Friday, January 25, 2013

Gluten-Free Communion?

I have nothing against considering the nutritional value of food; it is, at times, essential.

Eating well to keep your body healthy is a good thing.

However, when eating well comes at the price of sacrificing time spent with others (community), and - by extension - your identity, it is a bad thing.

I can't help but think that in the face of nutritionism's popularity-gone-wild, that we are headed in an unhealthy direction.

We can juice our fennel, ginger, and grapefruits all day long, but does a murky vegetable drink that we down in the car on the way to the gym do as much for our bodies and souls as a meal with real foods (whole foods that you have to chew) would? Could it be as healing as a meal with other people?

I guess what I'm trying to say is: food is never just food.

Food is a way of communication. It is the beginning of traditions. It is an icebreaker. It is the start to good, deep conversations. It is the first mumblings of hearty laughter. It can be the way to start conversations that are hard to have but need to happen. Food is a means by which we live. It is a means by which we define ourselves.

To have sole control over what we eat is our goal when we go on these stringent diets. So what happens when a community controls what we eat? What happens when we aren't in total control of every single calorie that goes into our mouths? What kind of vulnerability goes into that? What kind of life would you be opening yourself up to.... letting others choose what they are going to cook you? To not have a nutrient counting calculator out at each meal?

I have "done" both ways of eating, and I can tell you that - when I ate in an overly-rigid and concerned manner - the food I consumed (alone mostly), tasted like death.

And when I ate with others, around others, and from other people's tables? Life got wild. Surprising. Those moments spent at the table with others, eating God knows what (most of the time it was great), became central to who I am.

I'm not suggesting you throw out your juicer and spirulina. I love a green smoothie.
I'm just suggesting that you think about the real consequences that come from when you say no to a family dinner in order to eat a gluten-free bar on the way to your run.

I remember this line from a famous Anne Sexton poem: "one is dying but remembering a breakfast." It is not "One is dying but remembering a raw nut bar."

Look at this creepy picture I found of a family dinner. If I was at this table, I'd probably go make a green smoothie too:

The Family Dinner Painting - The Family Dinner Fine Art Print - John Keaton

**Side note** If you have a dietary need that you must follow, or that is a medical condition, you are not at fault in any way. This is not meant to be a slam against those who must eat in certain ways, but more of a nudge to those who subject their bodies to needless trendy diets for other unhealthy reasons. When writing the title, I was thinking of the trend Miley Cyrus inspired in our church's youth group, where all the girls hoped to also lose 20 lbs by going gluten-free, though they were not allergic.

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