Written by Kristy Loewen
The Bible shows us again and again that food plays an important role, not only in our physical health but also in our spiritual and mental health. God used manna to build faith within His people (Exodus 16). He used David bringing food to his brothers to bring them comfort and ultimately to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
Jesus commonly dined with his followers and others in order to talk, encourage, bring to repentance and build faith (for example, Mark 14 and Matthew 9). He turned water to wine to keep the fellowship going at a wedding (John 2). Ultimately, Jesus used bread and wine to bring us communion as a way to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us (Matthew 26).
The Bible suggests our food and eating habits are not lost on God. They are not things we can separate from our relationship with Him. If He cares about a bird falling from the sky, He also cares about how we choose to nourish ourselves. He cares about our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Now, before I get too far I want to make it very clear that no matter what we eat God will always love us. And if we choose to eat something we shouldn’t, that doesn’t mean we don’t love God. Having a bowl of ice cream for supper instead of a salad doesn’t change how much God treasures you. If angels or demons cannot separate us from the love of God, neither can a doughnut.
Still, we cannot separate our diet from our spiritual and emotional health. As a nutrition counsellor who focuses on brain-body nutrition, I see that mental health is closely related to how we eat. This is one of the main reasons we sometimes use food as a coping mechanism. The key is to start thinking about how you might be using food to deal with your problems instead of thinking that food is the problem. Often, stress is the problem, in one form of another.
Recent studies have shown that if we have a healthy gut, our bodies can physiologically handle stress much better. What does that look like for you? It means you need to eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, fibre-rich foods, and probiotic-rich foods. Good examples of these are: garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, berries, sauerkraut, yogurt, and leafy greens.
The bad news is that poor nutrition can create or increase symptoms of mental health problems. It can cause hormone imbalances, cause you to crave even more junk food, or make you lazier and less motivated to make a change.
On the positive side, the right eating plan can lessen if not eliminate some mental health symptoms, stop your sugar cravings, and improve your outlook on life. It will increase your ability to make better food choices and lessen mood swings while keeping you on a more even keel.
One of the best ways to combine the physical, mental, and spiritual is to devote your day to God. Make your healthy food choices before you leave your house. Exercise in the morning to help keep your body active and craving nutrients and water rather than alternatives. Use your breaks to walk with God, either literally or by praying or reading Scripture. Practice being thankful while you drive. Stretch while you watch TV instead of eating. Do some lunges while you walk to the bathroom. Do a few push-ups before you crawl into bed.
As much as it is hard to get into new habits, we cannot create energy out of thin air. Energy begets energy and we must move and make healthy choices first in order to feel energized about continuing them. Don’t think of one mess-up as falling off the wagon. Think of it as a trip while walking down the road, where you’ll quickly regain your footing and move on.
Do you truly trust God to change you from the inside out? Take note that you haven’t been able to do it on your own. Maybe it is time you let Him take over, trusting Him to empower your own small steps forward and magnify them into full healing and restoration. “Dear children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18).