Eating is an activity that we all engage in that is necessary for life. And it does not take a rocket scientist to know that even more important is HOW AND WHAT we eat, if we want to have a healthy and productive life. Eating is almost always used to refer to a physical activity, but yet it does not only apply at that level. We are not simply bodies walking around. We were created triune: body, mind (soul), and spirit. Just as we must feed our physical body properly, so also we must feed our mind and spirit the same way. Improper feeding, just as much as lack of feeding, will lead to malnutrition and malnourishment in any area of life. I have noticed many parallels between the malnourishment of the body and the sluggish conditions of our minds and spirits at large. We must take a good look at our physical, mental, and spiritual “eating habits” if we are to be well-nourished on all levels of our being.
People who live with anorexia, in its most simple definition, have made a conscious or subconscious choice to starve themselves so as to not gain weight. This could be due to a variety of reasons, and is often done as a means to regain control when they feel everything is spinning out of control. Although this is mostly seen as a physical dynamic, there are mental and spiritual anorexics as well. People who suffer from what I call “mental anorexia” are often afraid to gain additional knowledge or insight and will purposefully, whether consciously or unconsciously, avoid and sabotage any opportunity to grow as a person because they would rather stay where they feel comfortable then risk the unknown where things can feel out of control. It does not matter that where they currently find themselves is an unhealthy place. From a spiritual standpoint, “spiritual anorexics” will avoid any means by which they can grow spiritually – whether reading the Bible, praying, attending a Bible-preaching church, etc. – knowing that they will be held accountable by God for what they learn and are afraid of relinquishing control and lordship of their lives over to God. No matter its form, anorexia is largely a control issue.
Bulimia bears some resemblance to anorexia in that it is primarily a conscious or unconscious desire to be in control. It is marked by a choice to take in nutrients, only to later rid one’s self of the content by not giving the body the time and ability to digest food. This keeps the food from becoming a part of the person. There is something within the individual that initially says “I need this to make an impact.” Later, fears and concerns overtake and cause the person to abandon and vomit the vitality of the food so that they will remain virtually unchanged. This is perhaps the most epidemic issue that exists in people on a mental and spiritual level in our world today. We want more. We know we are destined for greater things. We want God’s best for our lives. We begin to pursue such things and begin to make the necessary changes. Then concerns and fears set in. Doubt overtakes us. Old messages begin to play in our heads. The unknown overwhelms us, so we rid ourselves of the “new sustenance” and we revert back to what we know, what we understand, and where we felt in control. We settle for the “lesser though familiar” instead of the “greater yet riskier”.
Overeating is another BIG issue. On a physical level, it is simply the overindulgence on foods, either good or bad. We take in the food and let it become a part of us to energize us, but opt to not put this new energy into motion. Again, we may overeat for a variety of reasons, but unlike anorexia and bulimia which are mostly control-driven, overeating is more impulse-driven. We eat what we want and when we want. We eat for entertainment reasons, to fill up time, to “fill our gut”, and sometimes just because it looks and smells good – not necessarily because we are hungry. We “overeat” mentally and spiritually as well. We engage in those mental and spiritual activities that meet our desires in the moment. We partake in activities that make us feel good and help us grow. They are pleasing to the senses. We go to meetings, seminars, read books, and purchase motivational CDs because there is something of value we find in them. However, we ingest the material but never do anything with this new-found energy. We simply sit back, letting it nourish our minds and spirit, but not letting it add any value to our lives or the lives of others. It then becomes “fat” as we allow ourselves to become physical, mental and/or spiritual “couch potatoes’.
We, especially as Americans, tend to eat too many empty calories. We are eating plenty, but the things we often ingest have little or no nutritional value to sustain us or give us what is needed to be healthy and vibrant. We do not need to eliminate our favorite “comfort foods”, but we may want to be sure we are exercising the principle of moderation. Unlike overeating, which is impulse-driven, indulging on empty-calorie comfort foods is mostly pleasure-driven. We eat them because they are comforting and enjoyable. In this lies the danger. If done too frequently, this becomes what we crave and the things that bring vitality and sustenance take a back seat. Empty-calorie foods must remain treats and not become staples in our diet. The same is true when we consider how we feed ourselves mentally and spiritually. Every book we read, everything we watch, and every activity we engage in does not need to have a purpose to it. It is ok to read a good fun book, or watch a movie, and go out bowling (or some other “empty-calorie” activity). We just need to be aware of how much time these “empty calorie” endeavors comprise of our lives, and how much time we are giving to our own mental and spiritual growth
Lastly, there are the poisonous pursuits. These items are dangerous and even deadly to our wellbeing. Most of them also have no value, nutritionally or otherwise. So why do we indulge in them? It usually starts as a way to avoid pain and then, over time, gradually becomes an addiction. We turn to them for strength or joy of some sort, and they ultimately begin to consume us. Drugs and alcohol are the two most common physical examples. Mental versions of poisonous pursuits would be pornography and gambling. More subtle and seemingly harmless (due to the positive applications they can hold) would be internet use (i.e. too much casual time on social networking sites), video games, and negative/draining relationships. Anything that can drag you away from what you know you should be doing to fulfill your destiny, and does so regularly, needs to be examined as to whether boundaries need to be set or if it has any place in your life at all.
We all want to become healthier in every area of life. If you didn’t, you would not be reading this. However, to be healthy requires more than desire. It demands action and intentionality. Healthy Eating – whether on a physical, mental or emotional level – requires us to ingest those things which are “nutritionally dense” for the area we are trying to feed, thereby providing all the important elements to sustain us so we can operate at optimum levels. This way, we can work to achieve all we are destined to become.
Which area do you need to intentionally overcome? Is it anorexia or bulimia and the need to always be in control? Is it overeating and the habit of living on impulse? Is it the empty-calorie battle where pleasure and enjoyment are at war with what needs to be the focus? Or are there poisonous pursuits that need to have strict boundaries erected around them or to be done away with completely? Share your insights with us. Make the strides in the areas you need to focus and you will naturally begin to get healthier and crave the things that will bring health and vitality to every area of your life!