Lately it seems as though every third cover story in the popular newsweeklies is about what we eat, or should not be eating. In its May 3 story, "The low-carb frenzy," TIME magazine estimated that 1,558 low-carbohydrate products have been introduced in the United States since 2002, with expected sales of $30 billion this year. For perspective's sake, that's about five times the 2002 gross domestic product of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While you're sorting your way through all the talk about carbs and saturated fats, and the related advertising, you might want to consider another perspective on food and health.
While some food scientists say, "You are what you eat," the Science of spirituality says, "You are what you think." In other words, the content of the human mind, more than the nutritional content of our food, is what makes us either content or discontented with our lives and our bodies. But that's not exactly breaking news.
The knowledge of a direct relationship between mind and body is as old as the Bible. Yet in the late 19th century, Mary Baker Eddy discovered the spiritual rules underlying this age-old wisdom, and wrote "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" to spread the full explanation of her discovery.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus taught that it isn't what goes into one's mouth but rather what comes out of it that matters. And in Luke's Gospel he's recorded as saying, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes" (12:22, 23, New International Version). Jesus' counsel about food anxiety sounds extraordinarily contemporary to our ears.
Obesity is a serious health problem. And changing what and how much we eat does help address the "physics" and biology of weight-control. But what about the metaphysics, the inner-space nature, of the challenge? Might either overeating or self-starvation signal a deeper discontentedness, a need for a more spiritual concept of identity? Indeed the definitive solution may lie in better feeding humanity's inward hunger.
Here are a few steps toward thinking spiritually about food and the body's shape:
• Find contentment in who you are and what you already have. The most vital truth about each of us is that we are God's own daughters and sons. The most filling thing we all have is God's constant love. To understand ourselves as loved children of God is profoundly satisfying. Each of us mirrors our Maker in wonderfully individual ways. We can dine on that reality. Snack on it in needful or reflective moments.
• Feast on giving. "Happiness consists in being and in doing good," Mary Baker Eddy observed, "only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing else can" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1902," page 17).
• Defend your right to think for yourself. Persuasive suggestions and anxieties are constants in a consumer culture, but a timeless phrase in the 23rd Psalm - "I shall not want" - can be a powerful prayer of self-government.
• Have compassion toward others. It takes a higher kind of love to be nonjudgmental about another's size or shape. But as we begin to measure ourselves in more spiritual terms, it's natural to see more clearly the divineness that actually defines our sisters and brothers. And the flip side of showing compassion is gaining freedom from envy, remorse, and condemnation - heavy weights to carry around.
• Be Soul-shaped. As The Message, Eugene Peterson's contemporary version of the Bible, renders a verse in the Psalms, "I'm happy from the inside out, and from the outside in, I'm firmly formed" (Ps. 16:9).
A spiritual approach to well-being doesn't have to mean passive contemplation or sedentary living; it's active and action-inspiring. Life's first rules are, after all, proactive: Love good (God) wholeheartedly. Love yourself, and others, for all the goodness (Godlikeness) that's within you.