The Saint Diet
This post is part of a series about re-thinking my relationship to food, which I call “The Saint Diet” to remind myself that the ultimate goal is deeper union with God. You can read all the posts on the subject here (scroll down to see them all).
- A couple weeks ago I was talking to my spiritual director about my slack prayer habits, and I happened to mention in passing how tired I am all the time. Interestingly, she wanted to focus more on addressing the tiredness situation than the specifics of the prayer issues, pointing out that if you’re exhausted it’s going to make everything an uphill battle, including prayer.
- Then, as I wrote about here, I went to Adoration with a laundry list of concerns and ended up feeling called to one thing and one thing only: to put some serious thought into what I eat on a daily basis to help control the “carb crashes” that regularly put me in a sluggish, angry mood.
- Then one morning I found myself acting like a maniac in my car, about to harass a weary woman in the minivan in front of me, all because I was overbooked and in a huge rush. I wrote about it at the time here.
These three lessons have been rolling around in my mind, and finally coalesced into an ah-hah moment when I realized: there are ways you can structure your lifestyle to make it more conducive to holiness.
I know this is probably obvious to a lot of people, but it was a real lightbulb-going-on moment for me. As a new convert, I’d always thought of living a life of holiness and avoiding sin as confined to the spiritual level alone, that there was nothing I could do in my physical life (other than receive the sacraments) to impact it one way or another. But, now that I think about it…
If prayer time rolls around and I’m tempted to read blogs instead of pray, am I more likely to turn to God instead of Bloglines if…
a) I went to bed around midnight, leaving me feeling exhausted, sluggish and weak.
b) I went to bed at a reasonable hour and got plenty of good sleep, leaving me with an ample store of mental and physical energy for the day.
If I am at the grocery store and someone is rude to me, am I more likely to respond in Christian charity if I have eaten a lunch that consists of…
a) Greasy pizza, Coke and a cookie.
b) A mixed greens salad with lean chicken and hardboiled eggs.
If my children misbehave and do something that costs me time and throws my schedule off track, am I most likely to resist the urge to lose my temper and start yelling if…
a) I have more on my plate than I could possibly handle and am trying to accomplish 20 hours of work in a 12 hour day.
b) If I have kept my commitments to a reasonable level and have buffer in my schedule to allow for the unexpected.
And so on. Obviously, choice (b) is going to help me do the right thing in every case.
Similar examples could be given about the spiritual impacts of not getting enough exercise, carrying too much extra weight, not getting enough sunlight and fresh air, etc. (all things that apply to me to some extent or another). It’s not to say that any of these things make it impossible to be Christ-like, but the battle against our fallen natures is certainly more of an uphill battle when our lifestyles set us up to feel stressed, overwhelmed and fatigued all the time.
Over and over again lately I’ve felt called to focus on this to the exclusion of almost everything else. I think that God is basically trying to tell me, “Look. It’s going to be hard enough for you to be a saintly person. You really, really don’t need lifestyle factors to make this any more difficult than it’s already going to be for you.”
So I’ve been attempting to embark on a lifestyle makeover, starting with my diet. Since I have some obvious insulin sensitivity issues and turn into a very angry, very tired person after I eat processed foods (seriously — we’re talking Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type stuff), I’ve realized that eating a “whole foods” diet would have a big impact not just on my physical health, but on my spiritual health as well. I’ve been calling it The Saint Diet in my head, an eating plan that consists of foods that will maximize physical health, energy levels and mental peace (and, when I’m not pregnant, I’d love to also incorporate some traditional fasting practices to help temper my attitudes toward food…but that’s the subject of another post).
So that’s what’s going on with me this week: I’m working on coming up with a list of foods, particularly lunch foods, that are nutritious and free of processed carbs, yet are also fairly easy to prepare and keep on hand. It won’t be easy to make these changes, especially with my issues with simple carb addiction, but it’s something I feel strongly called to do.
I’d love to hear any thoughts or suggestions!
RELATED: Check out the daily schedule of the Missionaries of Charity that I posted in this post (scroll down), and notice how it speaks of a life of balance and buffer. I find it so inspiring!