It’s been over two years since I started a journey towards eating real food. I’ve only hinted about this on my blog, and have withheld most details, because I know it can cause division. I’ve been praying through this recently, and the time feels right to share my heart about this hot topic.
My heart in this series isn’t to condemn, or make any reader feel like they are wrong for their choice of food. I truly believe that each person has the absolute best in mind when caring for themselves, and their families. We are all doing the best we can to navigate through the loud, and often opposing, voices about food. It can be incredibly taxing on the soul, and I am growing more and more weary of it myself!
My hope is that you would 1) be encouraged by this series 2) experience confident freedom in your food choices, and 3) most importantly, that you would seek to glorify God in all that you do.
My journey began in early 2011 when I was at my heaviest weight ever. Physically, I felt terrible, and I knew something had to change. For almost my entire life I’ve struggled with bouts of insomnia, winter “blues”, debilitating headaches, and cavities. If I didn’t sleep well, my head hurt. If my head hurt, I couldn’t work effectively. Since turning 18, I had at least one cavity at every single dentist appointment. I was stuck in a vicious cycle that would leave me grumpy, tired, and ineffective for ministry.
I’ve always loved to cook, so making meals from scratch has been a natural lifestyle for me since my college years. I’ve never eaten much processed food, and grew up with a mother who is basically a gourmet chef. I started reading and researching and asking God to give me wisdom about changes I needed to make. I desperately wanted to be healed (or at least see improvement) of these ailments so I could live and serve more freely.
I also knew that these changes needed to come on a budget, and real food is notorious for being expensive (although I’ve learned that is not necessarily true!). With my husband’s ministry salary, and a desire to be good stewards of our finances, I knew this would take some creativity, and serious meal planning, to get the most bang for our buck.
I started digging into a long list of real food blogs, natural and alternative health articles, and comment boards. I had entered a new world, and there was no turning back. It was exciting, and I was learning so much. At the same time, the conflicting studies about what to eat, and what not to eat, began to instill fear in me.
What if I eat the wrong things and end up with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.? How could I deal with the guilt if Adam, or our children, become sick from the food I give them? Do we eat meat, or become vegetarians? Organic or conventional? Raw milk or pasteurized? Grains or no grains? Dairy or no dairy? My head was spinning!!!
But God, alone, knows our end from our beginning.
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).
I have no control over the length of my life. None. Zero. There is no way I can extend even a second of my life through healthy eating! It is impossible, and I do not have that kind of power. God is the only One who controls my days. I should strive to be a good steward of my body, taking care of it to the best of my ability, but ultimately I am not in control.
Through this, my eyes were opened to how quickly, and easily, healthy eating can become an idol. I was walking a fine line of worshiping a natural lifestyle. Just to be clear, eating real food is not sinful. It is not a moral issue. It is a good thing, and I think most would agree that a meal full of fresh vegetables is far superior to one that is made from unpronounceable ingredients. However, just like every other good thing in life, it can become an “ultimate” thing as we worship the gift, and not the giver. For me, I was beginning to walk down a road where my heart was ensnared with the security I falsely believed would come with eating healthy.
I still struggle with this, and need to constantly keep my eyes on the One who has already planned every day of my life. It got to a point where I deleted a handful of blogs I had previously enjoyed. The “fear mongering” attitude they presented wasn’t helpful for my already worry-bent heart. As my sin, and arrogance, was revealed, I began to fight against the judgmental attitude that often comes with eating real food. I needed to be reminded that I am no better than anyone else because of the particular dietary decisions I have made. The Holy Spirit has been working on me (and there is much work to be done!) and turning my heart to humbly consider others better than myself (Philippians 2:3).
Continuing on my journey, I found the 80/20 rule to work well for us. Eighty percent of the time, I will buy and eat the foods that I believe are most nourishing, and fit into our budget. The other twenty percent are up for grabs. Adam and I are fortunate to not have any serious food allergies, so there is freedom for us to stray from our typical diet on occasion. If a candy bar is going to bless my husband, I have no problem buying it for him. If I want a Costco hot dog, and a root beer, I will enjoy it without much thought. When sharing a meal with family and friends who have different convictions about food, I consume it with a grateful heart for their hospitality. Food should NEVER hinder our relationships. People matter so much more than the kinds of food we eat. In light of the gospel, and the freedom that it brings, it is not difficult to lay down our preferences and enjoy a meal with others.
Since making these changes to my diet, the health problems I mentioned at the beginning of this post have significantly decreased. There is certainly much good that has come from modern medicine, but I am so grateful that God has provided a way for our bodies to heal through nourishing food, and natural remedies. I’ve added new (and some unusual) items into my diet, and eliminated others that were unhelpful. As a result I’m at a very healthy weight, I haven’t had a cavity in two years and my headaches have decreased from 3-4/week to 2-3/month. The past two winters the “blues” have been basically nonexistent (that says a lot for living in Pittsburgh then!), and I have slept better over the past eight months than I have in over three years. Physically, I feel better, I am sick less often, and I am able to serve my husband and church in a greater capacity. I am so thankful for this.
This post has grown to be much longer than I anticipated. Thank you for reading, and for listening to my heart on this controversial topic. I hope to post part two sometime this week!
Read part two here – Part two – My real food journey: can healthy eating become an idol?