Kitchen Rules: 23 Tips for Sane Eating

I love food. I love bacon cheeseburgers, rare. I love brussel sprouts, roasted. And I love pizza…any way you want to serve it up. I also have great affection for white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, pasta aglio e olio, lamb curry, risotto alla crema di scampi, and blackberry cobbler. I love blackberry cobbler

Blackberry Cobbler

I don’t just love food, though. I eat it. Happily. Gladly. Without guilt or regret. I don’t count calories. I don’t watch my fat intake. And I don’t weigh myself the morning after I’ve polished off a piece of pumpkin cheesecake.

If you had told me, 15 years ago, that this kind of freedom was possible, I would have thought you were a raving, mad lunatic. Back then, there was no freedom. Only numbers: numbers on a scale, numbers on nutrition labels, numbers on my clothing tags.

So, what changed?

First, I stopped seeing food as something to be feared and started seeing it as a sign of God’s love and grace, as a natural symbol of the supernatural food we receive in the Eucharist. I also stopped seeing my body as a problem to be controlled and started seeing it as a gift to be cared for. And, perhaps most importantly, I came to see eating as part of my journey to God, as an opportunity to grow in the virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.

With that change in vision, came a change in how I ate. I stopped dieting, and I started enjoying food for the first time in over a decade. Also, for what it’s worth, once I started seeing food, exercise, and my body through the prism of my faith and acting in accord with what I saw, the less my weight fluctuated. I learned to maintain a healthy, stable weight, not by dieting, but by eating in harmony with my Catholic faith.

Today, the only set of rules I follow about food are my own. And I am a saner, happier, healthier, (and overall less annoying) woman for that.

Just in case you’re looking for a little sanity of your own, feel free to borrow from my kitchen rules.

In some particular order…

  1. There are no good foods and bad foods. There are yummy foods and icky foods, healthy foods and less than healthy foods. But food, in and of itself, does not have a moral value.
  2. I am not good or bad because of what I ate yesterday. My moral worth is not determined by what I have for lunch, where I shop, or who grew my coffee. It’s determined by whether or not I was patient in traffic, kind to the checker at the grocery store, generous to my neighbor, and grateful to God, loving him by doing his will.
  3. Eat what you’re served. Unless it’s going to kill you. And, for the love of all things holy, if you do have a serious food allergy, tell your hostess about it before you show up for dinner.
  4. Eat only when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Listen to your body. It knows what it needs.
  5. Move your body…every, single, day. Exercise is not optional. It’s part of how you care for the great gift God has given you in your body.
  6. Everybody needs one cookie. Nobody needs six.
  7. Feast when the Church feasts. Fast when the Church fasts. Mama knows that both are part of a healthy spiritual life. Listen to her.
  8. Skim milk is an abomination. Drink your milk whole.
  9. Olive oil, butter, and avocados are your friends. Fat is good. Your body needs it. Don’t be afraid of it.
  10. Eat real food. Don’t put ingredients that you can’t pronounce into your body.
  11. Don’t follow fad diets.
  12. Eat your veggies. They’re best roasted.
  13. Be civilized. Eat your meals at a table, with plates, and silverware, and napkins.
  14. Cook more. Dine out less.
  15. Don’t eat alone. At least, not if you can help it. As often as possible, share your table with others.
  16. Try new things. Pickiness is a form of gluttony.
  17. Don’t eat when you’re stressed. Instead, pray. Call a friend. Scrub your toilet. Just don’t medicate with Oreos. If you do, you’ll only end up more stressed.
  18. Drink “to the point of hilarity.” Not beyond.
  19. Never ask a person how many calories are in something they’ve made. That’s obnoxious. Just say “Thank you,” and eat.
  20. If you are a healthy weight and your clothes fit, then stay off the scale. You’re fine.
  21. It’s better to be a happy, healthy, energetic size 6, than it is to be a crabby, hungry size 4.
  22. Say grace before meals. Always.
  23. Go to Mass. Kneel before Christ. Receive him in the form of bread and wine. And “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

11 thoughts on “Kitchen Rules: 23 Tips for Sane Eating

  1. Krista says:

    I could hug you. This New Year’s, I finally decided that I’m tired of counting calories and monitoring every bite that goes into my mouth. I “need” to lose 20 pounds to be a healthy (not skinny) weight. Totally doable. I am working on creating one new healthy habit a month. Eventually I will find my happy weigt. Thank you for your beautiful blog. I need to read these tips EVERY DAY. When you are feeling lazy, just repost this one. 🙂

  2. Liz says:

    Wow! What a GREAT post! I fully agree with all your points and really needed to be reminded of this right now trying to get back to “me” after baby #4. I love reading your posts – keep’em coming!

  3. Sarah says:

    I like these rules! Especially the first two about the “morality” of food. It’s such an easy temptation to bond with other women by comparing notes about how “bad” we’ve been with our food choices. “I ate some peanut M&Ms! I’m HORRIBLE.”
    Connecting pickiness to gluttony is a marvelous point too.

  4. Debbie says:

    I was thrilled to find this post! I think I intuitively knew all this but to see it written in black and white was a tremendous blessing, and quite frankly, a relief! Thank you!!!!

  5. Christy Turk says:

    I’m glad you survived this disease Em. This article reminded me of God’s love for you, myself, and all the people God places in our lives.

  6. Jolene says:

    Hello, Would it be alright if I use some of these rules for an addition into our small cookbook?
    I will print your blog address under them.

  7. Amber says:

    I listened to your discussion with Jennifer Fulwiler over the weekend and had to check out your blog. I think you have a great thing going here!

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how dietary restrictions make eating together difficult. There are people in my family who are trying to follow restrictive diets in order to lose weight, but they are also quite willing to “cheat” if the whim takes them. I find it challenging to figure out how to have them over and what to feed them! Do I make things that fit in their restrictive diet, even if that’s not how we eat or what fits into our budget? Do I make a mix of things, hoping they’ll still feel like I’m supporting them and their efforts? I don’t want to seem like I’m undermining them by what I’m serving! I want to help them, even if I feel like what they’re doing is not really the best way to go about it. I hope that they feel like there’s enough of what is in their diet plan so that they don’t feel like they have to add in the stuff they’ve decided not to eat. But then when they eat everything anyway, I end up wondering why I even bothered, and wondering if I should have not put anything on the table that they are trying to restrict. Do I have a responsibility as a good hostess to try and cater to their diet, even though what I’m serving is full of good, nourishing food? Rhetorical questions, really, but something I’ve been trying to work through. I wish I could send them a link to this list, but since they aren’t Catholic (or even Christian) I don’t think they’d get it!

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your writing!

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