Yes, Yes, of COURSE I care about health…

Most of the responses to my recent Her.meneutics post (“The Dark Side of Healthy Eating”) have been very positive, for which I’m really grateful, not least because the spirit of that post really captures some important aspects of my upcoming book.

Offspring #1 enjoys a strawberry.

But some readers have asked whether or not I do, in fact, care about healthy eating–or whether I’m more:

“lets [sic] all eat hot dogs and bacon full of nitrates! (which are proven to cause cancer) and make fun of the people who give it up in the name of being healthy.”

Yes, I do care about health! I’ll serve (and eat) the occasional hotdog, but I’ll choose an organic, humanely-raised, nitrate-free variety. Our family tries to eat mostly organic and/or free-range animal products–and we eat mainly vegetarian meals. We grow and eat organic fruit and veggies right in our own backyard. I make yogurt. You get the idea.

It’s just that I think “health” in eating means more than just seeking dietary ‘perfection’ single-mindedly, as if it is the be-all, end-all of life. To me, dietary ‘health’ must include the health of the planet, and it must include a sense of food justice–an awareness of those who don’t get enough (or enough of the right foods).

And it must include gratitude and fellowship.

So, yes, I do care about ‘healthy’ eating. There are many, many things I don’t let my children eat. But I’m equally concerned that my orientation toward good food isn’t a frightened flight away from “what everyone else is eating.”

Offspring #2 enjoys being strange with a strawberry.

As I said in the piece,

“Do some foods testify more clearly to the goodness of God by virtue of having been produced in ways that honor God’s creation, God’s creatures, and God’s people? Certainly. But there remains that dietary ‘perfection’ is elusive, if not entirely illusory, and that our lives are much more than the food that sustains them.”

A strawberry picked and eaten in the garden, warmed by the sun, speaks more clearly to me of God’s goodness than one I might purchase in a plastic clamshell, shipped from 3,000 miles away, in the dead of winter.

But if someone offers me the latter kind of strawberry, I’ll accept it, for the sharing imparts a kind of grace that goes beyond nutrition, taste, or ecological impact. I don’t know why, exactly.

It just does.

 

When Healthy Eating *Isn’t*

When people find out that I write about food, they frequently assume that I’m either about to pronounce judgment on what they eat, or that I’m about to dispense dietary wisdom. In fact I’m a bit of a dietary antinomian.

food.jpg

This isn’t to say that I don’t harbor my share of concerns about the state of agriculture, food, and eating in this country. I do. I’m concerned that diet-related disease and obesity disproportionately affect people who are poor. Government subsidies that make fast food cheaper than fresh produce also concern me, as does the blatant disregard for the life of God’s creatures that’s happening on factory farms. I don’t like seeing cereal marketed to children that’s 25 percent sugar by weight, or girls as young as three and four worrying about the ‘childhood obesity epidemic.’

But I’m equally concerned when I see how easily the devotion to ‘healthy’ and ‘righteous’ eating can take a pernicious turn and become legalistic, judgmental, isolating and even crippling. Not long ago, I met a woman who was deeply concerned about her granddaughter. “She doesn’t eat anything anymore! It’s not that she wants to be thin, she just thinks so many different things are unhealthy. She doesn’t eat grains. She doesn’t eat anything that comes from an animal. She tries to eat only things that are raw. She wouldn’t even eat this,” she said, gesturing to the home-cooked meal we were sharing.

{from my newest post at Christianity Today’s blog for women. You may read the rest here, if you like.}