THE SEVEN – AN EXPLANATION
For the last month, Candice and I have participated in an experiment known as “The Seven.” The idea is not original, it was taken and modified from the Jen Hatmaker book, 7 : An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. In the book, Hatmaker describes her growing uneasiness with the consumeristic and wasteful way that she lives. She writes:
” It [living excessively] was certainly ruining me. The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change. I couldn’t escape the excess or see beyond my comforts though. I wrung my hands and commiserated with Brandon but couldn’t fathom an avenue out.” (Hatmaker, 3)
So Hatmaker decided to rebel against consumerism, to rebel against a culture that was telling her how she needed to live in order to find satisfaction in life. Thus, the book 7 became her own personal testament to what happened and how this has changed her life.
Needless to say, we too were challenged. From this point on, I, Candice, will also add my input. You’ll see my thoughts in italics and Will’s in standard type.
We have only read one chapter (thank God, I think if we did it all at once we would die), and that was a chapter on food. This one hits home for me, because I LOVE food; anything that would interfere with what I enjoy putting in my mouth would have to pry the food from my well-satisfied stomach. And I love to cook—what a dangerous pair we are! However, I have been battling high blood pressure for some time, and I was told by my doctor that I needed to lower my cholesterol.
At age 29, my cholesterol is too high.
I have battled my weight for several years and had already found victory through lowering portions and educating myself on healthy foods—an education that is a continuous process. The comforts of married life, and a desire to “wow” Will with my sweet cooking skills had taken me back on some not so healthy paths. Learning that Will had high cholesterol was a wake-up call for me too. I love my husband, and I want to “wow” him with my cooking but not at the expense of his life. I want my man to be healthy.
Now, that is not why we did this; we had read this chapter long before receiving the news and had agreed to do it. I cannot deny however, that it has been a big motivator in seeing this through. The health issue has also been a challenge. Because we decided on our meal types before the cholesterol factor came into play, it made us get very creative with our food choices. Not only this, but I also encountered some dietary restrictions because of a temporary medical issue I was facing at the time. At first, making our shopping list felt like choosing which five items we wanted to be stranded with on an island for a month.
We decided that Hatmaker’s diet of seven foods was NOT doable for us. In fact, we believed that we would likely not follow through if we were forced into that. So, we decided to create seven meals (3 dinners, 2 lunches, and 2 breakfasts) and stick to ONLY those meals for a whole month. I will say, however, that this was easier than it should have been. We added a caveat that said that if we go out of town, or if we are invited to eat we did NOT have to follow the seven diet. So, do not for one minute think that this whole month we only had seven meals…because that is simply not true. There were a few times that I really felt like a cheater—most recently when we had pizza at our home church meeting (even though we ate one of our seven meals before we came **gasp!**).
We probably avoided the seven for five days worth of meals because of traveling and dinner invites. Or six, counting the pizza.
That still left a good chunk of the month to eating only the Seven. Yes, it did.
We have been eating this way now since July 18th; we will celebrate the finish with a Red Lobster lunch tomorrow after church. Cheddar bay biscuits here we come!!!! We have learned so much, but we are both glad it is over. Amen
Here is what we ate for the last month (w/ exceptions)
Salmon, vegetables, fruits, sweet potato, bread
Grilled chicken salad w/ vegetables, dressing, bread
Turkey burger, baked crinkle fries (no salt) , carrot sticks w/ dressing
PBJ or Turkey Sandwich
Low fat, low salt chips; OR low fat, low salt club crackers
Low fat cookies (organic); OR Low fat fig bars (organic)
Cereal or oatmeal, bagel, fruit/ yogurt
Yogurt pancakes/ low fat pancakes, turkey sausage, eggs
We did allow ourselves two snacks a day:
Peanuts/Almonds/Pistachios (1 serving)
Simply Salted Popcorn (variety)
We also had a square of REALLY dark chocolate (over 80%!) as our dessert.
We were able to drink everything except: Soft drinks, lattes, and sweet tea–which we had the night of the pizza too :-0.
This may seem like enough variety not to drive you crazy, but by the end of the month (even with our breaks) we want to eat something, ANYTHING else. I discovered more about the way my mind wants to justify and rationalize my desires.
