This past week has been one of great reflection and assessment. An amazing man in our community, just 31 years old, passed away. A verse he often pointed to in life was John 10:10, where Jesus said, "I came so that you may have life and life to the full." Hearing about and witnessing my friend's life, his fight to step into the abundance Christ offers, reminded me why I fight for health and wholeness. Because honestly, I’m tempted every day to quit. I’m overwhelmed. And I often feel alone, or a little crazy, for caring so much about food.
But here it is. Why I believe what we eat is a Kingdom matter.
C.S. Lewis said, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We have been given freedom. ABUNDANT JOY. Yet, we settle for much less. And often times we settle for a life of sickness.
I talk to people a lot about food and health. And I hear all the time, “I don’t want to give up my sweets (or something else), I want to enjoy my life.” I get it. I genuinely believe food is meant to enjoy. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that we are so far removed from the life and freedom God intends for us. Are we trading our freedom to feed our addiction? And, is what we eat even food?
It sounds dramatic, I know. But listen - we are a sick, worn out, bloated, constipated, sleepless, overweight nation. We are paying a devastating price for our misunderstanding of health and food, and what it means to enjoy food. How are we supposed to be effective when we are tired all the time? Struggling with headaches, anxiety, irritability? When we hinge our happiness, our joy, on our sweet tooth? When we physically suffer through each day? Just because sickness is common, does not mean it’s normal. In fact, the major illnesses we suffer from in the U.S. are directly linked to our diet. Not just any diet – No. I can assure you real food does not cause diabetes, obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. These thieves of life and vitality are largely linked to the Western diet and overall lifestyle.
Michael Pollen, author of In Defense of Food, writes, “…the chronic diseases that now kill most of us can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food: the rise of highly processed foods and refined grains; the use of chemicals to raise plants and animals in huge monocultures; the super-abundance of cheap calories of sugar and fat produced by modern agriculture; and the narrowing of the biological diversity of the human diet to a tiny handful of staple crops, notably wheat, corn, and soy. These changes have given us the Western diet that we take for granted: lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of everything – except vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.”
Moreover, other cultures around the world are adopting the Western diet in place of their traditional way of eating. And it’s no coincidence that the development of Western diseases (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer) have followed. One article (2015)
brings the issue to light in China: “11.6 percent of Chinese adults have diabetes, a proportion higher than the U.S. with 11.3 percent. Experts blame the increase in sedentary lifestyles, high consumption of sugary and high-calorie Western diets, excessive smoking and lack of exercise.”
And don’t be fooled. There really isn’t just one right way to eat for maximum health. Michael Pollen points out that the traditional diets being replaced by Western food are extremely diverse. “Various populations thrived on diets that were what we’d call high fat, low fat, or high carb; all meat or all plant; indeed, there have been traditional diets based on just about any kind of WHOLE FOOD you can imagine. What this suggests is that the human animal is well adapted to a great many different diets. The Western diet, however, is not one of them.” Wow. The number one factor linked to diet-related illness is whether or not you're eating real food, or processed and refined food-like substances. There are so many options out there. We were formed from the earth, and we need to eat of the earth. We often settle for satisfying our tastebuds and cravings, and as a result, limit our ability to experience life to the full.
Now, here’s where my passion comes in. Undoing the damage done and facilitating healing. And, given that sugar is 8x more addictive than cocaine, it’s going to be a long journey of ups and downs for most of us. But here’s where it starts: getting back in the garden, back to the farmer’s market, and back to the kitchen. Re-instilling in our children a culture of food and what enjoying food really looks like. Understanding better what God intends for His creation. Not just to survive, and suffer through sickness, but to thrive and step into the freedom and abundant joy He offers. Not to be easily satisfied, but to seek truth and wholeness.