The perfect weight


Food / Thursday, January 30th, 2014

What do you think a godly woman should look like? Should she be a model of self-denial, at the perfect weight? Or comfortable with wearing the shape that time and life impose on her?

*****

Perhaps both.

Remember that scales are a recent phenomenon, and until the last century were not put into use as objects of self-torture. I think our obsession with the perfect number is a little silly.

We expect a lot of ourselves. We want to give careful attention to body maintenance and care, yet avoid being obsessed, you know? We want to purchase and cook these amazing foods, but also be able to say no to them, right? We want to like ourselves, but not be like, um, vain or anything…

We can starve ourselves into losing a few pounds, which we immediately regain when we go back to regular eating habits. We don’t know if we’re horrifically undisciplined or just normal. We don’t know if it’s good to work hard to be “in shape,” or if that’s giving place to the flesh. (The too-much flesh.) Sometimes we don’t even know if we’re overweight or not.

We dance this dance between temperance and pleasure, between humility and confidence, between discipline and freedom, between enjoyment and abstinence. All of these are good words. All of them.

Last fall I had a little epiphany, in which I realized that the perfect weight is the one at which I am healthy, active, joyful, and self-controlled.

What is it about women and food?

Sigh.

We have to be awake to sensory stimuli of some kind. As we grow older and our nerves are no longer jangling over boys and volleyball, food starts meaning more to us. It tastes better—stronger and sharper and creamier and sweeter. Oh, that food.

It almost keeps us company, you know? The nights when hubby is gone, the mornings alone in our apartment, the quiet lonely times, the celebrations—

I think it’s important not to begin connecting food with either selfishness (I want way too much) or shame (I dread even the little I eat). Food was given us both for nourishment and for joy.

The joy part is often taught only by secular culture—they showcase its temptations in almost orgasmic cooking shows, labeling it “sinful” and “decadent.” We Christians prefer to think of its practical aspects—we bow our heads over it and murmur “Thankyouforgivingusthisfoodtonourishourbodiesmayweusethestrengthinthyserviceamen.”

Nourishment is one aspect, but the joy part is also of God. If he wanted only to nourishourbodies do you honestly think He would have taken the trouble to create such a rainbow, such a glorious arc of nuanced flavor and texture? He could have kept up that manna, or brewed a sort of miracle gruel with perfectly balanced nutrients and the flavor of outdated bran flakes… But no. He serves it up with a side of serious rejoicing.

“Thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household.” Deut 14:26

“He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.” Psalm 104:14, 15

Did you skim over those verses? Go back and read them for real.

The soul? The heart?

Tut-tut, that’s emotional eating.

Nonsense. It’s Biblical.

But it’s also important that we allow the Lord Jesus to rule our desires. So quickly we turn our pleasures into taskmasters. In Christ we are not at the mercy of our bodies, neither their cravings nor their demands nor their whining nor their genuine needs. We have a sustaining Source of nourishment that allows us to live by more than bread alone. Food should be received from Him: a sheer delight, not a secret master. Its bright pleasure is not improved by the dusky shades of self-indulgence and guilt.

What if instead of arranging our goals around our weight (this is what I want to weigh), we arranged them around our habits (this is how I want to live)?

More tomorrow.

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Amy
8 years ago

Looking forward to tomorrow… 🙂

janelle
8 years ago

I shall mull the list of list of “all good words” today – I love it – but it provokes me to see my imbalances – Thank you !

Lisa
8 years ago

Yes! “How I want to live” rather than “how much I want to weigh.”

8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Me too!

Shaunda
8 years ago

In which Shari has many wise words to share. Wow. (what was that little blurb you gave the other day about not having any answers???)

I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite lines but then I realized that I would basically need to highlight the entire article.

Thanks for sharing and if there’s more coming…. I’m staying tuned!

8 years ago

More coming? Can’t wait.
Gina

Marlene
8 years ago

Mm-hmm! (Especially about “how I want to live” rather than “what I want to weigh.”)

I’ve just come through a time of sorrow and experienced a shift toward food over that time. The chocolate-and-coffee-etc. food pleasures that I’d been using to sort of buoy me up and fill a little interior empty spot completely lost their appeal. They could not touch this kind of pain; what I wanted was something other and deeper. I realized that to use food in such a way robs it of trueness: trueness of pleasure and joy. True pleasure nearly always means an open hand.

8 years ago

As someone who has always, and I mean as long as I can remember, had to be careful not to gain a lot of weight, I would like to say that when the naturally thin women make comments about how many calories a dish at the potluck probably has, or how they shouldn’t eat this brownie, but… Well, let’s just say that they totally ended my enjoyment of my food as well as made me feel like they just made a statement about my weight. Of course, they didn’t but this is a Sensitive Issue. 😉 I remember traveling with a skinny girl who ate potato chips and drank pop the whole trip, and my jaw was dropping the whole time, because I had never, ever dared to do that. As an adult I have become much happier about who I am, willing to work at being disciplined and healthy, but determined not to let the weight issue make me perpetually unhappy. Looking forward to hearing the rest of your thoughts.

Ruth Anna
8 years ago

Perfect weight–one where I am healthy, joyful, active, and self-controlled! This is one of my favorite lines! Love it!

Christy
8 years ago

Such an interesting subject that would be fun to discuss in person, too! I’ve always struggled with weight,so this has always been a big subject for me. I always wished I could say that I was trying to eat well and to lose weight to be more healthy, but while that was part of the incentive I mostly wanted to look better. More recently health issues have been my motivation for eating well. I now want to be healthy! I’m becoming excited about healthful eating and seeing that taking care of my body (and my families’ bodies) by eating and cooking well and getting exercise is honoring to God.

It was eye opening to me when a thin friend stopped snacking–not because she would gain weight (she wouldn’t have–lucky girl), but because it was gluttony. Wow…it helped me to see that earlier I had been judging whether or not it was right to eat something on whether it made me look unhealthy.

Growing up we did enjoy food as art as well as simple nourishment. We enjoyed arranging it attractively and pairing foods to compliment flavors. I’m glad that was a part of my experience. I love serving through preparing food.

I also see that eating healthfully–even if it was home cooked–has not always been part of my culture, and I love to see more people stepping out to change that. Thanks for inspiring us to live healthfully!

Christy
8 years ago

Oh, yes…and as if that comment wasn’t already kind of over doing it in length, here is a blog post that had me thinking and challenging myself on why I eat:
http://www.incourage.me/2014/01/replacing-my-cravings.html