Perhaps, if you are a modern millennial-era human, you have been on the social media and seen a post or two about a certain health diet and how it is literally the healthiest way to eat.
Vegan, paleo, keto, all-fermented, Whole 30, etc., etc., etc.
If you are at all concerned about your health, you’ve probably watched videos or even researched these diets for yourself and thought “ohmygosh I need to be doing this diet.”
You plan out all the amazing healthy superfoods you’re going to eat, you buy sauerkraut and alternative milk or maybe some tofu and almond butter and just having them in your grocery bag on the way home makes you feel healthier and more vibrant.
But sooner or later, the crushing weight of your whole life, small children, husbands to feed, grocery money to budget, and the fact that gluten is delicious come crashing in on you and you either can’t stick with the diet or you never even start it in the first place, instead spending time daydreaming about the glorious, all-healing, superfood-packed, divinely revealed health diet you will go on.
One of these days…
OK, maybe this isn’t you, but this was definitely me, and for many years. The problem was, though, that while I had a good grasp of what constituted “healthy” foods and was aware of many different types of health diets, I was confused and overwhelmed as to how to apply these to my life.
I constantly see a lot of these misperceptions about health and diet out there and, as Biblical Christians, I think it’s important to take a step back, a deep breath, and think about diet and nutrition with a little more Grace and plain practicality.
Here’s what was wrong with how I was thinking, and what I have learned over the past year:
We Live in a Fallen World
Bam, bingo, jackpot, this is it–the reason for so many of life’s problems. Ok, actually, literally all of life’s problems, if you have a Biblical worldview.
We gain weight, get bad skin, get eczema, asthma, hormone imbalances, cancer, or any sickness, not to mention die because we live in a fallen world affected by sin.
Our bodies, like the food we eat, are beautiful, amazing creations, hand-designed and formed by the Creator God, Lord of the Universe. But all creation is fallen.
This means our bodies and our food sources are imperfect, which leads me to the most important bottom line we all need to face when it comes to health and diet: there is no perfect diet.
I could end this blog post right here, of course, but next comes the best part:
There Are Many Different Ways to “Eat Right”
See, the quest for the perfect diet is just like the quest for the perfect life in general. It all boils down to the beautiful dichotomy of Christian life: we will always be imperfect in these mortal bodies, and yet we are constantly and consistently perfected in Christ.
In the same way, while we live in a fallen creation, it is a beautiful creation and the fingerprints of God’s perfect design is still everywhere.
There are so many wonderful foods out there that are so nourishing and healing for our bodies, and we as humans made in God’s image are capable of discovering details about and utilizing the wonders of creation to heal and improve (to a point) our bodies.
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about which diet is “best” but the truth is, which diet is right for you is a lot like a post-Cross Christian walk as well:
We Are All Unique
We are all individuals, and just as our walk with the Lord will look different from someone else’s, our own personal relationship with food and the types of foods that are healing and beneficial for our bodies is going to change person to person.
This can be very technical: you might not be able to tolerate a type of food that is incredibly beneficial to someone else’s health, or any overall type of eating, macro balance, or way of dividing up portion sizes might be either really beneficial for you or not.
However, the formation good habits and developing the self-control necessary to change something as important as the way we eat every day is very psychological and spiritual, so you need to take more into account than simply “eating healthy foods.” There’s a very simple physical reason for this as well:
Physics Still Applies
At the end of the day, when it comes to weight loss at least, we tend to view “healthy foods” as foods that “help you lose weight”, but in reality, and technically, according to tried and tested scientific research, losing and gaining weight comes down to calories. God created a world with certain rules to how physical matter behaves, and this can be applied to weight loss.
There is no one food that “makes” you gain or lose weight any faster or slower than any other food, there are only foods that have either more or less calories, and the amount of overall calories you have in your body dictates how much mass you will put on or lose.
That said, again, there are many ways to eat less calories if you want to lose weight, some much, much, much better than others, but what works for you will still not necessarily be what works for someone else and–this is a big one–won’t necessarily be what someone else deems “healthy”.
There can be a bit of witch-hunt mentality when it comes to certain foods like gluten, grains, dairy, meat, even sugar, but if you’re trying to find a sustainable and healthy way to eat and can’t seem to shake a certain habit, you might do much better overall by allowing yourself to keep eating that type of food. Or not. Perhaps cutting all problem foods out together will be what works best for you! Clearly, I can’t stress enough how different each individual will be.
Which leads me to my next point:
Don’t Be a Health Pharisee
Let’s face it: one of the reasons we get sucked into the appeal of different health diets is that the people sharing them believe they are the only good diet. This is by no means a rule and I know plenty of people who eat in a certain style who totally understand that it’s what’s worked for them and that other people might find something else to be effective.
When something works for you, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking it’s the only thing that will work for everyone, or, on the flipside, if we’re too legalistic with ourselves about the way we eat, we can throw our hands up and forsake all healthy eating because it seems way too hard.
This definitely happened to me far too often before I found my health diet groove.
The Pharisee mentality is thinking that there is a point of perfection when it comes to our works, and that includes the way we eat.
Again, there are many, many ways to be healthy, but no one perfect way to eat. In the same way a Christian woman feels called to be modest and won’t wear miniskirts or bikinis, but an adherent to works-based Islam might cover herself in a burka and rarely leave her house, you can cut bad foods out of your life for good reasons or you might start making your own law about different kinds of foods.
As with anything, let the Holy Spirit guide you and cast aside expectations of perfection, striving for Christian sanctification instead. You definitely can’t do it by your own power, so turn to Him instead so that when you make changes, you know it’s for your own good rather than you trying to be good, if that makes sense.
I’ll write more on this soon, but the way of eating that ended up being successful for me was flexible dieting, which doesn’t restrict any one food but only tracks calories and macros. Again I’ll expand more on why this worked for me spiritually, psychologically, and physiologically, but what strikes me the most about this manner of eating is how much it mirrors my walk.
I needed to learn that I will never be perfect, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I can constantly be perfected in Christ, and develop the right balance of self-discipline and grace to achieve my fitness and health goals.
My diet is very far from perfect, just like me. But I can now confidently say it is healthy. It might not be how you eat and a lot of health snobs would turn their nose up on the snack I had while writing this, but I feel fully confident knowing I’m fully covered in His love and grace, doing the best I can in the time on this earth to display fruits of His spirit and make the most of this mortal body.