Monthly Archives: May 2013

Losing our sensitivity (and losing the good stuff)

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When we lose our sensitivity to the bad foods we eat, we want more bad food and lose track of the good.

On our flight home from Seattle this week, I had a bit of snobby moment.

You could order a $6 cheeseburger on our flight. Maybe I’m assuming, but I can’t imagine that cheeseburger had good quality meat. And who knows when that thing actually was cooked.

I found myself thinking, “why would anyone eat that? It’s like, so bad for them.”

For the issues we care about, I think many of us find ourselves screaming inside: “Why doesn’t everybody care about this?” Or, “if people only knew about (blank), they would never…”

For me, the issues I care about center around food and our health. I’m by no means and expert, but the more I read, the more I learn about the importance of local food and eating good quality ingredients. The more I learn, the more I find myself asking questions of the food I eat and what others eat.

Yes, I sound like one of those people, I know. But I’m not trying to be snobby. I’m more interested in figuring out: how did we get here? I wonder that in general, but find the question especially pertinent to Christians, who have been charged with treating our bodies as temples.

I came across this verse from Ephesians last week, and I think it provides some insight to my question.

“Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” (Ephesians 4:19)

I know that’s kind of heavy, but I wanted to focus on the first and last part of that verse.

Once we lose our sensitivity, we just want more of whatever it is.

You can apply that verse to just about anything in life; to something as extreme as drugs, or something as every day as a stop at a fast food joint.

Maybe that’s how we got here. And by here, I mean obesity skyrocketing along with lifestyle-related diseases.

We like sweets. French fries. Meat. So we have more. And more. Until we lose our sensitivity to feel that by eating these items in excess, our bodies suffer harm.

In my own life, I remember a concrete example of this. While I attended community college, I bought a blended caramel coffee drink from a little drive-thru spot in my hometown. I bought one almost every day. That included moments in the drink where you could slurp up straight caramel. Sweet mercy it was good.

Then, I realized post-college that the life of a reporter did not account for drinking $4 sugar bombs every day. I stuck to brewing my coffee at home for the most part; a stop at a coffee shop was an occasional treat.

About two or three years later, I decided to get that blended coffee drink while driving through town. After drinking 1/3 of it, I was shaking from the sugar. I felt sick.

I remember thinking, “how had my body tolerated this much sugar before?”

Yes, I was 18, which certainly helped. But mostly, I had lost my sensitivity to sugar in those younger days. When I backed off and my body needed less sugar, my body couldn’t handle it when I drank something laced with sugar.

With food, I think we’re all in a similar boat. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, other countries refuse to buy our meat. Our country faces an obesity epidemic.

And yet, we just keep eating the same foods over and over.

If we read Ephesians 4:19, Paul may have been speaking about sexual impurity and/or general debauchery. But our food choices—or our lack of sensitivity to our food choices—elicits the same effect.

We just want more of what we shouldn’t have. And quite literally, it’s killing us, from the inside out.

Seattle through Instagram

 


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My husband and I took advantage of the long weekend to visit some friends and family in Seattle.

I had never visited the Emerald City before this weekend, but with a coffeehouse on every corner (or in some cases, two) I knew we’d get along just fine.

Few things make me happier than the chance to visit new places. I love getting to see cities in their proper context; not just what I see in photos or what I hear from people. I feel like I understand the world a little better when I visit somewhere new.

When you get to taste the fresh seafood, eat local berries and experience their nearly obsessive-ness with staying local (Portage Bay, please move you and your breakfast bar to LA), there’s so much to love.

I’m happy to be back in the sunshine of Southern California, but we had a great time. It was a super easy-going, relaxing trip, which I really needed.

Trips like this always remind me of the physical and spiritual value of rest, and how restorative the earth’s beauty and good friends and family can be.

Here’s just a couple of pictures from our trip:

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(From top to bottom: Fruit at Pike Place Market, Bryan and me on the ferry to Bainbridge Island, a cute farmer’s market sign on Bainbridge Island, a view of Green Lake, flowers in Pike Place Market)

 

Eating to Heal

Bryan and me in the Cinque Terre in Italy.

Bryan and me in the Cinque Terre in Italy.

I remember when the realization hit me, sitting on the couch one day.

My husband was actually complaining that his back was bothering him. He was diagnosed at 19 with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an auto-immune disease that causes inflammation between his spinal bones. But in all our time of being together, he rarely complained about it bothering him.

So when his back pain kept coming up, I knew. At 28 years old, he was getting worse.

That was several weeks before our first trip to Europe together in the fall of 2011. I was first worried that traveling and sleeping on hotel beds for two weeks would really be an issue for him.  Is taking this trip even a good idea?

