I won't bore you with the saga of the last month. I will tell you I've been doing pretty well (10 pounds, 10 to go). And, for some strange reason, news stories about food have become a lot more interesting to me over the past weeks—like this one I just saw on the risks of bacon and other kinds of processed food:
I'm not really interested in discussing the merits of this article. That's not really my point—though I did find it interesting, at least to look at the pictures of food. What I did want to talk about is the whole problem of what we could call “food addiction”--what the Bible calls gluttony. I've been thinking a lot about that the few weeks.
I would have never thought I was a food-aholic until the last month. Like the crackhead or the heroin addict, I was too busy trying to get a fix. And, in a more reflective moment, if someone would have confronted me about the power of food and appetite in my life, particularly as it relates to my Christianity, I would have assured him I was not under its control. I had control over my eating (didn't that sizzling bacon look good?)
But something happened a month ago that held a mirror up to my dark (hungry) heart. We were having a birthday party for one of the kids and my wife made an incredible chocolate cake (you know where this is going to go right?). I will say for the record that my wife has learned over 32 years not to nag me about things. So she's not the problem here. But she does gentley make comments for my benefit! And when he was cutting the cake she casually said, “you don't need to take all that. Just cut it in half.”
In years past I would have thought to myself, “yeah, she's right. I don't need all that.” But something wicked welled up in my heart that day and after her casual warning I said to myself, “Who does she think she is, telling me what size cake I can have? I'm not her kid...” Fortunately for our marriage I didn't really say that out loud but it was in my mind and I went ahead and ate the whole piece—putting two big scoops of ice cream on it for good measure.
Like the proverbial forbidden fruit of Eden, it tasted good for a moment, but that didn't last. And after an hour or so I was overcome by guilt and shame. I didn't make an apron of fig leaves to cover my nakedness (a size bigger than my last one) but I did feel very dark and gloomy—not at my wife or even at the chocolate cake but at myself. I realized, finally, how much mastery food has over me.
Since I'm only in the first month of my battle with the bulge I'm in no position to pontificate about what works and what doesn't. I'm not going to presume at this point to start a crusade and call others to join me. I have virtually no credibility yet on this journey so I am not going to try to convince you of anything.
But I do want to confess my own problem in a public way. I want to expose the subtle deceit in my own heart and admit, to myself and others, that I am an idolater. My idol is not of stone or wood but carbs and sugar (oh, and bacon, don't forget the bacon).
How many others are so addicted? I'm sure the numbers are staggering. And we can't just look at statistics and graphs. Not all who are food-aholics are overweight. I recently was talking to a guy who is as skinny as a rail who can't “make it through the day” without his multiple cans of Mountain Dew. For others its a cigarette or a chocolate bar or that fifth cup of coffee (I love coffee. I can't deal with that one yet). It's not that food is bad or that we should never “love” some flavor. But the problem is when it takes mastery over us. The real concern is when we can't let go of it because it has such a grasp on us.
As a Christian I know what has to happen to idols. They have to be smashed and burned. That's kind of difficult with food because we need some to live. It's not hard to talk about smashing the idol or gluttony. But the problem is, what does that really mean? That question has been chafing at me for years. I think my chocolate cake incident make it more clear. Maybe Jesus said it most clearly when, in the Sermon on the Mount he said, “if your right hand offends you, cut it off” (Matthew 5:29,30
On a practical note, I find the whole “in moderation” route doesn't work well for me. That's what I did for the last two years. I convinced myself I was eating in moderation but wasn't. So, at least at this point in my journey, I've had to make more radical breaks with certain types of foods. For me, that means no bread, no cake, no donuts. I haven't had any ice cream or apple pie for a month now. You get the idea. Is that because a donut is bad or because a piece of bread will kill me? No (though if we can believe the media flash above, bacon and sausage and processed meats might be more toxic than we think). But for my purposes, what it means is I can't subject my weak flesh to the temptation of a piece of bread or a single potato chip because one will probably lead to another (after all, “no one can eat just one”, right?).