Updated: Jul 5, 2022
It might seem like an odd thing to say, but I’ve never really known how food works.
I know that we eat it, our bodies process it to some extent, and then expel it. I did know all of that. What I mean is that I’ve never really known the finer mechanics of how food works in the body. What it does for the body, and to the body.
I’ve been overweight most of my life, and food has always been a struggle. But, I haven't really been conscious of that struggle. It’s strange, really. I knew I was heavy and overweight, and I have long experienced the shame and self-consciousness that comes along with being overweight. But, somehow, I never really connected those negative feelings about my body to the food I regularly ate. And more than that, I never really considered what food I was eating.
Rather than consciously engaging it, food became an ally; a friend that was always there; a helper who never judged me and always comforted me. And that was the problem. It wasn’t really a friend or a helper as much as it was an enemy.
Food never told me no. It never told me the truth.
I have tried a few crash diets over my life, with some scale-related, short-term success. The pounds came off, and inevitably came right back on.
I think one of the problems with diets is that they don’t force us to understand food. A diet just says, “show up, do this, don’t think.” Crash diets or prefabricated diets are more like behavior replacements. But just replacing one behavior with another is not helpful in the long run. We don’t live like that. We live with food. All kinds of foods in all kinds of amounts!
So, I can't just break-up with food, but I’m learning that I can break-up with both unhealthy eating and ignorant dieting.
So, I’ve set out to educate myself on food. And I’m still learning…
First things first: I got some good, trustworthy books to read. I needed some food experts to help me understand food and its relationship with the human body.
I also researched and used some comprehensive cookbooks like The Complete Mediterranean Diet.
Here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned/am learning so far…
Lesson 1: What we eat matters. Plain and simple. Every meal and snack ultimately matters somehow.
Lesson 2: Our bodies need a variety of foods and nutrients. And God has placed all of these things in the natural foods of the earth!
Lesson 3: Our bodies need macronutrients. A macro is a way of measuring the 3 basic types of calories our bodies need on a daily basis: Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates.
Lesson 4: Our bodies don’t need the same amount of each macronutrient. For some reason, it's become highly fashionable over the last 30 years to shun all “fats.” We can see this reflected in things like “low-fat” everything, or diet sodas, etc. Essentially, we’ve been told all fat is bad because, well, fat makes you fat. But, this just simply isn’t the case. Bad fat makes you fat. That highly processed stuff (saturated and trans fats). Good fats are actually good for you, and healthy (in the right amounts).
Lesson 5: Carbohydrate is just a fancy word for sugar. The body processes carbs and turns them into glucose (blood sugar), and that’s really where we get the bulk of our energy. The problem is, in our modern day, we shun fat and opt instead for carb rich foods. And this really works against us. Naturally occurring carbs are good for us in the right amounts, but most modern processed foods are packed to the brim, and then some, with entirely unnecessary and engineered carbs. Basically, we’re just eating a bunch of processed sugar! We really need far less carbs than we think.
But what about no/low carb diets? From my own experience, and from what I’ve read, this type of diet is usually just an unhealthy reliance on other processed foods or unhealthy fats.
Lesson 6: Food companies aren’t really interested in our physical health. It's sad to say, but a company’s main concern is profit. And many food manufacturers have learned that they can strip foods of most of their natural vitamins and nutrients (the stuff that makes natural foods expire after a few days), pump in a bunch of preservatives, and still sell it as food. Just take a look at the ingredients list on something in your pantry…
Lesson 7: I can control what I eat. I have say so over what goes into my body. I’m not at the mercy of the cravings, the grocery store, or the food companies!
Lesson 8: Lesson 7 is hard and often comes with a fight.
Lesson 9: For me, unless I have a good idea of what food is doing to my body, I’m not really going to think much about what I’m eating. Maybe that won’t work for you, but for me, I needed to know what food was doing what. It has really helped me make better food decisions.
Lesson 10: Protein and healthy fats are my friends. Protein builds and repairs muscle, and healthy fats aid the body in a multitude of ways.
Lesson 11: Exercise is important. Do something active everyday. Something is better than nothing. Make today better than yesterday.
Lesson 12: Health is a mental game as much, or more, than a physical one. Our health battles are often won and lost in the mind. Pray. Decide. Commit. Act.
Lesson 13: There are ups and downs. Successes and failures. Nothing is foolproof. Somewhere along the way, that dessert pops up and catches you by surprise. Somewhere along the way, you’re going to lose the fight and overindulge. That’s okay. We can’t win them all. Just don’t stay defeated. Get back to it. Stay disciplined.
Lesson 14: There is no one instruction manual when it comes to food. That’s why educating ourselves about food, its makeup, and its effects on our bodies is so important. Diets restrict us to the point where we often feel paralyzed about food choices. We can’t live like that. We’ve got to explore the world God has given us, understand how He has made it, and then steward what He has given.
Lesson 15: Make a plan. Planning is key. As they say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Make a plan, work the plan, reap the benefits of the plan. For me, that looks like making sure I’ve got the groceries I need for the week. I cook my lunches for the week on Sundays. I also have a general plan for how I eat throughout the day.
Lesson 16: Discipline eventually pays off. Health becomes a routine. The bad cravings go down. The desire to eat healthy and feel better will go up. It just takes time. Trust the process.
Lesson 17: Stress eating is bad. Stress eating is just eating to distract ourselves. If you're like me, and you know you're prone to stress eating, or boredom eating, then adopt these few rules: First, make sure you're eating healthy, balanced meals in general. They will keep you feeling full longer. If you know you're still going to need a snack, only keep healthy snacks around.
Lesson 18: Most restaurants have a decently healthy option. I just have to find it and choose it.
These are just some initial thoughts and lessons that I’m learning. The body is a stewardship from God. Our physical health is a stewardship from God. There are some things in life we cannot help, but there are many, many things that God gives us control over…and food, for the most part, is one of them.
We are not our own. We have been bought with a price. We are to honor God in our bodies.