I knew my diet didn’t call for cake and ice cream (clearly, they’re a bad food) but I did it anyway. It was a birthday party and I didn’t want to miss out. But now, I felt like the trash I shoved my scraped-clean plate into.
You have said it before, haven’t you? You have called yourself “bad” for eating a donut or inferred it to be a messenger of Satan himself.
We all have labeled foods at one time or another, so it may be shocking for you to hear that there is NO bad food.
I know you don’t believe me– after all, I have never eaten your Aunt Mabel’s Tuna Casserole (blech!). Now, I’m pretty sure that I’d agree with your assessment of the casserole, but that’s not what I am talking about…
We have made an art out of classifying food as “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “unhealthy.” If I asked you to list what foods fall into each of those categories you could probably fill up a page of each. “Ooh, McDonald’s, now that’s baaad”; “Didn’t I see Dr. Oz say that Goji berries were the next ‘superfood’?”; “Alfredo sauce is so unhealthy!”
We’ve got opinions and we’ve got a lot of them.
There is no shortage of black and white messages around food and it stinks.
HEALTH IS MORE THAN ONE MEAL
If we really think about it, no one food is “healthy” or “unhealthy.”
People are healthy or unhealthy but food is more nutritious or less nutritious. While a fried Twinkie is not very nourishing, it does provide your body with some fuel. You probably won’t feel your best self after eating it but you’ll survive (I promise).
A diet based on low-nutrition foods will cause someone to be unhealthy in the long run.
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But that refined-carb-fat bomb is not going to magically make you decrepit in one meal any more than one of pasture-raised chicken, sweet potatoes and kale will make you a marvel of good health.
It’s the SUM of what and how much we eat that causes us to thrive or shrivel.
After coaching hundreds of clients and working on a slew of my own food issues, I have come to embrace the idea of Food Neutrality. Food neutrality simply means stepping away from food labels and from food guilt.
Food is just food. Food contains nutrients, not morality.
So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink. Colossians 2:16a NLT
I can hear your initial reaction and trust me- I get it!
Yes, some foods ARE better for us than others and, yes, eating a pile of processed junk is a terrible idea. But, I also believe that feeling like you are a failure for enjoying a low nutrition food is a total disservice.
Remember, it’s the SUM of what and how much we eat that constitutes vibrancy or lethargy. Stress and condemnation are pretty harmful emotions, so I’d ditch them while I was at it.
So let’s look at a true authority and see what the Bible has to say about what and how we eat. While this topic cannot be covered in one post, let’s examine how this pertains to this topic of “good” and “bad” foods.
THE HEART CONDITION
Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. ‘Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.’ (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)” Mark 7:17-19 NLT
I’ll say it again- food is just food. It goes in, it goes out. The nutrition facts label is not a badge of honor or dishonor.
What those numbers say is not the most important thing to God and just because modern agriculture has changed the quality of our food, it does not mean that God’s number one has changed- the condition of the heart.
WOULD JESUS EAT “BAD” FOOD?
If the heart is numero uno in God’s book, what did Jesus’ interactions with food look like? Did he steer clear of “bad” foods? After all, he was perfect in every way, wouldn’t his diet reflect that?
Matthew 11:19 NLT The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”
If Jesus walked the earth today, my best guess is that he would embrace Thanksgiving Dinner, the spread at a Superbowl party, and wedding cake (my personal favorite!) because where those foods are served is where we find God’s most valuable asset- people.
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If we go to a party and we are stressed out by the cookie tray and preoccupied with the lack of vegetables, we are NOT able to focus on what God has for us at this gathering. Our eyes are on lesser things. Let it not be.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for preparedness and making balanced choices and we’ll talk about that frequently on this blog, but the main thing is still the main thing…
Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. Hebrews 13:9 ESV
Food is not “good”, God is good. Food decisions are not eternal, they are temporary. Let’s keep things in perspective.
If you can let your food choices flow from this place, you’ll have a lot less detrimental black-and-white dieting thinking. And, THEN, it will be easier to moderate your portions.
When there is no bad food, we become much more logical eaters.
- There is no place for guilt and condemnation around our food choices. Food, in of itself, is not a moral issue.
- If we scrutinized our hearts as we scrutinize our diets, our overall health will improve. A contented heart can allow us to eat within the parameters of our body’s needs.
TRY THIS AT HOME
- Play a little game of What Would Jesus Eat at your next meal, keeping in mind that what motivated his food choices was not the latest diet craze.
- Do you eat mindfully and with a sense of gratitude for the meal provided for you and for your dining companions?
- Are you honoring your physical guides of hunger and fullness?
- Could an outside observer watch your interactions with your plate and think “God is good”?
- Remember, no guilt at this party, just a mindfulness about where we are and where we could extend our faith into this area of our lives.
*Please note that this message is intended for healthy individuals who have been subjected to the lingo of extreme diets. If you have a medical condition and are under the supervision of a licensed medical professional who has advised you to avoid certain foods, please, please, please heed their advice!
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Author, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.