Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Things I Read

Let me introduce you to my new word of the week:

Orthorexia, from the Greek "ortho-" (right and correct) + "exia" (appetite) = right appetite

It sounds innocent enough, doesn't it?  Eating right is a good thing, but orthorexic is a term that is being used in America to describe people with an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.  I am spending quite a bit of time and energy on the subject lately, but I am doing my best to avoid becoming one of them.  :)

On the other hand, when I began to avoid foods that contain "high frucsish corn syrup" (as Anya calls it), I began to wonder about all those other ingredients and chemicals (listed and unlisted) we were consuming mindlessly.  Diabetes runs in our family, and I was (and am!) determined to begin preventing it now, for both myself and for my children, but there are so many theories and diets out there that it seemed almost impossible to know which one is "right".  I've been reading blogs written by nutritionally minded Christian women, and there were a few books on the subject that were repeatedly mentioned.  However, since I refuse to take advice from random people that I don't even know, I decided to read some books for myself and draw my own conclusions.  First I did a bunch of research online and came up with a list of books I wanted to read, and then we made a trip to the library.  I came home with titles like Real Food by Nina Planck, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, and The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

First I read Real Food; What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, and I learned about things like cholesterol (which I have never understood until now!), why eggs and milk are good for us, and how "they" raise and feed the meat we eat.  It was an interesting book, but as one critic pointed out, the author's sole qualifications are that "she grew up on a farm and her parents served good food, she is healthy and she has managed/owned greenmarket stores".  I also hesitate to take everything she wrote at face value for the simple reason that she accepts as fact the theory of evolution.  If she ignores even the existence of our Creator, how can I possibly trust her to guide me in my quest to eat right? 

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, was also very interesting (although also written from an evolutionist viewpoint), and better written (and researched) than Real Food.  It seemed to cover the same ground as Real Food did, but the last third of the book delved into more of how we Americans eat instead of what we eat.  The author gives advice such as "Eat meals."  "Eat at a table.  No, a desk is not a table."  "Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does."  "Try not to eat alone."  "Eat slowly."  I really enjoyed that book, but the same principle applied; the author ignored even the existence of our Creator.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway has nothing to do with food. But it was really, really good!  I had a hard time putting it down.  (But that has nothing to do with orthorexia or the subjects of food and nutrition.)

During my research I had come across another book called The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin, so I decided to look into it.  (Literally!  Amazon has that neat feature where you can actually read parts of books.)  It looked like too much of one man's experience and not enough of what I wanted, so I kept looking.  I got side-tracked in my search by the title of a book by the same author, The Maker's Diet for Weight-Loss.  (What mother of four with some weight to lose wouldn't get side-tracked by a title like that?!?)  I used the same neat "pre-read" feature, and found almost instantly that that book wasn't for me either.  However, the time I spent researching Jordan Rubin's books was not wasted, because on one of the pages in The Maker's Diet for Weight Loss, he quoted from a book called What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex Russell, MD.

Ah.  How refreshing!  A book about healthy living (not just eating), based on Biblical truths, written by a man who not only is a Christian, but who has his MD and is diabetic.  All of the qualifications I was looking for, all wrapped up in one author!  I bought this book, and as soon as it came in the mail, I started reading.  It was fascinating!  The text is easy to read, liberally sprinkled with Bible verses and references (as a book entitled "What the Bible Says About..."  should be!), and equal parts "ewwww factor" and funny.  When I finished the book, I immediately wanted to share everything I'd learned from it with everyone I know.  The only problem is that while I was immersed in this book, I was also finishing reading through Romans, (both books cover the subject of "the law").  While I would actually highly recommend reading through both concurrently (Romans shone more light on what I was reading in Russell's book and made it easier to understand, and vice versa), I came across a passage in Romans 14 (specifically verse 22!) that struck a nerve:

20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

 22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

So, while I would love to tell you what you should and should not be eating, I will refrain, and instead I will just highly recommend that you read for yourself What The Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex Russell, MD, and form your own conclusions.  

Oh, and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan?  I decided not to read it at all.  It seems to me that only an orthorexic would read four thick books on the subject of food in one week, so I'm going to keep it to three, and go back and read What The Bible Says About Healthy Living again instead.  :)