I’ve probably carried this attitude towards food for a while, but I didn’t realize it until I had kids. For years, I have viewed food as a reward for accomplishing a goal and, on the other foot, as a source of guilt when I consumed to much food and gained weight.
With kids, this attitude became obvious because good parenting is all about bribing your children into good behavior. “If you finish all your vegetables, you can have dessert!” “Once your room is cleaned, we will go get some ice cream.” “You did such a good job staying dry at nap time. Let’s go to McDonald’s and get you a treat!”
The problem with this is that it gives our kids an improper perspective on food. It turns it into a prize we can win rather than a fuel we need to be healthy, and it places higher value on the food that tastes good over the food that actually is good for us.
Food has two purposes:
1. To fuel our bodies so we can be as healthy and strong as we possibly can be.
2. To be enjoyed.
Let’s take that first one for a moment. Food has a functional purpose to give us energy to accomplish the tasks we are given each day. Some of us have more physically demanding tasks than others, and each person needs to determine the amount of food she needs to consume in order to meet her bodies’ needs, also known as your caloric intake. Finding this balance is critical and, for most Americans, will probably include additional exercise to burn the calories consumed each day.
However, it’s also important to learn what foods will have the greatest impact on creating health in your life. Eating chocolate all day might help you reach your caloric intake, but it won’t give you enough protein to protect your muscle mass or fiber to help your digestive tract. Take the time to find out what is in the foods you are consuming, and how much you should eat in order to be as healthy as possible.
And now, the second one. Food, like everything else God made, is to be enjoyed, without guilt or shame. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17,
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
Using food outside of these two purposes, or in disproportion to these purposes, is what causes people to have eating disorders, to experience guilt and shame, and to become unhealthy.
The great news is that the change starts today, right now. Stop viewing food as a reward or as the source of guilt and shame, and start viewing it as fuel for your body’s health and as something to be enjoyed. Commit to learning about food, what it’s made of and how much your body needs. And if you need help through this process, contact me and I’ll be glad to help.