I love food. I love bacon cheeseburgers, rare. I love brussel sprouts, roasted. And I love pizza…any way you want to serve it up. I also have great affection for white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, pasta aglio e olio, lamb curry, risotto alla crema di scampi, and blackberry cobbler. I love blackberry cobbler
I don’t just love food, though. I eat it. Happily. Gladly. Without guilt or regret. I don’t count calories. I don’t watch my fat intake. And I don’t weigh myself the morning after I’ve polished off a piece of pumpkin cheesecake.
If you had told me, 15 years ago, that this kind of freedom was possible, I would have thought you were a raving, mad lunatic. Back then, there was no freedom. Only numbers: numbers on a scale, numbers on nutrition labels, numbers on my clothing tags.
So, what changed?
First, I stopped seeing food as something to be feared and started seeing it as a sign of God’s love and grace, as a natural symbol of the supernatural food we receive in the Eucharist. I also stopped seeing my body as a problem to be controlled and started seeing it as a gift to be cared for. And, perhaps most importantly, I came to see eating as part of my journey to God, as an opportunity to grow in the virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.
With that change in vision, came a change in how I ate. I stopped dieting, and I started enjoying food for the first time in over a decade. Also, for what it’s worth, once I started seeing food, exercise, and my body through the prism of my faith and acting in accord with what I saw, the less my weight fluctuated. I learned to maintain a healthy, stable weight, not by dieting, but by eating in harmony with my Catholic faith.
Today, the only set of rules I follow about food are my own. And I am a saner, happier, healthier, (and overall less annoying) woman for that.
Just in case you’re looking for a little sanity of your own, feel free to borrow from my kitchen rules.
In some particular order…
- There are no good foods and bad foods. There are yummy foods and icky foods, healthy foods and less than healthy foods. But food, in and of itself, does not have a moral value.
- I am not good or bad because of what I ate yesterday. My moral worth is not determined by what I have for lunch, where I shop, or who grew my coffee. It’s determined by whether or not I was patient in traffic, kind to the checker at the grocery store, generous to my neighbor, and grateful to God, loving him by doing his will.
- Eat what you’re served. Unless it’s going to kill you. And, for the love of all things holy, if you do have a serious food allergy, tell your hostess about it before you show up for dinner.
- Eat only when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Listen to your body. It knows what it needs.
- Move your body…every, single, day. Exercise is not optional. It’s part of how you care for the great gift God has given you in your body.
- Everybody needs one cookie. Nobody needs six.
- Feast when the Church feasts. Fast when the Church fasts. Mama knows that both are part of a healthy spiritual life. Listen to her.
- Skim milk is an abomination. Drink your milk whole.
- Olive oil, butter, and avocados are your friends. Fat is good. Your body needs it. Don’t be afraid of it.
- Eat real food. Don’t put ingredients that you can’t pronounce into your body.
- Don’t follow fad diets.
- Eat your veggies. They’re best roasted.
- Be civilized. Eat your meals at a table, with plates, and silverware, and napkins.
- Cook more. Dine out less.
- Don’t eat alone. At least, not if you can help it. As often as possible, share your table with others.
- Try new things. Pickiness is a form of gluttony.
- Don’t eat when you’re stressed. Instead, pray. Call a friend. Scrub your toilet. Just don’t medicate with Oreos. If you do, you’ll only end up more stressed.
- Drink “to the point of hilarity.” Not beyond.
- Never ask a person how many calories are in something they’ve made. That’s obnoxious. Just say “Thank you,” and eat.
- If you are a healthy weight and your clothes fit, then stay off the scale. You’re fine.
- It’s better to be a happy, healthy, energetic size 6, than it is to be a crabby, hungry size 4.
- Say grace before meals. Always.
- Go to Mass. Kneel before Christ. Receive him in the form of bread and wine. And “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”