Freedom Nutrition and Wellness | Christian Nutrition Blog
My name is Ashley Smith and I am a registered dietitian in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. I do one-on-one nutritional counseling for Cornerstone Christian Counseling for those struggling with eating disorders, disordered eating, and weight management issues. I am extremely passionate about helping people find freedom in their relationship with food.
Dreading Thanksgiving tomorrow? I can relate. Maybe family dynamics are difficult and bring pain. Maybe you have no family to celebrate with tomorrow (I am so so sorry if this is your circumstance). Maybe you’re afraid of how to navigate conversations around food and body. Maybe you’re terrified about all of the food that’s going to be available. Or maybe you’re already dreading the shame and guilt you foresee yourself experiencing. For me, Thanksgiving (and any food gathering) brought on so much anxiety, shame, and guilt.
I remember one Thanksgiving in particular that we spent with my sister’s in-laws. The morning of, I bathed the day in prayer, asking the Lord to give me discipline around the food that was going to be there. I asked him to help me focus on the people and conversations instead of the food available. I begged him to help me put food in the “proper” place and to eat until comfortably full instead of stuffed. And don’t get me wrong, these are not wrong prayers; in fact, I think they are wonderful in the right context. But I fundamentally misunderstood something—my overeating in these occasions was not due to a lack of love for the Lord or lack of discipline. My overeating in these occasions was simply due to the fact I WAS HUNGRY. I would feel so much spiritual shame and guilt about eating high caloric foods, desserts, and overall too much. What I didn't realize was that my body was hungry and wanted food and therefore drove me to eat too much on occasions like these. Food was an idol, but not because I loved it more than God. Food was an idol because I restricted it and made the size of my body the most important thing in my life.
So I want to encourage you about tomorrow. If you have been manipulating your food intake, reducing portion sizes, exercises solely for caloric burn, OR if you’re a normal eater, you may end up overeating tomorrow. And that’s OKAY. In fact, if you’ve been underfeeding, it might actually be a good thing (getting out of calorie deficit is absolutely essential for eating disorder recovery). Realize that it’s not some moral flaw. It might be because you’ve been undereating. Or restricting. Or simply because you love a certain food or were enjoying time with family. Give yourself permission to eat tomorrow, and to possibly eat until you’re uncomfortable. And then move on and continue to feed your body regularly and enough. It might just impact your experience next time.
Just popping in to share something that I’ve been thinking about recently.
Because I’m pregnant, I get a lot of questions about my weight, appetite, and food cravings. Yes, my eating has changed during pregnancy—I don’t want nearly as many vegetables and I crave a lot of savory foods over sweet foods, but I don’t really have any crazy cravings (other than the hotdog craving for awhile—I’m not the biggest hot dog fan) and the amount of food I eat hasn’t changed exponentially. Yes, my appetite has increased, with a noticeable difference the past few weeks, but it’s not a crazy amount (but know that this is my experience. If you ARE extra hungry a lot of the time, that’s okay—you’re body obviously needs more fuel. Hunger is not a bad thing) . When I hear people talk about pregnancy cravings, I wonder if it’s because of the social allowance that pregnancy is the one time in life you can truly eat what you want “without the guilt” (this is society’s view, not mine). I think restriction in the rest of their life and the social permission to honor cravings during pregnancy then results in going a little overboard. Because I honored my cravings and desires before getting pregnant, that hasn’t changed and I don’t have to “take advantage” of this time. I can honor my hunger and cravings after having Camden.
Then there’s the contrast in social expectations of moms after having their baby. While they are growing a baby in the womb, it’s perfectly fine for them to eat what they want, honor their hunger, and gain weight. BUT once that baby comes out, the expectation is for mom to start watching what she’s eating, to decrease food intake, and to lose weight. It blows my mind because once Cam comes and I’m breastfeeding, I’m going to have MUCH higher energy needs than I do now. Yes, I am growing a human right now, but he’s much smaller than he will be when he comes out and starts gaining weight and growing. I am eating for two right now, but I will really eating for two when he comes out. So why in the world should I be eating less after he’s born?? And in order to sustain a milk supply and feed this human, I have to have adequate fat stores, which means potentially not losing all of the baby weight that my body is going to lose until after he stops breastfeeding (I’m not putting pressure on my body to get back to what it was before pregnancy—I have no idea what my body wants to do after pregnancy).
It makes me sad that mom’s have the social expectation and pressure of losing a bunch of weight and getting back to their pre-pregnancy weight right after having a baby when really they need the permission and freedom to honor their hunger, respect their cravings, and have the adequate fat stores needed to feed their child and to take care of their mental and physical well-being.
P.S. If you’re a mom and you chose not to breastfeed your child or had complications doing so, I have no judgment for you. You also deserve to feed your body adequately, honor your cravings, and give it the time and rest it needs in order to nurture your baby and yourself.
