How Gratitude changes our relationship with food and everything else

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I have a somewhat embarrassing story to share. I vacillated back and forth, deciding whether or not to share this portion of my life on the world wide web, but alas, I’m doing it.

At my core, I believe that even painful, awkward and embarrassing situations have redemption in them. And where there is redemption, there is something to share. Some of our most unsavory moments can become a platform for encouraging others. So here goes.

 A couple weeks ago I misplaced my driver’s license. I scoured every vehicle and purse and pocket, but no luck. Convinced that it would show up eventually, I did nothing.  Actually, I didn’t really want to do anything, because I knew in order to get a new license I’d need to take the drive test (written and driving) over again, like I was 16. That’s the rule here in OK if you’re replacing an out of state driver’s license.

A little embarrassing, but not so bad right? The next part is worse. I let the anxiety of taking that test rule me for weeks.  When I was 16, I failed my first driving test because I couldn’t parallel park, and even though I’ve been driving for almost 12 years, it still haunts me. I started focusing on this event from my past, on my insufficiencies and on my fear,  and I ended up frozen.

It even got as bad as me blaming God for not making my license show up, not answering my prayer, I started playing out worse case scenarios in my head, and believing the lie that God wasn’t good (based on events that hadn’t even happened).

 Somewhere along the line, He, along with my husband, shook me loose from my reverie. God didn’t cause this thing to happen. He didn’t abandon me and he never would. My job was to trust he redeems all situations and to do the next right thing: study for and take my two driving tests.

So, that’s what I did. I took the tests. I passed the written and came back two days later for the dreaded drive test. Only, I was breathing deep, reminding myself of God’s goodness no matter the outcome, remembering that I could always take it again, that I had been driving for 12 years, that God was (and is) for me. And while I certainly didn’t nail everything (parallel parking is STILL not my strong suite), God gave me favor and I passed. WAHOOO! 

So why am I sharing this long winded, self-indulgent story on a blog about food and health? Because of the feelings that came after I passed: First I felt relief, then EXTREME Thankfulness and finally a new appreciation and attitude towards driving.

I have never been more grateful for the privilege of driving a car, nor have I ever been more thoughtful and attentive to my driving than over the past few days.

Thankfulness does something to us that science has only recently been able to explain. It creates in us an attitude of joy and appreciation for our life. It makes us want to savor our experiences, to treat people better, and even care for ourselves more.

Positive psychology research shows that those who practice gratitude are happier, more likely to help their fellow man and healthier (more likely to engage in healthy behaviors like regular exercise, eating nourishing foods, etc) than those who do not practice gratitude.

Of course giving thanks isn’t anything new, it’s actually a biblical principle that’s been around since, well, the beginning of time.

Paul writes this about it in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So thankfulness isn’t just a helpful concept, it’s God’s good will for you!

Of course, the opposite of thankfulness is less helpful.  Complaining involves focusing on the problem, the reasons why not, or our own inadequacies.

In my case, complaining was my gut reaction. It led to anxiety, fear, a self-defeating attitude, and more complaining. On the other hand, when my eyes were turned to hope, when I remembered the goodness and faithfulness of God, remembered the truth, it gave me the energy to act. Recounting past fruit in our lives is one form of thankfulness.

After going through the whole ordeal, this same thankfulness produced more careful and attentive driving (something we could probably all use).

In the same way, being thankful in the area of food allows us to appreciate food as a gift and move further away from fearing it. When we’re challenged to be grateful for what we eat it points us to all the positive qualities of food and away from talk of toxins and calories.

In 1 Timothy 4: 4-5 Paul writes concerning food, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. Emphasizing the role of thanksgiving in our receiving all foods as good.

What comes to mind if I ask you why you’re grateful for food? Say the food you’re about to eat or the food you ate at your last meal.

A few things that come to mind for me:

  •  I’m thankful for crunchy chips and salty flavor that satisfies my cravings and gives me mental energy to write

  • I’m thankful for the creative opportunity food and cooking present

  • I’m thankful for the fuel food gives me to care for my toddler and complete my work

  • And I’m thankful for the culture of enjoying food with loved ones and the opportunities is allows for us to connect

The same can be said about our bodies and our health. Expressing thankfulness for them moves us from disgust to neutrality and eventually appreciation.

What are you thankful for about your body? What does it allow you to do? How about your health?

If we stretch ourselves to do the uncomfortable, to come up with and meditate on the things we’re thankful for, even in the awkward, painful situations of life, we might just surprise ourselves. Maybe the impossible is possible. Maybe heart change that leads to behavior change and freedom is tangible.

For you that might mean finally experiencing food freedom or body acceptance or maybe it just means you finally get the courage to clean out your house Marie Kondo style. Whatever the case, give gratefulness a try.

Write a letter to yourself, to God, to someone you love. Write out the things you’re grateful for, read it or deliver it. Then tell me how thankfulness has impacted you!

Until next time THANK YOU for being here!

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