Food Addiction and the Church

I was MIA this weekend because I was off visiting my former maid of honor and college roommate a little ways away, and Sunday, I got to check out her church which was AWESOME. The whole experience was refreshing, and I truly enjoyed it.

But the young pastor, in an effort to be humorous (I think), said something that made me sad.

The sermon was on temptation and how we need to be aware of the things that derail us from our walks with God. He used an example of how once a Christian woman was asked, “Do you experience temptation?”

She replied: “Of course I do. Sometimes I eat a little more chocolate cake than I should.”

The pastor telling the story scoffed, making jokes about how chocolate cake is innocent and not something serious that can derail you from your focus, from you walk with God, from being the best you that you can be.

But then he of course went on to describe things that do derail people and how we shouldn’t test ourselves, even if we do  think we can withstand temptation (ie. alcoholics have no place in a bar).

The whole time, I kept thinking, “Wow, obviously this man knows nothing of food addiction or even eating disorders.”

He described alcoholism as a disease, which of course it is. But you know, there was a time where alcoholism wasn’t considered a disease. It was just considered a life choice or a lack of self control. Now it’s a serious illness with rehab and everything.

Food addiction, for many people, is just the same way. People overeat, endangering their health. People binge eat. People emotional eat. People overspend on horrible foods, being poor stewards of their money. People feed their kids crap, not only teaching them bad habits, but also risking their own children’s health in the process.

How is that NOT a problem? How is that not a real temptation that can send some people down a spiraling path toward emptiness, poor health, and shame?

Unfortunately, it is one of the big things plaguing multiple people across different denomination congregations– and yet, sometimes it seems like no one is doing anything about it. They don’t even acknowledge it. In fact, most churches just have more and more and more potlucks with crazy amounts of food and youth events that have wall to wall of pizza, and cakes, and chips, and soda.

And yet, no one blinks an eye at gluttony. I mean, it’s not a sin if it’s “fellowshipping,” right? I don’t think so. After all, I’m pretty sure most people within  the church frown upon drunken parties and crazy orgies. But that’s just a guess.

I’m not saying these things are bad. I love potlucks. I loved youth events and the sugar high that ensued. It was a “part of growing up” supposedly.

But it’s downright insensitive and ignorant to say or think that food cannot derail someone from their walk with God. When teens are throwing up in the bathroom or people are curling up with a big pint of chocolate ice cream to eat their troubles away between sobs– there’s nothing glorifying to God about that. There’s a deeper problem. People are broken. Just like alcoholics. Just like drug addicts.

But using food in such a harmful way is basically someone refusing to take their troubles to God while they try to deal with it in their own strength and in a harmful way.

I’m not shunning these people. I’m not judging them. I am one of them. But acknowledging the problem is how you fix it– not pretending it’s not there. Not telling a whole congregation that it’s stupid to say you’re tempted by chocolate cake.

There are cupcakes in my office right now. Sure, it’s great to treat yourself every once in a while, but I have been personally convicted about my poor eating habits and I know God does not want me living  in the irresponsible way that I have been. Addison and I had dessert last night to celebrate 5 years of dating. Today, I’m not going to partake in a ho-hum just because cupcake, because I STRUGGLE with this area. While for some people, it’s no harm to eat a treat whenever it’s available– for me it’s a problem. I can’t just have one, so I overeat. And if I do give in, I feel guilty and let it consume my thoughts or try to overcompensate in another area.

With all that crazy in my head, I could probably be doing something else more productive or even more helpful for the Kingdom of God. The pastor Sunday said the devil tries to deter your focus and distract you. Don’t tell me those “innocent” cupcakes aren’t a real temptation. People aren’t all the same, but for me, I know my limits and I’m choosing to abstain. Am I tempted by these cupcakes? YES. Is it a real temptation? Yes. I know many people who feel the same.

Instead of pretending the problem isn’t there or laughing at it, the church should be there FOR the people, GUIDING the people. I mean, why wouldn’t you want a healthy congregation? You already read that “God will take me home in his timing regardless of what I eat” being a pet peeve of mine, but it goes deeper than that. There’s a problem that can’t be ignored any longer, especially with obesity rates on the rise.

Many churches and Christian leaders are taking steps toward this. Saddleback Church went national with their revolutionary Daniel Plan: God’s Prescription for Your Health which basically takes the story of Daniel from the Bible where young men were brought in to be trained to serve the king. All the young men were given wonderful “royal” food and wine. Daniel, however, didn’t want it. When the guy in charge questioned him, Daniel asked for a mere ten days to prove his meal plan would make him healthier and stronger than the others. For 10 days, he only ate fruits, vegetables and water and ended up being stronger than the rest. Of course, there are modified versions of The Daniel Plan that even include eating some meat, but this is a great example of a church seeing a huge need in their own congregation and trying to improve their lives to glorify God.

Made To Crave, is also an awesome Christian series dedicated to the emotional eaters out there. Instead of craving food to heal our emotional wounds, it encourages people (mainly women) to rely more on God and learn to strengthen their relationship with Christ rather than letting their cravings and thoughts of food control them. And P31 Fitness is the coolest program I’ve ever heard of (and seriously wish was in my area) where it’s exercise classes for women, based on the Proverbs 31 woman. How cool is that?

Heck, there’s even Ezekiel bread out there. I’ve never had it myself. But apparently its based on some health thing on the Bible (Ezekial 4:9).

I guess what I’m trying to say is: With other tools out there like the above, and the obvious health component that is clearly stated in various parts of the Bible, why then do churches ignore the health of their congregation, perpetuate the problem with unhealthy events, and then even go as far as to laugh about the idea that chocolate cake can hinder someone spiritually?

I know people who obsess way too much about food– either trying to eat healthy and beat themselves up when they mess up or by making their health almost an idol because they’re so obsessed with doing it right.

I even obsess about food. It can be a real problem. Can food take over someone’s focus, regardless of religion? Absolutely. Can it become an unhealthy obsession? You betcha.

The thing that bothers me the most is beyond the ignorance. Sure, it’s not an easy problem to fix, but the steps toward making things better can be easy.

I mean, seriously, how hard would it be for a youth event at church to serve Kentucky Grilled Chicken or a huge Subway sandwich platter instead of pizza, have some moms make an affordable, simple salad and serve cut up fruit?

When I was 12, I went on a mission trip where they served SO MUCH CRAP FOOD, that the majority of the kids on the trip got sick. We had to cancel a whole day of mission work so we could recuperate and they had to ask the ladies of the church to provide us with vegetables. I remember being so excited for green beans that night. Apparently days upon days of pizza and fried chicken took a toll on even our young stomachs.

The time has come for food addiction and eating disorders to not be a laughing matter and poo-pooed as something innocent. It’s time to be there for those struggling. It’s time to set the example.

And if someone says they struggle with chocolate cake, DO NOT belittle their personal struggle. And above all else, DO NOT bake them a chocolate cake.

On a lighter note, at least this awesome Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins, acknowledges how ridiculous the Christian culture can be about food. Check out his food prayer where we “ask God to make up for our poor eating choices.” The best part starts at minute 0:50.

6 thoughts on “Food Addiction and the Church

  1. Love this. The thing I’m learning more and more of, is how intricately connected the spiritual is with all of the other parts of the world around us. Including, in your case, eating.

  2. We actually try to have healthier food during our outings especially surf camp. Trying to surf after eating poor just doesn’t cut it.

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