You are what you eat: the weight of preaching (I)...

For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you. Therefore... like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. - 1Peter 1:24-2:3.

Last night Mary Lee was reading me excerpts from a book called All Natural: A Skeptic's Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier. Nathanael Johnson grew up in Berkley and the Sierra foothills parented by hippie-freaks who were going to raise the perfect child by not going to the hospital for his birth, not using diapers (they make babies bow-legged), and never allowing their son any food that smelled or tasted good. Said Johnson, in such a home every bite of food is a confession of faith:

I knew, from the moment I was old enough to begin exercising some judgment over what I put in my mouth, that we took food more seriously than most families take religion. We believed wholeheartedly in the old aphorism "you are what you eat, which—if you think about it—puts an awful lot of pressure on the eater. (p. 101)

Food is their religion and the central tenet of their faith is "you are what you eat."

The book is quite funny, especially if your own first child was also born at home, also with Lewis Mehl of Santa Cruz fame our OB. But Mary Lee and I had no issue with diapers, we've always thought "family beds" cloying, and we love Oreos, fudge, and ice cream. It's true when we lived in Wisconsin's dairy land we tried getting our milk raw from the bulk tank of a dairyman in our church... Despite persevering with that discipline for quite a few weeks, though, I found my burps growing too very exotic so we went back to the old safe standard of milk without cow manure.

If I hear a Christian say "you are what you eat" today, it's almost certainly their effort to justify the American idolatries of Dietism (good), Naturalism (good), Sugarism (bad), Meatism (wicked), or Glutenism (evil); what I refer to generically as "Foodism." Twenty years ago my brother, David, said "you know you're getting old when all you talk about is food and..." He was right back then, but now he's wrong. Foodism has taken all the young couples and you wonder what they'll have left to talk about when they get old?

Christians turn food into their religion, then justify it by the Apostle Paul's statement that the body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit." This legitimates any wackiness that's selling books or web sites or special breads and rice and communion wafers right now. Twenty years ago it was Gwen Shamblin's Weigh Down, but then she turned out to be a heretic and everyone was all ashamed of having been on her bandwagon. Now it's Fork Over Knives taking churches by storm and what a relief the doctrine doesn't matter at all this time around. Pagans and Christians can both share the same conversion which is quite the relief. Instead of talking about sin, repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ, we can blather on about gluten, sugar, and meat not offending anyone at all—other than fat people who have been hoarding Twinkies ever since their demise was announced, and they deserve to be offended!

God hasn't commanded us to worship our bodies—leave it to the pagans. As Scripture says, since they know tomorrow they'll die, today they're merry, they eat, and they drink. With no hope in death, this is their life, their sex, their sacrament.

So chill out, all you Christian mothers who think sugar is the cause of your son's total depravity. It's not sugar, it's the Fall. It's Adam. Your son isn't disobeying you and hitting his sister because the church nursery workers let him eat a cookie. He inherited Adam's corruption and the solution is faith's discipline, instruction, love, and prayer. Problem is, why give ourselves to those hard works and to waiting on the work of the Holy Spirit when we can seize his eternal destiny right now by yelling at the nursery workers or nana (for giving him a popsicle on a hot summer's day)?

But there's another sense of "you are what you eat" that's incontrovertible. When it comes to the preaching of God's Word, you are what you eat. Dear soul, fix this in your mind and never forget it!

They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?”

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." - John 4:30-36

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.



Amen.  I can't help noticing that Charles Ramsey was eating a Big Mac (and looking healthier than I) when he rescued his neighbors.

There are great reasons to watch our diets, but Scripture is not one of them.  It's worth noting as well that, regarding the "temple" passages, that 1 Cor. 3:17  is about the church,  1 Cor. 6:19 is about fornication, and 2 Cor. 6:16 is about being yoked with unbelievers.  Not exactly an argument for natural childbirth and unpasteurized milk.

Oh, I dunno. The Scripture references aren't direct, but I think the case can be made indirectly from references to stewardship, justice, sins like gluttony or parsimonY, as well as this regarding feasts. 

Interesting that we are now learning that those who follow various versions of gluten- or grain-free diets out of pregerence as opposed to medically established reasons likr Celiac Disease may be found themselves more harm than good. 

>>the case can be made indirectly from references to stewardship, justice, sins like gluttony or parsimony...

Also "whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things" (Philippians 3:19).


"Despite persevering with that discipline for quite a few weeks, though, I found my burps growing too very exotic so we went back to the old safe standard of milk without cow manure." I doubt it. Milk from the bulk tank is sampled & tested at each pickup. If a farmer had manure--or just coliform bacteria--in it, he would end up buying the whole truck full or possibly a whole silo full of milk at the processing plant. You really didn't have a narrow escape from this kind of corruption--only (like the rest of us) from the more serious kind!

I can understand why a healthy (natural) diet is a good idea; and it's not wrong to talk about this issue, in a culture where gluttony is an obvious deadly sin. But it doesn't take long for diminishing returns to set in either, and from the way you describe things, we're well past that point.

>>I doubt it.

