If someone asks me for advice, I want to give them good advice. I am more concerned, I hope, with offering help that will work, not just words to make them feel better.
A thirty-something friend posted a photo with a caption that said, basically, “I’m out of shape. I have to change this.” And in all honesty, she was right. She knows this. She wants encouragement to change what could be a future health problem.
And what did friends say to her?
“Oh, it’s okay to be large.” “You look like me!” “Ewe not fat, ewe fluffy.”
The issue isn’t whether she is fat; she knows she needs to lose weight before she has high blood pressure or heart disease. She wants to be able to keep up with her young children. She wants to fit into the clothes she wore just a few years ago. She doesn’t want the arthritis, cancer and phlebitis that so often plague women when they carry too much fat.
It doesn’t help to dismiss her concern because it makes someone else uncomfortable to regard themselves in the same light. Of course she’s a beautiful person and yes, she looks lovely and neat at all times. But she is concerned about her health. No one is going to call her a slob because she gained weight with each pregnancy. That is not the issue. She is asking for encouragement to do what she knows she must do.
When someone says, “I need advice and helpful words here. I know I have to make a big change,” and the person they address comes back with, “But there’s no problem,” it dismisses the importance of the friend’s concern. It pushes their pain and anxiety away because it hits too close to the heart.
I am not against good food. I write a cooking blog! It includes down-home, Amish and Mennonite style recipes that are not always low in fat or sugar. But there has to be a balance. While celebration meals should have feel-good foods like cakes and pies, they are not the fare for everyday. We have been trained by the marketing world to crave excess sugar, fat and salt. They push convenience foods, processed foods, fast foods at us that spoil our palates and our natural appetites. Food products are marketed to be fun or satisfying, rather than nutritious and life-sustaining.
It’s just one example of how we have ventured unheeding from the path God set before us. In the last one hundred years or so, there has been a push to exploit the growing literacy of North America with advertising. We are mere innocents abroad, enticed by bright lights and primary colours. It is an increasingly artificial environment, and we end up shilling for those who are destroying us as we discourage others from getting back to a natural state of living.
I was appalled and even shocked when I saw the recipes women were sharing on facebook and other social media sites. The level of nutrition was almost nil. It isn’t just empty calories, it is negative calories, taking away nutrition from other foods we eat. Honestly, I don’t think anyone has ever said to me, “What’s a good recipe for fresh green beans?” Instead I hear, “Do you have a special cake recipe that will use vanilla pudding and canned cherry pie filling? I saw one last week…” If I should have such a recipe, throw a bucket of cold water on me, because I must be wandering in a fevered daze.
You will not have good health by eating poor food choices. You will not have good health dragging around excess weight on your body. If you can lose it, you should. If you have a medical condition that keeps you from losing – and I know a few people who do – at least try to keep from gaining more. Don’t give up on good nutrition and exercise just because you won’t buy a size six ever again. Even people with limited mobility or who are wheelchair bound can learn to exercise effectively. And those are the people who really must be more careful with their diet; there’s no giving up and giving in.
I have fought to regain my health after cancer and fibromyalgia. I still struggle, and there are days I want to snap and say, “I’ve had enough! If I’m going to feel sick and miserable anyway, then I’m going for the Doritos and snack cakes.” At least I could sedate myself with refined carbs, right? But my mother died at 61, of a blood clot. She never won the battle against potato chips and ice cream and double helpings of mashed potatoes with gravy. She loved poutine, the French Canadian heart attack on a plate. (It’s masses of french fried potatoes, with cheese curds, topped with beef gravy.) Sixty-one is too young to die. She left behind a stunned family. Her parents never recovered from the shock.
We do not belong to ourselves in this world. We, as Christians, belong first to God. He gives work into our hands, and self-indulgence can have no part in it. We ourselves may not be strong, or brave, or driven, but His Holy Spirit guides us when we pray. He places us in families, among friends, in communities, where our work and thought are important. We owe it to God and to others to be the best we can be. We are expected by Him to give everything.