My thoughts on the Bible and food/weight obsession

So...I've never really written an article like this. In past blogposts I've alluded to the fact that I'm a Christian. I've mentioned church, a Bible study, or something about God, but I've never really fully discussed my relationship with Christ. I want to be transparent about what I believe, while cognizant of the fact that not everyone that reads my blog believes the way I do. Talking about Biblical principles or concepts just isn't going to resonate with someone who doesn't believe. However, I know that several of you readers DO believe the same things I do, which is why I thought I would write this article. If this blogpost isn't for you, that's okay, but I'm hoping that it will resonate with some of you and that you will find it very encouraging. 

I work in a Christian counseling center as an outpatient dietitian. Some of my clients come specifically because it is a Christian environment, while others are a little wary of it. With those clients who are Christians, we often talk about our food/body struggles through the lens of Scripture. This is not a comprehensive list, but a few of my thoughts regarding a Biblical view of food and our weight. 

 
My thoughts on the Bible and your food/weight obsession
 

God created food for our good and His glory. It's something that should be enjoyed. I tell my clients all the time that if God didn't want us to enjoy the taste of food, He wouldn't have given us tastebuds. Food is not just simply fuel. Food is a common grace that I can enjoy, recognizing God's provision, and praise Him for. I actually believe that choosing to eat foods that are scary during eating disorder recovery can be an act of worship because it's choosing freedom and health over the comforts of your destructive disorder. I think we should start enjoying this good gift that He has given us!!

How we eat has nothing to do with our morality, worth, value, or right-standing with God. In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks a lot about food offered to idols and how we have the freedom to eat it. In chapter 8 he says, "But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do." In other words, no food is inherently good or bad, it's amoral and won't do anything to bring me closer or further away from God. Now, I will say that when we become obsessed with food, that the obsession and idolatry of food (or level of health) takes us away from God, but the food itself is not the issue.  Eating broccoli doesn't make me more holy, nor does eating brownies make me less holy (my righteousness comes from Christ alone--and He doesn't change). Sadly, a lot of people in the church have used food as a moral stick for how well we're doing spiritually or have even used it as an area of pride (more on that below!). 

God doesn't care how much you weigh or what you look like. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the "your body is a temple of the Lord, so you better take care of it" argument as a reason for why Christians shouldn't be fat or eat x,y,z. I agree that we are called to be good stewards of our bodies. But does taking care of our bodies mean that we'll be thin? Research is pointing to the fact that we actually don't have much control over our body size and that our weight doesn't have to be an indicator of health. Being fat doesn't make you unhealthy and it certainly doesn't make you a poor steward of the body God has given you. 

As far as what we look like, we're told that God doesn't look at the outward appearance like we do, instead He looks at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). He is pleased when someone loves Him, serves Him, and loves His people--not when someone achieves thinness. 

 
My thoughts on the Bible and your food/weight obsession
 

Not all overeating a sin. This is a tricky one that I still am trying to figure out. I think this topic could have entire blog posts to fully discuss this issue. I know that the Bible does talk about gluttony, but it's used in the context of all areas of life, not just food. I'm not going to go too in-depth on this topic since I'm not an expert, but I do want to speak on a few things. I don't believe the act of overeating is a sin. There are times that you aren't paying attention to the food you're eating or that you go to the table overly hungry and then leave overly full. It's a simple mistake and not an issue of the heart. Furthermore, there are numerous times in the Old Testament that God calls His people to feast for multiple days. Let's not be silly and say that "feasting" meant eating only fruits and vegetables in amounts that just met physical needs. These were lavish celebrations with lots of good food and I'm sure that the Israelites consumed more energy than their bodies could use at that time. God never calls His people to do something that is a sin, so I have confidence that the simple act of overeating is not a sin (and again, can be something that brings Him glory). 

I used to struggle a LOT with guilt and shame around my eating behaviors because I felt like "a glutton"--like I loved food more than I did God. Food WAS an idol in my life. Food DID consume my every thought. I DID overeat regularly in social situations or at night. But I did this not because food is bad or because I loved food more than God. I did these things because my body was hungry. I thought about food all the time because my body was malnourished and needed more fuel. I overate at parties because my body was gasping for food and I could only restrict for so long. Food (and the perfect bod I was trying to achieve) was an idol because I wasn't willing to give up "control" of my food intake and body size. When I introduced all foods back into my diet and stopped trying to control my weight, the food obsession and compulsion to overeat in social situations went away. The issue was not food or the consumption of it, the issue was my view of food and my body and the way that I tried to control it. 

