Food isn’t God.
I’ve long been disturbed by the tendency of some religious people to turn food into religion and preach “food isn’t God” with the meaning that if you are less than svelte you clearly are worshiping food and less of a Christian than your skinny sister.
But I am still working on my lingering unrealistic expectations for food. You see, I was raised in the religion that follows the teachings of the prophet Hippocrates. You know, the one with the bible that says things like: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
For years I internalized the idea that one could control one’s life by controlling one’s food choices. I accepted as gospel truth the teaching that disease was the fitting penalty for poor diet. I knew that if I got the flu it was my fault for eating white flour. Every headache was my just desert for eating dessert.
And then I grew up.
I gained the cynicism of a skeptic and questioned the faith of Food.
And, oddly enough, it seemed that my beliefs were justified. The stats held up the idea that Americans are making ourselves sick with downright stupid food choices. If only we would eat more vegetables and less meat we would chop healthcare costs and grow life expectancy.
But stats aren’t everything, and food isn’t God.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot determine my fate through food. I cannot heal myself by eliminating tomatoes, wheat and caffeine. I cannot free myself from pain by eating elderberries and salmon. Sure, I can make things a little better with vitamin powder etc., but “better” is not the same as healed.
This is the truth, but somehow I cannot really accept it. My sickness feels like failure because I know if only I got food right, I would be healthy.
Sure, I am enough of a pragmatist to realize that I gain more by reducing stress. I know that it is better to eat canned beans than to spend my days obsessing over which grains I should completely eliminate, and which seeds I should soak.
I know this.
But I still feel the guilt of the prodigal child.
Because as much as I rationally know that food isn’t God, the religion remains a part of me.
People all around me are embracing it as the hip faith of the moment. They are thrilled to lose a few pounds and gain some energy, and I am happy for them. But I am envious of their innocent faith. They can truly believe that all they have to do is follow a few simple rules and they will be healthy.
Somehow though, the rules were never simple for me, and I have never been able to get.it.right.
Rationally I know that this is because food isn’t God. Food choices matter, but they aren’t everything.
But deep down inside me I cannot help believing that my body is punishing me for failing to dig deep enough to find and follow the mysterious food rules that would bring health. So I add cod liver oil, because maybe they were right that flax just isn’t good enough. And I determine to stop drinking soy milk because maybe, just maybe it is the problem even though all evidence points against that conclusion.
Food isn’t God.
I know that.
I just can’t believe it.
- Adele and the Married Woman
- Physical Food Budgeting