For six weeks, Ellen Tarlin kept an online diary of her efforts to eat better. Her final post went up on Valentine's Day.
In her mission statement, Tarlin makes a point of saying that she is not "going on a diet": not counting calories or weighing herself obsessively. In the past, her diets had worked briefly, but failed in the end, with all the weight gained back and then some. This time, Tarlin's focus is developing a healthy and mindful eating regimen, one that is sustainable for a busy professional city-dweller.
Tarlin is enthusiastic about the benefits of sensible eating, such as increased energy. (Incidentally, she did lose a modest amount of weight, despite that not being her explicit goal.) She also is frank about the challenges. In the end, she found that eating healthfully is a struggle. The problem of eating presses on us every day, and some days we may not feel we are worth the effort required to swim against the tide of cheap processed food.
The diary has lots of specific insights about eating and cooking well; I hope you will explore it. But the passage I want to call out is Tarlin's plea to her readers to rediscover joy in eating:
[Food] has become such a fraught emotional, financial, social, and political issue for so many of us that sometimes we lose touch with the simple joy it brings. A friend once said we get so obsessed with losing weight that we forget appetite is a blessing. People who are injured, ill, depressed, grieving, or dying lose their appetites. Hunger is good. It is a sign of health, vitality, life. Food fulfills more than just a physical need. There is a spiritual component to it, too. There can, and should, be great joy in satisfying that need.
We at the Duke Clergy Health Initiative have a favorite prayer that asks God to "shape our appetites to fit the needs of our bodies." As a healthy Christian community, may we all redeem our appetites and regain our joy in food. Amen.
John James, M.A.
Research Analyst, Clergy Health Initiative