We Never Repent for Having Eaten Too Little.

Thoughts and Practical Advice On Dietary Necessities:

Thomas Jefferson once said, “We never repent for having eaten too little.” How this quote strikes at the very heart of our glutinous culture. We live in a country where we have been blessed with abundance. Everywhere you turn there is surplus. This is further highlighted when placed in the backdrop of the rest of the world. The vast majority of the population in the United States is hundreds, if not thousands, of times wealthier than a major portion of the rest of the world’s inhabitance. We have much. We consume much.

How, then, should we respond as believers? How should we handle the fact that we live in a culture that is submerged in excess? We have access to food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What our society lacks, however, is thoughtfully displayed discipline by a community not driven by any other motive but love.  How, then, are we to live?

Portion control, the kind of “food” we eat, and when and where we eat are just a few examples of where an increase in personal discipline would benefit us all. Christians are called to be keenly aware of the problems of society and are to live such lives that practically demonstrate a better way.

Consider the Israelites during their journey through the desert. In Exodus 16, a beautiful story unfolds about God’s relationship with his chosen people. This story is emphatically and undoubtedly about God’s provision for His people. Without such provision the people would have surely perished in the desert.

Morning and night God provided food for the Israelites, bread in the morning and quail in the evening. These provisions, however, did not come without specific instruction on how to gather the food, how much to gather, and how much to eat. The amount of food that was to be gathered was based on the needs of each individual. When some in the camp did not follow these commands the food spoiled and was no longer fit for consumption.

This is where our conversation picks up. As I read through the saga again I began to think about the wisdom behind these commands. The thoughts that kept nagging at me surrounded the idea of one’s need. Not only was God making sure the Israelites were completely and utterly dependant on his provision, but they also had their needs met – no more, no less. They were commanded to receive exactly what they required according to each individual need.

My fear is that we don’t have any idea of what our food consumption needs are. This proves true if you simply take a look around at our population. The obesity epidemic is higher than ever before and spiraling out of control. Our children are being tested for hypertension, high cholesterol, and other health issues that can be linked with obesity. We have a responsibility to ourselves, the future generations, and those who daily go hungry to begin to understand what our food consumption needs are in order to discipline ourselves to those levels.

This, after all, is living counter-culturally. Our society consumes – it is wasteful, and it is paying the price in healthcare costs and shortened lives. Something has to change and, in my opinion, the keys to cultural change are held in the hands of those who call themselves followers of Christ. Changing the current culture is in our new-birth DNA. It always has been and it always will be.

Where shall we begin? We must first look at ourselves and our families. Allow me to offer a few suggestions to begin taking steps towards changing ourselves.

3 Practical Ways to Demonstrate A Difference:

First, drink water. Replace any sugary, caffeinated drinks with pure water. A simple rule of thumb for your individual need for water is this: take your body weight, divide it by two, and the total equals your base amount of water (in ounces) that should be consumed daily.

Next, fill your day with plenty of vegetables and some fruit. I’m sure I don’t need to lecture anyone about the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is the best source for required vitamins and minerals that one can find. Furthermore, your body knows how to digest fresh foods (more on this later), how to use the nutrients to their maximum potential, and will help you feel fuller longer.

Finally, we are a privileged society and can afford to eat meat, if we so choose. Portion control is important here. Our bodies were not designed to consume massive amounts of meat in a single sitting. No doubt you’ve heard of the 4-6 ounce rule as a proper way to determine the appropriate size piece of meat, but who’s going to pull out a kitchen scale to figure it out every time you have a steak? So here’s another rule of thumb: if your piece of meat is the same size as the palm of your hand (thickness and diameter), it’s the correct size for you.

One final thought. Remember that lifestyle changes must happen slowly and consistently. Always add new things before cutting out old habits.  And most importantly, stay positive. Cultural change will only happen if we change ourselves first.


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  • TabMiller


    Concerning your comment: “My fear is that we don’t have any idea of what our food consumption needs are.”

    This haunts me and reminds me of a question raised in my last post: “Do we have a responsibility to promote healthy dietary habits when we as a Christian community feed the poor.” When considering the extent I need to go when stewarding, I take my cue from Mr. Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

    My concern is this: How can we do all the good we can if we are ignorant to our own needs. If we go to excess in our eating habits simply because of ignorance, then we are not stewarding our food supply. If we over consume, we cannot conserve for the sake of others, and, as CNN reported recently, Americans waste 40 percent of the food we purchase. Add to that the amount of food that we eat beyond our needs, and we have a HUGE problem.

    There is, of course, a rebuttal always lurking around the corner. As your blog admits, food is readily available, and, as Richard commented at the end of my last blog, churches have easy access to FDA approved “foods” that come in mass quantities at a reasonable price. Therefore, it might be argued that our over indulgence might not impact the food supply.

    I have two responses to this. First, this is looking at the idea of “food supply” too narrowly. If we demand mass-produced foods, that is exactly what producers will produce. As you once pointed out to me: “The 21st century “food” is not only nutrient deficient, fiber deficient, good bacteria deficient but is also calorie and toxin rich.” The food available is not healthy. Malnutrition does not necessarily mean lack of food, but lack of nutrients.

    Second, many people are beginning to suggest that our mass consumer lifestyle that produces abundance here produces scarcity elsewhere in the world. So, while our “poor” have access to excess, that does not mean that our consumption here does not lend to scarcity elsewhere. In the ancient world, gluttony was considered horrid namely because it was a consuming of goods at the expense of others. If what these persons are saying is true and our over consumption here produces scarcity elsewhere, we have not removed the issue; we have only blinded ourselves to it.

    In the end, I can only say that I agree with you. People must learn what they actually need before they can truly and fully serve with a Christ-like attitude in this area of stewardship. Your fear has thus become my fear. But, I take heart in two caveats:

    First, in a fallen world, we will always find issues, and there will always exist an ideal we have yet to achieve, but we can only do what we can do, as Richard pointed out: We cannot steward over what we do not have. So, we cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the best possible good.

    Second, while we might be guilty of ignorance, grace means that it is never to late to start changing our ways. No, we won’t do a full 180 and be doing the best we can with what we have as soon as we repent, but we can, by His grace, move onward in sanctification.

    In the mean time, we still must ask, “Are we doing our best?” We can get offended because our efforts at the church sponsored food pantry are sincere and authentic, or we can allow grace to grow our efforts and take responsibility to ask the hard questions, “Is our outreach really thoughtful?”