What is your New Year’s Resolution? When I am asked this question, I hear a less polite version of the question: “What area of life have you needed to address for quite some time but choose to continually put off?” My typical response goes something like, “That I live a healthier lifestyle by exercising more and eating better.” To be honest, that answer sounds great and is easily achievable — all I would need to do is complete one workout per year and stop eating endless amounts of clearance candy that I habitually purchase the day after a food-themed holiday (a.k.a. nearly all American holidays) and I would be doing more than I currently am.
As a new mother to a sweet baby boy, I have been doing a lot of inner reflection. My son, Owen, has recently begun eating baby food and his pediatrician said we may also feed him tiny bites off of our plates. After the pediatrician gave me this instruction, I began to examine my plate for baby-friendly foods each time I sat down to a meal. In doing so, I have noticed that I would not want my son to ingest most of the foods I consume. I wish I could say this hesitation was due to eating spicy food each meal, but the truth is that my husband and I love foods that feature processed ingredients, grease and added sugars.
I soon came to realize that I should avoid consistently consuming foods that I deem unfit for my child. This realization led me to devise a “let’s not address this problem now” plan.
STEP ONE: Begin the plan at a later date. January 1 seemed too soon, so I chose March instead. I justified this choice because Owen turns one in March and that is when babies start consuming most of their calories through solid foods.
STEP TWO: Stock up on all of my favorite unhealthy entrees and snacks and cherish each bite until March.
After I devised this foolproof plan of procrastination and hedonism, I resumed the show I was watching on Hulu. The TV show had just unearthed that one of the characters was a secret alcoholic. As I watched the drama unfold, I kept thinking, “Just stop drinking — stop putting yourself in situations with alcohol nearby.” Soon, the character’s friends held an intervention for her and convinced her to check herself into rehab the next day. Later that same night, the alcoholic binged all of the wine that she could find in her home. It was at this point that I realized the parallel between addiction and how I was eating.
Tricia Alberts, executive director of Sports Crusaders, had a similar realization after she had a health scare in March of 2018 and sought to change her lifestyle. She was doing well with her eating and exercising, but hit a bump in the road.
“I had traveled out of town for several meetings and the most important one of them canceled. I found myself in the drive-thru of Sonic for something fried and a milkshake. I was restricted from fried foods and sweets,” Alberts shared.
But before she ordered, something happened.
“It was like God spoke to me in an audible voice: ‘Come to me, all of you who are weak and heavy laden.’ I realized at that moment that I had to order a large water and iced tea,” she explained.
Alberts went on to share that she realized that she was not even hungry when she went to Sonic; instead, she was there for a different reason.
“I was going there for comfort food. It is crazy to me that we find our comfort in food, shopping, overworking, etc., when we must rely on God for the comforts. We must ‘eat to live,’ not ‘live to eat’ like our society has taught us,” Alberts said. “Since I have taken this new approach to life, I find myself to be more at ease with circumstances life throws our way. It’s almost like when I got saved; I have been transformed! My health has more than improved with the new way of life in eating and exercise. My walk with the Lord is sweeter and closer than ever before.”
Amy Bayer, who became an American Fitness Professionals & Associates certified nutritionist when she moved to Chicago, Ill., sees a trend between culture and food. Different nationalities are known for perfecting certain types of food and find identity in those dishes. In the same way, the cultural shift to instant gratification has caused fast food and prepackaged, processed snacks to gain popularity.
“People struggle with eating healthy because of cultural norms and personal habits developed out of their upbringings,” said Bayer. “The American culture has a very unhealthy use of processed food. Companies add sugar, fat and salt and remove natural fiber and water in processed foods, so that they become addictive and not really filling. So, people can sit down and literally eat an entire bag of Cheez-It [crackers] without feeling satisfied.”
Bayer added that God designed our bodies to be nourished with whole, naturally occurring foods that provide us with essential nutrients and consuming those foods exalts his creation.
“When I cook food that combines so much of the delicious flavors and nutrition and doesn’t waste the amazing food he has provided for me, I feel like it glorifies God. When I make recipes that just need to be written down, I feel like it uses the creative gifts God has given me and it glorifies God,” Bayer shared.
Similarly, Kansas City native Stephanie Lusardi, who works as a director for Athletes in Action at San Diego State University, reminds us that our bodies reflect our attitude towards the Lord.
“Our bodies are the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, so we are to treat our bodies with respect,” Lusardi stated. “That has to do with what we eat, how we work out, what we put in our bodies and what our eyes see.”
Lusardi works with college athletes to teach them that even when they are exhausted physically and mentally they can trust God to get them through challenges.
“We also hope they learn that their worth, identity and performance would not depend on their coaches or fans but what the Lord already says is true of them,” she said. “That they are loved and worthy because of what Jesus did on a cross.”
Through her journey to become healthier, Alberts said that she has felt a undeniable different in her focus, energy level and her overall health — sharing that she feels better at 45 than she did when she was 35.
“This is why I feel this is important to God. He wants us to be a living sacrifice for him. That is hard to do when you are undisciplined and don’t feel well. It’s just like when you don’t feast on the truth of God’s word, you starve the Holy Spirit. Your body also has to have good nourishment and exercise to function in a positive, more Godly way. Your body is the Lord’s,” said Alberts.
“My parents always taught me to treat other people’s things better than you treat your own,” she added. “The Bible says, ‘You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.’ We owe it to him and ourselves to treat our health more than a New Year’s resolution, it’s a way of life. He is our salvation.”
As we make our way into 2019, I realize I need to resolve to take action instead of just making a plan to eventually end unhealthy habits. Let us work to eat foods that God created for us to enjoy. Let us use our bodies that God has designed to do great things. Let us work together to end the normalcy of the fast food culture and the instant gratification we yearn for in the drive thru. Let us instead dwell on the old adage, “Good things come to those who watch their weight…” or something like that.