The Problem of Too Much and Not Enough
We have all heard it: "Young man, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?" And we’re familiar with the reply: "Practice, practice, practice." Though we may all agree that practice is the best of all instructors, practicing regularly and mindfully becomes difficult if we eat too much and constantly feel sleepy. “In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires” (Benjamin Franklin).
But when we overload our bodies with food, we spend most of our energy in processing food, not thinking. So when we intend to practice in the evening after work or school, we end up watching TV (almost equivalent to sleeping) instead. Big portions make little sense!
This problem isn’t a new one. It’s ancient. It’s the problem of too much wealth and not enough discipline. Take a look at what people have been saying for centuries about letting things slide.
"He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame” (Proverbs 13:18 NIV).
"Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work" (Horace).
"Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day and at last we cannot break it" (Thomas Mann).
Food and Sleep
Our bodies need both food and sleep. We’ll die without them. But too much food makes us drowsy and unproductive. “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty” (Proverbs 20:13 NKJV). Sleep is not wrong; it’s the love of sleep. "When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man" (Proverbs 6:9-11). Gluttony is one of the major causes of poverty. "For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags" (Proverbs 23:21 NKJV).
And too much food actually causes poor sleep. Our bodies are meant to work hard and burn fuel all day and then recharge with sleep at night. But when we overindulge in food during the day, our bodies demand sleep early. We disrupt the natural cycle. We are sleepy at first because of the food but then do not sleep well throughout the night because our bodies have been dozing in daylight. So we wake feeling tired. Do you feel drowsy after dinner? A light dinner will help you be more productive in the evening and sleep better that night.
Do you go to an important conference but then get sleepy during the afternoon meetings? Though there is so much to learn, you feel sleepy in the midafternoon when you should be alert. Try not having meat at lunch time. Meat is hard to digest, and when your stomach has to work hard, your brain slows down. The spiritual habit of fasting was partly about disrupting this chain reaction. During fasts, our minds work more quickly so that we are more likely to hear God's voice. Eat light, and you'll stay alert. Hunger can actually work for you.
“A strong body makes a strong mind” (Thomas Jefferson).
When you determine to eat less, be aware of the foods that can sabotage your decision. Foods containing HFCS, sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, or evaporated cane syrup will suddenly stimulate appetite and make you want to eat more. So read the labels on all food cans, boxes, and packages, and don’t buy foods containing these ingredients in large amounts.
Try this experiment. Buy and eat just one small $1 hamburger at your favorite fast food restaurant. Immediately after eating, ask yourself a question. "Is my appetite satisfied, or do I now want to go and buy three more hamburgers and some fries?" That one small burger really does contain enough calories to sustain you until dinner, but the sugar in the bun, ketchup, pickle, seasoning, and meat suddenly turn your appetite on so that you want more. Be kind to yourself by avoiding the sugars in processed food. Then you will find it much easier to control thoughtless emotional eating.
Realize, too, that making good decisions about food is much harder when you let someone else cook, especially someone else who makes more money the more you eat. Oversized portions create oversized people, and fast foods are fat foods. Most restaurants stay in business by serving large portions that are high in calories, sugar, and fat. It is better for your budget and your waist line to eat out seldom and to be careful of the grease, salt, and sugar when you do. Ingredients that sabotage your willpower are in nearly everything restaurants serve!
Another kind of sabotage to good health is dehydration. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Even mild dehydration will slow down a person’s metabolism as much as 30% and also cause sleep problems. Lack of water is the number one trigger of daytime fatigue. A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on a computer screen or on a printed page.
Your body wants and needs water. Drinking water removes toxins, makes you feel full, and keeps your digestion in balance. So keep drinking water!
But strong drink can cause you to eat too much. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). Notice the words associated with alcohol in the Bible, words such as “raging,” “mocker,” and “deceiver.” Alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment. People who are trying to form good habits around food need to bring all of their knowledge and willpower to the table.
Food and Habit
Think about your habits with food. Do you load up your plate until food falls off the edge and then feel obligated to eat every last bite? The most important control technique is half size or small portions. Forming the habit of moderation will make breaking bad habits much easier.
Poor habits are easy to make but hard to break. And we can’t just put off breaking them, because time is flying, never to return. Putting things off can harm you. Health is a gift; maintaining it is good stewardship. So invest the time left to you in forming good habits to replace the bad ones. "Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend" (Theophrastus). It’s never too late to change for the better.
When you try to replace bad habits with good ones, you’ll realize that little choices make a big difference. People over-eat one bite at a time. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NIV). The little foxes can be cookies, soda, chips, etc. - you know your own particular weakness. But you should also know that regardless of how much food you eat now, you will be hungry again later. Only eat as much as you really need, no matter how good it tastes. "Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit” (Proverbs 25:16).
And don’t be fooled: there is no substitute for the hard work of forming a good habit. Crash diets usually crash, and fitness fades fade. One study that examined the results of popular diets concluded that nearly all dieters suffered complete relapse in three to five years. If you need to lose weight to be healthy, then change your lifestyle. Don’t start dieting. Diets don't work! Simply eat less and exercise more!
