Sober-Minded Eating: Food for Thought

If someone would have told me 12 years ago when our first child was born that there were chemicals in our food affecting our emotions and behaviors, I would have looked at them like they were crazy. However, it did not take much convincing when I was at wits’ end as to how to discipline her between the ages of three and four. The connection between chemical-filled food and behavior became painfully obvious. 

We had just moved to Germany and had very little support. There were days when I felt so lost and helpless— days I felt like I just couldn’t spank her anymore— days where I felt like she demanded all of my attention, and our youngest daughter, who was not yet 2, was not getting the attention she deserved. Her older sister was so defiant and headstrong. We tried time-outs, but she wouldn’t go. We’d swat and tell her again. We even tried to carry her and place her on the step (our time-out spot), only to have her get right back up and walk away. Some days I would spend thirty minutes trying to get her to sit on that step. 

Finally, I came to the point where I just couldn’t discipline her as outlined in the Scriptures: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24). Spankings were taking a toll on this momma. I finally decided not to spank her or even put her in time-out on the difficult days. Instead, on those days, I would physically hold her until her will bent to mine, and the struggle would end. Again, this usually took about 30 minutes. When those moments were over and she was done fighting, crying, screaming, and struggling against me, she would look up at me and say, “Mommy, my head hurts,” and grab the back of her head. My heart would break even more, and I would just continue to hold her. Only, instead of it being a struggle, it was done with full compliance as I tried my best to bring her comfort.

In the midst of these extremely difficult days, I called a friend, just to chat one day. During our casual conversation, I mentioned what we had been dealing with. She recalled to me a boy she went to school with who couldn’t eat red dye. Well, a casual mention of there may be a connection was all it took for me to immediately begin researching. I discovered a website and the Feingold diet. We first started by strictly eliminating dyes from our diet, and I saw immediate results. Yet, at times, she still had episodes of out right abnormal defiance. We decided we also needed to eliminate artificial preservatives and then flavors. In a very short matter of time, we had a completely different child— a child fully willing to do whatever she was told. 

Our experience has caused me to look at food in a completely different way. The results of removing these chemicals from our diet has not only changed the behavior of our children, but it has also helped me with problems I didn’t even realize were problems in myself.

The Bible commands us to be sober-minded, or sober (depending on the translation), in several passages:

“Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8)

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13)

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Typically, we use these passages to argue against social drinking. Please don’t misunderstand me though, I am not saying if you eat artificial dyes, preservatives, and flavors you are sinning. My goal is to get you to think, observe, and determine for yourself if you would benefit from eliminating these chemicals from your diet and your children’s diet. There is no doubt in my mind we would all greatly benefit mentally, emotionally, and physically from eating clean foods. 

I have observed first hand that chemicals in our food cause adverse effects on mood and behavior. If we are commanded to be sober-minded, wouldn’t that include eliminating anything from our diet that would hinder us from being as sober-minded or self-controlled (Galatians 5:23) as possible?

Although we try very hard to eat as clean as possible, there are times when we cannot or do not. It only takes one meal, and then in the days that follow, we are reminded just how difficult it is to bear the fruit of the Spirit when we eat something with an artificial ingredient. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

My husband and I are more impatient and short with the girls.  The girls bicker and fight with each other much more. I notice a considerable decline in their concentration during school. There are days when we have to stop school, because they can’t focus, and I am not being patient. Thankfully, these days are few and far between, but they do occur occasionally.

I’m not sure in the moment of the trial nine years ago I found the joy as James commands in James 1:2: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,”

However, looking back today, I see many moments of joy for which to be thankful.  I am thankful for the strength (Philippians 4:13) to deal with every moment I had to discipline Allison. I am thankful Allison does not remember any of those horrible moments that are etched into my memory.  I am thankful for Louis and his constant love, support, and encouragement through it all. I am thankful he was on board with all the dietary changes we had to make. I am thankful for God’s providence in that casual conversation where red dye was thought to be mentioned. I am thankful all it took to get my baby help was a few simple changes in the way we eat. I am thankful today, as we approach the teen years, our teen struggles will be different than most others. Although we will still be dealing with hormone changes, body changes, friend drama, etc., we will be dealing with them as sober-minded as we possibly can. 

I pray you will give this food for thought, and do some research of your own.  I know you will be blessed by whatever changes you may make. May we continually strive to keep adding to our faith as Peter instructs in 2 Peter 1:5-7, knowing by doing so we will be kept from stumbling.

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.” (2 Peter 1:10)

May we continue to “be sober, be vigilant; because (our) adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). 

Ronda Botello
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