Eat With Joy by Rachel Marie Stone
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2 out of 5 Stars. I would not recommend this book.
I picked Eat with Joy up, thinking it was a Biblical view of eating and a Biblical way of attacking my eating disorder, but it was not. Eat with Joy is less about eating disorders and more about the world's food problems.
"How can we 'eat with joy' when so much suffering and injustice exists, seemingly at every level of modern food production? The first thing to do is open our ears, eyes, and hearts to the stories of people who are poor." pg. 60
I reviewed each chapter, listing what I liked and didn't like about each. The first section was great, but I had a few problems with the others. There was one chapter I didn't even finish.
Conflicted Eating: Our Complicated Relationship with Food
The Church needs a stance on health and fitness. Unless I missed it, Stone does not present a view, but she has a good point. I have talked to a few individuals who want to know what the Bible says about food and eating, but I think this book isn't.
God's Intent for How We Relate to Food
As I read through this chapter, I got excited. I thought I had found a book about Biblical eating. The following quotes are ones I highlighted because I wanted to share them with you!
"The garden [of Eden] is picturesque, fragrant and shaded by "every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food" before any person exerts herself, suggesting that perhaps we eat because God, having prepared for and welcomed us as honored guests, loves to feed us." pg. 25
"Adult interference (as well as the druglike effects of junk foods) can interrupt children's God-given ability to self-regulate." pg. 37
"Guilt and anxiety are too frequently our dining partners. There are complicated reasons for this, perhaps even some things we should feel guilty about, which is why eating's pleasure must be "extensive...not dependent on ignorance." But joyful eating starts with an attempt to recognize food, and ourselves, in light of God, our Creator, and Christ, our Bread of Life. Food is a sign of God's love - and there is no room for fear in love, for love casts out fear." pg. 39
Serving the Needy, Loving Our Neighbors
One major red flag of this book is the misuse of some Bible verses. I do not claim to be a Biblical scholar, but a few simple Google searches can give me the information I need to understand the Bible. Stone is a Christian who uses the Bible to justify her beliefs and actions instead of using the Bible to form her ideas and guide her actions.
Matthew 25: 31-40, "...just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did to me."
More often than not, this verse is used out of context. A charity uses it to guilt people into supporting their ideology, not by a pastor encouraging his congregation to care for the needy in any way they see fit. And the passage isn't even about charity!
Stone uses it in "Eat with Joy" this way:
"They [meatpacking workers in "The Jungle"] live without decent housing or access to medical care. They are immigrants, fearful of government authorities, and unaware of their rights. A hundred years later, they are the same people cutting and packing most of the meat we eat." pg. 54
"I'm not saying Jesus is into redistribution per se, but surely he's on the side of reasonable bathroom breaks and wages people can live on." pg. 56
God cares about what is going on in His world. He weeps for every injustice, every wrongdoing, and every person who suffers in any way. Then why didn't Jesus free all the slaves when He was on earth? Because Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins, not our oppressors.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't care about sweatshop workers in China making Nike shoes. I'm not saying that you shouldn't support one cause or another. I'm saying I can still be a Christian and not support certain ideologies or non-profits. I'm saying that Jesus won't guilt trip me into supporting redistribution of wealth by talking about the least of these.
Here is a pitchfork, have at it.
How Meals Bring Us Together
This book inspired me to eat more with friends. I usually eat breakfast and lunch alone, and supper, I eat with my husband, but too often we watch TV while eating. While reading this chapter, I texted a friend, and we ate together! I want to share more meals with friends and family.
"Our English word companion comes from the Latin for "with" (com) and "bread" (panis) - a companion is one with whom you eat your bread. food being as importantly generative of relationships as it is to bodily growth, eating together is a universally important human activity." pg. 67
When Stone discusses communal eating, she doesn't touch on how our family affects how we eat and form food patterns. She talks more about how eating together brings us joy and improves our health. "That it's all about creating and sustaining relationships." pg. 74
"If eating together is so much a part of being human, and if extending our tables to those who are different from us is such an essential part of living Jesus' good news, what can it mean for our overall health - spiritual, physical, and emotional - that even shared family meals are on the decline?" pg. 71-72
How Eating Together Heals
Finally, a chapter about eating disorders! I enjoyed the discussion of the Maudsley approach to eating disorder recovery. I want to do more research on the topic and watch the documentary discussed in this chapter.
"Surrounding herself [anorexia patient] with healthy eaters proved helpful in a way that focusing on her fears in the company of other ill women at Renfrew couldn't." pg. 94
Family-based Treatment/Therapy (FBT) or the Maudsley approach ensures that "you sit down for three meals and two snacks a day with your anorexic loved one and eat with them." pg. 95
One huge misconception people have is that if you aren't in a hospital for your disordered eating, it isn't severe or worth resolving. That's not true! Every eating disorder is severe and needs to be addressed, whether it's stress eating or anorexia, severe or mild.
"Most of us won't get clinically diagnosable forms of eating disorders, but we'll get the bite-sized version that gets hold of us best when we're just too alone. North American food culture has strayed far from the communal table and its traditions. Our freedom to eat whatever, whenever, however (it used to be considered rude to eat between meals or alone) has scared us alternately into secretive snarfing or starving." pg. 102
The Fat Acceptance/Body Positive/Health At Every Size Movement is all the rage right now, so I wasn't surprised to find it in this book. I am not a part of this movement, nor do I endorse it. I don't want to get into my thoughts here, because that's not the point of this review. I will say that size doesn't determine fitness level or healthy habits, but it impacts risk factors for certain diseases.