You may doubt it, but the clarity of my remembrance won't yield to your doubts. And I've been delicate about the specifics of my experience. No question, the milk was dirty and the milk checks kept coming. No question. Pasteurization has a purpose.

Farmers don't take kindly to bulk tanks being poured down the drain, so allowances are made. It's similar to drug tests for jocks, or ordination exams for men with the M.Div. from the denominational seminary.

Allowances are made.


Our church recently switched to gluten-free communion wafers. Not for the sake of dieters but because we have several honest to goodnesss celiacs and it was just easier to switch all of the wafers. Not everyone selling or buying them is wacky.

Love the reminder that a cookie doesn't cause sin, but the heart. Thanks for the good word.

I've noted this issue for a long time now.  It's making some Christian women's blogs turn into little more than cliches that are identical to what you would find on a site like Huff Post.  "Buy local, grow your own, cook from scratch, real food, whole food, free range beef, no carbs, Wheat belly diet, sugar is poison" etc.  This is usually coupled with other posts on their blogs regarding "homeschooling, decluttering, simplifying, thrift shopping, frugal living, how to live without using your dishwasher or clothes dryer", etc.  When everyone starts to sound alike you know you have a fad on your hands.  Too bad so many evangelicals jump on the same fad the progressives have been on for years.  They are a stumbling block to the weaker brothers and sisters around them.

At older lady at the church my husband and I attend has a daughter that visits from out of town now and then.  She's a naturopath and a vegan.  She believes she can cure her patients of cancer with alternative medicine, using things Drs. are purposely hiding from us.  She believes all vaccines are bad and shouldn't be taken.  Her mother is having symptoms of heart disease and yet this daughter has her on some liquid homeopathic or some such brew to "clean out her arteries".  In the meantime her mother refuses to see a cardio even after an ER visit shows she needs some serious and immediate intervention in order to avoid a major heart attack.

The Evangelical culture is nothing if not gullible......



Our Lord taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and this is evidence enough for me that carbs are not evil. We enjoy our breads at my house!

Also, while in the past I have been prone to long for the days of horses and carriages and Little House on the Prairie, now I think that modern efficiencies (in building, harvesting, cleaning, transporting, etc.) are part of subduing the earth, and that a desire to go back to the old ways often represents an indifference, if not antipathy, to God's command to rule over the earth and subue it. So now I'm glad for combines instead of teams of men with scythes bringing in the sheaves by hand.

Not to mention the fact that the New Jerusalem is a city, not a national forest---so I've had to revise how I speak and think about cities as well!

Per Kamilla's helpful correction (thank you, sister!), let me rephrase; the "temple" passages I've seen in the Scriptures do not commend themselves to stringent diets.  The warnings against gluttony and covetousness and the like would at least commend themselves to moderation in diet.

Regarding the "exotic burps" from raw milk, some believe that a grain based diet makes the pathogens from the manure more exotic.  Per WE Deming, however, "In God We Trust, all others must bring data."  I'm personally not willing to drink raw milk until I see how sanitary things are, or are not.


The Christian "foodies" have an answer for how today's bread isn't good for us even though bread in biblical times was a staple.  Just like they claim that processed food isn't food at all (which is why they claim that though Jesus made all foods clean, He wasn't referring to any food that isn't "real food") they also claim that today's wheat isn't really wheat at all.  Hence bread isn't good for you even if it has whole grains in it.

It's become a modern obsession with food that borders on idolatry.  As my mother used to say "Some people eat to live; others live to eat". 



Sorry for being a food heretic, but I went low carb in November and have lost 27 lbs. so far, if the scale at the bank is correct. Just 10 to go.  I am pretty much anti-sugar too. 1/3 cup in a Frappuchino, but you would never spoon it into your mouth straight, would you? If anything, my diet forces me to cook my own food, so almost no eating out anymore, which is way cheaper. I have grown to appreciate celery and peanut butter. My pants are loose. My barber noticed!

Dear Mrs. Wilson,

They do have a point, when they say that this bread isn't true bread. We eat it and get hungry again---and we call that bread? In its paltriness it points us to Jesus, the true Bread, which when we eat of Him we will not hunger ever again. And what we call "water" is barely worthy of the name---we drink it and almost immediately get thirsty again. But Jesus is the Living Water:

"...but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

So it is that I am called "husband" and "father", and that I eat "bread" and drink "water", in thankfulness and hope, while I wait for the dawning of that Day when these shadows will pass away and we will partake of the glorious reality forever.

>>Sorry for being a food heretic, but I went low carb in November..

Dear Todd, 

Me too. January. But it's no heresy. It's self-discipline that, unfortunately, some call a "diet."


What?? No more ice cream?? :)

I guess I don't see the problem with carbs:)  I eat whole grain carbs (bread,granola bars) all the time and I'm actually underweight with very low fasting blood sugar levels, low triglycerides, very, very high good cholesterol, etc.  But then I'm a hyper chronic insomniac, so I need the energy from carbs to help my body  keep up with my mind: ) 

My brother insists that weight loss occurs when you burn more than you eat, period.  Our family tends to be on the small side though, so maybe it isn't true for everyone.



