I can't not

I think it's safe to say that most of us, men, women and children alike, often experience some sort of food cravings. Whether intense or casual, constant or random, food draws us in and tempts us — much like Eve and the apple? — especially when something is labeled as taboo.

You may recall my experience with the cleanse several weeks ago, during which I was tempted and caved (during Bible study of all places) and ate a piece of carrot cake. Sunday morning, around the breakfast table with my family, I caved again and had a piece of coffee cake. And it was all downhill from there. With the end of the cleanse in sight, I fell right back into my morning pattern of toast and coffee — two things that weren't allowed on the cleanse eating plan.

And the first thing that came to mind, and still does, when I envision that plate of carrot cake being passed around, or the full, beautiful, ready-to-be-sliced coffee cake sitting in front of me is, well, I can't NOT eat a piece. I mean, who could? Who wouldn't WANT to? I think it's only by the grace of God that I have made it thus far in my giving up sugar for Lent. I have been faced with donuts, fruit crisps, mornings with no breakfast, GIRL SCOUT COOKIES, you name it. And this is the only time I've been this disciplined, ever. (Because in my mind I'm thinking, God is watching. He gave his Son for us, and I can't give up sugar...for 40 days, at that?)

Now that I am making one change a week in addition to the giving up sugar thing — and I'm already counting that as a change, so theoretically I won't eat sugar once Lent is over, either (yeah right) — I totally get that it has to be a choice you make, not I can't. I can't gets really annoying to me, so I can only imagine how sick other people are of hearing me say I can't eat this, I can't try that, I can't have a sip, I can't it has sugar. How that correlates with this whole "I can't not" thought process is beyond me, but I know they're connected somehow. And there ARE people who say no to carrot cake even though they didn't give up sugar for Lent. They probably love carrot cake. But they have discipline, or willpower, or whatever you want to call it.

It's hard for me to believe that I'll ever get to a place where I really don't want that carrot cake.

It's hard for me to believe that, even though I know how bad sugar is for you, and even though I want to set a good example for my family especially, I'll some day be able to, what, take the high road and say no to the carrot cake?

Not to get all Jesus on you, but it is Lent, and that's kinda what this whole debate in my head is about. I could have given up potato chips and it wouldn't have been a big deal; I'm not super mentally addicted to potato chips like I think I am when it comes to sugar. But if this weren't my mission for Lent, I don't think Jesus would say don't eat the carrot cake either. I think He'd say don't eat carrot cake at every meal; sure. He might even say don't eat carrot cake every day. But I think Jesus would be moderate about the whole deal. Don't want to pass up the brownies? Have one. But don't stand there, purposely, next to the plate of brownies, to see how many you can eat before you start to feel nauseated, or before someone notices, or because they're just THAT GOOD. I think Jesus would enjoy the brownie, smile inside and out, and move on. He would be so tuned into His body that He would also know if today He didn't feel like a brownie. Maybe He had some dried figs in the afternoon and was already feeling kind of sugared out and bloated. He'd kindly decline.

But to continue the story in my head, I don't think Jesus would cook with beef broth that had sugar in it, either. He'd be appalled at all the weird foods we manage to put sugar in, like chicken salad, bread and tomato sauce. I don't think He'd make macaroni and cheese that's unnaturally orange and comes out of some strange blue box. I think He'd eat mostly whole foods — meats, fruit, vegetables and fish — all prepared lovingly and with care and attention to the ingredients and cooking method. Not hurried, not over-thought, not tormented, complicated or confusing. Food is food. It should be delicious, nutritious and satisfying — that's it.

I don't think it's the coffee cake that I can't say no to. It's the Sunday morning, family around the breakfast table, newspaper splashed everywhere, hungry kids and hands and messes and noise.

It's not the carrot cake I can't say no to; it's the fellowship among friends. The smiles, struggles, joy and laughter shared between women while we all enjoy a break from the hustle and bustle of Momdom.

I can't say no to that, and I don't have to. Life is not one big Never Again or I'm Giving This Up Forever. It is just one big, long, gigantic string of moments that you have to pay attention to — quietly — so that as each moment changes, you can shift your attention where it most needs to go.

I don't regret eating that piece of carrot cake. The coffee cake? Meh. Maybe I could do without that. Regardless, in both cases, it's the feeling I'm after, not the food. How quickly our minds and bodies trick us into confusing the two. Every time I write a post like this I don't know if I'm even one step closer to...what, healing? Figuring out how to eat better, every day, one day at a time? I can say this, although perhaps unrelated: As I clear the physical clutter from my home, work and social life (I'm a constant weeder, if you will), all of this food stuff is starting to seem more manageable. Time is stretching. My hope is that the feeling transfers quickly to finances as well.

It sounds hard to say no. But on the other end of the spectrum, sometimes it just feels like a big pain to savor, too. SO much effort. SLOW down. Take TEN minutes to eat a single raisin. That isn't realistic either. Make changes and choices for health, and enjoy it. Otherwise neither change nor health nor happiness will last.

I'm going to try to remember to take a deep breath every time I get that "I can't not" feeling from now on. Because believe it or not, attacking these feelings one by one in each post seems to be helping, even if just a little. It does still occur to me, sometimes, to pray when I'm feeling entitled or deserving. I have thought about paying it forward instead of feeling jealous or envious when I compare my insides to someone else's outsides. So I keep going, with the ultimate goal that one day, food will just be food.

I'll be eating that brownie, I'll smile inside and out, and I'll move on. Lofty goal? Maybe. But only God-sized prayers can get you God-sized answers.

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