Growing up in Germany with health-conscious parents, I was strangely fascinated by the American diet. I remember watching a Christmas movie where drinking a coke was about the best thing that could happen to a sad kid --and it stuck with me. On TV people would always go ‘grab a bite’ and then I’d see them eating French fries and sipping on a shake. When I did an internship in Canada for 6 weeks as a young adult, I felt ecstatic to find a fridge and multiple freezers in my family’s home, always stocked with pop, microwavable quick meals, tubs of ice cream, and a pantry filled with different kinds of cereals.
I had so much fun starting my day with mixing sugary cereals, one or two donuts for snack (I was interning as a teacher after all), and walking home for lunch (the school was close) to either have some leftovers from the family cookout on Sunday or those pizza pops all the kids went crazy for. At the end of my school day I would sweeten my free time by drinking coke, and eating ice cream with frozen fruit on top. It felt like freedom! In addition to walking around town, I did spent some time on my family’s treadmill. But when I was back in Germany and had my pictures developed, the photos revealed -without sugar-coding it- that in those 6 weeks I gained 20lbs.
But here’s the kicker; it wasn’t my weight that was the real problem. Honestly, I don’t even remember noticing my weight gain until I saw the pictures. What I did notice while in Canada was that my teeth started hurting, which made my much-needed naps very difficult. It wasn’t my gums or one specific tooth, it was the enamel that hurt all over my teeth! I also noticed terrible skin blemishes and severe sluggishness. Having no energy led to craving more sugar! Besides that, the depression I had already struggled with before I arrived in Canada got worse, much worse. This led to falling back into old patterns of comforting myself with food. Most of the day was spent thinking about food and sleeping. And candy… there was always more treats to be had. So why not have more!?
Once I was back in Germany my concerned mother made me have my blood tested and it turned out that my uric acid levels had sky-rocketed, putting me into a state of pre-gout! At 21! Gout is a pain-filled inflammation-based disease made historically famous by wealthy aristocrats, dubbing it, *The rich man’s disease*. How could this happen to me? I was just a student, nothing close to wealthy! My doctor explained it to me in plain words, “Gout a disease brought on by a bad diet.” Nowadays, the tables have turned; pop is cheaper than well-sourced water. *Fruit* cereal is cheaper than actual fruit. A fiber bar is cheaper than an avocado. It is no surprise then that the incidence of gout has been increasing over the past 20 years in the United States.
It turns out that all my life when I thought I was being kept from true enjoyment (pop and fast food) I had in reality been blessed with food that kept me in great health! Because I had bought into the scheme that the “sugar is always sweeter on the other side,” I craved what appeared attractive and once I got it, I got burned! Ouch! What a big old con! I had been tricked. Pop and fast food would confidently present themselves in movies and shows targeted at children-- and lie about the effect they would have on their lives. And what a lie! While the sugar rush is fun in the moment and while fake food can trigger the brain to think it struck gold, following that path will not lead you to candy land.
A sense of self-preservation kicked in. I did not want to have gout! While this was not the time I underwent a major overhaul of my lifestyle, it did scare me enough to reform me back to sticking to the foods that I had eaten before I went to Canada. I could have also ignored any common sense of preserving my well-being, and put my faith into the foods I had believed to be *all that* and accept any bad consequences, countering them with an infusion of modern medicine and denial. Crossroad time!
Looking back at my much younger me, I am trying to decide if it was self-love that made me care about my well-being more than believing deceitful promises (aka pleasing the tummy), or if it simply was the fear of being seriously (and painfully) sick. I cannot answer that because I don’t remember. But one thing we know about love is that it is a *doing word*, more than it is a *feeling word.* While I may not have felt good about myself, I did what love would do; I cared for myself as best as I could under the circumstances. This theme would grow increasingly important in my twenties, and beyond. Today I can say that I have come to believe that I have value and deserve to be treated well, especially by me. And I have come to believe that this applies to everybody and everything that is made by our loving Creator. God is love and while we may not know what love truly is, I reckon -having been made in his image- we have an idea of what love looks like practically. Here’s the perfect description of love, by the author of love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
My prayer for you this week is that you would consider what are the ways that you can share this kind of love…to yourself. Choose one habit to start or stop doing that will share this kind of love to your own body. You cannot give out of an empty vessel.
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses or disease. Please always check with your doctor before beginning any new nutritional or fitness program or before making any nutritional/fitness changes.