No more food shame

This is the fourth principle in the IE + Scripture Series and if you read Monday’s post, you’ll know this is one of my favorite Intuitive Eating principles. The gospel has SO much to say on the topic.

So without further ado, the fourth principle of Intuitive Eating is “Challenge the Food Police”

The authors of the book write this about the third principle:

Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.

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Morality and food: a shame cycle

Attaching morality to food, calling it good or bad and labeling ourselves good or bad for eating it is commonplace these days. Have you ever heard someone say, “No thanks, I’m being good today” when offered dessert? Then you’ve witnessed principle number four in action.

Lining the grocery shelves are food labels that play on our beliefs that food is either morally right or wrong, Halotop icecream, perfectbar, puravega, nothing against these brands, but these are just to name a few. Following suite, many restaurants label menu items things like “dirty burger” or “sinful chocolate pie” to signify the dish is “bad.”

If you haven’t seen this stuff, you’re among the lucky few.

The point is we have an intrinsic belief as a culture that food is either good or bad, right or wrong, and when we eat foods we perceive are bad or when we eat more than we think we should, we’re quick to label ourselves bad. As a result, the guilt and shame start rolling in.

Food shame drives us to do a few things, none of them helpful.

  1. We feel the need to punish ourselves, so we engage in food restriction, forced exercise, body bashing, or other harmful behaviors

  2. We feel so down on ourselves and our failure that we decide “what the heck” and eat ALL the food—ultimately this cycles back to response number one and/or going on another diet.

Restriction, overexercise, bingeing and dieting don’t do anything to improve your health long term, but in fact cause increased mental and physical stress, resulting in poorer health outcomes.

So how do we end the cycle? The authors tell us to “just say no,” but as Christians I believe we have an even greater motivation to stop.

The first and most important argument against the food police is the gospel.

The gospel is anti food shame

Christ literally took all of our punishment on the cross. The punishment for our sins, past, present and future was put on him. He died to satisfy God’s judgement against evil, so that we wouldn’t have to. When God raised Jesus from the dead it signified that Christ conquered sin and death and was victorious in making us right with God forever.

God now sees us as forgiven, holy, and righteous in Christ. The bible actually says he no longer remember our sins (Isaiah 43: 25).

Further, Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no more condemnation, (guilty sentence and resultant punishment) for those who are in Christ Jesus—Jesus has paid it all.

If we can remember that God has already punished every shortcoming in Christ, it sets us free to come to Him when we mess up with a grateful heart, thanking our Heavenly Father that He made a way for us to be made new and forgiven in Christ. Anything more and we’re essentially saying that what Christ did wasn’t enough.

Further, we know that no food in and of itself is wrong for us to eat and that nothing that we eat can defile us (Romans 14:14 and Mark 7: 18 - 19). So when we feel guilt for eating a certain food, it’s not guilt coming from God, but coming from ourselves, from the culture we live in and the lies of the enemy.

I’d argue that wallowing in shame from overeating is also outside of God’s will. He knows that the power of sin is that it causes shame and shame makes us hide from Him. That’s why God sent Jesus, so we could be free from shame and share openly in relationship with Him. In hiding from God we continue to try to manage things on our own, which only results in more and more sin and more and more shame.

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Instead, as believers we are called to bring our shame out into the light, asking God what He thinks of us and finding the truth that He has already forgiven us and remembers our sin no more.

renewing your mind

God loves you as you are, and He wants nothing more than for you to be free from the cycle of shame, punishment, restriction, dieting, and bingeing. But in order for that to happen we must believe Him.

That’s all. We have to believe what He says when He calls us righteous in his sight.

Sometimes we won’t “feel” like we believe it, and that’s normal. That’s when we pray and meditate on scripture that reminds us of the truth.

We meditate on verses like:

2 Corinthians 5: 21 and if it’s helpful, insert your name or “me” where there are plural pronouns. For example, this verse:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for me, so that in him I might become the righteousness of God.

Another good one, 1 Peter 2:24

He himself bore my sins in his body on the tree, that I might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds I have been healed.

Ephesians 2: 8 - 10

For by grace I have been saved through faith. And this is not my own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that I may not boast. For I am his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that I should walk in them

Or just meditate on the entire passage of Romans 3: 21 - 31

Seriously, there are countless verses like this that we can go to, because it’s kind of the whole point of the Christian faith, forgiveness by grace so that we’d be free from the power of sin and shame and free to enjoy authentic relationship with our heavenly father.

If we can pause in the middle of our food shame cycle to seek God and remember this truth, remember His forgiveness and His love, it may be the very thing we need to stop, give ourselves compassion, and move on without dieting/restricting, bingeing or punishing ourselves.

No more food shame. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?

Until next time, stay nourished spirit, soul AND body :)

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