “low-fat granola bars” might be filled with all kinds of harmful ingredients for my body.

Of course I have never been secluded from the ever-changing food conversation, so I heard all about the paleo craze. My response to paleo? Sure, those cavemen only ate meat. They also all died at 35. Also, I’m not giving up bread. So, no.

Still, I will admit paleo seems to be onto something. Processed foods have taken over our lives, deceptively telling us all they are healthier than eating real food. Here’s a whole book on the subject:

foodbookOkay. I haven’t read the whole thing.. but there’s a lot to learn even if you just read the subtitle: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Or you can check out the introduction on the Barnes & Noble site here.

So I spent a month eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and every variety of apple slice. (Praise the Lord for honeycrisps!) The very first week was spent on a recruiting trip in College Station, and that meant eating out every meal. If I had been home to prepare every meal, it would have been easy. The point of a fast, however, is not to escape entirely from reality. Therefore, I brought a considerable amount of my own groceries with me on trips that month.

The food month was hard. This was a fast people noticed, because it’s hard to hide a plate at a restaurant eating nothing but a chicken breast. Of course it was weird. Of course it was extreme. So was wearing only 7 items of clothing, but I was impressed by how much I learned.

The first week I was exhausted. I kept waiting to feel “all the energy!” that people talk about when they start eating healthy. It just was not there. I felt like I wasn’t even eating enough, and certainly felt like I wasn’t getting enough nutrients in my diet. For instance, spinach was a terrible choice. If I had to do it over, I would choose a different green food, but one able to stand alone, like broccoli or something. Spinach needs about 10 other things on top of it.

By the end of the four weeks, I actually was enjoying sticking to my basic foods. It was simple. I had zero headaches, stomach aches, or post-meal remorse. I craved apples and sweet potatoes constantly. Even now, when I begin to feel sick, I revert back to these 7 foods, because I know the instant benefits.

I find it ironic how little we talk about food in the church. As if gluttony isn’t a real sin? Or as if God doesn’t care what we eat? Have we even read the Bible? One of the most memorized verses in Scripture says it plain:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  -1 Corinthians 10:31

Often we focus on every single action of our lives, and ignore the action we do (at least) three times a day. Might we be missing out on yet another act of worship? If I really believe my body is a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), I choose not to smoke because of the tangible proof it will ruin me. Is that where we draw the line? It seems to me that eating well is hard, so we turn a blind eye.

But, what if it’s all connected? What if God made all of me, not just some compartmentalized spiritualized section of my brain? Wouldn’t I want to honor God with all of me? I’d say it’s worth a try.

PS- For some added perspective, check out my dear friend Elizabeth’s post on the subject, written from her life in South Sudan.

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