Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
Too many of us have wrestled with receiving the body we have been given.
I have a theory that if the Father truly revealed to each one of us how He intended our individual bodies to look—many of us would disagree and still try to argue what we believe our bodies ought to look like. Where and why did this battle begin?
In the Garden. The classic story of Adam, Eve, and a dragon-snake-serpent-thing. This was the first moment food was lorded over the woman and caused her to crumble and doubt the Father.
God had given Adam and Eve everything, yet a thought came lurking, “What if God is holding out on me?” Satan stirred up doubt in Eve’s heart by questioning her knowledge when he states, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). He twisted the words—God actually said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 3:16). As Satan questioned Eve, one can imagine that such questioning went beyond the question stated. Perhaps it was “Do you actually reflect the beauty of God?” “Are you sure you are called to bear life?” “Does Adam really want your good?” All these questions can be put in place of that one twisted question. Overall, whatever the question(s), it caused Eve to doubt the goodness she had been given and the dignity of her person.
And this is still happening. We feel this need to “earn” or “keep” our bodies a particular way. But whoever said our bodies are strictly ours? Paul mentions that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We hear all over the Scriptures that our bodies are meant to glorify God and reflect the reality of His goodness. The purpose of our bodies is something that points beyond ourselves. It is beyond self-gratification and people pleasing. We struggle to understand the true purpose of the body because we are a wounded people.
Let’s start by talking about food. The first thing distorted in the Garden and used as a means against woman.
Most of us have encountered some disordered thinking towards food and our bodies. Some of this is not a clinical diagnosis but is disordered thinking. Obsessive dieting, overeating, all the times we skip meals for practical purposes or feel guilty because we ate five cookies AND a piece of fudge at the party. The fact that at times some of us see food as an obstacle or burden—this is not as it should be.
Food is innately gift and oriented towards man’s flourishing. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that “food is necessary to man who needs it for the maintenance of life, which he desires above all other things.” (STII-II.146.2.ad.1.) Necessary. Food is good. Food is necessary. There is an order to this. If I neglect my body’s needs, how will I be able to tend to my spiritual needs (and vice versa)?
Man does not live on bread alone, but God still gave him manna.
Until we understand that food is a gift that is for the purpose of my flourishing, we will not know the purpose of feasting and fasting in the Church. There is this nifty rhythm in the Church of feast and fast, but did you realize that the feasts are always longer than the seasons of fasting? (Ex: Lent = 40 days; Easter = 50 days). Feasts are often mistakenly portrayed as gluttony. The reality is that feasts are intended to be a foreshadowing of Heavenly banquet—the wedding feast of the Bridegroom. In the true feasting, we find the freedom to fast. Fasting reminds us of our fragility and overall that we are not made for this world. We embrace a physical emptiness, so we have the opportunity to look beyond the satisfactions of this world. It gives us the space to actively grow in virtue and receive grace.
Now, it is CRUCIAL that we are not neglectful to our body in fasting but maintain a proper stewardship of our body in accordance with our physical capacities and health. For those of us that have struggled with eating disorders, dear sisters, it is so important that we take guidance from counselors and maybe a priest before taking part in any kind of food-fasting. Be merciful with yourself and I assure you, one day you will be healed enough to fast. In the meantime, be creative with other kinds of fasting (Ex: limit social media, limit sleeping in, limit unnecessary purchases, etc. on Fridays). The rhythms of feasting and fasting are meant to lead us into deeper worship of the King.
Side note—if you have ever read those awesome stories of the saints who had these lifestyles of living on the Eucharist alone and rejecting all pleasures—they did this out of a very unique vocational calling. We are not all called to imitate the saints in this way—they wouldn’t want us to.
I encourage you to take this to prayer: Have I neglected my body? If so, how and why? Invite the Lord into these questions. I pray that you, dear sister, might begin to unlearn any lies that have been smudged over the reality that your body is delightful and food is a celebratory gift that points us to Him.
I have listed sources below for anyone interested in learning more about the theology of food in the Church and how we are called to sanctity even through ordinary cooking and meals.
Ms. Intrigued (“Tell me more but don’t hurt my head”)- The Catholic Table: Where Food and Faith Meet by Emily Stimpson Chapman
Ms. Practical (“Ok yeah, so how do I actually adjust my eating habits?”)- Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
Ms. Academic (“I want to research the Church’s perspective on this”)- Our Bodies Are Not Our Own: A Theology of Food and the Body (thesis) by Mary Dufresne