Dieting can be another form of slavery and can be a way of returning back to the Law. I truly believe dieting/restriction is one of the biggest forms of slavery within the church. Being healthy is very much praised and seen as a godly attribute. I'm not saying that pursuing health is a bad thing--it's something that I want for everyone! It's just that my definition of health and society's definition of health are two different things. The desire to honor God through our food and exercise choices often becomes an obsession and something that controls our every thought, emotion, and action (a good thing gone wrong). We like concrete rules--some sort of rubric to be able to compare to so that we can know if we are "doing it right" or measuring up to the standard. I mean, that's why people always ask for a list of foods to eat and foods to avoid, or some sort of meal plan. We want to be able to know that we are following the rules. If we are following them, we are doing good (and are good), and if we aren't following them, then we are doing bad (and are bad). We want to be able to earn our worth and identity. And yet we simply canNOT earn our worth or identity in how we are eating or moving our bodies. 

 
My thoughts on the Bible and your food/weight obsession
 

In the New Testament, the Pharisees created all sorts of laws to keep the flesh in-check and to be able to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in their ability to follow the law. And yet, over and over again, Jesus and His disciples tell us that we are no longer under the Law. We cannot earn our salvation through following a bunch of rules. Our right-standing with God cannot be accomplished through sticking to the Law. When I read this from Colossians 2:20-23 I immediately thought about diets:

" why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh."

Making foods such as sweets off-limits never made my cravings and overeating episodes disappear, they only made them worse. I think we like going to dieting because it gives us the appearance of having it together, of being righteous, of measuring up. Yet, these rules of no real value in transforming our hearts to be more like Jesus. 

It is for freedom that Jesus has set us free. When I tried to control my body through restrictive eating and exercising out the wazoo, I was anything but free. My every thought centered around how an activity would impact my ability to pursue thinness. I thought about what and when I would be able to eat, when and how I would be able to move my body. I was consumed with myself and my body. I didn't have the free mental space to focus on other things or other people. God desires that you be free in your relationship with food and your body so that you can love Him and love others. You can't go out to coffee and get to know a friend at the heart level if you're too worried about the calories in the coffee. Or you can't serve on the weekends if you have to go for your long run. You can't go to a church social event and focus on the people there because you're too worried about what you can or can't eat at the function. You're not free to serve on mission trips because you won't be able to control the food available. The list goes on and on. Any area of bondage keeps us from fully knowing and loving those around us. And it keeps us from fully knowing and loving God because our heart and mind is in a different place (our body). 

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

I say these things not as a form of judgment or condemnation, but as a form of encouragement! Know that God desires you to live a free and abundant life outside of your obsession with food and your body. He wants you to enjoy His good gift of food to His glory and your good. So today take a step to walk and live in that freedom, friends!

 

A day in the life...

I get questions all the time about what my schedule looks like. Goodness, it looks different EVERY day and every week. I'm still in the process of building up my clientele, so there are days when I have 6 clients and other days where I have none. There is no real consistency, which can be difficult and discouraging at times, but I also like that it keeps me on my toes. Anyways, I thought I would share a day in the life along with the foods I ate. Hope you enjoy! 

6:00 AM Alarm went off

6:10 Got out of bed (mornings are a little more rough now that it's dark outside when I wake up)

6:20 Made Isaac breakfast

6:35 Curled hair, put on makeup, and got dressed

6:58 Poured myself a cup of iced Vietnamese coffee for my first session, because coffee...

7:00 Online session with an out-of-state client 

7:35 Ate breakfast-soaked oats and chia seeds in almond milk with pb2, maple syrup, blueberries, and pecans. Not pictured is a turkey and cheese rollup for some protein. 💪🏻

 
A day in the life. Breakfast was soaked oats
 

8:00 Left for work at my office 

8:30 Client session

9:05 There is a Great Harvest Bread Company across the street from my office that I enjoy sitting outside at, so I walked over, got an iced latte and worked on some things on my laptop until my next appointment.

 
A day in the life-iced latte snack
 

10:00 new session

11:00 client session

11:45 Headed home after my last session to get some lunch. I was getting really hungry so I ate half of a homemade rxbar to keep me from getting too hungry before lunch. 

12:00 PM Made lunch: threw a bunch of leftover veggies in the skillet with eggs and topped it all with avocado, blue cheese crumbles, and pepitas. Served with a thin slice of banana zucchini bread and two chocolate covered almonds (not pictured).

