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.
My childhood diet consisted of a few vital staples.
Venture down memory lane with me, if you will, to recall the glory that was the early 2000s. My parents had ten kids (I know, breathe deep into the brown paper bag) and I assumed the quiet anonymity that characterized number eight.
Our tribe consisted of relatively active, athletic, All-American kids (with a few exceptions sprinkled in who later realized that their gifts were better manifested off the court). I recall thinking it perfectly normal to have bright blue wrestling mats tucked behind the couches in our den, trash cans stuffed to the brim with baseball gloves and helmets, a front closet spilling over with roller-blades I-just-couldn’t-wait-to-grow-into, and a crab-grass lawn littered with bikes of every color and size. The point is, as bookish and introverted as I was, I had an active childhood.
Hours of trampoline training worked up a hefty appetite in a youngster. Enter the staple foods of my youth. When we were home, it was cereal with skim milk for breakfast. For lunch, the active youth had a couple of options, depending on what was on hand: packaged lunch meat of some variety or peanut butter and jelly. Oh and Campbell’s condensed chicken noodle soup. Listen, I’m not trying to say I’ve mastered the art of perfect food pairing, but I learned at a tender age that if God had to drop manna from the sky today, it would be PB&Js with chicken noodle soup. Anyway, dinner was usually something warm and delicious, often casserole because (and I’d like to say this louder for the people in the back) there were ten of us. So, we ate what was in front of us; it was polite and that’s how we were raised.
However, I realized much later that at some point in my childhood, whether it arose as a result of slow conditioning or a desperate evolutionary need to survive when rubbing elbows with nine siblings at the dinner table, my view of food became much less about pleasure and more about caloric intake. It was foreign to me that food could be both healthy and appealing to the eye, and both practical and delicious.
Middle school and high school culinary experiences left a lot of room to grow. Throughout middle school, my idea of gourmet cuisine consisted of the Mexican restaurants in my Tennessee hometown and maybe the occasional buffet. I was an athlete who could burn thousands of calories at a basketball tournament and genuinely thought post-game refueling should involve the steaming nachos from the parent-run concession stand. My high school cruising through town with friends almost always involved a pit-stop at a Taco Bell. Okay, I know what you’re thinking (maybe). What kid in middle or high school has a refined palate?
That’s a fair objection.
However, every meal, every portion, every choice in middle school and high school was slowly training me to believe a lie. In college, I was aghast that people would choose rabbit food over fettuccine. I marveled at the variety and variance of caf food (#homeschooled). For the first time, I was introduced to the mind-shattering idea that delicious, appealing, and healthy food was out there. Those traits were not mutually exclusive. (Can you tell we didn’t watch the Food Network?). Anyway, this exploration with new foods, even–gasp!–salad–continued steadily and inspired me to go rogue my senior year.
Oh, senior year. Though once a novelty, cafeteria food had lost its glimmer and I’d had my fill with the same fettuccine every week. Armed with a new-found love of cooking, I was utterly determined to seek culinary independence and (maybe) save some money in the process. I tiptoed to the edge of the precipice, prepared to leave the comfort of the college meal-plan behind. I spread my wings with the onset of a new semester, raring to fly to new heights in domestic cooking skills, and, oh, dear sister, how I crash-landed.
I quickly learned the hard lesson that, while I had the ambition to cook, I had very little knowledge and even less time. Gone were the days of the bologna sandwiches of my youth. Alien was my reliance on Taco Bell burritos. I had to do better, dang it! I was an adult. A woman! I should do more! However, while I shunned the foods of my youth, my mentality with eating was persistent.
I chose foods that were easy. My senior year diet consisted of an ungodly amount of plain cheese quesadillas with enough sour cream to make any vegan cry. Sometimes, I’d mix things up and make barely-seasoned chicken or a spinach-colored banana smoothie. The point is: when I had the freedom to finally choose my foods, my mindset remained the same. Food should be fast and simple. I ate what I thought I deserved.
Strangely enough, I loved hosting dinners and brunches. I absolutely delighted in the task of planning and cooking a meal for a friend. It brought my little Southern heart unspeakable joy to have a room full of guests and a table abounding with food and good conversation. As my ambitions to host more people grew, my culinary skills broadened. A real love of cooking developed in my heart and I learned new recipes to serve to guests and family alike. The Pioneer Woman and Betty Crocker became the fairy-godmothers of my kitchen, transforming simple ingredients into decadent feasts designed to amaze. For Christmas, people started gifting me rolling pins, mixing bowls, and aprons (a growing collection which I’m now convinced could clothe an entire orphanage). Word was out. I liked to cook. Better still, the food was edible.
But after the dinner parties, when I’d sent my guests away with foil-wrapped leftovers and a hug, I’d wipe down the table, wash the dishes, and turn off the lights. What was left was a reflection of how I viewed myself: a fridge full of bland food, if any food at all, thrown together with minimal effort, later consumed with little pleasure. At some point, the irony of this situation struck me. Why did I consider my guests worthy of delicious, healthy, flavorful food, but I myself consumed what was second-rate?
It wasn’t until I moved into my own townhouse post-graduation that I began to truly consider this phenomenon. Sure, a new job provided new opportunities to afford quality food. But as I worked to find the balance between teaching second graders, making new friends in a foreign city, loving others well, and what felt like a million other things, I realized that I could no longer put my choices of food as a back-burner priority. This may seem shocking to the friends who are unfortunately familiar with my serious hangry (hungry+anger, get it?) moods. I like food and I need food, dang it.
Over slow months of learning from others, reading, and many failures with food, I began to find a balance with my food. A gradual shift started to happen when I stumbled across three little words in my reading one night: honor your body. That definitely sounded Christian. I was taught at an early age that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, sacred because of God’s life within us. Our bodies are good, because each is unrepeatable, formed in the image of a God that wove the very fabric of our existence together with an incomprehensible love.
However, I was hesitant to jump into a “healthy cooking lifestyle,” because I’d also witnessed how so many well-meaning people idolize their own bodies. Obsessed with weight or physique, they lose sight of honoring our bodies because they are good in and of themselves. The gym becomes a church where the image of the perfect human form is worshipped but always hovers slightly out of reach in a tantalizing way. I’d seen this imbalance plenty of times.
My education in food took time. I learned how to meal prep and how much food I needed in a day so I didn’t binge eat at night. Shockingly, I also was made aware of the fact that humans need a substantial amount of water (how have I not died of dehydration?) Little steps have brought me a long way. The biggest evidence of growth, however, has been in the kind and quality of food that I choose to eat. I don’t always have time to make myself a gourmet meal, but I have learned how to accept that I am worthy of food that takes effort. I don’t expect to grill a filet mignon every night after work, but my body does deserve real fuel so that it can function.
This choice to fuel my body well demands sacrifice. It has required Sundays of meal prep and nights of pre-packing lunches. It has taken trips to the grocery store every weekend so I don’t have excuses to consume fast and easy junk during the week. Yes to water and no to ten cups of coffee a day. When I start to slip into old routines of bland chicken and PB&Js (not saying these are bad–just not what we deserve all the time), I have to gently remind myself: honor your body.
And through honoring my body, I can quietly glorify the One who has created it. It brings me joy to bring God glory. But I know He directs my steps to find balance with food for my own benefit as well. I don’t honor my body because I desire a certain weight on the scale or waistline. Casting aside the notion that I only deserve the second-rate options, I am choosing nutrition that will enable me to live a happy life.
I am worthy of that which is good. You are worthy of that which is good.
Because God, who is goodness itself, believed it was good that we exist.