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home : features : people of faith

12/6/2012 12:04:00 PM
New book dishes on food and faith
“Cravings” is available at www.amazon.com and in stores. A “blog tour” for the book runs Jan. 5-20 on 15 different Catholic blogs (see www.notstrictlyspiritual.com, the author’s website) and includes a book giveaway and a raffle for a Williams-Sonoma gift card.
“Cravings” is available at www.amazon.com and in stores. A “blog tour” for the book runs Jan. 5-20 on 15 different Catholic blogs (see www.notstrictlyspiritual.com, the author’s website) and includes a book giveaway and a raffle for a Williams-Sonoma gift card.

When Indiana-based Ave Maria Press first suggested Mary DeTurris Poust write a book on food and spirituality, she declined, deciding she wasn't personally moved by the theme.

She was wrong - and the result is "Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image and God."

The publisher "patiently waited for me to realize that this was my book to write," said Mrs. Poust, a parishioner of St. Mary's Church in Albany and an author of five previous books on spirituality. "I really came to love the topic and find so much satisfaction in talking to people about it."

It turned out that Mrs. Poust - like, she points out, many other women - had experienced her share of food-related problems, including preoccupation with dieting and lack of self-esteem. She said she's allowed her weight to "be a dictator of my self-worth" and used food to "fill a void for something deeper."

Mindful meals
As she researched the topic, the author interviewed Catholics and others with insecurities around eating or eating disorders, as well as those with a passion for food or cooking, knowledge of the psychology behind food or unique mealtime habits.

A Benedictine monk, for instance, filled her in on eating only what's in season, refraining from overeating and eating with reverence or mindfulness. A priest and a Catholic food blogger weighed in on the Catholic traditions of feasting and fasting. Others explained the importance of food in Catholic life.

The book delves into dieting, self-esteem, gaining control over food and Mrs. Poust's own struggles with these issues. It also explores meditating during meals, vegetarianism, eating in solidarity with the poor, the "eat local" food movement and more.

Many of these are "things the monks have been doing for centuries," Mrs. Poust said. "It's not a new-fangled thing. We've kind of gotten away from that in our society."

God and food
With obesity on the rise in the U.S., "it's pretty clear that a lot of people have issues with food," she continued, suggesting that people "step back and give it its place."

During her research, Mrs. Poust discovered that food requires spiritual awareness and a connection to God. Previous attempts to make mealtimes sacred - a 2009 silent retreat at the diocesan Pyramid Life Center in Paradox inspired her to eat a daily, candlelit oatmeal breakfast free of distractions, for instance - became heightened.

Mealtime peace
Now, the author stops cooking if she's upset and tells her three children not to argue while they're eating: "There should be this sort of peacefulness about it."

People need to pay greater attention to their food and eat more deliberately, Mrs. Poust claims - and this advice can be applied to other areas of life.

Her goal for the book is that "people would come away from [reading] this knowing that they are just the way they're supposed to be, [in] a place of accepting yourself and realizing that you're in God's hands."

"Cravings" encourages spiritual and personal growth with questions, suggestions and meditations at the end of each chapter and Bible quotes sprinkled throughout.

Hole in the soul
"It's not a diet book, and it's not just a book for people with eating disorders," Mrs. Poust explained. "It's a book for anyone who has struggled with self-acceptance and has sometimes used something - food, social media, shopping, alcohol, whatever - to fill an empty space deep within their hearts and souls, which probably covers just about everyone."

Recently, Mrs. Poust also began co-hosting a new, half-hour television series, "Guided by Grace," which airs on Telecare, the Diocese of Rockville Centre's cable station. It's geared toward women and covers such topics as faithful citizenship and parenting. She calls it the "Catholic version of 'The View'" (see www.telecaretv.org).

Last month, the author released another book, "Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Spirituality." It centers on how to weave prayer into everyday activities like exercising, gardening and cooking, she said, so that "your whole life eventually is an opportunity for prayer."

This has been a busy year: This fall, Mrs. Poust also spoke on a panel about social media at the U.S. bishops' annual meeting.

"These things just happen," she said. "I've been really blessed."

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