“Call me crazy, but I like to chew.” That was my response to someone who excitedly told me she has a protein shake for breakfast. “Oh, I love it!” she continued. “It’s filling, and I don’t have to think about what to eat in the morning. It works for me.” While it was tempting to shrug my shoulders and respond, “You do you,” I just couldn’t leave it there. “Does it make you happy to slurp this thing? Does it bring you joy? Can you see yourself having this concoction every day for the rest of your life?” She looked at me like I was from another planet. “Um…maybe…probably not. I mean, I’m trying to lose a few pounds and, uh…eat clean. Having the shake in the morning means I have one less meal to think about.” Bingo. That’s it. This person summed up what I see as a growing trend in the young and old alike. We don’t want to have to think about taking care of ourselves. (Or if we do think about it, we sometimes see self-care as an event—like going to get a massage.) Others view self-care as a burden—something to be outsourced, avoided, or relegated to the “someday” pile of our to-dos. Sure, we want to be “healthy,” or at a minimum, we want the option to be able to wear something besides leggings or sweatpants to be comfortable, but we’d prefer not to have to think about what that might entail. The food industry knows this. The sheer number of convenient, highly processed food items on the shelves is at an all-time high. “Healthy people” have no end of bars, drinks, and fake foods to choose from. The less health-conscientious types have treats like fully-cooked bacon that “you can enjoy straight from the package,”—think— unrefrigerated meat chips. (No. Just no.) Or instead of a home-cooked turkey on Thanksgiving day, you can send an Uber driver to the grocery store to pick up a package of frozen corndogs instead. (I—no kidding—witnessed this firsthand on Thanksgiving day.) What in the world is going on here?
Don’t get me wrong; I value convenience as well. (I love that I can purchase pre-cut butternut squash when I just can’t face peeling and cutting that beast.) However, when it comes to taking care of ourselves (and our kids), choosing convenience foods packaged with the words “think!” (does this name bug anyone else but me?) may not always be the best option. Thank you very much, but I think I’ll make myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich (very convenient) rather than eat a bar that tarts itself up as some sort of nutrition goddess because it has 20 gm(!) of protein, NO sugar, and NO gluten! While it’s not necessarily bad for a food to possess those qualities, some of us will just assume that those claims make a food “healthy.” (I get that it’s probably not very convenient to take the time to read the nutrition label, but if one did, one would notice that there are actually 11 grams of sugar alcohol (maltitol) and absolutely no fiber in this bar.) A peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread can have up to 9 grams of fiber and have the added benefit of providing B vitamins and potassium. I’ll take the more satisfying and nutritious sandwich any day of the week. (Besides, there’s something about the crinkly wrapper that really bugs me. Who rips into crinkly paper and starts salivating? I’ll tell you who—No. One.)
I am concerned that in our desire to streamline and be efficient, we are subtly (or not so subtly) being taught that convenience trumps real food—plants and animals—which were created by God to feed us. I mean, before the invention of crinkly-packaged foodstuffs, what we ate is what God provided in his creation: cows, fish, chickens, grains, vegetables that grow in the ground, and—wait for it—fruit that grows on trees! (There was not a fruit rollup to be found in the promised land.) Call me simple, but I think that since God made humans, he knew exactly what we need not only to survive but to thrive. He’s a good father. Do you think that he would withhold from us what we need? Do we really believe that a raspberry truffle bar that promises “NO COW” but has 21 grams of protein(!) is somehow an improvement over what was provided by God’s hand? I am perplexed as to why people are hating on cows when cows were God’s idea. “Just stand back, God. We clever humans have this all figured out.” 🙄 Call me crazy, but I’ll take a piece of creamy cow (or goat) cheese over fake processed cheese any day of the week. (And I’ll be licking my lips too.)
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…” (Gen 2:15-16)
I realize that this post may bring up all kinds of questions and/or objections. After all, many of us don’t want to have to think about how we care for ourselves. It’s easier to jump on the 20 grams of protein(!), NO gluten(!), NO dairy(!) NO sugar(!) bandwagon rather than take the time to make informed and conscientious decisions for ourselves and our families. If you have stuck with me thus far, perhaps you would be willing to engage further with the ideas I’ve presented. If that’s the case, here’s what I suggest:
Take some time to just sit with whatever emotions are coming up in you. Notice them, but don’t judge them. Be curious about what may have caused you to feel defensive or triggered.
Ask the Lord to show you if you have relegated self-care to the “can’t be bothered to think about it” category. If he says “yes,” ask for help to take steps to change that mindset. Also, if your only paradigm for self-care is getting a pedicure or drinking wine while watching Netflix, perhaps you might elevate “feeding yourself well” to the “self-care” category.
Consider whether you can try substituting real food for just one thing you are currently consuming in a crinkly packet. (Note the peanut butter and banana sandwich example above.)
If you consistently drink one of your meals (protein shake, green drink, etc.,) pay attention to how you feel while you are drinking it. (I notice many people just check out as they sip.) Are you enjoying your “meal?” Notice how you feel afterward. Did you love it? Was it satisfying? If the answer is “no” to these questions, consider why you are consuming them. There is no wrong answer here. I only encourage you to think about what you are doing and be open to the possibility that you might be missing out on some food-joy in your life.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to consider the ideas presented here and apply them as you see fit for your life. In other words, decide what makes sense for you and let go of the stuff that doesn’t. Although the principles of self-care are somewhat universal, each one of us has to consider where we are in life and our own capacity to make changes right now. If you choose to still hate on cows, I respect your right to do that. We can still be friends. ❤️ But if you’ll excuse me now, I’ve got some cheese to eat…