I grew up going to church, listening to sermons and scriptures being spoken, but I really struggled when I tried to read the Bible myself. I actually felt condemned and a burden of expectation whenever I tried to read a passage. Five years ago, after a very difficult loss—the birth and death of our daughter Angelina Noel—a neighbor asked me to attend a Beth Moore Bible study at her church. Slowly, as I allowed the study, the discussions, the questions, and God’s Word to sink in and help me through the loss, the Holy Spirit lifted the condemnation I felt. When I read and study God’s Word now, I find such clarity, comfort, and even joyful laughter when I let God speak to me through the Bible. I really do believe it is “God breathed”—and that he breathes new life into me every time I pray, read, and reflect.
One of the things God has breathed into me is knowledge about the importance of nutrition. I’ve always been an active person, whether just playing with friends or in a variety of competitive sports, primarily gymnastics from elementary school on into college. I could always eat whatever I wanted to because I was so active, and thankfully my Mom raised me on pretty nutritious foods. In college, I stopped being so active, and started eating less healthful foods, and weight and fitness suddenly became more of a challenge. I went through times of great struggle with eating right, and trying to balance being active with how much and what I ate, and it took a toll on how I felt about myself. I have great compassion for those who struggle with eating and weight issues or eating disorders. It can become a very distracting cycle—physically, mentally and emotionally—and can often lead to a more destructive habit that requires counseling and intervention. I sense that there’s a very strong link to a sense of spiritual hunger and thirst with what we sometimes feel as physical hunger and thirst.
I truly believe that the spiritual “food” we gain from having a one-on-one relationship with God fills that something in us that we often so desperately try to fill with food and drink, or other comforts like shopping, music, electronics, socialization, watching TV, general busyness or whatever our “thing” is. I found it to be so empty and such an endless cycle of trying to fill the missing piece of the puzzle which was made for Jesus with some other substitute. It has become a passion of mine to connect this spiritual nutrition and bodily nutrition—both for myself and others.
I am not a registered dietician, nor am I anywhere close to a Biblical scholar. I am simply someone who really loves welcoming God to change me and use both my strengths and weaknesses for his good! I’m honored and humbled to share about health and well-being and God’s Word. I share a real life health approach with people through interactive workshops on nutrition and fitness, through informal conversations, and through my role as a distributor of JuicePlus+ (www.NjoyJuicePlus.com), a whole food nutrition capsule/chewable that my family and I have found to be a key nutritional foundation for the past four and a half years.
In these workshops, I speak from my personal experience with nutrition, eating issues, and fitness, as well as information from medical findings and nutritional studies. If I speak with a group of Christians, I like to begin or end with prayer and talk about how God created the foods that best serve our bodies and so best allow us to serve him. We talk about real life health: how to simplify good nutrition and fitness, how to weave it into the daily routine, and how to use and save money wisely on food and exercise. My intention is to offer encouragement, hope and options for individuals to improve their lives and their family’s lives.
Where some people are starving from lack of food both in the United States and around the world, many Americans are suffering from the effects of eating and drinking things that break down their health rather than build them up.
With my young kids, ages three and six, the struggle is “I want what Johnny gets in his lunch” or simply that the food served at school, birthday parties, or even church, are foods that don’t help build up their bodies or their sense of what best fuels them. My six-year-old has struggled with chronic ear and respiratory infections, and was on recurring antibiotics. Our pediatrician recommended JuicePlus+ as a way to get more concentrated good food into his body to help build his immune system and it has since made a great impact on our whole family’s health.
I always pray that God would use me to encourage and offer hope to people with similar difficulties in building healthy habits or having balanced nutrition; to help him lift the heavy burden of the challenges of nutrition and fitness in people’s lives and that they may be truly fit for God’s beautiful call on their lives and be used for his purposes; and to bring people closer to him and his truth.
What we eat is a big part of our lives, both for enjoyment, and in order that our bodies would be strong for serving God and others. Ecclesiasties 5:18 says, “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot.” When our bodies are healthier and refreshed, we are more equipped and able to carry out his good purpose for our lives. In other words, we are more able to say yes to what God calls us to do when our bodies are nourished, just as Abraham was eager to help provide sustenance and service for some visitors that came his way, saying “Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant” (Genesis 18:5 NIV).
