Paul has a very famous quote from the bible, and that is “All things are permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial”, 1 Cor 6:12. It is referring to grace. Now that we are no longer under the law but under grace, we don’t live under its power. In the same way we have to have grace with ourselves about our eating choices. I like to compare it to the black and white mentality many of us can have with eating.
We may have had situations happen from a very young age where we were taught that eating certain foods (such as sweets) are bad, and that other foods are GOOD such as vegetables, beans and meat. We may have even been punished for sneaking foods as a child, or scolded for it which may be embedded in our minds as adults without us knowing it. We may have watched our parents and grandparents and other caretakers or loved ones indulge in “naughty” foods, essentially enjoying them and that also becomes a part of the way we associate food choices as either good or bad, and whether or not they should be proudly and guiltlessly enjoyed.
A book I love called Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both Registered Dieticians, explains about the black and white mentality and the harm it does in perpetuating cycles of addiction. This is especially important for those with a “diet” mentality. Forbidding certain foods due to being deemed bad can create “intense feelings of deprivation which can lead to bingeing.”
Clinical trials have confirmed this in dieters vs. non-dieters. A group of dieters and a group of non-dieters were given milkshakes on three different occasions in the amounts of none, 1 and 2, and then offered to taste ice cream flavors in the amount they preferred right after each milkshake amount. Non-dieters were able to regulate the amount of ice cream they had after each milkshake amount, whereas the DIETERS ate way more ice cream (obviously showing that they had issues with regulating their eating). Now everyone in this study was under the impression they were only taste-testing ice cream flavors to prevent placebo. The thought here is that feeling bad about over-eating, or crossing the rigid line that this diet mentality employs, causes a loss of control.
Trust me. The first time I ever heard the theory of allowing myself to eat whatever I want, I thought it was crazy talk! EAT WHATEVER I WANT? WHY? HOW? NO! This doesn’t feel right!!! But think about the way that the Israelites felt in the old testament when their LIFE depended on EVERY SINGLE THING THEY DID, and the pressure that they must have had knowing that they could be struck dead before the Lord almighty with one wrong word or action.
I’m so glad were not alive in those days, and that we have the blood of Christ covering every action of ours past, present and future. I’m so glad that we have GRACE! Without the unwavering precedence of the BLOOD of CHRIST over every decision I make before I even make it, I wouldn’t be able to walk in the freedom as a Christian that I do today. And that, my friend, is a gift. We need to accept the gift we have been given in CHRIST.
We have to stop ALLOWING ourselves to be caught in perpetual cycles of shame and guilt, or we will never see the end, we will never get free. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. So, what does that look like? Maybe it looks like have a slice of chocolate cake at 9 PM on a random Monday. Maybe its looks like eating Reese’s peanut butter cups at the movies with the hubby on date night. Maybe it looks like having an ice cream cone on an outdoor family outing after church. You have to decide for YOU what grace looks like in your eating habits while still operating under the fruit of the spirit of self-control.
You might be thinking, “but if I do this I might eat and never stop!”, but I promise you, once you take away the rigid rules, you likely will find yourself being satisfied with much smaller portions of treats, less often than you’d think. Complete deprivation is what leads to over-indulging. Another helpful fact to know quoted in Tribole and Resch’s book is that eating something unhealthy one time is not going to permanently ruin your health or kill you. I completely back up this statement, and coming from a previous orthorexic, (the idea of a person who takes eating healthy to the extreme even to the point of avoiding people, places or situations for fear of eating unhealthy), that is saying something! I live my life in freedom now, including the way that I eat, and I am not controlled by the food that I eat, or by any diet, I am in control.
There is no sin of gluttony that God cannot forgive past, present or future. If you binge on an entire pizza by yourself tomorrow night, should you feel guilty? Perhaps, it was an out of control decision. Should you then throw in the towel? OF COURSE NOT. We need to have some wisdom with ourselves and realize that eating is something we are naturally wired to do and is necessary for our bodies to function. If the enemy sees a weakness with our eating habits, he will take every opportunity to use guilt and shame to cause us to give up and claim defeat.
BUT GOD sees us as a beautiful reflection of his son Jesus and wants us to walk in his purity and light. If we make a bad decision, we need to give it to God, casting our cares upon him, and then allowing him to forgive us and move on with different behavior, (this is part of repentance). “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:7-8 From here, we need to move on and try again, not allowing the enemy foothold to perpetuate addictive behaviors and potentially bingeing.
We simply recognize that we failed, bring it to God and ask for help to change our behavior going forward (this is repentance). We are sinners and nothing is going to change that until things are finalized in heaven. We. Are. Not. Perfect. We cannot expect perfection even in our eating habits. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. What I am saying is that we are going to fail and we cannot put unreasonable expectations on ourselves. What we can expect is honesty, humility, and progressive sancitifcation which shows in our fruit and our actions, even if in small steps. Even if it is over time. Lifestyle habits such as these are tricky for everyone. They are the unseen, mundane, private day to day choices that allow us to indulge in the flesh even in miniscule ways. But there is one expectation we cannot put on ourselves, the weight of perfection. Each person is on their own journey, is in different parts of the process of divine sanctification, and can only expect unique progress, even if it’s very slow. Now go in love, patience and most of all GRACE.