Food and the Spiritual Life
"Many receive advice, few profit by it" (Publilius Syrus).
"Men willingly believe what they wish" (Julius Caesar).
"No man is wise enough by himself" (Titus Maccius Plautus).
I know you’ve heard good advice about food before. So if you want to make a fresh start, what makes this time any different? What can give you success if all you’ve seen is failure?
Moderation is wisdom in action. And though past failures with food may have left you feeling anything but wise, you can always ask God for wisdom, which outweighs any wealth. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5-6). Wisdom is God's crowning gift to man, and with the wisdom of God, you can form the habit of moderation.
You and I both know that forming the habit of moderation is hard. It requires a lot of self-control, which may feel out of reach if you have failed in the area of self-control before. But realize that self-control doesn’t rely solely on sheer willpower. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. So ask God for this gift and for the ability to develop it.
Being human, we all occasionally fall off the wagon at times like Thanksgiving, weddings, or our wives saying, "Let's go celebrate." When the road gets rocky, staying on the wagon seems impossible, and there we go again. But we need to take another look at that wagon. We can’t just be cargo sitting passively in the back with no control over where that wagon is going or how. We can’t be mules, driven by what we’ve always done or our fear of the whip of discomfort or hard work. "Don't be like a horse or mule, which has no understanding" (Psalms 32:9). Instead, we need to get into the front of the wagon and drive.
We can’t live our lives just on passive emotional or animal levels. We need to live thoughtfully, with wisdom. When we engage God in our physical health by asking for wisdom and self-control, the Holy Spirit will remind us of what God wants for us and help us to confess our sins against Him. He will help us to see the very real link between body and spirit that we ignore when we ignore Him.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). What? Is eating too much a sin? “No way!” you say. But it is. It is harming a person, sometimes even to the point of serious sickness or death. Fifty per cent of the people in hospitals would not be there if it were not for overeating or overindulgence in alcohol. The sin of harming a human being is no less serious because the object of harm is you. Besides, you cannot imagine Christ overeating, can you?
God made our bodies, and He cares very much what we do with them. Though people think of the spiritual life as being something invisible and undetectable, God tells us that the spirit and the body matter to one another. He instructs us to act on what He says, not just think about it. The spiritual life is an active one.
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; … be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’" (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV).
"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22-23 NKJV).
"I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27 NKJV).
“A simple life in the fear of God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches” (Proverbs 15:16 MSG).
“We should live in this evil world with self-control and devotion to God” (Titus 2:11 MSG).
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
“You were bought with a price [the blood of Christ]; therefore glorify God in your body” (2 Corinthians 5:1, emphasis mine).
Sometimes we sin due to ignorance. But sometimes, fear causes us to sin ("I must eat all I can, because I fear that God will never provide another good meal"). Sometimes, emotions cause us to sin (“Eating this food/drinking this drink feels/tastes so good!"). But we must not allow fear or emotion to make us go on sinning over and over. The Holy Spirit implores us to be like Christ, to have the mind of Christ, not the mind of a stubborn, old mule. When we turn to God and admit our helplessness over our fear or desire, then He can give us the faith to accept His strength and His help, because He is stronger than our fears and our desires. Remember what He tells us: "The just will live by faith" (Romans 1:17 NKJV).
The reason Christianity does not work well in the life of so many is that though they know a little about Jesus, they do not really understand what it means to be "in Christ." 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation," but knowing a little about Christ is not the same as really trusting in Him. Too many people who say they are Christians could not name too much of anything He said, let alone explain why they believe in Him or what His mission was. Jesus promised salvation and renewal to those who "believe in Him" - not some things about Him. Believing in Him is imperative. In Philippians 2:12, Paul wrote "work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” This belief is the one thing you have got to get right. The next billion years depend on it.
[I owe a great deal to the insights and facts within A 21-Day Journey to a New You: Food Fitness and Faith for Men (ISBN 978-1-60587-167-7, Freeman-Smith), a book which has helped me and which I highly recommend].
Thomas Leo Ogren
Some years ago, I wrote several articles touting the use of local honey to help alleviate seasonal pollen allergy/hay fever symptoms. I wrote that I had seen local honey used numerous times with very good effect, that it was relatively safe and inexpensive, and that the honey itself also had other health benefits that might be good for people with allergies.
I wrote that the honey used ought to be raw honey, unheated and unpasteurized, and that the more local the honey was, the more it was apt to be effective. The theory works like this: you are most likely to be allergic to the pollens found in the area where you live and work, the pollen grains coming from local trees, shrubs, grasses, vines, and flowers.
The local honeybees, the bees that live and harvest pollen and nectar in your own neighborhood, are collecting the exact same kind of pollen grains that make you sneeze. So the honey these bees make will contain small amounts of this same pollen (and other possible local allergens associated with flowers).
Allergy therapy is roughly based on three concepts:
Let’s take a quick look at the three concepts of how to deal with pollen allergies, at the good and bad points of all three.
