Tag Archives: culture

America has an eating disorder

America has an eating disorder. We eat by numbers, rules, regulations. We make decisions about the food we eat based on fear, anxiety, and righteous attitude. We restrict, omit, and regiment selected nutrients and food groups.

Our culture has great angst about obesity, weight gain, and body shape. We fear food and weight-related diseases and build our diets and exercises around these fears. We’re scared to be fat. So we put nutrition labels on everything as a tool to help control and avoid fat. We put devices on our wrists and smart phones to track every bite, every step, every heart beat to makes sure we don’t get fat.

We have countless diets and cleanses and every kind of work out program; we have diet pills and calorie strategies; we have workout equipment and memberships; we have safe foods, bad foods, healthy foods, demon foods, healthier foods, poison foods, clean foods. We avoid calories, save calories, burn calories.

We’ve got teachers teaching kids how to read nutrition labels and hanging their snacks on the wall in categories “HEALTHY”  and “NOT HEALTHY.” My eight-year-old daughter came home agitated because the girls at lunch were claiming her chocolate milk was bad for her, but M’s was okay because it was “healthier” as determined by the lesser grams of sugar. L didn’t agree about either one because her mom said all chocolate milk is bad for you.

Our culture calls all of this “being healthy,” but really it’s all to avoid “being fat.”

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We aren’t healthy, though. We’re anxious because… not enough steps, too many calories, not high enough heart rate, too much on the scale, too much on the plate, still craving “that thing,” not enough days at the gym, gave in, no self-control, pants don’t fit, back fat, tummy fat, butt fat, arm jiggle, thigh gap, not buff enough, not strong enough, no muscle definition, need to lose more, need to have better habits, need to work harder, faster, longer, need to restrict more, need a new diet, need better control…

Despite all the tools, rules, and media information, America still has an obesity crisis. Yet we also have a growing crisis of anorexia and bulimia in our youngest and most precious kiddos. There is something much deeper and more troubling going on here.

I don’t believe our culture is overindulgent. I don’t believe we lack self-control in our lives. I don’t believe we are bad people. I believe as a culture, we’re very sick and we need recovery. We’ve become disconnected from our bodies, obsessed with food as something to be feared rather than enjoyed, and distorted in our understanding of what it means to be kind to ourselves and our bodies.

Eating disorders are not about food. Eating disorders are not about weight. Eating disorders are the compulsive behavior and thought patterns that are rooted in distorted beliefs about food and body. Eating disorders are evidenced by extreme anxiety about food, body image, exercise. America has an eating disorder.

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Why being a Christian makes me tired

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~Jesus

If Jesus gives rest then why am I so tired?

Lately I have noticed an underlying, general message that Christians need to be doing better: Loving deeper. Serving more. Putting faith into action. Going where Jesus goes. The call for action doesn’t seem willy-nilly; there’s plenty of Scripture to back up the instruction. Not to mention, there is our messy, broken world filled with hurting people; the need for Jesus’ love is dire. Love is action and there isn’t enough. Since I am a Christian, I take this call to love better–be better seriously. If we need to be better, then I need to be better.

With a load of desire on my back to please the Lord, and a side pouch of guilt that I wasn’t doing enough in the first place, I seek out where the needs are and I go and I do the work. Trying to be better. Trying to learn more. Trying to love deeper. Trying to be more like Jesus. Not just out in the world with hurting people, but also in my personal life as a wife, mother, friend, sister, and daughter.

Consequently, I often have a very full calendar with things to do, people to visit, meetings to attend. If I see a bit of white space in the schedule, I fill it in because it seems wrong to have free time. Or more accurately, I could be using that free time to be serving… “doing better.” While I am “resting,” I could be emailing the girl at church who was struggling last week and offering some words of encouragement. Since I have the white space, I might as well volunteer to make that flier for the fundraiser. Since Thursday is a free night at my house, I could serve at the homeless shelter. Since that church event is happening in a couple of months, I could fill in all the white space with helping organize it… if if feels like too much, well, at least the commitment is only temporary.

Have you ever said, “Things will settle down when this, that or the other thing is over”? I have, too often. The problem is things never settle down because the white space returns and we fill it in again… overloading the schedule over and over again.

As I begin to wear out from being overwhelmed by the doing, I start hearing a conflicting message from my trusted Christian friends and leaders: “You are enough.” “All God wants is you.” “Be still and know that I am God.” “Take care of yourself.” “Just be.”

Well, now I am just confused. And tired.

I went to God with my confusion: If I am supposed to be doing better, loving more, being more like Jesus (of whom I will never be), then how am I possibly “enough”? I am tired, but I am called (and I desire) to go out and use the gifts you gave me to serve others.

He reminded me of THE most important lesson I learned in anorexia recovery: Ignore the voices in culture and listen only for His voice.  While the “be-better/do-more-for-God-and-here’s-how” messages are loud, very few encourage “listen for God to tell you what to do, where to serve, and how to love.”

There are things I want to do for God and things Christian culture expects me to do for God… none of which God has asked me to do for God. It’s when I engage in those things I assume I “should”  or “could” do because it makes sense in serving the Lord that I get completely overwhelmed. I want to discern between the call of God and the call of Christian culture. The only way to know where God is calling me is to spend time with Him in prayer and hear his voice.

He has given me work to do and the gifts and talents to do that work. The only things He’s called me to right now is to minister to my family and to serve in the mental health ministry as he instructs. Not to mention, to follow His lead each day with the encounters he orchestrates with other people. That’s it. And it’s plenty! And it’s good!

And guess what? When we say “we need to do better,” it devalues all that we have already done. God isn’t sitting on His throne with his arms crossed saying, “All the stuff you’ve done is fine, but you need to be doing better. Look at what you aren’t doing.” Nope. He’s holding us in his arms saying “I love you. Good job! Hey, let Me help make this work easier for you so you don’t get so tired, okay? In fact, I have something different for you to do.”

Being a Christian makes me tired when I am busy doing what I think I should in order to be better. Being with God gives me energy, direction, and rest in order to do the work He needs me to do. Never will He over load my plate and never will he tell me “It’s not enough. Do better.”