My husband was sitting in his chair in the family room, headphones plugged into his tablet, watching a movie. I was snuggled up on the couch adjacent to him reading my new favorite magazine, Darling: the art of being a woman. He texted me and asked if I wanted to go to Dairy Queen. He didn’t want our nine-year-old to know what we were talking about, hence the texting while sitting in the same room. Do I want to go to Dairy Queen? Um, yeah!!! Dairy Queen is kind of awesome. For most of my life, however, ice cream had been placed in the “bad” food category, and a question like that would have caused a real internal battle to begin.
Much of my healing process has involved restoring my relationship with food. As I began looking at my body differently, I started looking at food differently as well. One of the first things I decided to do was very counter-intuitive to professional dieters, and it was downright scary for me. I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it! This really helped me to break free from restrictive diet behavior, (which I will talk about in a later blog post) but it also helped me to stop labeling food as good or bad. I had to figure out on my own what the Bible meant in 1 Corinthians 10:23, where it says that all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. Go ahead and eat three pieces of ice cream cake and you will understand why it is not beneficial.
During this time, I repeatedly told myself that just as certain parts of my body are not “bad,” my food choices are not “bad” either. I am a grownup and I can choose what I want to eat, and no one, not even myself, can shame me for it.
Why did this work? When I stopped labeling chocolate as “bad,” and ate it whenever I wanted, it lost its power and allure. Chocolate is no longer a big deal. I eat a small piece here and there, and move on with my life. It isn’t forbidden, and therefore, it is just chocolate. I also know how eating large quantities of chocolate makes my body feel and I don’t care for that feeling.
I think this process is useful because it forces you to become in tune with how food makes your body feel. So, instead of thinking about how food will affect your waistline, you are thinking about how food fuels and nourishes your body. I feel great when I eat a hearty bowl of lentil soup. I don’t feel so hot when I eat a donut. I feel good drinking a latte, as long as I eat some protein along with it. I don’t feel as good drinking the same latte on an empty stomach or with a bag of carbs. I had to start listening to my body to figure that out.
The key, however, is to not allow living more intuitively to become another form of dieting and labeling in your life. 1 Timothy 4:4–5 says, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” So often in the Bible, food is talked about as something to enjoy and be thankful for. It was never meant to be something we were afraid of and battled over in our hearts and minds. I almost wonder if saying grace before a meal is one way God provided to help us be more intuitive and focused on Him in regard to our eating. If you can’t eat what is in front of you with thanksgiving in your heart, do you really want to eat it? Could you better enjoy your food if you slowed down to say “thank you” for it with a thankfulness that is inspired by God’s spirit? I can’t help but think of what I eat differently when I look at my plate with a heart full of thankfulness instead of fear.
After you give yourself that grace period of eating without restrictions, putting those“forbidden” foods back on the table, and deciding how you want food to make your body feel, then you can start filtering your food choices through the lenses of thankfullness. Food is nourishment for your body and soul, not the enemy of your bathroom scale.
God could have just given us the calories we need to exist from a few basic boring choices; think of the Israelites in the wildness eating manna. Thankfully, He didn’t go that route. We have so many awesome food choices in so many colors and varieties. Enjoy it! Savor it! Be thankful for it!
I have decided that if I cannot eat what is in front of me with a thankful heart, I don’t really want to eat it. Nowadays, because ice cream is not forbidden and I am more aware of how it makes my body feel, I don’t really want it all that much. But there are still days when I do want it, like that night on the couch. I had filled my body up that day with all kinds of goodness and I knew I could get my Dairy Queen on with a thankful heart. So I did! I enjoyed my family, my freedom, and my ice cream cone. I didn’t shame myself for eating it and it didn’t cause me to go digging in my freezer for more.
Living without labels, listening to my body, and having a thankful heart has helped me to rebuild my broken relationship with food. I’m praying it can help to restore yours as well.
P.S. Ladies, I know this road can be so hard. It took me years and years to get here, and I still struggle. So don’t lose hope. Keep praying and keep fighting. It is so worth it!