Avoidance is the best, by far. There are no negative side effects to simply avoiding whatever it is that makes one feel bad; it is simply common sense. Many city streets, city parks, schools, commercial landscapes, and especially front and backyards of homes worldwide have landscapes full of plants that will over-produce very large amounts of highly allergenic pollen each year, and they will trigger allergic reactions. Over time, allergies to these allergenic local plants will get worse, not better, unless people change the local environment, replacing the most allergenic plants with allergy-free plant choices.
Immunotherapy is often very effective. But it is typically quite expensive, and many insurance policies do not cover the expenses. Also, the effects of the allergy shots tend to wear off over time, and they need to be repeated. Nonetheless, I do recommend these shots to anyone who can afford them. Local, raw honey does much the same thing, but it costs much less while it delivers other health benefits.
Antihistamines do work to block symptoms. When an allergen triggers a response, the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, attacking the pollen as though it were a more dangerous substance than it actually is. The physical result of all this over-action on the part of the immune system is itching, runny noses, sneezing, and of course, more mucus production. The allergy drugs quiet the immune system and thus reduce the symptoms caused by this hyper-activity, but at what cost? It has been long known and well documented that allergies protect against cancer. Yes, having allergies protects against cancer, as does having asthma. Why would this be?
At any given time, any one of us may have cancer of some form or another somewhere in our bodies, but most of the time our own immune systems will attack the cancer and kill it long before it ever gets out of control. When someone with allergies comes in contact with allergenic pollen and his immune system kicks into gear, it fights not just the allergens but also any cancer cells he may have, realized or not. Thus, an occasionally over-active immune system is actually a blessing…even if it may not feel like it at the time.
Now consider the allergy drugs and how they work. These drugs shut down the protective immune system instead of letting it work. I would advise anyone fighting cancer to avoid taking any kind of allergy medicine. Furthermore, I would advise any one taking allergy medicine on a regular basis to find a way to stop their dependence on these drugs. My research increasingly leads me to believe that antihistamines can open the body to attack from cancer cells.
So, what can a person with severe pollen allergies do? For starters, if you are taking Allegra or Claritin or similar drugs on a daily basis during pollen season, I would advise that you skip several days each week to let your immune system do its work. If possible, see an allergist, and get the allergy shots.
Next, go to the closest farmers’ market, and buy some local raw honey. Use it daily, in small amounts. ** Please note that individuals with the severest allergies can get an allergic response (including anaphylaxis) from the local honey itself. Because of this danger, start with very small amounts of the local honey, perhaps as little as a quarter of a teaspoon a day or less. If this amount triggers an allergic response, such as itching in the back of the throat, then take an even smaller initial dose. Over time, gradually increase the amount of local honey taken daily. Just be cautious in the beginning, and carefully monitor your own progress. And as always, another caution is in order: local honey should not be given to babies under the age of one.
Lastly (perhaps this should be first), remove allergen-producing plants from your own front and backyard, and ask your neighbors to do the same. Likewise, people should demand that their own cities consider the allergy potential of the street trees they plant. It makes no sense at all for a city to plant trees that will cause allergies (often male clones) when they could instead plant trees that are every bit as beautiful, but that do not produce allergenic pollen.
For almost a decade now, I have answered many thousands of emails about local honey and allergies, even though it has taken up a great deal of time on my part.
Over and over, people ask about scientific studies on the subject; people want to know where they can find and read these studies. I have added to this article a recent and very typical email, and then my own response to it. Have a look:
I am a paramedic and nursing student. Recently a fellow nurse asked me to do some research on whether or not eating honey really could cure allergies.
After looking around a few books on natural health and surfing the Internet, I discovered two things: 1) most people seem to agree that this method works (though there were a few who didn't) and 2) no one ever cited any research of any kind to back up their belief in this method.
In my research, I came across an article you had written in which you said this method worked well. So I was hoping you could point me in the right direction. What is the best evidence that taking honey to cure/help allergies works?
I have answered this exact question so many times now that I should probably write it up and publish it.
As with way too many things, follow the money. There is no big money to be made from local honey. There is money to be made from honey, from bee pollen, etc., but not from local honey. Because it has to be local to be effective, it is all very small scale.
Small, local beekeepers are not in any way organized; they have no real money and very little political clout. In order to have studies done, some group must provide the considerable money involved. Usually drug companies that hope to profit from the results of the studies provide this money. With local honey, this money is not there, hence the lack of the studies.
What there has been in allergy science in the last six to seven years or so, though, is a good deal of actual testing of allergens given orally, often sublingually (under the tongue), and in most cases with very good results. This is pretty much the exact same way a local honey would work, too: small amounts of the local allergens given in some kind of medium.
So yes, there are NO decent studies on local honey, and that is a shame, as it is often very effective and certainly much cheaper than shots from an allergist or taking Allegra or Claritin for years.
P.S. I have never written that local honey will “cure” allergies; instead, what it may well do is alleviate the worst symptoms, making people feel better.
Thomas Leo Ogren
Thomas Leo Ogren is the author of books and many articles on allergies and gardening. His work has been published in hundreds of newspapers and magazines worldwide. He has been interviewed on NPR, CBS, NBC, Fox News, BBC, and CNBC.