Orthorexia. It’s a proposed eating disorder characterized by fear of foods perceived as unhealthy. Although not currently recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, I bet you have seen hints of it around you– on social media, in conversations with friends, and possibly (if you’re like me) in yourself.
The fear of unhealthy foods is understandable. The dialog around food is often confusing and agenda-driven, regardless of where you find yourself on the organic/conventional spectrum. Food is also deeply personal, which results in conversations and choices that touch us to our cores.
- Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthy? Do you look down on others who don’t eat this way?
- Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
- When you eat the way you’re supposed to, do you feel in total control?
I cannot help but think that answering yes to any of these questions indicates eating from fear. Fear of too much of this and too little of that. Fear of technology that is used in food production, and not being able to find research you can trust on the topic. Fear of bursting our grocery budget while fearing if the foods that fit within our budget may do more detriment to our health than good. We act out of fear. We eat out fear.
What would change if thankfulness replaced fear?
How might our approach to food be different if we were thankful that:
We have variety grocery stores to meet our different needs, budget constraints, and tastes?
There is technology like pasteurization (for those who choose it) to keep our food safe?
There is a market for local meats, produce, and dairy?
Hard working people are figuring out an economically, socially sustainable local foods infrastructure?
Those who live in areas where food is difficult to come by aren’t seen as a problem, but as friends with whom to share our bounty?
The majority of the big players involved in ag are concerned about environmental stewardship?
Economic principles like economies of scale allow farmers to produce food at a low cost?
We don’t live in fear of the next drought?
We have research institutions that scrutinize all food practices to examine their benefits and problems?
We have ways to effectively manage pests?
There are effective antibiotics that ease animal suffering?
There’s a Chipotle around the corner from McDonalds?
We have a diverse group of women and men doing what they think is best to steward the land and preserve it for future generations?
God is sovereign over all — including our diets, our families’ health, our food systems, our natural resources?
The aim of this piece is not to minimize the need for difficult and needed conversations about food and agriculture. We must ask hard questions, accept few things at face value and continually push into what is good and noble.
If our conversations around food and ag are to be constructive, they must be born out of the liberating thankfulness for what has been provided so we can work together to continue to make our food systems more ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable.
As I think about thankfulness and our food, I think of the liturgy I’ve witnessed every Sunday at my churches for the past six years. Following the sermon, the pastor goes to the front of the church and takes a loaf of bread and begins quoting Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
“On the night that our Lord was betrayed, he took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said: ‘This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me,'” the pastor explains while tearing the loaf in two pieces.
The pastor continues, laying down the torn bread and picking up a chalice of wine. “In the same way, [Jesus] took the cup also, saying ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
If Jesus, on the eve of his death, could give thanks for the meal that would testify to his death for more than 2000 years, how can we not do likewise with our daily bread?