Here it is. The post where I lay out, with much trepidation, the plan for the next week. Starting tomorrow, I will be fasting from all but 7 simple foods. The goal is to eliminate excess in my food so that I make room to hear what God wants me to hear. It doesn’t take a genius to know that Americans have issues with excess regarding food. Excessive portions, excessive options. Easy access makes for easy excess.
There were several options presented that the reader of The 7 Challenge can choose from. I could have eliminated 7 ingredients or limited myself to eating only what I have in my kitchen without buying anything else. To me, these choices would have been too easy. I’ve already eliminated many ingredients from my regular diet. I cannot have wheat/gluten, soy or citrus; and have been working to eliminate dairy and processed foods. I’ve already been limiting myself to only purchasing whole foods from the farmer’s markets the last 2 weeks (with the exception of a few gluten free indulgences). So I elected to go with the limiting myself to 7 foods only for 1 week. When I read the 7 foods that the author of The 7 Experiment, Jen Hatmaker, researched to maximize health, I was relieved. All of these foods were already in my regular diet. This would be easy. Maybe too easy for it to count. But then I read the rest of the requirements of the challenge. Drink only water*, use only a minimum of olive oil to cook if necessary, and no seasonings other than salt and pepper. That’s when I nearly had a panic attack. NO SEASONINGS????
If variety is the spice of life, then seasonings are the variety in my life. A week without garlic, onion, oregano, basil, paprika, chili powder, and cilantro? (Insert whimper and quivering lower lip). Suddenly this challenge had become a matter of significance. My determination wavered.
I told myself all would be well and I sat down to plan out a week’s menu revolving around the 7 ingredients: chicken, eggs, whole grain bread (gluten free for me, but I did find 7 grain), spinach, avocado, sweet potatoes, and apples. As I wrote out the menu with the most variation possible I quickly realized that there was not much variation that could happen without the ability to add vinegar to the oil to make a salad dressing, or add onions/garlic/herbs/spices to vary cooking. I would be having eggs daily for breakfast, the only variation being whether they were with toast, spinach, or avocado. Apples would be my snacks. A sweet potato would be my lunch. And dinner would always be chicken, varying only whether it was cooked with spinach, or made into chicken salad using the avocado instead of mayo. I suppose I could switch the lunch and dinner order on occasion; but truly I will be eating the same foods every day.
Enter the flashbacks of Thailand. I went to Thailand over 10 years ago to take medical supplies to an orphanage. My friend and I agreed we would eat whatever the kids at the orphanage ate everyday; and our resolve to do so solidified when we arrived and heard that the missionaries that had been there before us had refused to eat the food they were served and demanded to be driven into town 3 meals a day. It’s not like the food was odd, scary, or terrible. It was simple. Rice and a steamed vegetable, with a wee bit of a fine minced meat, cooked with Thai chilies, three times a day. It took some getting used to having that for breakfast; but it was fine, something I would eat at home, or even get in a Thai restaurant (maybe with a little more flash to it). By day 10 of the same thing 3 meals a day, however, my stomach revolted. My body shut down. I gagged when I lifted the spoon to my mouth. The director of the orphanage kindly listened to the pleas of my friend who was very concerned that I had stopped eating. He took me into town, commenting on my American palate that needed more variety. He said he knew exactly what I needed. He sat me down outside an open-air restaurant and emerged with a ham and cheese sandwich. (I hate ham, but vowing to live by my “eat what you are served” motto, I ate it.) I ate the raw tomato, onion, and lettuce coupled with the gray ham (no refrigeration). I ate about 1/2 of it before I just couldn’t eat any more. I spent the next 2 days violently ill.
So, instead of focusing on the coming monotony of this week’s menu, I’m trying to remember the precious faces of those children I spent that time with. Those children who had been sold by their parents for $2 American, so they could buy drugs. The girls who had been sold into slavery; and the boys who had been kicked out on the streets, living off of the rats they could catch. Suddenly, eating chicken and eggs, sweet potatoes and spinach, bread and avocados and apples seems like a luxury. And maybe that’s the point of all this. If I have so much that cutting back to what would be a feast anywhere else in the world is a burden to me, I really do have something to learn this week.
*(Note: I am allowing myself kombucha in addition to water, since I am the only one in my household and you turn over a new batch every week…I would be wasting an entire batch if I didn’t).