Food Walls

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 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." - Gal. 5:1

I've picked up and put down my phone at least fifty times in an attempt to write this. I guess that means I should just go ahead and dive in.

It shouldn't be news to you that I've been fighting an eating disorder for 11+ years (and if it is, surprise!).  With a long history of food struggles, I'm hyper aware of how I and others talk about eating. And you guys it's a bit depressing. We ladies are obsessed--no, seriously obsessed --with the topic of food. We agonize over it; pine over it; whine about it; meme it; Instagram it; cautiously count and weigh it; read about it; and talk, talk, talk, talk, talk (you get the idea) about it...

I'm staring to believe that disordered eating is by far the norm and healthy attitudes toward food the abnormality. 

A few weeks ago I was at a party eating fancy little finger foods with a table of six ladies, ranging from early twenties to fifties. Everyone was commenting on eachother's plates, "Oh my gosh, you're being so good! Look how healthy you are! All of those veggies!  I know I'm being really bad but I can't say no to cupcakes." Another woman chimed in with, "I gave up sugar for Lent. It's so hard but it's a really good spiritual reminder and I can lose weight too, which is always a plus." And then another lady said, "Sometimes I wish I had a health reason to avoid sugar because I just cannot say no."

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O.k., a few things here... When did we start moralizing food as good and bad? It's either food or it's not food.  Eating celery does not make me a good person just as eating a donut does not make me a bad person. It's food. It's for the body. Our body isn't made for food, as if we must serve it, cater to its finicky desires, stay wide-eyed in bed worried about what those extra calories are doing to our thighs. How did such terms as "good" or "bad" become normal identifiers for our meals? Why should we express shame or even justify eating a piece of birthday cake to a friend who is abstaining? It's cake, not cocaine.  "I know I'm being bad, but I have to have just one line of cocaine. I'll work it off with an extra long run this afternoon..."  Yeah, that thankfully would not be overlooked as normal conversation. But I can't even count the number of times I've heard women justify (justify!!) enjoying a slice of cake. 

Similarly, it can't be healthy to prefer a serious medical condition over self-control. And that's the crux: food has become our enemy. We would even distort or pervert Lent for another excuse to manipulate our plate and weight. Is that really a spiritual discipline? Is it really about getting more of God or just literally less of us, leaner and lighter? Jesus, the bread of life, wouldn't even be found in much of America's pantries with our gluten-free-without-having-a-gluten-allergy trends.

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It breaks my heart how we tweak every menu, bending, shaving, and re-shaping dishes until they are completely unrecognizable from their original form. I'm the first to admit that I've done all of these tricks too many times to count, so please don't hear condemnation here. Yet I'm so saddened that so many women are plagued with distorted ideas about food but would never even consider that they might have an eating disorder. Because "disorder" is just normal now. Everyone is disordered. Everyone is on a diet (unstable) but doesn't have a diet (constant). Everyone is trying to tone up, lose weight, fit into those jeans / dress / swim suit. It's honestly a hot zone of food insanity these days.

I don't want to sound like being conscious of what you put into your body is a bad thing. I'm not advocating ditching nutrition for care-free binge sprees. And OBVIOUSLY some people have real, valid, and scary health conditions that require micro-managing everything they eat. If that's you, don't stop! You're doing great and I'm 100% supportive of your special food needs! For all of the rest of us jokers, though, jumping from one fad diet after another, this food talk is poisonous. 

Sure, we need to be aware of what we eat and seek real food over non-nutritious, chemically infused, mass-produced "food." We can't, though, take these attempts to the extreme, becoming enslaved to impossible diets and food-judging everyone  around us. We can't use every social opportunity to give each other "helpful advice" on the "best way to eat." We shouldn't build walls with food, excluding community with others because they aren't Paleo or Vegitarian or Gluten Free or organic or Whole 30. 

Eat the cake and enjoy it. Stop talking about it and just dive into the moment and thank God for every bite. 

 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me but I will not be enslaved by anything.” 1 Cor. 6:12 (ESV)

Jenny Smith

3705 Oceanview Drive, Denton, TX, 76208