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Hunger and Happiness
Dr. Shannon Jung, PhD, Vanderbilt University | STM, Yale University Divinity School | BD, Union Theological Seminary, Virginia | BA, Washington and Lee University
"This month, I am very privileged to interview
Dr. L. Shannon Jung, Professor of Town and Country Ministries at Saint
Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. Dr. Jung is
the author of Food For Life, The Spirituality and Ethics of
Eating (2004), Sharing Food: Christian Practices For
Enjoyment (2006), and Hunger And
Happiness: Feeding the Hungry, Nourishing Our Souls (2009). Dr. Jung
is here to help us find ways to find true happiness and satisfaction through the
sharing of resources.
Q - Dr. Rita: Welcome, Dr. Jung. I understand you are on
sabbatical now, yet you agreed to allot time for this interview! Thank
you so much!
A - Dr. Jung: It is wonderful
to be talking to the author of The Eden Diet and a kindred
Q- Dr. Rita: Dr. Jung, I just finished reading your
book, Hunger and Happiness and was amazed
at the statistics you quoted. I think you said we're the 23rd happiest
country, in spite of being one of the richest countries on the
planet. Since many Eden Dieters came from a background of eating for
emotional reasons (looking to food for happiness and satisfaction), I
think we need to learn more about what makes us happy, since,
apparently, money isn't the answer. Can you tell us
how to become happy so we no longer look to food to fill our
A - Dr. Jung: There is an
incredible amount of information on happiness at this point. The Hunger
& Happiness book looked at a great deal of it, and I
will try to answer briefly.
First, it is
clear that, in order for people to be happy, they must have a minimal
amount of income. What is surprising is just how low that
income floor is - in effect, it is equivalent to having a decent
subsistence standard of living. Once that is achieved, then the
amount of money one has seems to make very little
difference in the degree of happiness.
What quite a few studies have discovered, however, is that
there are two things that are strongly associated with happiness. One is the
strength of your relationships with others: a happy marriage and family
or life with friends makes for greater happiness. The other,
interestingly, is the degree to which one's life is of service to
others. So, for youth and middle aged and seniors, the ability to
volunteer and to be of service to others matters a lot. Perhaps it is
the ability to give and to share that contributes to happiness in both
Q- Dr. Rita: Can you talk about the relative excess of
food production in the USA per capita, as well as our growing
problem with obesity? Do you think we're medicating unhappiness with food?
A - Dr. Jung: As a nation we are eating 300 calories a
day more than we did 20 years ago. Our production
of corn and especially corn fructose syrup which finds its way into many
kinds of processed food means that we are eating far more than we did. Twenty years
ago we had more states than not where obesity was more than 20% of
the general population. Today most states have that many,
and four states have more than 30% obesity rates. These
statistics can be cited for adults, for kids, and for the population as a
Q - Dr. Rita: What can we do to remedy this situation?
What truly satisfies the soul? If the answer is not money, corn syrup, or gorging
ourselves at buffets, what is the answer?
A - Dr. Jung: I speak as one who has always
struggled with food. So my own battle informs my opinion. But it does
seem clear that sharing with other people, having satisfying
relationships, eating intelligently (real food), and being active
physically makes a difference. Obesity rates
vary with television watching and poverty.
We tend to be cut off from our neighbors; just as it is more
important to share what we have with others (and to share ourselves), I
think it is becoming more difficult.
it is clear that God created us both to enjoy food and to share it. There are
countless instances where neighbor-love flows from the love of God. Not only are we
instructed to give to others, it is the way we were created: as Mom used to
say, sharing makes us happy. And there are
many movements these days that are designed to assist others - the
social entrepreneurship program which offers microcredit, for example
Q- Dr. Rita:I get it.
You're saying that "sharing" and "good relationships" are the keys to
happiness. Do you have any specific suggestions for how Eden Dieters can
become EVEN happier?
A - Dr. Jung: One of the
traditions around fasting was to give the money that was saved to the
hungry or the poor. It might be that Eden Dieters could divert the
money they save from eating less food to organizations such as Joyce
Meyers' Hand of Hope and also Samaritan's Purse. There are also
microcredit movements like www.kiva.org, organizations
that are designed for youth like www.heifer.org. or advocacy
groups like Bread for the World (www.bread.org). Most churches
are addressing hunger issues globally and domestically as well through
their Hunger Programs.
Dr. Rita:I agree! I read in your
book Hunger and Happiness that people who give of their
resources and time to help others score higher on happiness ratings,
so what you're proposing is a win-win situation. We become healthier (because we're
slimmer) and happier (because we share), and the people we're
helping also benefit physically and spiritually. They get nourishing
food for their bodies and the Word for their souls. It is a win-win
Praise God for
your excellent advice, Dr. Jung. Thank you so
much for joining! It has been a real honor to interview you.
Note to our readers: If you would
like to take Dr. Jung's advice and find happiness through sharing your
resources with others, such as in donating to the either
Samaritan's Purse or Hand of Hope, you can visit the news page of www.TheEdenDiet.com and follow the
links to donate to those organizations. Or, research the organizations
that Dr. Jung mentioned. Either way, both sides win. You become
happier by taking care of "the least of these" in other countries, and, as a
side-benefit, helping others gets you out of your own head,
where you might tend to get "stuck" ruminating on your own problems. It
breaks the cycle of obsessive or negative thinking.
Just as you can "eat to the glory of God," as Paul said in
1Corinthians 10:31, you can also "NOT eat" (as in discipline
yourself to wait until you're hungry before you eat)
and you can also "eat less" to the glory of God. The choice to NOT eat when
it's inappropriate is like a worship act or an offering. When you do that, you will
likely have an extra $20 or $30 a month (from smaller
grocery bills) that you can divert (in the name of God) to
those who are less fortunate.
is not just a "theory," it's something we, at the Eden Diet have already
put into practice. In the past month, we funded the $4800 for the
drilling of an entire well for the "Water For Life" ministry of Life
Outreach International. Praise God and thank you, Eden Dieters, for
helping this come to fruition!
Now Available on Amazon.com
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upload from Amazon.com!
- A Battle With the Flesh
Picnic At The Lake
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~The Eden Diet in the Media~
June 7 - WGRC radio, Pennsylvania - 11am ET
- June 7 - ABQ Connect Radio Show - Peter Benson - Albuquerque: 2 pm CT
June 15 - Spirit 105.3 Seattle (Scott and Sam Morning Show) - 11:30 am CST
- June 16 - WBGL Morning Radio Show - Champaign, IL - 9 am CT
June 22 - Debbie Chavez Radio Show - 11:10 am CT
August 2010 - WATC TV 57 - Atlanta, "Friends and Neighbors"
- Summer 2010 - Daily Oklahoman - Two-part interview, online reporter Sonya Colberg
- Summer 2010 - Family Life Radio - Reporter Amy Phillips
NEWS! In Upcoming Eden Diet
Newsletters: Other News:
- Video link to Dr. Rita's latest TV appearance on
The Harvest Show.
- Dr. Rita was a featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Christian
Medical And Dental Association in Asheville, NC!
- Check out Dr. Rita's new video on Yahoo video!
- The Eden Diet gets rave reviews: SEE REVIEWS
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Here are a few Recent Entries:
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Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in your quest to 'thin-ness'.
May your QUEST be BLESSED!
Rita M. Hancock, M.D.