On my road to becoming a dietitian, I have observed the most unique relationships people form with their food, not just the relationships my clients form, but also the ones other practitioners of nutrition form as well.
In fact, early in my career, I came to realize that many students were drawn to the field of nutrition due to having eating disorders themselves . I need more than two hands to count the number of times that students shared the same heart wrenching stories of how they, at one point or another, would under eat intentionally, or obsessively count calories, and micromanage their weight.
Each time a colleague so graciously opened up about their experience, I could see the anxiety and anguish that these practices use to cause each of them. Each plate of food became an enemy who wished to make them unhealthy and overweight.
Now that I have graduated from student to "teacher” the stories have become even more dramatic.
I remember sitting in my chair across from a patient listening closely to their story.
This patient told me something I will never forget, with tears welling in their eyes, they shared that they overeat constantly due to fear of not being able to access food. They went on to share that this is an irrational fear, since they always have food available, and they eat at restaurants about 3 times per day. Nonetheless, this individual found that in-between meals, a deep fear comes over them, that makes them think they won't get to eat again. The individual eventually resorted to keeping snacks on or near their person, incase such an emergency situation were to occur.
I felt their pain. It was so genuine. They were very hurt. I eventually asked this individual “do you mind sharing what makes you feel like you won’t eat again”? The individual then hinted to a childhood of food insecurity and a military career that further perpetuated this fear. Although, they did not fully share their story, one thing was for certain, their concerns were very real, and I felt their anguish.
The stories of unique or negative relationships with food do not end there. The era of fad diets have birthed a new type of "entertainment”. An activity of which I like to call “food dating”. The goal seems to be to jump from one diet to the next, hoping to find the right one. When it leaves you unsatisfied, you dump it.
"Food blaming" soon follows. This is when foods are blamed for not bringing about the desired outcomes the person is looking for, when perhaps it was our mindset towards the food, rather than the food itself.
Unfortunately, I witness this "yo-yo" dieting all to often, and see first hand how it can lead to guilt around certain foods, food obsession, overt food restriction and frustration with food all together. Sometimes this chronic dieting can become so pervasive that it mimics a compulsive disorder.
Pondering such relationships with food, including my own, has caused me to think long and hard on how we can not fall prey to such negative food relationships.
So, What is the Solution?
After much thought, I was able to discover the key to not falling victim to the body comparisons, food trauma, and food obsessions of the modern day.
What is it? As corny as it may seem, it is a consistent, strong, relationship with God. People who are on fire for God, or consult His word when addressing concerns with food, do not experience negative food relationships to the same degree.
As Christians, nothing really matters when our mind is stayed on Christ. Our spirit could care less what others think about how "skinny" our fleshly vessel is, especially since we will only be inhabiting this body for a little while (Colossians 3:2-4). We know we are to keep our temple healthy, but we can't do that if our definition of health is the worlds visual standards, and the evil world we live in is certainly not worth us starving ourselves for.
There is no need to worry about where our next meal comes from, because we remain confident that if God feeds the sparrows, He will feed us (Matthew 6:26).
There is no need to overeat, because the Bible is clear that we should be satisfied with little (Proverbs 25:16).
There is no need to obsessively try other diets, because the Bible makes food so simple and so clear.
We see in the very fist book of the Bible, that God wanted us to have variety in our diet, which is why his first creation was a garden filled with nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables and flavorful herbs. He obviously wanted us to enjoy the array of flavors he created. Even after the garden He sought to teach his children balance through Biblical dietary laws. The laws sought to protect us from food borne illnesses, while also sustaining the ecosystem. The best part is that now, thanks to Christ blood, what we eat will never condemn us because we are no longer under the law!
And most of all, the Bible teaches us to make loving God our top priority. When we get to the point where we only want to please Him, we realize just how simple food is, and how pointless it would be to obsess over it.
I can say that personally, even with years of experience in the field of nutrition, and constantly learning about diets, I am able to maintain a very balanced perspective of food. Food is not my enemy, it is not my safety net, nor is it a medium for vanity. It is a delicious balanced source of nourishment that I am grateful to the father for.
I say all this not to sound pious, but to paint the picture of the balanced view point of food we get to witness when we root our lifestyle in Jesus Christ and his word.
I think this verse summarizes it well:
1 Corinthians 8:8: "But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse"
God knew that food could become a stumbling block for us on our walk with Christ, especially since food is such a vital part of our "fleshly" existence.
We see this all too often in this modern world as many have resorted to using food to fill voids that only God can fill, and use food to bring about physical attributes that are pleasing to the world.
But this verse reminds us that at the end of the day, no diet will be able to make us feel loved like God does. No food will mend the emotional hurt that only God can heal. No weight loss will make you more precious in His eyes. Nothing that you eat or don't eat will make you morally more clean.
Most importantly, food does not separate us from the love of Christ nor does it bring us closer to Him.
God calls us to use wisdom so we are not exempt from trying to eat healthily. However, it is important that we do not let food become an idol in the process.
That is why my life's goal is to coach those struggling with emotional eating or lack of control over food, by helping them focus their intention on God first.
Do you want to form a healthier relationship with food? Click here to book a discovery call with a faith-based dietitian.
I hope that this read encourages you to see the joy of food that we gain through Christ.