Then, I was thinking long term. People that are diagnosed with this can end up walking completely hunched over, because their spine fuses.

What did this mean for Bryan? For us? For our (hopefully) future children?

Was it even that far down the road before these symptoms got worse than his occasional flare ups that laid him out for a couple of days?

I wondered if simply a change in diet might help. Bryan was already taking anti-inflammatory medication and a weekly shot called Enbrel in hopes to stop the progression of the disease. I looked up some info, and said to Bryan: “I have an idea. But you’re not going to like it.”

The idea: eating a gluten free. From what I read it seemed to help others with AS and other inflammatory issues. We spoke to a doctor and he said we should give it a try.

A week ago today, there was a collective jaw-drop in our family.

Some 10 years after being diagnosed and 16 months after sticking to a mostly gluten free diet, his rheumatologist took new x-rays and told Bryan something that seemed impossible.

“I don’t think you have Ankylosing Spondylitis anymore.”

Now I’m not trying to say that gluten free is the cure all, and everyone should do it. Without a doubt, you should talk to a doctor if you’re considering it for any reason.  I think it is a combination of the medicine Bryan is taking and paying closer attention to his diet. All that and my mother-in-law putting together what was happening and getting Bryan diagnosed at an early age.

But, this truly miraculous news brought home that what we eat matters. It doesn’t just matter as far as calories and our weight. It matters because the food we eat can either harm us or heal us. We should be paying attention.

This simple idea, that what we eat matters, is no small part in the motivation for me starting this blog. I’ve seen this idea reinforced so much in my own life that I want other people to see that if only we took the time to better understand our bodies, some of us don’t know how good we could truly feel.

 

 

Food Revolution Day

Image via Jamie Oliver's website.

Image via Jamie Oliver’s website.

Today feels a little like Christmas to me.

Chef Jamie Oliver created a day to literally bring the world together on an issue that no single human being can avoid: the food we eat.

He calls it Food Revolution Day, and today is the day. He’s imploring anyone and everyone to “Cook it, Share it, or Live it” in hopes to shine a worldwide spotlight on the quality of food and cooking around the world (hint: it’s not great).

For Food Revolution Day, Oliver wants us in our kitchens cooking from scratch. Or, shouting as loud as possible on social media. Or, signing petitions to get more food education in our schools, or better lunch meat at schools.

I admire Oliver so much for taking up this important cause and using his platform as a celebrity chef for something so positive.

What do I mean by platform?  Have you ever read the book “Platform” by Michael Hyatt?

The official title of the book is: “Platform: Get Noticed in Noisy World” which pretty much sums it up.

It’s a fantastic, practical book that teaches you to use the proper building blocks to increase your audience; to build your platform.

For some of us, we want a platform to grow our business. Or our blog. For Oliver, it’s a cause. A cause that in so many ways could save the world.

He built a platform on cooking shows and cookbooks. Now, he’s one of our leading voices in changing what we eat. In getting back into the kitchen and (re)learning the cooking traditions of past generations.

But what about the rest of us? What if we don’t have a NY Times bestselling cookbook? Or a blog that gets 80 bazillion page views a day?

Our platform is with our friends. Our family. Our communities.

Are we using our platforms for good? Are we trying to make a difference in and around the people we can influence?

We need to be.  As Christians, using our platform for good is the best thing we could be doing.  Yes, there’s been plenty of negative stories that have come out about Christianity in the last few years. But what if we all used our platforms—however large or small they may be—for good?

How many people could we bless? Could we change the world?

For me, I care about food. I know first-hand about how good food makes a difference—sometimes a miraculous one—in your life (I’ll post more on that topic next week).  For me, I want to use my platform to engage people of the Christian faith in the same fight that Jamie Oliver is leading; get back to the earth. Get back to eating foods that come from the earth and not a box. Get back in the kitchen.

What do you care about? And how could you use your platform for good?

 

The Good Soil: Part I

Our church community garden as of May 11, 2013.

It started with a small idea.

Now it’s growing.

An idea popped into my head one day and I asked my husband, “what if we started a community garden at church?”

We have land that we’re not really using to it’s fullest extent at church and I felt we had an opportunity to do something that benefits our church community and possibly the community surrounding us, if we can grow enough food.

So I asked a couple of women at my church what they thought, and they kind of ran with it.

Here is where we started, March 24.

The "before" photo of our community garden.

The “before” photo of our community garden.

And here we were April 20 with some corn popping up.

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We also cleared (well, some of us super-strong women pulled up the first two and then we mostly left things to a chainsaw) these shrubs and have planted some basil and hope to have a fruit tree or two here:

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As of May 11, you can see what it looks like at the top of this post and below. It’s a little weedy, but awesome! Corn, tomatoes, zucchini and bell peppers.