There were several things we learned from this experiment:
1. Less variety does not equal less cost
Any illusions that the Seven was going to save us money, went out the door after our initial trip to Kroger. We quickly experienced how much you have to sacrifice to eat healthy, even if it is a limited variety of things. Fresh chicken, fresh vegetables, fresh bread…they all cost lots of money, and that does not even include the salmon! Our grocery bill has increased, and so if we wish to continue to eat healthy in the future, we will have to sacrifice to see it happen. This is hard when Candice is estimating that we need to have $400 dollars a month for the two of us, even with some clever financial maneuvers, we will be blessed to reach $300. I know it’s crazy to think we were living on less than that already. I was trying to fit us into $250 a month, which was actually happening when we could buy some box dinners and frozen pizzas. That option is out the window now that we have focused our attention on sodium content.
2. It is almost like fasting
Fasting should be done to where when you think of food, you immediately transfer that desire to God. Well, there were so many times when I would think about going to get ice cream, or cheating and eating Subway, that I had to find strength and contentment from God. Candice and I both went into the experiment believing this was something God was leading us to do, so in essence it was a spiritual battle just it was a battle against our stomachs. I am surprised he hasn’t already shared the story of me having to leap across the house and smack the gummy worms out of his hand. Yes, it happened. I heard the plastic bag rattling from the bedroom into the kitchen. Immediately I knew what was happening. I ran across the house shouting, “NOOOOOO!” I leapt past the bed, over a laundry basket and yanked the contraband from his hand. He pursued me, his eyes glazed over with hunger for the sweet gummy goodness. I threw them into the recesses of the pantry and blocked the door with my body. Will and I faced each other squarely, neither of us losing eye contact. The dogs, who had chased us into the kitchen held terrified and excited expressions wondering what the heck was going on, and hoping we would drop a gummy worm. Finally they relaxed as we both came to our senses and stepped away from the pantry. (Will tried to sneak back to it a couple of times, but I was ready.)
3. It is possible to eat healthier
It is more costly, at least in the short-run, to eat healthier. However, when you factor in the long-term costs of poor nutrition, that is where the returns really roll in. You cannot just see eating well as a luxury, you have to be willing to sacrifice other things to see it through. The rewards, while not immediate, are certainly felt in your overall health. All it takes is doing some research on what a healthy diet consists, and follow it. You will be glad you did. Eating healthier also makes you feel better. Since losing weight and adding even more healthy options recently, I have slept better and had more energy for day to day tasks and activities. There was an initial lull and somewhat of withdrawal symptoms, but after that I felt better than ever.
4. Americans waste so much food
One of the temptations we ran into was taking extra food home from our exception days, just because we did not want to see it go to waste. The problem with this is not that we need to eat more food, the problem is that we make too much food. If restaurants (and dinner hosts!) started serving people what they SHOULD eat rather than what they want to eat (unless they paid more), then we would start to see the obesity epidemic recede. We need to eliminate the guilt of wasting food, by not creating excess food to waste! It’s true! I once saw a set of china from decades ago, and the plates were significantly smaller than our standard size plates at home today. And, the plates they serve us at major restaurant chains would be considered serving platters 50 years ago.
5. We are spiritual wimps
We do not want you to get the impression from this that we are somehow more spiritually enlightened than you; we STRUGGLED through this. It is shameful to admit how much we tried to find loopholes in our system…just to get chocolate chip cookies. It is incredible to think that so many great saints have fasted for weeks, or even a month at a time…I cannot imagine doing that, but then again I have never faced starvation, my body is not trained for the experience. As I mentioned earlier, I was amazed at the ways my mind attempted find justifications for foods outside the boundary of our seven. It showed me just how dependent I am on food variety. Of course our bodies are dependent on food, but I’m talking about a dependency on abundance and choice. Some friends I was following as a prayer partner for their mission journey shared how they had difficulty adjusting to American food and its variety and abundance. If you’ve never been out of the country, you don’t realize just how much we consume and demand.
6. We want everyone to try it
Your version of Seven may not be like ours; you may be led to another creative way to change your eating habits and cut down on excess. Even though it has been hard, and we are glad it is over, we are also so glad that we did it. It has been used to open our eyes to see many things about our culture, ourselves, and how God wants us to use food for his glory, just like everything else. When you cannot use food as a comfort, then you have to find 1) another idol or 2) comfort in the arms of the Father. We probably did the former more rather than the latter, but when we chose to do the latter we were never disappointed. You will learn a lot about your faith and yourself in the midst of this journey. Do it!
Stay tuned for our next seven adventure! It’s clothes . . . . ugggghh.
Will and Candice
Hatmaker, Jen. 7: an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Original ed. Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2012.