When Food Becomes an Idol

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Gentle Reader,

I hate it when people talk about what they aren’t eating.

I know that it’s good to consider what one puts into one’s body. I know that, as a Christian, it’s important that I take care of what has been given to me. I know that it’s not good to eat fast food all the time and that chocolate really isn’t a food group (though it should be). I don’t yet buy into the concept that I would have fun preparing meals from fresh ingredients, but I can appreciate the results when my husband does so.

But, honestly, I prefer to not think about food.

Maybe it’s because I flirted with an eating disorder in my younger years, but all the talk about what to eat and what not to eat that I hear drives me up the wall. I don’t see it as being focused on health. I know people who are genuinely health-conscious. They don’t talk about it all the time. They just do it. They don’t go on and on about how bad it is to eat that slice of cake. They just ask for a smaller slice or don’t have one and it’s not a big deal. They don’t look askance at someone who eats a burger for lunch. They don’t announce at regular intervals that they haven’t eaten ___________ since _____________. They are content in their choices and are content to allow others the same freedom.

There is a difference between being healthy and worshiping at the altar of health. Obsessive calorie-counting and meltdowns over the possible ingesting of non-organic fruit are a sign of having bought into a lie. Is it “better” or “smarter” to eat and cook a certain way? Maybe. Does that make a person “better than” or “smarter than” another? No.

That’s the problem I have. If someone wants to cut every ounce of fat, sugar, preservative, meat, whatever out their diet, that’s great. Good for him. If he wants to tell me about the changes he’s made and how he feels better, that’s fine, too. I may even take some of his tips and put them into practice. But if all he can talk about is what he doesn’t eat, then I’m turned off. There is a certain smugness as well as insecurity revealed in that. He wants to tell you that he’s better than you and he wants you to confirm it.

What I really wish is that someone would admit to being focused on being skinny, not on being healthy. Really, if all you’re eating at dinner is a few carrot sticks and some celery, and then you talk about how full you are, you’re not healthy. You’re driven to be thin. There is a difference.

Food is a idol if that’s what you train your intense focus and devotion on, whether it’s in bingeing or purging. Putting the label “health-conscious” on it doesn’t change that. I believe that God made food for us to enjoy as well as to nourish our bodies. You can’t enjoy a gift if you spend all your time complaining about the wrapping.

My journey to faith. (15)