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I’m so excited we’re starting to see our crops grow, and I hope we can be blessing to our community in this way.

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what is sown.” (Matthew 13:23)

 

What Would (Ancient) Egypt Do?

Image by listentoreason via Flickr.

Image by listentoreason via Flickr.

My memories about what I learned at church about Israel and Egypt in Biblical times goes something like this:

Egypt is bad, and Israel is good.

We talk a lot more about Israel than Egypt. God has to keep reminding Israel to follow Him.  He forgives them, but they need a lot of reminding.

The Israelites even wander in the wilderness for 40 years, where God only provided manna and quail for them to eat. Ellen F. Davis says the following about the Exodus in her book “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: an Agrarian Reading of the Bible”:

“…this story makes it clear that manna is both a gift and a test, like the land of Canaan itself. It is given on certain conditions and thus is meant to reveal whether Israel will walk by God’s teaching or not.”

Davis echoes in that passage what God said to Moses in Exodus 16:4 about testing the Israelites in this way. Davis discusses that God wanted Israel to live in direct contrast to how Egypt lived; a huge part of that goes back to how and what the Israelites ate.

“These were highly stratified, strongly militarized societies in which the whole land belonged (at least in name) to the monarch. In practical terms, that meant the wealth of the land flowed upward, away from the small farmers, serfs, and slaves who composed the overwhelming majority of the population, to the large landowners, the nobility, the great temples, and the crown.”

Sound familiar?

Egypt had such an abundance of resources they stored up food in huge silos. Egypt had one harvest per year, but they had such a surplus they traded on the international market, which just put more money in Pharaoh’s pocket.

We see Israel in ourselves; we feel like the oppressed.  We never want to think of ourselves as big, bad Egypt, throwing our weight around on the international market and becoming so wealthy, we think we don’t need any help from God. That we’re doing just fine on our own. But in America, we need to face the truth.

Egypt is exactly who we are.

So the Egypt/Israel/manna story serves as a great reminder that God doesn’t want us to live the way Egypt lived at that time. He felt making that point so important that Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. In that time they learned, or were reminded that God sustains us. God provides.

When we don’t trust that, we hoard God’s gifts. Or worse, we waste them. Or, we create an industrial farming system that is unsustainable and damaging to our health in the name of satisfying our wants. What we perceive that we need.

God gave us what we need, especially when it comes to food. We need to keep it simple, and trust that what God provides is enough.

The cost of cheap food

Image via Tara Whitsitt on  Flickr

Image via Tara Whitsitt on Flickr

My husband’s sermon yesterday served as a good reminder that evil isn’t always some outside force in the world.

Sometimes, it’s in choices we make. Or, we’re perpetuating evil when we stand by and do nothing.

God puts different issues on our hearts to fight for; we can’t solve every problem on our own. Food and what we eat worries me. It’s the cause I can’t ignore.

I argue that we as a country need to be willing to pay for better ingredients. For more local ingredients. For higher-quality meat. Some might say that just isn’t an option for poorer people. They have to buy the cheapest food possible because that’s the situation they are in and we shouldn’t judge them for making those choices.

That’s true. But we’re forcing our poor people into a vicious cycle.

According to this Mark Bittman column, the cost of treating and/or trying to cure preventable lifestyle diseases is more than a seventh of our GDP. If you’re a person that feels the government is spending too much money, think of how much the government spends on programs like Medicare. Our poor need medical care as much as anyone else.

In the same column, Bittman estimates by 2020, Type II Diabetes will cost the U.S. $500 billion annually. Think of where $500 billion would get this country if it was spent somewhere else, instead of going to the treatment of illnesses brought on by what we eat.

So much of this is preventable. Avoidable. It’s not an earthquake or a hurricane. We’re just eating too much crap. That’s it. But, we’ve made it really cheap, so that’s all some people can afford to sustain themselves. So they eat it, get sick and need medical care that they can’t pay for. Sometimes, the government is going to have to foot the bill for that.

“One reason that obesity and diabetes become more prevalent the further down the socioeconomic scale you look is that the industrial food chain has made energy-dense foods the cheapest foods in the market, when measured in terms of cost per calorie,” said Michael Pollan in his book Omnivore’s Dilemma.

He also says in later in that chapter that researchers learned a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips and cookies. A dollar only bought 250 calories of carrots.

With or food system they way it currently stands, we aren’t giving our poor people any other choice. And it’s making them sick.

Whether you care about food issues or not, this does not line up with our call as Christians to help the poor. The Old Testament is filled with laws that require the Jewish people to leave some of what the grow or earn for the poor. In the New Testament, we see many examples of Jesus helping the poor.

As followers of God that this is a call we can’t ignore.

James 2: 15-17: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. IF oen of you says him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”