Is being overweight considered a sin equal to that of sodomy, considering both types refuse to repent if their sin?  

great blog are brave men to speak out as you do

The Bible never condemns being overweight, and it isn't a sin per se. So, no, it certainly isn't equal to sodomy. "Overweight" truly is an example of something that is culturally defined.

"The Bible never condemns being overweight ..."

Agreed, because of this:

25 The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Prov. 11:25

Also, ...

He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat. Prov. 28:25

The Lord serves fat at his banquet:

And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. Isa. 25:6

The blessing of the Lord makes one fat:

And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. Isa. 58:11.

Can't stand it, treading in ....

Carbs aren't bad. The problem is what we do to them and how we consume them.  With the caveat that taking carb consumption too low actually increases cortisol (bad for a whole host of reasons), the low carb diets are definitely good for long term weightloss.

See Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat

How many carbs we eat, how they are processed and what we eat them with are the problem. I don't think it's an unfair summary of Taubes to say that what he has found is that many of us have developed what amounts to a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism. 

The biggest food fraud ever perpetrated on the America public was the low-fat/low saturated fat mantra. Butter is better for you than margarine. Low fat diets are almost always high carb. Ever read the nutrition label on a packet of "diet" cookies? Fat is a flavor carrier and contributes to satiety. People who consume diet sodas with their fake sugars have been shown in studies to overcompensate by adding even more calories back into the diet.

 Organics are overhyped, but I think it's not a bad idea for those of us who can afford it to buy organics as a way of creating market pressure to get better and more affordable organic produce to market. Agribusiness isn't the great satan, but it also isn't a good idea to have so much control of our food chain (seeds, for instance) in so few hands. 

Here endeth the lesson

(aka rant over)


Not sure how much to believe when someone has written a book as there as so many contradictory books out there along with totally different diets - Vegan, Paleo, Vegetarian, low carb. Atkins, gluten free, etc. etc. etc.  All claim success. People are just as overweight now as they were 20 years ago, so I don't see today's diets as any better than yesterdays. 

As per low fat diets, it would depend on what kinds of fats you're cutting out and what you're allowed to eat. Dr. Dean Ornish has for years been treating heart patients with a very strict low fat diet and has actually shown in clinical trials that his plan reverses heart disease without surgery or drugs.  But then he doesn't allow junk carbs nor red meat, etc.  

I think that in 20 years all the food fads of today will be shown to be as much of a fraud as the low fat diet of yesterday.   The bottom line to weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. 

But now I'm totally confused because, according to Joseph, being fat is good as it's a sign of God's blessing: )   So if that's the case, why would anyone want to lose weight? 




Taubes is a science journalist. His book is something of a meta study with a good measure of history. I think it's worth considering. 

Any diet like Ornish's which restricts junk/processed foods will likely improve health. The question is, can it be followed for the rest of your life. 

Hi Kamilla,

I looked up Gary Taubes and did a little research.  He's very controversial.  The experts he's quoted in his articles are not happy that he took them out of context to support low carb diets that they actually don't support.  Here's an interesting website that you can explore around to see another side to the story including the experts that are miffed at him.

He got a $700,000 advance on the book.  IOW he wrote a book and he wants to sell you the book.  I find him less than compelling.  His diet risks everything from kidney stones to cancer. 

Eat sensibly.  Eat less than you burn.  Cut out junk food.  Don't cut out entire food groups unless you have some actual proof that you have food allergies of some type. 

FWIW anyway: )



Hi Daniel,

Yes and Amen!  Everything good here and now points to Christ!  Bread here is nothing compared to the Bread of Life.  As usual in life in a fallen world, we get caught up in the shadows and miss the substance!  It's all about HIM!



Yea, I'm aware of the controversy about his handling of some of the data. I found the history fascinating, though. And I thought the overall case he presented quite compelling. There are all kinds of modifies carb diets out there now.  The Duke Diet, which he includes at the end of the book, is just one of them.  It seems every cardiologist has his own version. 

In the main, I agree with you about cutting out food groups -- with the caveat that because of how we've modified them and combined them with altered fats, carbs are a particular concern. 


Thank you so much for all of your comments. I have been caught up in all of this hype and now repenting for looking to food for healing and salvation instead of Jesus. My husband and I have some questions about our son who has seemed to have issues with gluten/wheat since he began eating solid food. Now that he is 5, we've been introducing wheat back into his diet and get the same results- stomach cramping, diahrhea, lack of control of his bowel movements. Do you have any advice about what we should do now? We desperately need widsom from the Bible.

Hi Jamie,

I really can't speak with knowledge on this.  In one of my comments I noted not to cut out entire food groups unless you have some proven food allergy, and it sounds like your son likely does.  The Bible doesn't directly speak to this issue, but I would think that you should prayerfully work this through with your son's pediatrician and perhaps a nutritionist.  It really does sound like he may be one of the ones who is gluten intolerant or maybe even has Celiac disease in which case it's essential that he follows a careful diet to avoid gluten.  A good nutritionist would help you know what he can safely eat.  My heart goes out to him! 

I pray the Lord directs your steps and helps you get the advice.



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