"This despite several important but ignored facts: not everyone who is obese is unhealthy, not everyone who is obese has binge eating disorder, and not everyone who binges uncontrollably ends up obese." pg. 99
Wise Choices in Stewarding the Land
I didn't make it through this chapter. It mainly discussed human roles as they relate to nature and God's creation. I'm all for taking care of God's creation, but Stone and I don't see eye to eye on stewarding the land. I stopped after reading the following:
"Being ruminants, cows are great at converting plants unsuitable for human consumption - grass - into food - meat. Today, though, it's the rare and lucky cow that gets to live and die eating grass - the vast majority of them live in crowded, filthy, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) eating genetically modified corn mixed with antibiotics and other questionable substances, emitting methane gases and filling giant 'lagoons' with their excrement, which in turn create runoff that seriously pollutes that water around them - because it's cheaper (again, in supermarket price only) to raise beef this way." pg. 113
I am from rural Iowa, and both my grandparents are farmers. They would have many problems with this statement, including accuracy and correctness. I am not an expert, so I'm not going to comment any further; just know that you could paint sunrises in a bad light if you tried hard enough.
Food Preparation as Culture Making
"A recent bestseller, Made to Crave, follows in this line, seeing all cravings for food as essentially dangerous and potentially sinful because we are "made to crave" God. For Lysa TerKeurst, the ideal is to eat only the healthiest food possible - the pleasure of eating is in this view an intellectual pleasure of doing the "right thing" for one's body." pg. 135
"This kind of cooking - cooking that is motivated by an idea, rather than by the wondrous materials of food - is a kind of asceticism, an exaltation of an idea (in this case, healthfulness) over pleasure, and indeed, over the sensory experience of food and eating. This approach to food is, as Robert Farrar Capon wrote, an "intellectual fad, imposing a handful of irrelevant philosophical prejudices on a grandly material business."" pg. 136
"One reason I object to the notion that God is most pleased by "healthy eating" is because what constitutes healthy eating is not agreed on in all times and in all places and, indeed, is a new concept." pg. 137
Stone counter's Lysa TerKeurst's Made to Crave and argues that eating should be pleasurable. I see a little more nuance: food shouldn't be your only pleasure. At the height of my eating disorder, the only joy in my life was food. It took a long time to change that.
Any pleasure is dangerous. I understand enjoying food the way it was meant to be enjoyed, by actually tasting it. Still, I also appreciate the emotional high it can give some people and how dangerous that is to our mental and physical health.
CS Lewis said, "Pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much... Wickedness turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way."
"By giving loving consideration to our food, eating can become an act of worship as we regard what God has made and appreciate it for what it is, both in its independence from us and for the delightful use that we can make of it." pg. 141
In this chapter, Stone talks a lot about "eating as worship," going as far as to say, "But I do think that knowing more about the food you eat, how it's raised and prepared makes eating it a fuller and more pleasurable experience. Such awareness and attention is, to my [Stone's] mind, Godlike." pg. 141 I, on the other hand, don't believe we need to know exactly how our food got from the farm to our table to be close to God. That's not how I worship, so this chapter was a little lost on me.
Stone touches briefly on food as an idol, which is excellent, but I needed more discussion on that! Like I said before, the pleasure of eating became an idol to me, and if I had known that, my recovery might have been a lot quicker.
"If we stop to think about what McDonald's is selling - cheap, highly processed food - we know it's unhealthy for us and destructive to the planet. But the kind of pleasure it offers is the kind that depends on ignorance, not understanding. It is focused on consumption, while pleasurable, it isn't joyful eating. So I believe that to eat with joy, we must eat creatively, and to do that, it's a good idea to learn how to cook from scratch, encountering the wonders of God's creation and human agriculture while creating your own bit of kitchen culture." pg. 145
I don't want to cook from scratch, nor can I. Don't get me wrong, I would love to! But I don't have the time, energy, or motivation to do so. For me, it would be like learning to sew - I would use it once every blue moon, but otherwise, I would have bragging rights.
Putting Best Practices Together in the Real World
"Nestle writes: "The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient science is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of the food, the food out of the context of the diet, and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle."" pg. 158
The nutrient-by-nutrient science is when a new study comes out that proves a particular nutrient to be healthy, and everyone jumps to include this nutrient into their diet. The study doesn't account for the food, diet, or lifestyle surrounding that nutrient.
"Eating whole, unprocessed foods - fruits, vegetables, and whole grains - in something close to their "natural" states (i.e., not "fruit snacks," not "veggie chips") is fairly uncontroversial. But beyond that, as Michael Pollan argues persuasively in his book In Defense of Food, diets of astonishing variety - vegetarian, carnivorous, omnivorous, and everything in between - can be very healthy. In any case, isolating this or that "good" or "bad" nutrient is less than helpful." pg. 158 - 159
I'm glad Stone touches on nutrition in this way because I don't think it is talked about enough. Food isn't inherently bad or good; certain foods have advantages and disadvantages. As long as you eat a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods, you are healthy.
"The international poverty and justice advocacy organization Oxfam estimates that for every dollar the developed world gives in aid, it takes away two dollars through unfair trade. This doesn't mean that you can do away with child sponsorship if you're drinking fair-trade coffee, but it does mean that it's worth considering whether those candy bar fundraising efforts for charity aren't at cross-purposes. When you consider that most of these imported items are luxuries - not necessities - it seems (at least to me) all the more imperative to make every effort to purchase the fairly traded variety. Voluntarily avoiding foods that are known to come to us via the suffering of others is a small sacrifice to make for the sake of loving God and our neighbors." pg. 162
I will not deny that unethical practices are going on worldwide, but again I can still be a Christain and not support this cause. If I had the power to change this injustice, I would, but at the moment, I'm going to enjoy my coffee.
"As Wendell Berry says, a vegetable garden solves several problems while creating no new ones." pg. 163
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