What if you had no reason to be afraid? I looked up the definition given for “fear” and Google kindly provided me with the words “an unpleasant emotion…” Thank you, Google, for putting it so delicately. Fear is more than unpleasant, in my experience. I have lived a life ruled by fear – desperate to be loved and accepted by those around me.
When I was in high school we took that little survey that would tell us which love language we speak. Mine came out pretty even across the board and over the years I’ve joked that it’s because “I just wanna be loved!” All the while knowing in my heart that it’s true and it’s actually not all that funny. We go to great lengths to feel the security of love.
When I entered into the fitness industry, my eyes were opened to the fear that has entangled the hearts of women across generations. Suddenly I could see pain everywhere, women hurting over the many ways they weren’t aligning with the world’s picture of beauty. Striving and grasping for an elusive state of “health” and “fitness” – succumbing to half-truths and over-simplified information about their nutrition and their right to enjoy the food in front of them. I began to see in my own life the ways I fear the thoughts and opinions of others regarding my body and the food on my plate.
Here at Tales of a Peanut we’ve been talking about survival mode and the different ways we can pursue everyday strength as we use self care to propel us forward and cultivate courage. Fear is the emotion that stops us in our tracks. It tells us we aren’t measuring up and that we aren’t worth loving. Our fear turns us inward, analyzing our behaviors and our appearance, looking for ways to tweak the way others perceive us. If only to get just a little more love – whatever the cost. It’s for this reason that our “relationship” with food has become so problematic.Fear is the emotion that stops us in our tracks. - @_alisanelson Click To Tweet
We eat multiple times per day and it’s about time we stepped out of the fear and shame that clouds our hearts and minds, don’t you think? Will you come with me?
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:16b-18
Adam and Eve were the first to experience shame. They were suddenly compelled to hide from their Maker and each other. Their fear blinded them to the memory of the love they experienced in the presence of God. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament God’s people continued to choose fear over perfect love – they ran away from him, thankless and forgetful of all he had provided. The prophets were commissioned to speak the words of the Lord – condemning the sin that enshrouded the Israelites and beckoning them back to the One who would restore them and walk with them as a husband with his bride.
“In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: ‘Do not be afraid, O Zion; Do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.’” Zephaniah 3:16-17
Zephaniah prophesied of the coming Messiah – of Jesus – who would restore the world and drive out fear through the ultimate sacrifice. He took the punishment that was rightfully ours and invites us into his presence as his redeemed bride.
Just like the Israelites and generations before us, we often choose to walk in fear and shame instead of walking in God’s love.
Sister, the fear you have over your food, appearance, and the opinions of others is unfounded. You have been set free from the one thing you should truly fear – separation from the One our souls long to commune with. When we embrace the gift of grace, we can side step the chaos the world is trying to throw at us and eat our food in freedom.
Freedom from the fear of what the Mom across the table from you is eating compared to what you’re eating.
Freedom from the fear of stepping on the scale just to see the number crawl higher.
Freedom from the constant battle between deciding to indulge and the guilt and weakness that we feel afterwards.
But here’s what we can’t miss: our health is a real thing that deserves our attention. Not because of fear but because we are walking in God’s love and want to be stewards of these bodies that he has given us.
We were created with a need to replenish our energy stores through the consumption of delicious edibles. There are dietary fats, amino acids, and other biochemicals that we must eat in order to perform the many processes in our cells. Food sustains our lives. When it comes to the maintenance of our bodies, the foods we choose to eat matter and there is a real biological problem with the manufactured food in our culture that creates difficulties in that maintenance. It’s important to understand what will lead you to thrive as a human being. High value foods like those rich in protein, healthy fats, and fiber will help you thrive. That’s just the way science works.
Approaching nutrition as a science (as opposed to out of fear) does a few things for us:
Defines the problem
Instead of approaching our nutrition from a state of fear, which leads to constantly trying to solve the problem of security rather than health, we can ask the questions whose answers will help us effectively move toward healthier living.
- How do we effectively care for our bodies?
- What foods provide the nutrients we need for our cells to perform their specific tasks?
- How can we manipulate our nutrition during high-stress seasons (like motherhood?) to balance our hormones and boost our immune systems (two areas that suffer during chronic stress).
Sets parameters for observation
We look at the data we can influence, instead of the emotions and opinions we can’t. We can increase or decrease the amount or type of food we eat. We can sleep more (sometimes). As we come to understand what our bodies need and how they work, we can begin to mold it. Our confidence in giving our bodies the types of foods that it needs replaces our fear.
Builds in assessment and feedback
For many women, the scale is the only real “feedback” they get on their health. Is the number going up or down? But there are better sources of feedback that we can use as we practice untangling our identity from our appearance. When it comes to our nutrition we can look at energy levels, sleep quality, presence or absence of gut discomfort, and ability to focus throughout the day. Don’t get hung up on a number – your weight is actually based upon many things (water intake, hormone balance, time of day, etc) and therefore can’t tell you specifically if what you are doing is helping or not.
Food choice does not need to continue to be a stressor in our lives. We’re women with many other responsibilities to concern ourselves with. If in our everyday lives we are celebrating the victory Jesus declares over us then we can freely approach our nutrition from a place of already thriving. And we can eat to fuel our bodies enabling us to remain alert and effective, ready to keep going.
I will close with a quote from Influence Network co-founder, Jess Connolly. I asked her how she has seen her weight loss journey affect her creatively and she paints such a perfect picture of how the Gospel and a good understanding of our body’s needs frees us in the everyday. She said, “For me, the #1 reason to exercise is that because spending one hour a day doing the right thing frees me up to NOT think about it the rest of my day. I spend one hour, partnering with the Lord, becoming stronger and stewarding the body He’s given me. The rest of the day when I feel tempted to think about my body or feel insecure, I can throw it off and know a) God loves me b) I’m doing my part and c) I AM getting stronger and growing, slowly but surely.”
I love Alisa’s post today. Food is such a stressor in my life but she is so right…I have way too many other things to concern myself with to stress out over food! Do you struggle with food, nutrition, health, weight, or all of the above? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Sometimes just knowing that we’re not alone makes it infinitely easier to bear a stressor!