Preface: When I first told my husband that I was thinking about writing a post about religion and a low/zero-carb diet, he froze, stared at me, nodded slowly, and said, “You should know…this makes me very nervous.”
As James already wrote about on his blog, people get pretty uncomfortable when discussing diet. It’s personal. And if there’s a subject that’s any MORE personal than what we put in our mouths, it’s what we put in our souls.
The truth is, I sincerely hate making people uncomfortable. I don’t discuss politics, and I can’t stand to even make anyone “feel funny.” I have very strong beliefs, but I don’t enjoy pushing those on other people. And that is definitely not what I am trying to do with this blog or with this particular post.
But I have a desire to write about this very personal part of my journey, which does indeed include my choices about food and my own religious beliefs, so I’m going to write this post with the hope that we can still be friends. 🙂
Hallelujah! Where’s the Fried Chicken?
I’m not sure why, but leaving carbs out of my diet felt a little, well, un-Christian at first. Maybe it was because my sweet, Jesus-loving parents taught me truths from the Bible while also teaching me to eat my vegetables and whole wheat bread. Or maybe it was because I grew up Baptist in the South, and every meal we shared in our church’s fellowship hall included sourdough bread, fried chicken, sweet tea, and tables full of cherry-yum-yum and pound cake.
Of course, there’s also the fact that God gave us a bounty of beautiful fruits and vegetables, so how could they possibly be bad for us? Further, didn’t Christ even call Himself the “Bread of Life”?!
So, the question arose in my mind: Would Jesus approve of a low/zero-carb diet?
Religion isn’t just a concept or a set of rules for me. It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ. So, naturally, I began by talking to Him about the issue. When I prayed for guidance, I felt a lack of conviction that I was sinning by leaving carbs out of my diet. But frankly, I didn’t really feel led either way, so I went to the Bible for answers.
Most of us are aware that The Bible is often used “prove” an endless variety of points by taking verses out of context and manipulating them for peoples’ own motives. I don’t want to play that game, but I do want to share some verses that discuss dietary choices.
“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”
“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.”
“When the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire.”
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”
These verses affirmed for me that God is far more concerned with my soul, my actions, and even my words than He is about the food that I eat.
Well, that’s a good place to start, right?
But wait, didn’t God give us the produce aisle?
There are several questions that I’ve been asked regarding religion and a low/no carb diet. One of them is, “Do you take communion?” Yes, I do. Communion is the only occasion in which I eat outside of the animal kingdom, but Christ commanded us to “do this in remembrance of me”, so I gladly oblige. Plus, it’s a tiny, flat wafer and a sip of wine. I’m not going to stress about it.
I’ve also been asked by MANY Christians why God gave us fruits and vegetables if He didn’t intend for us to eat them. And I think that’s a fair question.
First of all, God also gave us poison ivy, but I don’t think I’m sinning if I avoid eating it.
Secondly, I do think God intended for us to eat some fruits and vegetables. The bible certainly says so in Genesis 1:29: And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
And, had I not caused myself to become insulin resistant by eating cookies, refined sugar, grains, sodas, etc. it is conceivable that I would not have trouble consuming a little fruit and vegetables alongside of my meat. As it is, they make me feel bloated, give me cravings for other carbs, make my stomach hurt, and lead to weight gain. So, I’ll pass.
Something else to consider: In biblical times, people certainly lacked a supermarket full of produce all year long. The apostles ate unenhanced, seasonal, local fruits and vegetables—not piles of giant, wax-coated, genetically engineered apples, not cans of fruit swimming in corn syrup, and not produce shipped overseas twelve months of the year. They certainly wouldn’t have shoved strawberry flavored jam in a Pop-Tart and called it a “fruit.”
A short history of bread…
So, what about all that “Bread of Life” and “Let us break bread together” business from the Bible?
Regarding grains, the Wonder-Bread eaten today is NOTHING like the bread eaten back in Bible times. To quote Wellness Mamma (website: http://wellnessmama.com/2359/bible-grains/ ), “In Jesus’ time, there were only three major types of wheat in existence: Einkorn, Emmer, and later Triticum aestivum along with simple, non-hybrid varieties of other grains like barley, millet, and rye. These grains had (and still have) a higher protein content and lower anti-nutrient content than grains of today. This is a stark contrast to the 25,000+ species that exist today, most of which we created in a lab to be disease resistant or produce high yields. In order to achieve these traits like disease and pest resistance, scientists had to enhance the part of the grains that naturally resists disease and predators: mainly, the glutens, lectins, and phytates- the most harmful parts of the grains to humans.”
So, yeah, Jesus wasn’t eating a PB&J on white bread back in the day. He ate fish and some VERY basic, high-protein, gluten-free bread. Leavening optional.
In my heart, I truly believe that God wants me to feel my physical best. I know that this isn’t His primary concern. He is mostly concerned with my spiritual well-being and my ability to glorify Him. He is far less concerned with how long I live on this earth and is more concerned with how prepared I am for eternal life. He is less concerned with the size of my pants and more concerned with the size of my heart and my desire to please Him.
If you’ve read my blog, you know that eleven years ago I weighed over 260 pounds. I was self-conscious, unable to participate in most physical activities, infertile, and generally miserable. Is THAT the life that God would have me lead? I don’t think so.
And after I began eating a LOW-carb diet, I still craved carbs so much that it was hard for me to focus on anything other than how to get a sweet fix. I spent most of my day thinking about sugar-free Jello. Splenda became a sort of god for me. I spent my time counting carbs and feeling hungry all day long. A Christ-centered life, it was not.
My next obsession was working out. I was exhausted and sweaty, and I spent two hours a day at the gym. My thoughts were perpetually fixed on how many calories I had eaten verses how many I had expended on an elliptical machine. I was miserable and incredibly obsessed with food and weight. My joy was determined by a number on the bathroom scales. Still a Christian? Yes. Bringing much glory to God? No.
With carbs out of my life now, I have stopped thinking about food all day long. I don’t have to worry about restricting my calories, spending time at the gym, or trying to get “treats” to satisfy a sweet tooth. (WHAT sweet tooth?!) I no longer feel self-conscious about my size. I’m physically able to enjoy playing with my children, and I feel prepared to do anything God calls me to do. I eat high-fat proteins when I’m hungry and do something else when I’m not. My mind is clear, and I am energetic and strong.
I finally feel that I am mentally, spiritually, and physically able to become the Daughter of the King that I am called to be. And I believe that God is pleased with this, with or without my consumption of spinach, mac and cheese, or even a piece of fried chicken in the church fellowship hall.