What you eat, how you eat and how much you eat has a direct influence on how well you do as a youth pastor. We can sugarcoat it any way we want, but in the end this is the simple truth: in order to be effective as a youth pastor, to do well in the long haul, we need to take good care of our bodies. That starts with eating well.

We don’t always realize it, but what we eat affects our performance. Obviously eating too much junk can cause overweight, which will impact our job as youth pastors indirectly. Also, there are other long term health issues related to bad eating habits, for instance heart problems. That alone should be a reason to mind what we eat.

But there are also direct, everyday consequences of what we eat. Take the infamous ‘after lunch dip’ for instance. It’s caused by the rise and subsequent dip in your blood sugar level, causing you to be tired and sleepy (Tip: If you want to avoid this, try keeping your blood sugar levels steady!).

What is eating well?

Eating well can really help us improve our performance in the long run. For me, the definition of ‘eating well’ has changed radically in the last year. I’m overweight, always have been, and over the years I’ve tried many diets. My conviction was that healthy food was low fat and low calorie, with lots of whole grain products (fibers), fruit and veggies. And when I was eating like that, I did lose weight – but with an incredible amount of effort and more often than not I would gain back everything within months after stopping the diet.

This year, my husband did some research into scientifically proven diets and came up with some startling discoveries:

  • The main cause for obesity is carbs (mainly grains and sugar), not fat. The highest rise in obesity came after the general advice was to go low fat.
  • Most grains are actually not healthy at all anymore because of the type of grains we eat nowadays. They can cause a wide range of problems including allergies and problems with your intestines.
  • Fruit contains high amounts of sugar, since they have been steadily modified to satisfy our taste for evermore ‘sweetness’. As a result, they aren’t that healthy anymore and have great effect on your blood sugar levels.
  • Almost all sweeteners affect your blood sugar level as well, including the ones used in diet sodas. That means they still influence your weight indirectly, even when they’re ‘zero calories’.

I’ve been on a low carb lifestyle for the last few months and not only have I lost 22 pounds already, I also feel much, much better. I have more energy, I sleep better and I’m more alert during the day.

I know this goes against all general wisdom, but I encourage you to do some research yourself. I’ve listed some great resources at the bottom of this post. Even if you don’t agree with my method, I think we can all agree that a diet consisting of coffee, donuts and fast food isn’t healthy by any standard.

Forming healthy eating habits

All new habits take time getting used to, but eating well even more because there are physical and psychological processes in play. The physical side effects are tough, but relatively easy to overcome. If you’re used to high amounts of sugar and caffeine for instance (as I was – I lived on coca cola), it may really take time to get the cravings out of your system. You may really experience some ‘detoxing’ symptoms, like headache, dizziness, etc. The only way to get through this is to keep going until your body is used to your new healthy diet.

The psychological process can be must tougher however, it’s one of the main reasons why people start well on a diet and then fall off the wagon. I’m still struggling with this myself, as over the years I’ve used eating as a stress-reliever and a way of coping with bad stuff and emotions. But in your case it may also be that you connect eating certain bad foods with ‘having a good time’ or with ‘relaxing’.

This is when it really comes down to the hard and tough process of replacing old, bad habits with new, effective ones. Your brain, your body and your mind will need time to get used to these new patterns however, they won’t form in a few weeks or even a few months. Be patient and keep reminding yourself of the benefits of your new habits. You’ll need to keep convincing yourself it’s worth it in the end.

How healthy are your eating habits? What bad habits do you need to change and which healthy habits could you replace them with?

Some resources: