The food you eat isn’t the most important thing.
Before you totally disregard this article-and quickly move over to Instagram to swipe through beautifully styled photos of acai bowls, vegan protein shakes and juicy hamburgers, piled high with strips of gleaming bacon and melty cheese- hang with me for a second.
The food we eat isn’t the most important thing. In a culture where perfect food photos, diets, organic versus inorganic, “clean” versus “dirty” and meal planning versus throwing french fries at your kids in the back seat of the minivan are so hotly debated that you might as well have lit a fire and thrown it onto your next dinner table– food has quickly become a defining factor in our value as human beings. In fact, wearing your “diet” on your sleeve (whether vegan, Paleo, gluten-free or otherwise) has become a way we now introduce ourselves. “Hi, I’m Suzy,” we say, “And if I even see a non-paleo donut I am going to have a come apart.”
It’s a Biblical principle that we are, and we become, what we think about. Like Stasi Eldredge says in her book Becoming Myself, “We move toward what we focus on.” In Matthew 15:11, Jesus says that “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” He goes on to say that “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.” (verse 18)
In this passage, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, who are so stuck on religious tradition and performance that they can’t see what is truly going on in their hearts. He’s stressing the importance of not confusing our worth with our ability to follow rules- especially dietary ones- to replace authentic, heartfelt love for God.
Perfect love casts out fear, and it is so important that we remain in a place of love, and a place of peace, when we think about food. Dr. Caroline Leaf is renowned not only for her work in studying the mind-body connection, but also in her research on the brain’s connection to the food we eat. She argues that 80% of what we eat is what we think. Eighty percent! In fact, negative thinking about food has the ability to throw our entire digestive system into an unhealthy flux. We can have the “cleanest” or “healthiest” diet in the universe, but if we are stressing about or idolizing what is on our plate, it’s not helping our bodies.
In fact, I believe that it matters more to our health that we are in a place of peace and love around food than what we are actually eating. I think it’s what we believe about the food we are eating that matters the most. Rules aren’t the point of food- enjoyment and life IS! God came that we would have life and have it to the full- and He designed food to be relational and good for us in every way. Part of His design is that we enjoy the food He created; it’s designed to add value and years to our lives!
Remaining in a place of love and gratitude for what we are eating- and realizing that the food isn’t the most important thing in our day-is key.
So, how can we remain in this place of freedom and LOVE around food? How can we break the chains of defining ourselves by what we eat, the calories we consume or idolizing our food rules over relationship?
Here are some of the thoughts and processes that have been life-changing for me!
1. You need to eat- probably more than you are!
Dr. Leaf advocates developing a “real food mindset.” God created so many amazing, colorful, exciting foods for us to explore. I went through a season of my life where I thought a protein bar, or candy and nacho cheese chips, was a meal. I was tired, run down, and struggling with anxiety. Once I changed my thoughts towards food that was actually real food as the basis of my meals, I felt tons better.
2. Focus on peace before you eat.
Honestly, take a second. Are you stressed? Hurried? Distracted? Are you truly in a place of love? Take a moment and calm your breathing. Calm your heart; focus on breathing in the Holy Spirit, and breathing out worry and fear. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude for what God has given you to eat! Another one of my favorite food writers, Dr. Jordan Rubin, teaches about how our gut acts as a second brain. If you look at food and are full of joy, gratitude and peace- this blesses your digestive track!
3. Eat seasonally.
I mean this in two ways! It’s awesome to eat fresh food, but it’s also awesome to think about the timing of how we are eating. The Bible is clear about the fact that there is a time for feasting and a time for fasting. Ask Holy Spirit- what does my body need today? How can I honor this temple you have given me? Some days it may be celebrating and eating birthday cake and ice cream! Other days it may look like more vegetables. God wants to bring you to better health than you can imagine!
4. Invite people to your table!
Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread and the Wine. He chose to meet people at a table, and I believe eating with others is one of the best ways to enjoy food. And on that note, cooking for others is the ultimate expression of love. Ask God about the people you are cooking for or eating with, about what they will enjoy, and how you can create a meal that will encourage and bless them. It’s so healing to enjoy a meal with the people you care about!
5. Remove the stress of cooking.
I am a HUGE fan of easy, minimal recipes that don’t require a ton of time to make. Try Googling or looking on Pinterest for recipes with “five ingredients or less” or “recipes that don’t require an oven.” God has created endless flavor combinations and dishes for us to explore- ask Him about it! Regularly when I am cooking I ask the Holy Spirit about what could make the food taste better, or better suit the person I am making it for.
Here’s a super simple recipe to get your started! Make this Strawberry Frozen Yogurt for a quick, refreshing, healthy treat.
6. Speak out loud the promises of God!
I am a HUGE fan of speaking God’s Word out loud. If there is the power of life and death in the tongue, speak out the promises of God over your food and thoughts about eating! In fact, if you see me driving down the interstate shouting, this is more than likely what I am doing. One of my favorites is “Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not His benefits! He…redeems your life from the pit, crowns you with love and compassion… satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103 (paraphrase)
Y’all-God is so good. He is our awe-inspiring Creator, the Ultimate Chef and Source of freedom and love. We can rest knowing that He has good plans for us, He loves to talk about food, and He desires for you to have better meals- and a better life- than you can imagine.