By Kathryn Graves, Crosswalk.com
It seems like every time I go through the grocery store check-out where magazines displayed, see an ad on Facebook, or talk to friends, the word “diet” comes up. These days we, women in particular, are obsessed with dieting. We’re diet-crazed. And it’s driving a lot of us crazy!
How can we jump off of this merry-go-round? Where is God in our struggles? What can we do to honor Him with our food choices? What does He have to say about this subject—and does He even care?
The easy answer is, yes, He cares, and He’s right beside you and living in you to help. Remembering God’s attributes and choosing an eating lifestyle to honor them seems wise. Enter Intuitive Eating.
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What Is Intuitive Eating?
This way of eating promotes mindfulness in our choices and even in the way we think about food. It helps people think through their issues with food and addresses our hurried, scattered lifestyles with slow, contemplative deliberation.
Becoming thoughtful about our lives and eating patterns is the first step toward changing them. However, because I am the Mimi to three toddlers and an infant, along with an eleven-year-old, I know mindfulness over food is the last thing young moms can easily embrace. My daughters-in-law are lucky if they get a few bites of dinner—and they have to grab it around fussy children and dirty diapers.
Moms of pre-teens and younger teens might spend most of their dinner hours in the car chauffeuring kids to practices and events of all sorts—especially now that our lives are opening back up at the end of the pandemic. Add in-home supervision for those who are still not back to in-person school, and a mom’s life can seem to belong to everybody else but her.
However, mothers do still plan meals and snacks, and Intuitive Eating can help us make the best decisions about those—even if we do have to eat them in the car or after the kids go to bed. It can also help us remember to hit the brakes on the craziness and think about what God intends when we consume food.
I believe the main principles at the core of Intuitive Eating point to attributes of God, whether that was the intent or not. Let’s go through them to see what they might help us learn about God and our relationship with Him.
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1. Reject Diet Mentality and Accept the Victory Jesus Christ Won—and the Grace He Offers
I came face-to-face with the importance of changing what I eat during chemotherapy treatment ten years ago. The underlying cause of my cancer type was not well-understood—then or now—and I felt the need to control whatever variables I could. This conviction led me to diet, but I knew it couldn’t be the usual stop-and-start way diets work.
The Intuitive Eating website posits that all diets ultimately lead to feelings of failure—because they all fail us at some point. I have to say I agree. When we “slip up” and don’t meet the expectations of whichever diet we’re on, our emotions plummet. This could lead someone like me to think, If I fail, my life might be at stake. I’m grateful God does not intend for His children to live in a state of defeat or fear. Jesus is the Victor, the Overcomer. He came to give us victory over sin and death—and not to add a set of rules to entangle us.
Deuteronomy 20:4 tells us, “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” I would suggest that our list of enemies may include diets. When a diet becomes more than a tool and turns into an accuser, it is an enemy. Jesus didn’t come to make us feel guilty all the time. Rejecting this enemy in the name and by the power of Jesus Christ reflects and honors His victory.
Along with victory, Jesus gives us grace. When I ditch the diet mentality and its accompanying “food police,” I’m saying that I grant myself grace to eat what I enjoy.
2. Honoring Your Hunger and Noticing Fullness Point to God’s Design and Provision
Self-denial is fine for a season, such as a fast for devotional purposes. But trying to ignore real hunger pangs with the mis-guided idea that it somehow makes you “good” is actually a denial of God. Pagan priests practice self-flagellation and extreme rejection of bodily desires. God created us with the biological function of hunger to help us stay fed.
Eating reminds us of the wonder of God’s creation. The complex biology of digestion and the way the body takes in nutrients from food is an amazing demonstration of His intellect and creative genius. When we eat good food and enjoy it, we are honoring God’s design.
Intuitive Eating encourages taking time to ask yourself how the food tastes, and periodically gauging your hunger level. This helps you stay tuned in to your fullness. When you reach satiety, then stop and marvel that God not only gave us a hunger mechanism to tell us to eat, but a fullness indicator to help us stop. It requires attention. But it reminds us that God’s provision is enough.
By choosing not to overeat (honoring hunger and fullness) I am deciding not to worry about having enough to eat—and this decision reflects His promise of providing for my needs.
