I’m on the seventh day of a month-long highly restrictive diet to try to deal with some health issues I’ve been having. I want to get that information out of the way up front, just in case this post comes across a little “hangry.”

As I’ve been dealing with cutting things from my diet and adding in new things to try to figure out why I’m having my current health issues, it has occurred to me how much time I’ve had to spend thinking about food that I used to spend being productive. It’s not just the actual food prep (which can be a lot more extensive when you’re cutting out all the fast food and processed food options), it’s the time I just spend THINKING about food that is sucking the energy out of me and giving me less available brain space for the things that truly matter.

I have found myself daydreaming about the foods I used to eat. I have looked up the menu options at restaurants to see if they have food I can eat. I endlessly count down the days until I can reintroduce certain foods. I stop myself multiple times a day from endlessly staring at the fridge. I can talk far beyond my husband’s patience about what I ate and didn’t eat today. I look at the food other people are eating and entertain wicked thoughts against them . . . kidding . . sort of . . .

This feels like such a waste. I know I’m doing it now to try to be a good steward of my body and I believe that’s important and noble, but it’s made me think about other times I’ve “dieted” and how much we are a dieting culture in general. How much world-changing power have we women given up because we were thinking about the donuts in the break room we aren’t “allowed” to eat?

I know there’s a balance. Obesity is a real problem and many of us have diet constraints that we didn’t choose, but we have to respect because of the quirks of our bodies. We can’t avoid thinking about food. Especially as mothers, much of our time may be devoted to shopping for food, meal planning, prepping food, serving food and cleaning up the food that was left. Food is essential to life. But having a healthy relationship with food is more complicated than I used to imagine.

What I’m finding is that you can eat a healthy diet and still have an unhealthy relationship with food. If food is consuming your thoughts, you’ve got a problem. Whether you’re daydreaming about potato chips or kale chips, I’m not sure it matters. I’m well aware this is a #firstworld problem, but I think it’s one we need to look at. How much of our lives have we devoted to thinking about food? What could we have done with that time instead? Have we sacrificed our ability to make positive change in the world around us because we were either hungry, consumed with thoughts about our next meal, or wracked with guilt about we’ve already eaten?

Developing a healthy relationship with food needs to be about putting it in the place it deserves. It can’t be the only place we find our joy or our reason for living. I can feel in my own hunger today a feeling less like friendship with food and more like an unhealthy, lustful, stalker relationship. I may be eating “clean” but my thoughts about food are a little dirty (metaphorically speaking).

I want to get my body healthy. I also don’t want to lose my passion for the things outside of my body. I want to find the healthy balance—not just a healthy diet, but a healthy soul, and a healthy pursuit of the work in front of me.

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids. Four were adopted (one internationally, three through foster care) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.