In the first installment of this series, we spoke about the similarities between Biblical law and diets and how we can actually use diets to highlight the areas of our lives that could use a dose of grace.
Even prior to the law coming on the scene after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, we see God putting “law” into practice. This is because we have free will for a purpose; our choices reveal our hearts.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE.
Freedom of choice is an important concept to grasp. It can often feel like we outsource our choice. We feel like we “have” to go do work; we “have” to stop at an even pointless stop sign; we “have” to eat more vegetables. But if we take a step back we can actually see that we have a TON of choice in the matter. We can choose not to go to work, not to stop at the stop sign, and to eat only french fries as our source of vegetables.
We can make any choice but, as we know, we also choose the consequences- getting fired, getting a ticket, having poor health.
I want to encourage you to embrace the freedom of choice in your food journey. If you decide to follow a particular diet plan, do so with the full realization that YOU are the one who made the choice to start. No one can make you eat food you don’t want to and no one can keep you from eating the foods you desire. We live in a world that provides us with 24/7 access to all types of food and you can make the choice to go and eat ALL the food. Whenever you want. No one is stopping you.
(Another great resource to read: There is NO bad food)
MAKE IT YOUR CHOICE
This was not an idea that I used to embrace. I felt trapped by diets and rules about what I “can” and “can’t” eat. This backfired for me, big time-
I can recall a specific time that I was tempted to binge on a McDonald’s McFlurry. Now, if I wanted to have a planned sweet treat in a controlled and moderate way that would have been a different story but here I wanted ALL the McFlurries. As I drove down the road I passed one McDonalds after the other, each time holding onto the steering wheel as if it were the last life preserver on a sinking ship. Do you realize how many golden arches there are along a 10-mile drive in Pinellas County? It’s a lot.
Finally, I gave myself complete and total permission to stop at the next Mickey D’s. Clearly, this white-knuckling thing wasn’t going very well, so how about a different strategy? I told myself that it was 100% ok to stop. No one will keep me from eating McFlurries. Not today, tomorrow, or next month. I even used a therapy technique called amplified reflection, assuring myself that I could not only eat a McFlurry today but I could eat 10. Then I could do the same tomorrow and the day after that. I ALWAYS have the choice to overeat, to eat low-nutrition foods, to binge, etc.
Amplified reflection: A strategy that is to reflect the client’s statement in an exaggerated form—to state it in a more extreme way but without sarcasm. This can move the client toward positive change rather than resistance.
CONNECT WITH YOUR TRUE WANTS
You see, when we step away from allowing a diet to be our dictator, we can connect with what we truly want. I didn’t want a McFlurry, I just wanted the freedom to do what I wanted to do. You and I, we have that kind of freedom every. single. day.
1 Corinthians 10:23 “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial. (NLT)
I completely understand that thought of total freedom can be scary and I believe that is why many of us seek “protection” in a diet. A diet can feel like a safe place to reel in our ravenous souls. We don’t trust ourselves around food. I get it, if you are anything like me, you’ve broken that trust many times. But there is one missing link, the link that empowers us to say “no” to unhealthy choices and “yes” to living a Godly life. That link is LOVE.
LOVE COMPELS US
If you were as consistent with your nutrition and exercise as you were with caring for your loved ones, do you think you’d have reached your goals by now? While people are much more valuable than blueberries and biceps, when love is involved in tough tasks, they get easier.
1 John 4:19 We love each other because he loved us first. (NLT)
What if you made food choices out of love? “Love of what?”, you ask. Our love for God is the first thought that comes to my mind- that love is a powerful motivator. I bet you’d agree that there are so, so many reasons to be thankful to God and the stewardship of our bodies is one way we can express that gratitude.
Romans 8:32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? (NLT)
But, wait, there’s more! LOVE casts a W-I-D-E net.
1 Corinthians 16:14 And do everything with love. (NLT)
FOOD CHOICES THROUGH THE LENS OF LOVE
If our food choices are made through the lens love that is going to lead us to some press awesome choices!
- Our well-being. Taking care of yourself does not have to be self-centered. There is a big difference between stressing over 1% body fat and wanting to be energetic, healthy, strong and able to accomplish the hopes and dreams God has laid upon your heart.
- Our bodies. God calls our bodies his temple. Are we treating our bodies like something of value? Things we love and value, we put forth the extra effort to care for them properly.
- Our families. Are you more loving when you feel well? Yeah, me too. Your family wants you to feel well, trust me!
- Our friends. We can be better friends when we have the energy to invest in friendships.
- Our calling. Wherever you feel called in your life, for the love of that calling, fuel yourself well, get strong, do the hard things.
Do you see what happens when we let go of other people’s rules about what our food choices “should” look like? When we aside the “should” and connect with our “why” for making the food choices we want to (truly, deep in our heart want to), we will find the balance and health we crave. Outside rules stay outside, while inside motivations change hearts and lives.
THE ROAD AHEAD
If you have done your share of diets it is quite likely that you are plagued with outside-in, rules-based eating baggage. Diets tell us what to do but they don’t address our hearts. Just as the Bible is filled with grace, so are our food choices. You and I have the room to make decisions based on our wants but diets have disconnected us from why we started them in the first place. By embracing our freedom of choice and connecting with our loving motivations, we can make healthy changes that stick and stick with habits that change, our hearts. Are you on this journey with me?
- Diets don’t address the heart and that’s why they so often fail.
- Freedom of choice is a powerful concept to grasp if you are struggling to stick with a healthy eating plan.
TRY THIS AT HOME
- Pay attention to your self-talk around what and how you eat. Do you hear the words “can’t”, “should”, “have to” around your food choices? If you notice these unhelpful thought patterns, start by reminding yourself about the freedom of choice. No one can make you eat any particular way. If you decide to pass on the office donuts, do so with the full knowledge that this is your choice. If you decide to have them, embrace that decision as well. YOU are the one calling the shots! You won’t swap out years of dieting drama overnight but with this added awareness you can begin to kick those thoughts to the curb!