There are numerous verses in the Bible talking about food; there are dietary restrictions and Gods purpose in regards to food. Good food is always enjoyable and people have pleasure in eating. Food is a reflection of human beings dependence on God. From the beginning, there are numerous concepts and rules about eating. However, God has changed these rules with time. God created vegetables and fruits intended to meet the nutritional needs of human beings. Scientifically, people are advised to eat foods with high nutritional values to prevent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and others. God made a declaration that specific animals are unclean while others are clean, implying that human beings are permitted to consume some but are restricted to consume others. Learning about the biblical design of eating is important because it boosts the motivation to eat healthy and grow. However, the cultural beliefs and Biblical concepts about food are always conflicting.
According to 1 John 2: 16-17, for everything found in the world, the lust of the eyes, flesh, as well as pride is a product of the world but not God. In addition, the earthly desires are short lived but any person acting according to the will of God lives eternally. In Proverbs 23: 19-21, the Bible cautions people who drink a lot of wine or over-eat meat because they will end in poverty2. There are specific issues with health and food based on the Bible. However, most of the times, human beings eat poorly, lack self-control and therefore, turning the gift of God as a source of personal suffering or expression of selfishness.
The popular quote epitomizing the relationship between identity and food is, You are what you eat (1). There are two questions examined by this expression, these question explore the significance of food and the contribution of food practices to personal identity. In addition, they address the perspective of food being a cultural signifier incorporated in various fields such as history, sociology and anthropology. According to research, the relationship between food people consume and their personal identity is significant. Culturally, people who consume synthetic and fast foods are religious conservatives while those consuming health foods are classified as sophisticated and liberal1. Food as a representative of culture determines the quantity as well as nutritional needs of the type consumed.
Modern cultures are not consistent with various changes in the world of food resulting to a mismatch between the food environment and biological predispositions1. For instance, the Americans focus on eating more and less on healthy impacts while the French emphasize on the quality of food served1. Just like most of the modern cultures, my culture focuses on the quantity of food rather than quality. Many people based on this culture assume that the physical nature of any person depends on the quantity of food without considering the nutritional content. Drinking is not restricted, however, people over-drink as a symbol of financial stability. In addition, there is an assumption that eating too much meat facilitates healthy growth and that is the basis of every family straining economically in order to sustain these needs. There are situations where the dietary needs of people based on their religions are disregarded because on their numbers in cases of social gatherings. According to the scripture, The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them (Romans 14:3)2. However, regardless of the Biblical stand of view, people have discriminated others because of their eating habits.
Culturally, people eat for personal satisfaction. Adults are allowed to consume food as a form of reward after undertaking some tasks successfully, and in periods of emotional distress. However, this form of gratification is becoming a challenge in the society. Instant gratification is problematic because of poor choice of foods and quantity. Even if eating for instant gratification is good for the infants because of their energy requirements, it has affected the healthy status of the adults because of over-eating food with low nutritional contents to satisfy their immediate needs1. The incidences of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases are on the increase but there are no cultural restrictions in regards to quality and quantity of food consumed.
According to the teachings of the Bible, God created all the plants and animals for the benefit of human beings. He gave classified food depending on what should be consumed, the quantity as well as the quality. From the scriptures above, there is freedom of choice; however, it is important to act according to the will of God, which is to have physical and spiritual health. These scriptures are conflicting with the cultural identity of food. This is because; most of the people do not eat for health physical and spiritual growth but for instant satisfaction.
A number of stressors such as family and occupational responsibilities, and changing cultural values are affecting the adoption of healthy eating habits. Based on the Penders model of healthy eating habits, people should consume food depending on the physical activities, personal characteristics inclusive of dietary needs, perceived self-efficacy and restriction to action. It is important to consume nutritional food depending on these factors in order to prevent the prevalence of diseases. Given the importance of healthy eating, Christians should be taught on healthy attitudes regarding different foods constituting healthy diets. It is important for the government to be involved in establishing education programs focusing on believed healthy foods reflecting on felt responsibilities of the diets. These actions can align the Biblical with the cultural and religious objectives of food in facilitating healthy growth.
1. Rozin P. The Meaning of Food in Our Lives: A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Eating and Well-Being. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2005;37:S107-S112. doi:10.1016/s1499-4046(06)60209-1.
2. New International Version Bible. Bible Study Tools. 2016. Available at: http://www.biblestudytools.com/niv/. Accessed October 16, 2016.
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