Peace. What a word -- and with so many connotations too. For some of you it might bring to mind a certain era in the 60's where people gave up shaving, hygiene and working -- or maybe it's an individual like Mother Theresa, Gandhi or Bob Marley that pops into your head.
For me, the word peace conjures up memories of my childhood home. It's me sitting alone, criss cross applesauce at the very edge of our boat dock, looking out at the sunset across the water. I grew up on the lake you see, and this was the spot I went to when I wanted to calm a chattering mind, to rest; it was a place where I knew I would not be disturbed.
The very definition of peace is a freedom from disturbance, a state of quiet and tranquility, wholeness. And peace is arguably the most valuable/ sought after possession. You see a calm and tranquil soul and a mind that is wholly undisturbed is beyond just emotional wellbeing. We now know, from a scientific standpoint, that this type of peace has a powerful effect for good on our physical health as well.
Take food for example. Our bodies are amazing, we were designed to be able to digest just about any food and turn it into energy for our use. When we're in a restful (peaceful) state and our parasympathetic nervous system is in the driver seat (the system responsible for "resting and digesting"), digestion occurs how it was meant to happen: food is broken down to its smallest parts, nutrients are absorbed and utilized or stored for later, and waste is either filtered out or excreted without issue. Hormonal cascades signal to the brain that you are satisfied and you've had enough to eat.
On the other hand, when we are overly anxious or worried about something, our sympathetic nervous system is triggered, we switch to "flight or fight" mode. In this state, digestion is drastically slowed or even stopped. This can cause heartburn, nausea, and constipation. If we're chronically in this worried or anxious state we can develop some real digestive problems, not to mention dysregulation of our hunger and fullness cues. In light of what we know about the effects of eating in a state of anxiousness, worry or guilt, we can argue that it's much more damaging to our health to worry over the food we eat than it is to just eat so called "bad" foods from a place of peace and rest.
This is why the third principle of intuitive eating, "making peace with food" is so important. It involves giving yourself unconditional permission to eat any food without judgment or guilt. Keeping our definition of peace in mind, following this concept means not allowing any food to cause you disquiet or to disturb your thoughts. In order to do this, you must recognize that food has NO power over you. You can have any food you want, when you want it with no guilt, because there is NOTHING wrong with eating. It then becomes clear that food will always be available and permissable for you, because of this, some "forbidden foods" may lose their luster. Think about it. When you tell a little child they can play with any toy in the room except one, what do they automatically do? They try their darndest to get that ONE toy. When you act as though it's no big deal for them to play with something, they usually set the item down after exploring it for a short time. Food is no different.
Don't believe me? Try this out. Make a list of 5 foods you truly enjoy, but you haven't allowed yourself to eat (excluding food allergies of course). Now go buy them/make them and keep them in your house. Eat those foods one at a time in a relaxed setting (when you are hungry), savor that food, now ask yourself, "do I really like this food, or did it just hold a certain 'forbidden fruit' appeal?" If the answer is YES, I love this food, keep it in the house, remind yourself that you can enjoy it whenever you like, because food is good! It is for our nourishment and no food is off limits. If the answer is NO, I don't really like this food, well now you know, and you can let it go and move on to something you do enjoy.
Hear me out here - I'm a dietitian, I am NOT saying that all foods are nutritionally equal -- we know that's not true. I am saying that all food should be emotionally equal. We should no longer let any food cause us disturbance whether out of extreme desire for it or guilt for eating it. This is easier said than done for many people. A lot of us are so wrapped up in food rules and fears. We live in a hyper food and health aware culture and are constantly told to fear food. Someone is either telling us to turn to food or away from it as the answer to all of our health and life concerns. All this focus though results in fear and anxiety, deepening our issues with food and distracting us from focusing on the one thing that matters.
The good news is there is grace for everyone. Deciding to let go of food anxieties is hard, but it's possible and immensely beneficial. For those who believe in Him, Jesus helps us. He promises, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
So take His peace, which is the assurance of salvation through Him. The assurance that you do not have to strive to earn His love or favor. You can rest in the quiet place, undisturbed by guilt shame and worry, because He has already removed those things from you. This kind of peace kind of makes fretting over the cake you had at lunch a little inconsequential...am I right?