The Seven Deadly Sins of Healthy Eating

It just so happens that I was at church last week and the pastor began a sermon series on the Seven Deadly Sins. Those Deadly Sins are: Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Sloth, Envy, Anger and Pride. As he went on about how these sins can distract people from their focus I began to realize that these same sins distract me from a healthy lifestyle. Let me explain.

Gluttony, or an overindulgence of anything (food included), has been an issue for me. I should point out that gluttony does not equate to obesity and obesity isn’t necessarily a result of gluttony. The funny thing is that it is rooted in a strong desire to finish what I start and not waste things. I was told that I needed to finish my food because there are children starving in Africa. My moral compass told me that I had a duty to eat even after I was satisfied. I overeat out of obligation. Lord help me if I’m at a restaurant! I’ve got to worry about starving children as well as the family budget. How  I can possibly let a $22-36 steak go to waste (we all know steak isn’t as good the next day so I can’t take it home).

So, now I’m trying to eat healthy and guess what, I’m still a glutton. Only now it seems to be in more of the priggish sense of the word. Yes, glutton also means

self-righteous, moralistic, holier-than-thou, sanctimonious, prudish, puritanical, prim,strait-laced, stuffy, prissy, governessy, narrow-minded

When I was completing Whole 30 I can’t tell you how many times I turned down offers of a bite of food or I asked what the ingredients were in a dish. I’m not saying that people can’t be selective about what they put in their bodies. I’m saying that I’m now aware that foodie-ism and a healthier-than-thou mindset that makes others feel inferior or unhealthy. My organic, all-natural, farm-raised, grass-fed, gluten-free, non-GMO, additive-free food isn’t for everyone (including me sometimes).

Greed is good according to Michael Douglas’s character in Wall Street. It also applies to me and sugar. I know I’m addicted to sugar. I can’t tell you how many times I snuck into my kids Halloween candy stash and took the prime candy (literally from babies). If I’m eating a piece of cake and someone asks me for a bite my head spins around 360 degrees while I spit out a big “no, it’s mine!” I look like Gollum with that shiny ring. The more sweets the better. My precious! My problem is that I can’t eat just one of something and be satisfied. I have to have ALL of it. I went 30 days without any sugar and then I had one piece of Halloween candy and it was all over. I crumbled like a shortbread cookie. I followed that candy up with birthday cake, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake bars, cookies and ice cream. So much for restraint. Goodbye healthy habits.

The only saving grace for me was that I was able to get back on track relatively quickly. I didn’t beat myself up over it and give up. I knew what to do to get a handle on sugar.

Lust isn’t just for people. I have gone to a restaurant or party and found myself fantasizing about how good something is going to taste in my mouth. It can be distracting, in fact, I’m trying not to dream about food while I type this. I don’t find myself lusting after flour-free, sugar-free banana bread. I wish I could feel my mouth water when someone says “Fruit Tray” or “Chicken and Spinach Quinoa Bowl.” It just doesn’t make me weak in the knees the way that “Beef Enchiladas with Rice and Beans” or “White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake” does. In fact, my desire for sweets and certain foods is so strong that it blocks out all reason and logical thinking. Instead, I rationalize about why it’s ok to eat these unhealthy things until I’ve convinced myself that I’m not doing any harm. I fully believe in the “everything in moderation” attitude towards food, but I don’t have a moderation mode. It’s all or nothing for me. So, sometimes I have to give myself permission to indulge without guilt, but with planning. Yes, I will eat a piece of cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory but then I’m done. I can’t let my lust open the floodgate for a month of unhealthy eating simply because I fell off the wagon.

Sloth,  or “the reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness”  is definitely an enemy of healthy eating. Invariably, I struggle to maintain healthy eating habits if I’m too lazy to plan and prepare ahead of time. There is something so primal and automatic about hunger. If I get too hungry all reason goes out the window and I am compelled to get food in my belly no matter what. If I don’t have healthy choices available it’s incredibly difficult to resist the Taco Bell drive thru. I now carry a bag of nuts or nuts and dried fruit with me so  I can stave off hunger until I can get to healthy food. I stock the fridge with easy to prepare food and pre-cut fruits/veggies. I am usually the person in the family eating dinner leftovers for lunch for a week so that makes it easier as well.

Getting lazy about meal planning impacts my ability to eat healthy. I went a week without planning meals and stood in the grocery store just staring at the meat counter while I tried to come up with five dinners for five that were tasty and healthy. While I was able to put together a menu, it took longer and made me feel less prepared. Thank goodness I can always fall back on soup and pot roast to get us through the week!

I found that getting lazy about this blog also impacted my motivation to eat healthy. Making my journey public has held me accountable for my choices. It’s also made me interested in taking risks in the kitchen and trying new things which inspires me to stick to me healthy lifestyle commitment.

Envy snakes its ugly tentacles around my heart in restaurants where I have no control over what other people are ordering. I try to order first so I’m not tempted to change my selection based on the yummy plate someone else is going to have set before them. Of course I’d rather have the super duper nachos or baked ziti instead of my bunless turkey burger! I find that looking at a menu before I go out helps me get an idea about what to order and then I’m able to ward off envy. Luckily, most restaurants are offer delicious, healthy options. I’m thankful for this, even if I am a little envious of the people that can eat whatever they want off the menu.

I think envy sometimes creeps in when I’m visiting with healthy, fit friends as well. It’s not easy to be the fat one at the table, or the beach, or in the room. Of course I’m envious of people that don’t have to buy wide-calf boots or abandon any hope of wearing leggings or skinny jeans. Thanks to honest conversations with some of my friends, I now realize that they also have to work at maintaining healthy eating habits and activities. That was eye-opening to me. Most of us are in the same battle against sugar, artificial ingredients and unwanted fillers in our food. Now, I feel a lot more camaraderie with my healthy friends than envy.

Anger has turned into resentment. Why can’t I just lose weight? Why do I have to watch what I eat? How did I get here? This isn’t fair. Why can’t I be fearfully and wonderfully made AND a size 6? Grr. Bah humbug to denying myself sweets and greasy Mexican food. See where I’m going with this. Oh, and shame on restaurants for making the portions so big that I can’t help but overeat. And boo to the grocery stores for charging me double for almond flour and coconut oil compared to white flour and vegetable oil. Yep, anger can be a pretty big hurdle to clean eating.

Pride goeth before the fall. Boy, is that true! I was so proud of my accomplishment when I finished Whole 30. I thought I’d kicked my sugar habit for good. I didn’t think I needed to stick to a plan. I thought, “I got this.” Um, not so much. My pride made me vulnerable to temptation I wasn’t ready to resist. It makes me think I can have lapses in food judgement and be able to get right back to healthy habits. It makes me feel a little bit superior to people struggling just like me but have farther to go. Pride can get in the way of relationships. Woe to me who thinks she has mastered clean eating. This will be a journey that has it’s ups and downs and I’ll probably never master it. Maybe a healthy dose of humility instead of hubris will serve me well.

There are many factors that can contribute to the success or failure or a healthy lifestyle. These seven sins may not impact everyone but I’ll bet everyone has a particular challenge they have to face. Here’s hoping for a measure of grace and fortitude for all,

 

Wendy

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