 
A day in the life- scrambled eggs + zucchini banana bread
 

I've got a little inside info for you. I felt a little uncomfortably full after this meal. Now, I don't want anyone comparing their usual lunch to mine--there are days when this wouldn't be enough. But on today day, it was a little more than enough. I just want you to know that I don't always "get it right" when it comes to my fullness cues. But instead of judging myself, I observed what led to me eating a little too much at that time. And guess what? Fullness subsides. I got hungry again later in the day. That discomfort of being a little over full goes away 😊

12:40 Washed dishes, vacuumed, etc while catching up on a show 

2:15 Left to run some errands downtown

Can we just celebrate my parallel parking job?! 

A day in the life-talk about a good parking job!

3:20 got to the YMCA to work out. I was a little sore from my workout yesterday, so I decided it would be a cardio day to work out the soreness. It felt really good to move my body 

4:20 I ate the rest of my homemade rxbar while driving to get some last minute dinner ingredients at the store.

 
A day in the life-homemade rxbar
 

5:00 Started to make dinner

5:40 Isaac and I sat down to eat dinner. I had tried leftovers of this dish with my sis and wanted to make it afterwards, so I made it for the first time this night. So delish!

 
A day in the life- dinner was a spaghetti squash, broccoli, bacon, chicken sausage, and walnut mixture with a coconut milk sauce
 

6:10 Talked to my sister-in-law on the phone about plans for getting together in a few weeks. She's the absolute best.

6:15 My 3rd night of cookies and cream ice cream with frozen cookie dough added 😍 while Isaac and I sat outside and I hung out on my laptop

 
A day in the life- cookies and cream ice cream with cookie dough
 

7:05 Went for a walk around our apartment complex. It was 80 degrees outside and felt glorious!! I'm really going to miss the regular walks and incredible beauty when we move to our house. 

 
A day in the life- evening walk
A day in the life- evening walk
 

7:35 We just hung out: worked on this blog post, web surfed, watched Friday Night Lights (SUCH a great show...so many warm fuzzy feelings..and a few tears). Had another thin slice of zucchini banana bread with peanut butter.

10:00 Hopped into bed. I meet with a girl from my church every week at 6 am, so it's gonna be an early morning. 

Hope you all have/had a great day!!

Common misconceptions around beef nutrition

So, I'm a little nervous about this post. Why? Because people can have very deep convictions and beliefs regarding this topic. I'm not here to start a debate, I'm just here to share the information that has been shared with me. There is a lot of fear regarding this topic and I'm hoping to shed some light on it. Take what you want from it (or don't take anything at all). 

If you read my recap post in May, you saw that I had the privilege of going on a conference with the Beef Council in Kansas City. We had sessions on beef nutrition, got to see an actual cattle ranch, and then even got to ask a panel difficult questions. I LOVED this portion of the trip because there are a lot of important questions that need to be discussed. I also loved that the people on this panel were well-educated, well-spoken individuals. So, I wanted to share some of misconceptions I hear or have had myself along with what is actually true. 

 
Common misconceptions around beef nutrition
 

Eating beef more than once a week is bad for your heart. The American dietary guidelines recommend less than 10% of daily calories come from saturated fats. In previous studies, there has been a link between saturated fat intake and heart disease. Just an fyi, this is currently being challenged, but the debate hasn't been settled (hence why I promote eating all foods--any food is harmful in too large of quantities). It's true that beef is a source of saturated fat, but over the past 55 years, the fat content of beef has actually decreased due to better butcher and trimming processes. In fact, there are 29 cuts of beef are as lean or more lean that a chicken thigh. A study* published in 2012 compared a typical American diet to the DASH diet (the dietary pattern recommended to decrease heart disease and high blood pressure--it is low in beef and high in white meats), a diet containing a 3 oz serving of lean beef everyday, and a diet containing 5.3 oz of lean beef everyday. The researchers found that all three (DASH, 3 oz lean beef, and 5.3 oz lean beef) groups had a decrease in LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. I don't say that to promote beef over other types of meat, I just say that to take away the fear around eating beef. I think all types of proteins should be consumed; variety is key :-)

Additionally, beef is a reeeallly great source of protein, iron, selenium, magnesium, zinc, niacin, and B12. It can definitely be enjoyed as a part of dinner to promote nutritional wellbeing.

