Thursday, January 26, 2012

If-Then and Food

If-Then statements are so beautifully simple. When they become nested in any more than just a few layers though, it quickly becomes significantly less beautiful to look at, but the beauty in its simplicity remains (for the most part - then of course there is good and bad coding).

I think that's how many people operate - we live by a series of if-then statements, many of which become deeply ingrained into our systems, hopefully enhancing productivity. If the homework for tomorrow is not done, then finish the homework. If the bills are due in a week, then send those payments today. If the 1-bus toward Harvard is due in 10 minutes, then start heading out in 4. Simple, efficient, beautiful.

From a health standpoint, it'd be good to know and understand what your body needs based on what it's yelling out to you. It would be nice if the if-then statements were also equally simple: for example, if I am hungry, then I should eat. If I am thirsty, then I should drink water. But sometimes, as I've learned, if I am hungry, then I should drink water. Not so straightforward anymore - there's another nest inwards in the if-then statements. There is also if I am tired, then I should sleep, which is sometimes actually if I am tired, then I should drink water, at other times if I am tired, then I should eat, and still at other times if I am tired, then I should ingest some caffeine. Confusing? Probably also not the best way to think about things.

Now onto cravings. I used to think this would be simple too - if I crave lasagna, then by golly I'm going to eat lasagna, and replace lasagna with hot dogs, pickles, apple juice, whatever. I guess it makes sense, but I've only recently learned that those cravings are usually not the best thing to go by (surprise-surprise). For example, if I crave MSG like mad, then I should actually eat fish. If I crave chips, I should try eating kale. If I crave tea, I should eat some chicken. Well, that's all a bit confusing. Why can't they be more straight-forward? If I crave a burger, then can I just have a burger? I love burgers.

The scientific explanation, as far as I understand, is that our bodies will often lack a specific nutrient. When we lack that particular mineral, our bodies naturally start to crave things that will provide us with that mineral - another one of the ways that we are so beautifully crafted. However, we've also developed not-good-for-you foods that also provide us with brief satisfaction and temporary relief of those cravings, while not actually meeting those true needs instead. Thus, your body might be screaming to you for iron, and while you would be very well served by eating some leafy greens or meats, you've instead developed a taste for gnawing on ice (true story, many times over).

I think this also extends to our spiritual lives. If I am in need of spiritual food, then I should eat spiritual food. It's simple, but it becomes so incredibly complicated when we start to replace that need with other things. We develop and attach ourselves to many many things that provide us with brief satisfaction, with temporary relief of what we really need. One example in the list is this: If you crave burned food, you actually need carbon, and you should thus be eating fresh fruit. How simple, ironic, and sadly true. We need to fill ourselves with life-giving fresh fruit, but we instead push that aside to stuff ourselves with burned junk. And we love it, even as it kills us.

Those "burned foods" can be good things like love, friendship, acceptance, success -- even great things like opportunities for service, growth, and humility... but those things easily expand, and they easily come to completely replace what we truly need. We warp our if-then statements, fixate them onto other points, and stubbornly hold to that which will not satisfy.

Lord, have mercy... change my heart and mind, and let me desire You where I have filled myself with other things, no matter how lovely and wonderful those things may be...

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