You Are What You Eat
Does God care about what we put into our mouths?
A few weeks ago I embarked on a new adventure: veganism. Maybe “adventure” isn’t the right word as much as “challenge” is.
A vegan diet is basically a step further than vegetarianism: no animal products, particularly meat, eggs, and dairy. Many vegans even go to the great length of avoiding fur, leather, wool, down, and any other item made of animal products.
A restricted diet—or any diet for that matter—is not very like me. I love food. I love sugar. I love carbs. I love chicken. And I will gladly ingest some methylcyclopropene if it means chocolate is involved. However, I’ve always had an interest in nutrition and health, and as I began learning about where our food comes from, I realized I needed to make some changes.
My vegan journey began when I watched the documentary Food, Inc., which chronicles how our food industry is run. As you might guess, it has some pretty unpleasant things to share about the food we consume and the way in which animals are treated in factory farming. After being moved by the documentary, I wanted to make sure what I’d seen was, in fact, true, so I picked up a couple books that further discussed the problems with our food industry and our penchant for filling our bodies with foods that are just not good for us. I learned about organic versus conventional fruits and veggies, grass-fed, free range meat, and the affects of our food choices on our bodies and on those who supply our food.
One thing that really stood out to me was the condition of industrial farms: the places where nearly 10 million animals are raised and killed and manufactured for us to eat. All it takes is a quick Google search to see the inhumane way animals are treated and how dirty and unhealthy these facilities are. Animals are treated as a product rather than a living being, created by a God who deeply cares about all life. They are fed foods that they are not designed to eat, and they stand or lie in their own feces in confined areas. The employees work on an assembly line, making the same repetitive movement to an animal carcass over and over. Working at such a fast pace easily allows feces and bacteria to get into our meat. Since it’s cheapest to feed herbivores corn instead of grass, there are high rates of salmonella in the beef coming out of factory farms. Instead of feeding the animals grass, most meat is treated with ammonia to kill the bacteria. Chickens are pumped full of hormones to cause them to grow twice as fast as normal.
It’s all about money. And it’s all about demand. The average American is eating more than 200 pounds of meat each year. If we want so much meat—and want it cheaply—factory farming is what we’re going to get.
So I made the personal choice to try and remove meat and dairy from my diet, my reasons being (1) for my health; and (2) as a stand against the unethical treatment of animals at factory farms.
The information presented in these documentaries and books resonated with me because of what the Bible already says about food and health and our bodies. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17). As Christians, taking care of our temple requires us to be mindful of what we put into our mind, body, and spirit. Chemicals, fat, cholesterol, sugar . . . these are all tangible things we can keep out of our body to keep our temple clean and pure.
Keeping this in mind, I’ve begun to eat more wholly: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other natural items. I’ve found that I now think a lot more about the food I’m putting into my body—I have to consider the ingredients. I’m choosier and I eat less junk. I make less rash decisions about what to eat, and I plan ahead more. It hasn’t been easy, and I don’t always follow it to a T, but I’ve really enjoyed learning new recipes and new ways of thinking about food. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” By consciously making healthful and ethical food choices, we can honor God and his creation.
The Bible also calls us to respect other living things. (Proverbs 12:10: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”) He gave us control over the animals of the earth, but—as many argue—we have distorted that. When I saw the horrors of how some companies produce our meat, it created a natural response in me to not want to participate in supporting those companies—especially since so much of our power and voice really come through how we spend our money. As a person made in God’s image, I want to be able to stand and say, “No, this is not okay.”
Implementing these changes in my diet has brought me to a position of greater thankfulness toward God. It’s caused me to look at his creation and the food that gives us life differently. My prayers are more focused on thanking God for his provision. I am more aware of our great need and dependence on God for our sustenance, and my heart is softened to those who don’t have enough.
Cutting meat out of your diet isn’t the only response of course, but for me, I think it’s the right one for now. I don’t think that it’s wrong to eat meat and dairy products, and I do realize eating organic foods is a privilege that not many are afforded. I’m trying to do what I feel is right for me and trying to do it in a financially responsible way. What might be the right response for me may not be the right response for another. There are many ways to make a difference, including buying locally, buying organic, and buying ethical meat. Support farmers who do things the right way. Researching these topics, educating yourself about where your food comes from, and implementing changes can be a God-honoring way of living a healthier life.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).