Grass-fed beef is better for you than conventional beef and should be the only beef you buy. Did you know that all cattle are grass-fed for the first 12-14 months of their lives? The difference is whether they are grass or grain finished. Now, there is a slight difference in nutrition profile and definitely a difference in taste. Grass finished cattle have a slightly higher omega 3 fat content, lower overall fat content, and lower calorie content than grain finished cattle. So how much of a difference? The infographic below is helpful for comparing. You can see that total fat and saturated fat is significantly less, but so is the amount of monounsaturated fat, which is supportive of heart health. You can see the difference in omega-3 content is .03 g. A 3.5 oz serving of salmon roughly provides 1.0 g of omega 3...

 
Graphic courtesy of the Texas Beef Council 

Graphic courtesy of the Texas Beef Council 

 

I personally prefer to buy grass finished beef because of taste and because our grocery store regularly puts it on sale for $3.99/lb (which is super affordable). However, I'm not going to say "no" to conventional grain finished beef at a friend's house or restaurant, nor am I going to promote that people should buy only grass finished as a superior nutrition choice. It's just a personal preference for me. You do what works for you; it doesn't make that big of a difference. If you want to increase your omega 3 intake, you should be spending your time eating salmon, not beef. 

 
The beef panel we had the privilege of asking questions to

The beef panel we had the privilege of asking questions to

 

The hormones given to cattle are harmful to humans and are causing a majority of our health problems. You should only buy organic, hormone-free beef. I completely understand this concern: if it is true, I would want to limit my consumption as well. That is why I really paid attention during this part of the panel conversation. Let me give you a little background information: when cattle are brought from the ranch (where they are grass fed) to the feed yards, they are given an estrogen tab once behind the ear. This estrogen helps them to convert their feed into mass more quickly. The faster they can gain mass, the less time they are in the stockyard. Faster turnaround means lower expenses and higher profit for cattle ranchers. It also means decreased food consumption by the cattle. If the cattle industry didn't use estrogen, they would need significantly more feed (which means more land to produce this feed, higher costs, etc.). The cattle are in these feed yards for 4-6 months until they reach a certain weight and then are shipped to the stockyards for slaughter and packaging.

The argument given is that beef from cattle given estrogen is 40% higher than beef from cattle not given estrogen. Again, let's put this in perspective. The amount of estrogen found in 500 g (over a pound) of beef from an estrogen-given cow is 7 nanograms (ng); the amount of estrogen found in the same amount of beef from a non-estrogen-given cow is 5 ng. Two nanograms of a difference. What is that compared to other foods? Check out the graphics below. 

Graphics found at http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/information/IBC48.pdf

Graphics found at http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/information/IBC48.pdf

As you can see, the amount of estrogen found in other foods is FAR greater than that found in beef or what is naturally made in our bodies. 

Antibiotics given to cattle will cause antibiotic resistance in humans. You should only buy antibiotic free beef. When cattle are given antibiotics, there are procedures about the length of time required before being able to slaughter them (withdrawal period). These range from 0-60 days to ensure that there are no unacceptable levels remaining in the meat. Additionally, there are quality checks to ensure that the beef does not contain unsafe levels of antibiotics, bacteria, etc. The use of antibiotics and antibacterial soaps/cleaners/etc is of concern when it comes to antibiotic resistance in our modern world of medicine and should be taken seriously. However, we cannot develop antibiotic resistant diseases from beef without actually ingesting an antibiotic resistant bacteria in the beef, and this shouldn't be happening with our modern sanitation and processing laws. The concern is really with sanitation and cooking practices, not antibiotic use. Furthermore, the argument just isn't that simple. Yes, antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistant bacteria, but so can probiotics and zinc supplementation. It's not as simple as just stopping the use of antibiotics. I will say that I'm all for exploring more natural ways to prevent illness in the cattle (and humans!), but I am not going to fear eating beef that was given antibiotics because I trust the procedures set in place to ensure that the beef on my table does not contain antibiotics and I have a responsibility to handle and cook the beef properly. 

 
This cattle rancher was SO sweet and funny; and his mustache is LEGIIIIT

This cattle rancher was SO sweet and funny; and his mustache is LEGIIIIT

 

So, there you go. A few thoughts to contribute to the beef discussion...I'm not even going to get into the "What the Health" conversation here...I hope this was helpful and not too wordy. Have a great week and enjoy some beef if that sounds tasty to you!

*MA Roussell, et al. Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet study: effects on lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan; 95(1): 9–16. Published online 2011 Dec 14. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.016261