Every Meal Is Not A Feast

I’ve spent the last decade treating every meal like a feast.  \\  As of January 2011, I was about 40 lbs overweight.  These two things are related. 

Some contributing factors (both good & bad) in no particular order:

-Food is cheap in America, especially the unhealthy kind.

-My parents made me clean my plate as a kid, so I’m willing to eat just about anything.

-I have poor impulse control.

-Food is delicious, especially the unhealthy kind.

-As a 21st Century middle-class American, “food” is an abstract concept.  I don’t have to grow it, gather it, kill it or hope for it.  If I’m too busy to go the store and pick it up, I can drive past a window and some nice person will drop a sack of it in my lap.

-I have disposable income.

-Food is an accepted means of self-medication in my profession.

-I don’t care how hotdogs are made – they’re delicious.

-I never questioned how my eating habits affected other people.

-Feasts are actually good things.

But I recently decided it was time to make a change.  I’m overweight (I was technically “obese” if you want me to be honest).  That means I’m at risk for at least heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  I’m sure I’m going to cause my wife plenty of grief in her life, but I can avoid making her watch me have a heart attack at 50.   I also may never get very good at being a minister, but I can make sure my cardio-vascular health never gets between me and God’s work in the world around me.  This is something I can do.  I can eat reasonably-sized meals, avoid nutritionally worthless foods like donuts and get some exercise.

In the 40 days since I decided that every meal is NOT a feast, I’ve lost 18 lbs.  (i also joined a gym)  I hope to lose 15 more in the next 40 days.

But I’m not giving up on feasts.  Feasts are good.  Of world religions, I think only Buddhism gives up entirely on feasts and indulgences and that’s because for Buddhists, the physical world (and any pleasure derived from it) is just an illusion.  Judaism and Christianity are both centered on shared meals: Abraham’s lavish hospitality to visitors precedes the promise of his son Isaac, the first mention of the “tithe” is for the sake of a harvest feast,  Jesus feeds the (over) 5,000 and tells us to share a meal together “in remembrance of [him].”  The world is good and we can enjoy it together.  But if we feast every day, every meal, we’ll not only miss the power of celebration, we’ll begin to hurt ourselves and those closest to us.

Lent is a time to fast.  A time to practice putting feasts off for a while.  It teaches us self-restraint.  It reminds us to pray.  It prepares us to celebrate more fully when the time is right. 

Other places where this is a powerful idea:

Every house is not a mansion:  Think of the resources we’d have available if we made due on only as much house as our family really needed.  We all want the best for our children, but is the second game room or the lesson about self-control more important?

Every purchase does not define me:  What if we only bought what we needed?  If I only owned maybe 4 pairs of shoes {work, casual, exercise, chacos}, I could buy some shoes for people who need them (instead of having TOM do it for me).

Every guitar is not a Gibson:  What if we didn’t buy the top-of-the-line every time?  I went with guitars here because it’s my vice – for some it’s Mac products, for some it’s handbags…stepped on any toes yet?  It’s not that we can’t or even shouldn’t  celebrate, purchase special things, buy quality electronics.  But doing it less often is worth considering.

Parting admission:  this is not a new idea.  I did not invent “all things in moderation.”  I’m simply listening to it for the first time.


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