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Changing Your Relationship With Food

The other day a friend of mine posted on her Instagram story the amount of exercise necessary to burn off a café-made avocado on toast. My immediate internal dialogue was:

Are you serious? Thanks for ruining the one meal I can have at a café!” If she had said the bacon and eggs, I would’ve been like: “I thought so. That’s why I have avocado on toast. Winning!”

But no, she had to go after good old safe avocado on toast. Now, what am I going to do?!

Eat muesli at a café? I can eat that at home…the café version is not any better, and it's three

times more expensive. See, for those of us who have a less-than-positive relationship with food, you get my frustration. All my life, I have been developing a master list of sorts, that contains every food declared bad. It’s a long list! I first started developing it at three years of age, and of course, it had the obvious offenders:

  • Chocolate

  • Lollies

  • Chips

  • Soft Drinks

  • Chips

  • McDonald's

But as time has gone on the list has exploded with things I never thought (as a child), would

be worthy of exclusion:

  • Some fruits

  • Milk

  • Nightshades

  • Corn

  • Bread

  • Pasta

  • Red Meat

  • All sugars

  • Some salads (actually most that are bought)

  • Avocado on toast (thanks friend!)

Add to this list, known food intolerances (beans) that I accrued in the last five years, and there

actually ends up being very little that I can legitimately eat. So, what do I do? I essentially

have two choices:

  1. Incessantly obsess over meals and control every morsel

  2. Have constant guilt about the foods I just consumed

Ok, I am exaggerating a little. It’s not actually so bad anymore. I’ve grown up a lot and my

energy is occupied with other matters. But the list still exists. It just takes a lot more for the

guilt to penetrate (because I don’t have the time to be at the necessary level of obsession to

get a perfect scorecard on my eating habits) and for it to be lodged deep enough to make a

difference. Although at times it does have a cumulative effect. I’ve often thought that based on how I eat and the little willpower I seem to have in the face of food….that I just LOVE food. Certainly, with my overweight size, others would assume as such. 😕

But it’s actually quite the opposite: I kind of HATE food. This probably explains why

as a teenager I went through seasons where I just wouldn’t eat. I am grateful that it didn’t

become a persistent pattern of behavior, which I in no way account for any strength in

myself. That’s probably just another testimony to God’s surprising grace that makes an

appearance frequently throughout my life history – mostly without my awareness. But I

genuinely think I’ve HATED food. Because I couldn’t eat almost anything with peace in my

heart. Everything I ate would inevitably contribute to my own self-condemnation.

I’ve had to think about this a lot as a parent. A lot of my friends are painstakingly persistent in making sure that their kids eat healthily. And I applaud them for it, because they are genuinely concerned about the health of their kids, not because of body image. Which is not at all how my own list developed. For me and with my default behaviors, my efforts are focused on ensuring that my daughter has a healthy relationship with food where she

doesn’t deem ANYTHING as ultimately good or bad. She’s allowed to have chocolate, and

she knows that it’s only unhealthy if it is in excess. At this age, I decide what moderate is

and I retract the chocolate at the right time. But she certainly doesn’t see chocolate as bad.

And I am going to keep encouraging this mindset for as long as I possibly can. But for me personally, I’m trying to embrace a completely different way of thinking about food: Food is neither good nor bad. Food is fuel. There are certainly better fuels than others, just ask a mechanic. But Jesus Himself declared all foods as clean (Mark 7:18). Now, He

meant that the things we consumed did not contribute to the cleanliness of the soul.

So, it’s not quite the same thing. But it does reassure me that food is not supposed to have some kind of impact on the value I place on myself. Which is why the good and bad list was

developed in the first place. I was using it to make judgments on myself, and brutally

scrutinize the one thing that stood between me and a healthy body image.

Food is not supposed to determine our holiness or purity.

In fact, it appears at least scripturally to give more attention to the manner in which food is consumed than what exactly enters the mouth (to a degree of course...) 1 Timothy 4:4 says, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving”. This verse makes me aware of the fact that there is still a lot of foods that I don’t feel thankful for. Not because they are inherently bad, but because they still represent something ‘bad’ to me. Like the potential loss of love. Or rejection on account of my appearance. But at least I have a vision! I know that I would have truly healed from all body image issues when I wake up one day and realize that I am emphatically joyful and thankful for every food God has provided to me for my nourishment. I have a way to go, but I’m trying.

Are you tired of living by the world's standards? Learn more about God's plan for you. The world's standards and regulations are burdensome, but God's burden is easy and light to bear.

Connect on Instagram: @melj_saward

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