And again, if you ARE hungry all the time, there is nothing wrong or broken about it. I’ve had days and weeks of noticeably increased hunger and then days and weeks of less. I don’t put judgement on either one, I just listen and respond accordingly.
I kid you not, as I'm beginning to type out this blog, I'm eating a chocolate chip cookie...and it's delicious.
There is a lot of controversy in the health and fitness world over what diet is healthiest, what foods should be avoided, what should be consumed, the optimal ratios of foods, etc. But what most people can seem to agree on is their take on sugar. I mean, there seems to be an all-out war on it. I hear people talking about it ALL the time: "that has way too much sugar," "that yogurt is practically like eating ice cream," "sugar is the cause of all of our health problems, and we should cut it out", and on and on.
And while I don't encourage people to eat donuts for breakfast, Little Debbies for lunch, skittles for a snack, and cake and a coke for dinner, I do think we need to give sugar a break. You guys, ANYTHING in excess is harmful. You can drown by drinking too much water. Vitamin A in high doses can cause tumors. Too much calcium causes painful bone deposits in the joints. So I would agree that too much sugar is not a good thing. But sugar in itself is not the problem--it's about the totality of the diet.
It's interesting to me that major proponents of cutting out simple sugars or refined sugars often turn to alternative sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, organic sugar, dates, etc. because they are "healthier" (don't get me started on people who say we should cut out fruit because of the sugar content...). But can we break those things down for a second? All carbohydrates--I'm talking ALL of them--regardless of whether they come from table sugar, maple syrup, white pasta, or beloved sweet potatoes (side note: did you guys know sweet potatoes are rated the #1 most nutritious vegetable?) are eventually broken down into the same three molecules--fructose, glucose, and galactose. The foods we eat are a complicated combination of those three molecules with varying linkages. Some have linkages that are easily digestible and some have linkages that our body can't actually digest (fiber). BUT, they are all going to be broken down into fructose, glucose, and galactose.
I get that this is an oversimplification and that a lot of other factors come into play. And I'm not saying that we should just forgo our veggies and whole grains and instead eat all refined carbs and simple sugars, but what I am saying is that we need to let go of the fear of refined sugar. It's broken down into useable energy, just as our sweet potato is. And energy isn't a bad thing. And if our sweet potato is broken down into glucose and fructose, then why do we fear table sugar that is broken down into glucose and fructose? The fear and morality we form around eating sugar is going to do far more harm that the sugar itself. Restricting sugar and then overeating/bingeing on it is far less healthy physically and emotionally than having moderate amounts on a regular basis. Fearing any food is going to wreak havoc physically on your body (um, hello cortisol!), your ability to foster relationships, and your ability to truly nourish yourself.
So I encourage you to challenge those beliefs you have around sugar. It's broken down into the exact same molecules as other types of carbs, and your body knows how to handle those other carbs. Again, I'm not promoting eating sugar all day everyday--your body is not going to feel good, and I promote eating in a way that makes you feel energized and good. But let's stop the fear-mongering that is going on around sugar and just eat our food, enjoy it, and move on.
Hello hello!! A few weeks ago I worked on a handout for my clients about the Bible and what it has to say about our bodies and food. Honestly, I was only creating this for my clients to take home and work on in order to discuss later in another session.
I did this because I offer faith-based nutritional counseling and see clients who experience a lot of shame and guilt around food and their faith. It's multifaceted (shame around having an eating disorder or not being better "yet", guilt around overeating or thinking about food all the time, wanting to honor God with their food choices but feeling like a failure, etc.) and different people struggle in different areas. I believe God's Word is sufficient to address all of our struggles, but in this worksheet I focused mainly on what the Bible has to say about food. Several of the passages aren't actually about food, but I believe they reveal things about God's character or truths that can be applied to many areas, including the way we relate to food or our bodies. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about food, and that the church has perpetuated incorrect beliefs around food, our bodies, and morality/righteousness. Even our culture has created a religion of dieting/clean eating and food intake, and health is associated with a level of holiness and moral superiority. This is NOT at all a part of the Gospel.
As I was working on the worksheet, I got super excited about what all God's Word has to say about food and our bodies. Guys, there are wonderful truths that apply to our relationship with food...and it is so FREEING! I snapped a screenshot of what I was working on and posted it to my IG stories. I got a lot of positive feedback saying how they were excited to read my post. Soooo...I decided to post this for you all. So here's what you can do, subscribe to my newsletter and it will send you a pdf of this worksheet I created. You are more than welcome to unsubscribe after if you simply want the pdf and no more. That's completely fine with me. You can subscribe on the "Home" page or on the "Contact Me" page. This is only going to be available for the next two weeks when you sign up because in the future people may be signing up simply to receive notifications, not for the pdf.
I pray you find God's Word encouraging as you dive in!! (P.S. This worksheet is in no way a comprehensive list of verses on what the Bible has to say about food and bodies, but at least some to mull over and think about!) I challenge you to read through the surrounding passages as well.