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3. Make Peace with Food and Remember God’s Generosity and Freedom
Subscribers of Intuitive Eating are encouraged to take every food item off the “forbidden” list (except for health reasons). Doing so will honor God’s generous provision of nutritious plants and animals for our consumption.
In Acts 10:9-16, Peter experienced a vision that made him realize if God called a food “clean,” then he should feel free to eat it. This was God’s way of preparing Peter to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, but he used food for the illustration because it was such an important part of Jewish tradition. It was this very tradition that Jesus came to fulfill, and thus end the need for observing.
All foods are permitted. Granted, some are more nutritious for our bodies, but none are forbidden. The Apostle Paul taught his readers that they couldn’t win God’s approval by what they ate or didn’t eat, even if they had been taught otherwise (1 Corinthians 8:8).
Controlling our thoughts about food helps us control our eating patterns. Refusing negative thoughts is not only good for other areas of our lives, but also what we eat. Remembering that what God has called good really is good helps bring back perspective. Refusing to live by an imposed set of rules about food—even if they come from deep in our subconscious mind—means we are choosing the freedom God intends.
4. Discover the Satisfaction Factor in Food and in God
When was the last time you felt truly satisfied—about anything? Our culture puts us on guard against allowing this feeling, but it is one of God’s great attributes. When He created each item in the beginning, He said it was good (Genesis 1:1-31). He was satisfied. When He created you and me, He was satisfied with us (Psalm 139:13-17).
When we refuse to be satisfied, we are in effect saying we don’t believe this attribute of God is for us. But we were made in His image (Genesis 1:27). I think this image refers to our intellect and emotions—not to our earthly, physical bodies. We reflect God. We aren’t equal to Him, but His nature shows up in us. We need to feel satisfied and at peace.
Jesus said He came to give us peace in John 14:27. When we are never at ease about something, it is an indication that we aren’t letting God into it.
When choosing to eat foods that satisfy, and by learning to recognize that moment of satisfaction, it reminds me of God’s joy and satisfaction over me.
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5. Treating Your Emotions and Your Body with Kindness Reflects God’s Essential Nature
One of the spiritual fruits Paul listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is kindness. Jesus exemplified this trait in every way, and gives it to us through His Spirit. Intuitive Eating offers the opportunity to view ourselves through a new lens of kindness. This points directly to the fruit of the Spirit.
Diets can create emotional issues all by themselves. But usually there is something else going on, too, that creates an unhealthy relationship with food. Deep-seated emotions won’t be fixed by food, even if food seems to help us cope in the short term. If emotional eating seems to be your issue, I encourage you to seek professional help for the underlying issue(s). But above all, be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up over it is not helpful at all.
We were not all created exactly alike, and one size definitely does not fit us all. We are created in a variety of shapes. We need to respect this aspect of God’s design, because it points back to his satisfaction with how He made us. Intuitive Eating also encourages some type of physical movement. The point is to focus on how your body feels when you move it around. This is a kinder, gentler type of exercise than intense work-outs focused on calorie-burning.
6. Honor Your Health and God’s Design with Gentle Nutrition
Here’s where the whole thing can go off the rails. There is so much confusion about what constitutes good nutrition. The Intuitive Eating plan doesn’t offer guidance because of its focus on refusing to make any food off-limits.
The keywords here really are honor and gentle. Choosing to honor our health instead of condemning food changes everything. When we ask ourselves if a food we desire will honor our body and God’s design, it opens our eyes to His plan and place in our lives. This new awareness is a source of communication with God, too. It draws us into His presence and helps us consider Him in all the nooks and crannies of our lives.
Besides honoring, the goal of gentle nutrition over dogmatic rules exemplifies more of God’s grace. One thing we know about Jesus Christ is that He came to set us free from ritual and rules. Psalm 23, along with other Scriptures, reassures us that He is our Shepherd. I can’t imagine a good shepherd berating his sheep or penning them into a corral so tight that it mentally harms his animals.
Jesus is the perfect example of a gentle shepherd, and Intuitive Eating reminds us to be like Him in this regard.
The more I contemplate the principles of Intuitive Eating, the more I realize how beautifully they illustrate God’s character. And I am refreshed by ditching negative thoughts and attitudes about my body, my health, and the role of food.
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