[Editor’s Note: This school year, many students are learning online and at home––which is uniquely challenging. In this #schoolathome series, we are asking: What difference does Jesus make in our new normal? How can we live out this season well? To not just survive, but thrive? We hope you discover some helpful and practical tips along the way.]
Have you jumped on the breadmaking bandwagon this year?
The last time I checked, the hashtag “sourdough” was used nearly 4 million times on Instagram. I have a feeling that this number was not nearly as high before the pandemic happened in March 2020. Friends that have never baked before, all of a sudden started to explore this hobby. And I saw more and more freshly baked bread on my newsfeed every week. This phenomenon is one of the “not so negative” by-products of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Registered Dietitian, I love seeing more people interact with food in new ways, enjoying the slower pace of cooking and baking.
This new “pandemic” lifestyle in which we find ourselves allows for new routines and habits to form. Some of them are great, but some of them, that started when we thought this would only last a few weeks, might not be as helpful. What and how we eat and drink can glorify or dishonour God, depending on how we steward God’s great gift of food. If we are called to eat and drink to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), then surely this can be applied literally to what we eat and drink. God has created our bodies and given us our health, which we have the responsibility to take care of. Caring for our physical health through proper nutrition, physical activity, and rest benefits us and gives glory to God.
What we put into our stomachs may seem like a trivial issue, but God cares about it too. In fact, he cares about your enjoyment of food as well. Food is a gift from God to nourish and sustain us. He wants us to enjoy this gift with pleasure. Food is also so diverse. The aromas can be so captivating and the flavours so delightful, that they are too pleasurable to miss out on! Like the sharp scent of freshly roasted coffee beans that welcomes me as I enter a coffee shop. Or the variety of texture and taste of a homemade poke bowl––sashimi for the win!
Caring for our physical health through proper nutrition, physical activity, and rest benefits us and gives glory to God.
When you are well-nourished, your brain is fueled to work at its best. When you are physically healthy, you have more energy to love and serve others well. While God can definitely use us in our weaknesses, it doesn’t mean we can just be thoughtless in how we take care of ourselves. Proper stewardship of our physical health, food, money, and time is therefore a prime manifestation of our faith and obedience to God. So let us not neglect these “few things,” such as our nutrition and daily eating habits.
In the past, you might have had this “physical health stewardship” thing down pat. Maybe you went to the gym 3 times a week, ate lunch every day with school friends––your routine going to and from class and extracurriculars providing a relatively healthy structure to your days. Perhaps you may have never felt like you had a “handle” on physical wellness. Balancing eating food, your schedule, getting enough sleep, friends, and classes can be overwhelming. Or maybe food has always been an obsession for you: easily feeling shame or guilt if you ate the “wrong” thing, or if you binged during a private late-night snacking session to feel some comfort from another stressful day.
Regardless of how you approach food and eating, we are all somewhere on a line between unhealthy and healthy. Things are also a bit different this semester with online classes and constantly changing guidelines. It’s easy to find yourself on your screen all day long, day after day. Meals might blur into one another, or it might look more like days of endless snacking.
Here are some suggestions for habits that may help you work towards health in regards to food, eating, and stewarding your physical health:
Schedule in when you will eat your lunch or dinner for each day. If you don’t use a day planner, this is a great time to start, because it will help create structure in your daily routine. It is so important to have at least one proper sit-down meal every day. If it is not prioritized, mindless snacking can easily take over. You also earn bonus points if you try to eat this meal away from your screens and school work.
Try snacking on nutrient-dense food like fruits, yogurt, and nuts. And hydrate! Have a bottle of water beside your computer at all times. I find that bottles with a (reusable) straw work the best, because while we don’t want mindless snacking, mindless sipping of water is fine!
How to snack: plate the snacks and avoid eating straight out of the bag. This simple habit will help prevent snacking mindlessly and will help with eating reasonable portion sizes. Also, try to keep snacks put away and not lying around.
When to snack: if you are doing Tip #1, then knowing when to snack comes easily. One snack 2-3 hours after a meal will keep you going throughout long study sessions.
Find a roommate to eat with or plan a lunch break with a friend over video chat. Try to do this at least once every two days. This practice will help you make time for meals (Tip #1) and increase the times you eat away from your screens and from work to be with people
If you are already in a Bible study or have a mentor, check in on how you are doing in terms of your physical health. Your spiritual health is affected by our physical health, and vice versa. You can start by asking each other these questions: What have you been eating for dinner lately? How often do you eat with others (virtually or in-person)? How have you been stewarding your physical health so far this semester? Is there a way I can help keep you accountable in terms of taking care of your physical health?
While it’s tempting to feel shame over how we approach food and eating, bringing our struggles or needs into safe relationships can provide comfort and support when we most need it.
Some of these tips are easier said than done, or you might not know how this is possible for your unique circumstances. Or perhaps, you feel that your relationship with food is too complex to share with anyone. If you find yourself in any of these situations, I would strongly suggest you seek help from health care professionals. Your university might even have a campus dietitian whose services are covered by your school’s insurance. Many dietitians, including myself, offer virtual consultations.
Food is often more fun and enjoyable when it’s communal, so perhaps try one or two of these tips with a friend or roommate. My hope for you this semester is for you to keep growing towards a healthy approach to food and eating––and truly enjoy it for God’s glory.