Portion Control

(Chatter letter from the Editor, October)
My husband and I recently met with a nutritionist. Her services were offered at my husband’s workplace, and since we are ones to take full advantage of anything and everything — even free humiliation — we sat down to discuss the failings of our caloric intake with Amber, a fiery metabolism in heels. A week later she emailed us meal plans for two weeks complete with calorie counts, portion sizes, restaurant substitutions and a newly imparted Health and Nutrition Holy Spirit to follow us into the pantry and convict us of chocolate.

I was amazed to discover that carbs should be eaten no more than one cup at a time, and that my protein serving should be the size of my palm. Vegetables, on the other hand, are to be eaten from a disinfected wheelbarrow if you have an amenable colon, preferably raw or with a little bit of light butter spray — for the weaker brother, of course. I set out for Tom Thumb to shop for things like 2% string cheese, Kashi flotsam, flaxseed, avocados, steel filings, shards of bark, and gold stars to stick to my shirt. It’s hard to remember what else I bought because I’m really hungry right now and am having trouble with recall. (That apple I dipped in good intentions won’t hold me until dinner.)

And yet I have hope. To quote Scarlett, “I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk.”

I just have to adjust, that’s all. Me and my folk, we’ll adapt. It’s not something I’m comfortable with now because what can I say, I enjoy a cheerful assortment of cheeses, or an Oreo tri-fecta (or hexa-fecta) during Seinfeld reruns. But since man does not live on bread alone, it is now time to adjust my portion size for a healthy lifestyle.

Why is the struggle to stay within portion sizes so fierce? Why do the words insatiable and incessant always seem to describe me, not just when it comes to food but also with everything else?

The writer’s words in Lamentations sometimes sound foreign: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion,’ therefore I will wait for him.” (3:22-24, emphasis added)

Not only is the Lord my portion, but I must wait for him to meet my needs in his timing — the opposite of a fast-food lifestyle. It takes such trust to wait, to lean into God’s faithfulness and trust the timing of provision — not on my terms, but his. The Psalmist also picks up on this theme: “You are my portion O Lord; I have promised to obey your words.” (119:57)

Once I depend on God to sustain me, I am free to obey. He gives me a portion to live on, and with the energy it provides I work out his calling for me. I have what I need. For his work. For now.

God himself is my portion.

A very literal example of this is Daniel’s testing in Babylon. In Daniel chapter 1 King Nebuchadnezzar orders that the select Hebrew exiles be served the choicest of fare — rich food and wine from the king’s table. Knowing this would violate Jewish law, Daniel and his friends ask for a trial period during which they would only eat vegetables and water. (Amber would have been proud.) God blessed their faithfulness and enabled them to be stronger, healthier and better looking than everyone else.

These Jewish exiles trusted God even with their food. God, literally, had become their portion — their just-right serving size, their not-too-much-not-to-little — and proved there was nothing else they needed in the world.

Is it possible to remember this when you’re debating whether to eat the leftover Halloween candy this year? Or as you face another holiday season alone, or encounter that relentless, years-long temptation? Or as you watch another friend have a baby, or get married, or get promoted, or lose ten pounds? All those other bowls, platters and teacups don’t matter. Lord, keep my eyes on my plate and all you have heaped to overflowing there for me.

You, O Lord, are my portion.

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