This post is for those people who have food anxieties, disordered eating tendencies, or an eating disorder.
A while back, I wrote about “sugar addictions”. I might be a glutton for punishment because I’m going to re-open that can of worms. Herewego.
But, before I talk about sugar, let’s talk about onions. (Whoa! Where did that come from? Stick with me for a moment.) Onions are one of those “good for you” foods. They probably contain vitamins and other beneficial nutrients the body could use. And apparently, there is a new germ fighting fad that has something to do with onions.
For years, I tried to pretend that I liked onions, mostly because I thought they were good for you and, partly, because they had minimal calories. But if I am truly honest (unnecessary redundancy...I crack myself up), I can’t stand to eat them. I don’t like the way raw onions taste, and I’m not a fan of them cooked either. But most of all, I REALLY can’t stand they way onions stick with me for hours and hours on end. All I can taste is onion and it bothers me. I could eat fifty mints and I would still taste onion. So, should I eat them, or not?
Should I force myself to eat onions considering they are healthy and taking note that most of my dislike is in my head?
After some deliberation, I decided to not eat onions anymore. Eating them causes mental turmoil. But, this is important, I am not going to diligently check labels to make sure I never eat another onion or onion flavored item. That has E.D. relapse written all over it. However, I will pass on the onion for my hamburger, “No Thanks, I’ll stick with the pickle”.
If my body was a machine and food was fuel, then my answer would be different. But I am more than my body. My body is not just a machine. I have a soul, mind, heart, spirit, emotions, desires, and feelings that are separate from my body yet sill intricately connected to my body.
I know food and mood are related. I get that. Certain foods make me feel like I just got ran over by a truck and some foods make me feel like I can hike Mount Everest. Because of that mere fact (spell check said “mere cat”) alone, I have no problem avoiding McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants. I don’t want to eat some foods because they make me sick to my stomach.
“What the heck do onions and fast food restaurants have to do with sugar anyway?” you ask.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot…sorry! (Yes, I am having an imaginary conversation with the computer.)
Drum roll please...
We are all different.
You might think this is a copout answer. This phrase is weak, fluffy, relativistic, and encapsulates everything I hate about modern society.
But I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water just because I despise the phrase, “what’s good for me might not be good for you”.
It’s true that we are all different…we really are all different. Each person can have different interests, hobbies, likes, dislikes, tastes, etc. God made us individuals and calls us all to Him in different ways (i.e. our different vocations). In this regard, (deep breath, I can say it…) what’s good for me might not be good for you.
I’ll give you an extreme example; I am not meant to be a nun. I am meant to be married. But that doesn’t mean you are not meant to be a nun, right? (If you are a boy, then think priest instead.) Marriage is good for me, but might not be good for you. Right. In this sense, we can use relativistic standards and get away with it unscathed.On the flip side, some things aren’t relative and can never be relative. Some things aren’t negotiable. Like, sin. Sin is sin, and wrong is wrong. You cannot argue with the truth. God is God; and I will not back down from saying so. Sex before marriage is a sin. Drunkenness is a sin. Gluttony is a sin. Masturbation is a sin. Those things are intrinsically evil. (However, that doesn't mean you can't be forgiven if you struggle with any of those vices.)
My sixth grade religion students were really into moral theology this year. "Is this a sin? What about this? How about this? What about this situation?" I think we all tend to wonder about sin especially when the world tells us something different.
Back to sugar…
Food tastes and eating habits fall into the category of individualism. Our individualism is what makes us unique. It’s OK that I like running and you don’t. It’s OK that I prefer to play hearts instead of euchre. It’s OK that I like mint chocolate chip ice cream and you like rocky road.
Gluttony is a sin. However, eating sugar, desserts, ice cream, or cookies is not a sin.
Onions, and, yes, sugar effects everyone differently. You have to be truly honest with yourself and listen to your own needs to figure out what is good for you or not.
Keep in mind: I am talking about the whole person, and the whole eating experience.
If sugar makes you feel bad physically, mentally, or emotionally, you can choose not to eat it. But be truly honest with yourself when deciding what to do. Don’t listen to someone else’s standards or expectations.
For me, having ice cream with the girls on a Saturday night has nothing to do with physical nutrition. It has everything to do with fostering good relationships and experiencing a little of life’s pleasures.
For me, sugar enhances the quality of my life.
Sugar, like any other food, affects each person differently. And you (and your doctor maybe) have to figure out if you can handle it or not. Sugar can be bad if it keeps you from having a good quality of life.
If you are having a hard time deciding what to do, relate yourself to an alcoholic. I’m serious. Try it.
Drinking alcohol in and of itself is not a bad thing. If you can drink in moderation, you are not committing sin. Drunkenness is, however, a sin. If you cannot drink in moderation it is good to know that about yourself. You might need to give it up or get help.
For me, alcohol is a dangerous substance. It keeps me from living a good life, to say the least. Last year, I decided to give up alcohol completely. No one is forcing me to do make this sacrifice. Nothing is holding me back from becoming a full-fledged alcoholic. I am powerless over it. But by the grace of God, I will be one year sober this Sunday.
For me, alcohol is not a moderation question. I know myself and know I cannot handle drinking. So, I gave it up for good. The phrase, “moderation is key”, does not apply to me in this circumstance. If I have a even just little sip, I could jeopardize my mental health, my recovery, and my relationship with God.
For me, the subject of eating sugar was a little different than you might think. It was the "NOT" eating sugar that kept me from God.
I was obsessed with not eating sweet, desserts, or anthing "bad". But I felt this way because I had a disordered view of food. I thought that the act of eat one chocolate chip was bad enough to be considered a sin. So, of course, eating sugar messed me up mentally. I thought this was a good reason to give it up. Instead, giving it up caused more problems.
It is important to remember that, in and of itself, sugar is not evil. And you are not evil if you eat it. We live in a culture that views sugar as sin and cohabitating with your boyfriend OK. It is opposite of what Our Lord teaches is right and wrong.
If you truly listened to your needs, you would know which path to take. If you are having trouble discerning what your needs are, talk to a counselor, a doctor, a priest, or a trusted friend.
Remember, no one is perfect.
Sure, I eat too much sugar from time to time. If I eat too many desserts and sweets, I do still feel bad. In the past that was a reason to severely punish myself. But now I know now that eating too much is no reason to despair and contemplate suicide. Confession is a better alternative.
In my life, I’ve been addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, laxatives, and other dangerous substances. In my opinion, if I eat desserts from time to time, I am not concerned. The effects of being “addicted” to sugar are far less detrimental to me than the trauma experienced while abusing the other substances.
Yes, I do acknowledge that things like sugar can affect my body in not so positive ways.
But I can deal with the effects of sugar better than I can deal with the effects of restricting them.
That’s me. Now go figure out you.