Linking up with Kelly and the rest!
Hello! Happy New Year! To any readers out there, I apologize for being so absent. Part busy with baby, part busy with house stuff, part laziness. My resolution this year is to try to blog some more, so we’ll see. For today, though, I’m going to share another resolution–reduce my sugar intake. And to that end, I experimented with the Whole30 program. Today is my last day, As I’ve gone through the program and thought about my rationale and goals, I realize I can apply some of the principles to my spiritual life, too. Just in time for Lent to begin, too!
The basic point of Whole30 is to eat “whole” foods, meaning just an apple (okay, maybe some almond butter, too), *just* the meat and spices–nothing processed, nothing added that doesn’t need to be added. And at this point in my faith life, I feel like I could use a reset–a way of choosing “whole” spiritual practices–living out my faith in a simple, authentic way. To me, that could mean really focusing on things like the sacraments, prayer, and virtues just as they are.
Now, that’s not to say anything “added” is bad–quite the contrary, some spiritual practices can be very good for people–reading new authors, making a consecration, etc. But sometimes, for me, anyway, doing a lot of “extras” can draw away focus from what God is asking.
The rules of Whole30 are intense. I won’t get into them or the program creator’s rationale, but I will say I do have some buy in to the larger point: the program asks you to read labels and make food choices deliberately, and with intention to holistically change the way you eat and think about food (particularly about sweets, my personal demon). So with my faith life, I want to be more intentional–to deliberately choose that which brings me closer to God, to think about what I’m doing for my faith and what it will give to God.
Ah, us Catholics who never met a sacrifice we weren’t supposed to like. Whole30 asks you to give up not just sweets and alcohol, but any added sugar and grains and nuts, and dairy, and your dreams, and your soul…
Being Catholic means we often have to give up things we like simply because God asks us to—because He is all loving and all good and knows that sometimes those things/relationships/choices are not truly good for us. And sometimes we sacrifice things simply because it is good to do so. While flavored coffee and brown rice might be morally/spiritually neutral, sometimes we give them up because it is good to give something up out of love or desire to grow closer to God. So this coming Lent I really do want to try to give up something like that to truly unite myself to Jesus in experiencing just a taste of the deprivation He experienced in the desert, as well as an infinitesimal amount of the suffering he experienced on the cross.
This eating plan centers around eating three filling meals a day, ideally freshly prepared. While you *can* steam microwave some cauliflower rice, broccoli, and grill up a chicken breast on your George Foreman, you do find yourself in a near-constant cycle of chopping, thawing, cooking, dishes–especially if you also have to make sure your skinny husband and growing toddler get enough to eat, too. So it helps to meal prep, make ahead, and try to get as much as possible out of the way, because in that cruel twist of fate, the toddler’s witching hour is always during “I need to make supper now” hour.
So in my spiritual life, I believe there’s possibly virtue in preparing for a commitment to doing more holy things. Like, researching and joining a Rosary walking group this spring or choosing the one book to pray through Lent with, or just Tetrising my and Aslan’s daily schedule to fit in *something* so I’m not stuck realizing I should take my faith life seriously at the exact time I have zero mental space for it.
I started the Whole30 because it was the program that swayed me the most with its claim of “taming the Sugar Dragon.” You see, fun Fall food, my son’s 1st birthday, and the holidays had me going to near excess with the treats and alcohol. Something drastic had to change, and it seemed only right that I should atone for the delicious sins against my body.
And in my spiritual life, I can see focusing a bit more on the whole penance deal. Of course, I’ll keep up with receiving the sacrament of penance in the confessional, getting proper absolution; but I want to really *feel* the atonement—really make the connection between the notion that fasting and abstinence are real penance that have a real effect that pleases God.
I could not have done the Whole30 without the support of a couple of Facebook groups–one is definitely Catholic and the other was started by a Catholic who has lots of Catholic and Christian followers. So it was nice to be in a group where we not only shared recipes of fish/vegetarian dishes specifically because of people following the Friday rule, but also to be assured that receiving the Body of Christ was A-OK (even though according to the diet’s founder, there is absolutely no consumption of wheat), and no we wouldn’t have to start over every Sunday (another strict measure).
In my spiritual life, community is integral—I mean, it shares the same root word as Communion! I’m going to keep on keeping on with my church-affiliated moms’ group, as well as try to cultivate something in my home parish.
You have to be very disciplined to successfully tackle the Whole30: Saying “no” to anything at Starbucks when you run in for your black coffee, no matter how good the cookies smell. Not buckling in and devouring a personal size pizza because you don’t want to take the extra ten minutes and prep something for a more proper dinner. It was annoying many a time, but in this past week, I’ve felt really confident and just fine with making good choices. Hopefully that will carry through in the weeks to come.
And of course, discipline, which is so much like “disciple” has a lot of connections to my spiritual life. For Lent, I really do want to grow in the ability to stick to prayer practice.
Hopefully these spiritual lessons will last longer than it seems the nutritional values will. For tomorrow is the last day, and well…