In today’s fast-paced life we often find ourselves drawn to drive-thrus, coffeehouses, processed packaged foods, and quick microwavable dinners. Where some people are starving from lack of food both around the world and even in the United States, many Americans are suffering from the effects of eating and drinking things that break down their health rather than build them up. Advertising, recommendations from friends, and peer pressure tune our minds to less than ideal food choices. Many of us know what’s best for our bodies, like the fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, legumes, and whole grains God gave us in abundance to eat. In Genesis 1:29-30, God says, “Behold, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit that has seed in it. They will be yours for food…I give every green plant for food.” These are the foundation of our best nutrition and health. God also gave us fish and animals. “…upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” (Genesis 9:2-3 NIV)
Some people have chosen a vegetarian diet, and receive all nourishment from a plant based diet, as Daniel did to honor God when he was staying with King Nebuchadnezzar in his palace. Daniel refused to eat the king’s meat that honored the king, and presumably the king’s gods, and instead ate vegetables and water. He did this to show that God was supreme and also much greater than the king and his gods. (Daniel 1) This shows us that perhaps a Christian diet should be a diet that is influenced by God and God’s ways, rather than one that simply falls in line with that of the world around us.
For each more healthful option, there are at least twice as many less-than-ideal choices competing for our attention. Many of these options become more temptations than treats; they may be what simply our taste buds crave, what our habits have taught us to consume, or what time constraints force us to choose. Our cravings can be for a quick energy boost, brightly-colored sweets, or salt-laden fried foods. These foods and drinks, though flavorful, can leave us feeling lethargic and weighed down or give us a temporary jolt of energy, then a crash that often leads to an endless cycle of needing another jolt to keep up stamina. Medical research confirms the relationship between nutrition and disease prevention and optimal health; these findings in a way confirm God’s call to care for our temples and make better choices in what we consume. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t enjoy treats now and then; rather, it’s the frequency that’s usually the problem. After a long season of hard work rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem, Nehemiah and the people were encouraged to indulge in honor of God. In Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah says, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” This indulgence was in honor, a truly special occasion, a sacred day—not an everyday affair.
If you struggle with eating right or are trying to will yourself to good nutrition and fitness like I have, perhaps you too have felt a sense of failure or defeat and are a bit overwhelmed at how to go from the way you currently eat to keeping more with God’s wise counsel for our well-being. Christ offers us a beautiful gift, saying, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). I feel like I’ve just breathed a huge sigh of relief when I read these words. Christ wants to help us in every aspect of our lives, including nutrition.
I see the Bible as God’s love letter to us; He is the perfect parent who gives the perfect advice for our best life possible. Knowledge is key in our choices and it is clear that God’s Word, combined with the wisdom he has given medical professionals, provides that for us. God also gave us free will in making our decisions. The missing puzzle piece in gaining better nutrition, fitness, and well-being is seeking Christ’s power in our weakness. Reaching out to him is our first step toward success. By connecting with him and daily welcoming him in to take an active, powerful and loving role in our lives, we rely on his strength rather than our own. We were created to be in relationship with him and that sense of emptiness or longing in all of us is there for him—not food, drink, or other distractions—to fill. Let’s treasure the bodies God gave us to enjoy and respect. Let’s enjoy the food and drink God gave us while keeping him first. Let’s enjoy life to the fullest by following his lead.
STEPS TOWARDS BETTER NUTRITION
As with any aspect of our lives where we desire to change and grow, start with prayer and with small doable steps.
1. You may want to begin with prayer. For example:
Loving God, please guide me through your Word to truths about what you want me to know about nutrition and fitness and how to apply that to my life. You know me inside and out. You know my motivations, my choices, my habits, everything about me. I want to be the best I can be for you. Please help me make good choices with food and drink that build up my temple rather than tear it down. You have a great plan for doing good through me, and I want to say yes to you! I welcome your great peace and encouragement as I continue to grow, change and learn from you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
2. Choose scriptures that speak to you and write them on your mirror, fridge, in your car, on your screensaver, desktop wallpaper, or phone, as powerful, supportive reminders.
3. Use a topical index to look up scriptures that give you the encouragement you need in the moment. (e.g., strength, hope, hunger, joy, thirst, love, etc.)
4. Pay attention to how you feel during and after eating or drinking certain things. Keep a journal, if that’s helpful.
5. Begin changes simply, one at a time, for a week or two and then build upon them:
a. Try drinking plenty of water except for one other beverage each day
b. Choose to eat two more fresh fruits or vegetables each day
c. Add a healthful fish like wild salmon
d. Try some vegetarian proteins like beans or tofu
e. Choose whole grains for pasta, tortillas or bread
f. Choose one treat each day and take time to really appreciate it
g. Pray before meals, asking God to help it build up your body and health
h. Ask God to help you with drink and food choices and portion size
i. Ask God to help motivate you to fun movement and exercise
6. Listen to encouraging Christian music in your favorite genre to help you stay motivated. The words you hear may help keep your mind on God, be pumped up about your progress or help you push through a struggling time.
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