We often overestimate the amount of suffering we will endure by giving up processed foods. The amount of disappointment we expect in comparison with what we actually suffer when we do give up processed foods can be surprising. Giving up processed foods is actually a pleasure.
In the book Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss describes that the taste we get in processed foods is through these three ingredients: salt, sugar and fat, and especially in combination. In contrast, fresh greens, ripe fruits, and nutritious whole grains, nuts, and beans are amazing in the variety of flavors they offer. Think of a ripe mango, a banana pepper, a fresh snap bean. The less processed foods we eat, the more we can taste the variety of flavors in unprocessed foods. Processed foods are so heavy in the sugar and salt flavors that we become accustomed to the highly concentrated taste of these two flavors.
What is really surprising is when having given up processed foods, we slip and allow ourselves a cookie or a donut and what do we taste? Sugar, in the case of the cookie, and, surprisingly, salt in the case of the donut. Slipping on our nutritarian diets can be devastating if these few slips become daily or even weekly habits. After all, as Michael Moss explains in his book, these processed foods are made for a flavor burst of at least one of the three ingredients. And once we are hooked, we have trouble tasting the sugar in a mango because we are used to so much more sugar.
Slipping in a daily diet of reading God’s word or talking with Him in prayer has a similar effect. The noise and stress of our lives completely distracts us and before we know it, God seems to have disappeared. Trying to find time to pray and read the Bible becomes difficult and because we are no longer sensitized to Him, we tend to de-prioritize these activities. Walking the dog becomes a task instead of time to admire the glory of God’s beautiful creation, cleaning the house and doing laundry is an irritating effort rather than a means to value His blessings. Preparing foods with a variety of flavors and nutrition from God’s bountiful earth, becomes a hurried task in the kitchen, grabbing ready-made products that gives neither flavor or nutrition. Unhappily, gratitude turns to envy and the joy of spending time with Him turns to guilt.
Don’t despair, God’s strong arms are always there. He knows what we are like, that we often slip and slide through life, but he is constant and faithful. God tells us that when we draw near to Him, He will come to us. This is infinitely true. The more time we spend with Him in humble prayer, in sincere devotion to discerning what the Bible is telling us and doing it, in praise, in worship, and in meditation, the closer He becomes until even while we are sleeping, He visits us in our dreams. He is an awesome God and wonderful in the many ways He can reveal Himself to us. We are made to know Him and He is not far from any one of us. We are his creation and each of us is unique and incredibly loveable to Him who knows us best. Together, we are His church, His house, His people.
“My devotion to your house, O Lord, burns in me like a fire.” John 2:17