One idol that periodically troubles me is food. Or maybe it’s weight. My mother got on the scale every day of her life and adjusted what she ate according to the numbers. It sounds obsessive, but she was health conscious because she had been very ill with tuberculosis in her twenties. I saw a picture of her in a bathing suit and said, “Wow, Mom. You were so slim.” Her response: “I wasn’t slim. I was sick and skinny.” She wanted to maintain a healthy weight.
What is a healthy weight? The new fad is for a woman to have gaps between her thighs. Really? All through grade school and high school, I didn’t want gaps. I wanted my thighs to meet and be toned and tanned. I’m laughing as I write this. I finally got the meeting part. Forget toned and tanned. And now that I’m in my late sixties, I don’t give a hoot. Well, I do, but I’m not willing to diet and exercise or lie/lay in the sunshine all slathered with oil. It’s hot out there! I want shade or air conditioning. And who cares anyway? My legs still get me from point A to point B. That’s good news.
Idols have a tendency to destroy. I think of the young and old women suffering with bulimia and anorexia and now, the newly added diagnosis of orthorexia. What’s that? “Ortho” is the Greek word for “straight, correct or true”. Those suffering with this eating disorder reject everything that is “impure”, cutting out all sugar, processed foods or anything that hints of unwholesomeness. The disorder is sometimes called the “Whole Foods Syndrome”. One man, a vegan, said in a newspaper interview that he wouldn’t eat anything that might have lost its “life force” by being separated too long from its source (i.e. vine, plant, tree). This is taking vegan to another level, a dangerous one that nearly took his life.
God made food to nourish our bodies. Food is one of the many blessings He gave us to enjoy. How easily the mind can turn something wonderful into something that we put on an altar.
I’ve tried just about every diet that any women’s magazine has touted over the years. I realize that for me the word diet is problematic. Mention the word diet and I get hungry! Food becomes my focus. I would think about when and what I could eat. I would grieve over what I had to give up. (Chocolate and barbecue kettle chips.) I would count calories and measure portion sizes. I would get on the scale each morning and check my weight to see if whatever diet-of-choice was working…
I don’t diet anymore. I learned that all too often the hunger I’m feeling has nothing to do with what I need to put in my stomach and everything to do with what I need to fill my mind and heart. Sometimes food is just a way to stuff the real issues down deep or deny them altogether. Sometimes the craving has nothing at all to do with food and everything to do with yearning for God to satisfy the hunger for a deep, abiding, indwelling relationship with our Creator, our Father, the Lover of our Soul.
Food is needful and wonderful, but don’t make it an idol.