I usually try to avoid religion and politics on the blog. Not that I have ever hidden my affiliations or beliefs, but I don't put them front and center either. For the most part, the blog is for fun stuff. Also, the topic of food "addiction" (let's just call it what it is!) is very personal for me. By posting this I am opening myself up for a lot closer scrutiny than I'm usually comfortable with, but I think it could potentially be beneficial to others who struggle with weight and over-eating, like I do. If you disagree or find nothing helpful here, that's fine. Visit tomorrow and we'll be back to goofing around. If you gain something of use for your own battle, wonderful!
My weight-loss "journey" has so far been a pretty basic plan - healthier food choices, proper portion sizes, exercise more (or at all). And it's been successful. I'm thinner and happier but I still haven't broken the final barrier - the desire to eat. I've learned to pick up an apple instead of a Snickers. I've learned I like asparagus. I've learned that the extra half-mile on the treadmill really won't kill me. But I have not learned to put food in it's proper perspective. The urge to eat for solace or celebration or to pass the time or because I just LIKE the taste of frosting, has not gone away. I'm better at fighting the battle, but the war is far from over.
|Image from Catholic-Link.com|
Lent is traditionally a time when we "give up" something - sweets, fast food, soda, TV... I've participated a few times, but mostly on a surface level - just to see if I could. The tradition is not emphasized in most Protestant churches, so when I was struck with the idea that Lent might be the opportunity to get past my food issues, I turned to the Catholic Church. In fact, parts of this post are blatantly plagiarized from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org), although, now that I've confessed that, maybe it's no longer plagiarism? Thank you to the USCCB for there info and insight.
The goal in the tradition of “giving up” is not just to have the willpower to give up something for 40 days, knowing I’ll get it back at the end, but to give up a habit of sin and root it out of my life forever. Lent should be a movement closer to Christ and to the way of life He has exemplified. If I am to do this, I need to know Jesus’ example concerning food. I looked up scriptures that relate to Jesus’ teachings on food. The points that struck me came from the Sermon on the Mount and the stories of Jesus feeding huge crowds with a small amount of food.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25In Matthew 14, when the disciples were distressed about how they were going to feed the large crowds, Jesus said “…you give them something to eat.” He did not ask the disciples to prepare a banquet, He told them only to give them some food. “And they all ate and were satisfied.”
And in Matthew 16, when facing a similar crowd who had been without food for several days while they listened to Jesus preach, Jesus said “I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” He took the bread and fish that were available, “and they all ate and were satisfied.”
I glean several key points from these scriptures:
- Each time they ate, Jesus gave thanks for the food they had. “He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples…” He didn’t pray for more food or different food, He just gave thanks for what He had. I need to be thankful for the food I have – not just in an abstract way - but in prayer every time I eat. I need to be truly grateful for the healthy choices I have, not wishing I had something else or something more.
- I shouldn’t worry about (plan obsessively) what I am going to eat. A certain amount of planning and preparation is inevitable – I have to go to the grocery store to have food in the house, I have to pack lunch to take to work. However, I don’t need to obsess about what I “get” to have. Rather, I need to keep healthy snack options available at home and at work so that IF I NEED a snack, I have healthy options. Planning my snacks in advance and eating them whether or not I’m hungry – just because I can – is not being obedient to God.
- “…lest they faint on the way.” Jesus was concerned about food only as a physical need. He didn’t express concern that they might need a little snack to hold them or that they would enjoy some dessert. He became concerned when it was possible that they would become ill if they didn’t eat soon.
- “…they all ate and were satisfied.” Satisfied – not stuffed. They had “enough”. Jesus does not promise, or even recommend, a smorgasbord at every meal. We know that gluttony (excessive eating) is a sin.
- Both times that Jesus fed large crowds, “He directed the crowd to sit down,” They didn’t eat while milling around, watching TV, reading a book or doing anything else distracting. When offered a meal, Jesus directed them to sit down, give thanks and eat only until they were satisfied.
The Catholic Church calls for the practice of abstinence, fasting and alms-giving during Lent. Though I am not Catholic, we agree on many points and I admire many of their methods and practices - the observance of Lent as a time of preparation is one. So, with apologies to any practicing Catholics that I may be unintentionally offending, here is how I feel I should interpret those practices in my life:
Abstinence is the traditional “giving up” – Through God’s strength, I am giving up my unhealthy attitude toward and fixation on food. I give it to God and I will not take it back at the end of these 40 days. In a more physical display, I am giving up all food outside my current healthy eating plan. Yes, that's been my "plan" for the last year, and it has been successful in taking off 55 lbs., but not in changing my desire for food. If I want to continue to lose and keep it off, I need to put food in the proper perspective: Food is intended to sustain life. That doesn't mean it can't be tasty, but eating should not be my hobby. Food is not my friend, my comforter, or my reward.
Fasting is more than a means of developing self control. It is about finding aspects of ourselves that are not Christ-like and rooting them out. It is an aid to prayer – as we feel the pangs of physical hunger, it reminds us of our hunger for God; that He is “the bread of life”. By feeling hunger, we are reminded of Christ’s suffering. The pangs should be a call to prayer to overcome my attitude toward food.
Fasting is not a quick weight-loss tool or a way to build up willpower. Isaiah 58 tells us that fasting without changing our behavior and attitude is not pleasing to God. Through God’s strength, I will practice the Lenten fast as defined by the Catholic church (one “sparse and simple meal” – no meat - supplemented by two snacks as long as, together, they do not equal a full meal) on one day per week during Lent, as well as on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Alms-giving - Fasting or abstaining from certain foods is also intended to give us compassion for those who are hungry, not by choice, but because they cannot afford food. That compassion should go beyond tossing a few dollars in a collection plate or making a donation to the food pantry. I’m unsure how God will lead me in this area, but I will be collecting the money I would normally spend on eating out, buying prepackaged snacks, and buying groceries for the meals I am fasting. In His strength, I will be prepared to use it however He leads.