There are 1,248 words beyond this point. That’s just over 4 minutes of reading for the average adult.
I’m not entirely sure I have the courage to post this—I certainly don’t have the courage to speak face-to-face with anyone about it. And I know that by posting it, I’m only inviting that face-to-face conversation that I’ve dreaded since these thoughts started swarming about in my head about five years ago. This isn’t so much a proclamation of my courage if I hypothetically actually click post on it, but an invitation for you to be cautious how you talk to me about it, if you know me personally.
I am an overweight (Christian) woman. It’s actually easy for me to say that part.
In this blog, I’m going to talk about some of my personal history with being overweight—but consider this me cracking open the pandora’s box that is societal and cultural perceptions of overweightness, particularly in women, inside and outside of the church.
I’ve mentioned on this blog before that the first time I recall being told I was fat was when I was about seven. What’s dumb is that I look back on those pictures from my childhood and I wasn’t even a little fat. I was certainly a solid kid—but not fat. In the 5th grade, I was a bit chubby, and got picked on from time to time. By middle school, I was certainly overweight, but not obese. I remember being mortified as an 8th grader, during presidential fitness shite, being required to step on the scale in front of all my classmates. I wasn’t the heaviest one there, but I was the heaviest female. I heard one kid say from behind me as the numbers popped up in bright red glowing numerals, “Geez.” In high school, there were countless times the “cool kids”—who never seemed to have the courage to say it around the few friends I had—called me “fat bitch”. It seemed to be something of a nickname that they would only use when I was by myself—and always in low tones so just me and their nearby friends could hear it. There were a lot of times when I recall my classmates saying, “You’re not funny, you’re fat.” And for years I believed them—that the only reason anyone ever laughed at me was because I was overweight. Call it the Chris Farley effect—or the John Belushi effect. (And then ponder if maybe they had heard the same things over and over and over again from their peers—and if that had anything at all to do with their ends.)
It wasn’t just in school, though. It was also at home. I grew up in an environment where it was ok, even encouraged, to make fun of fat people. I did it to my own father for years—and had no inkling of a thought that maybe he felt the same way I did when I had those insults hurled my way. I’ve wanted to apologize for that for years now, but never had the courage. Maybe he’ll read this blog. My oversized midsection was referred to as my “spare tire”—and to this day, I never wear any sort of food-branded clothing because it was made clear to me that fat people in food clothing are jokes to be made. Fat people in general are jokes to be made.
And it’s never been limited to school or home—it is every day walking down the streets. I lost count years ago of the strangers who’ve decided it was their duty to inform me I was fat and unhealthy. For some reason, strangers seem to like to say things like, “You’d be a really pretty girl if you just lost some weight.” I used to always respond with bitterness and vitriol along the lines of “Go fuck yourself”—I also have a plethora of emotionally damaging (to the opposing party) retorts to that up my sleeve. We’ll talk about my waning penchant for emotional battle in a later blog. These days, I just walk away.
For years—decades—I joined in on the joke because like I’ve said, I was going to be the best failure you could ever imagine. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? If you laugh with them, they’re laughing with you, not at you, right? I’ve also talked about giving up—that includes this. That includes every time someone—a stranger, schoolmate, a loved one—has decided to point out my body and not point me to Jesus. It has always been an invitation to accept my fate as a fat, in-pain, asthmatic, failed soul in a failed body.
It’s seemingly engrained in us—including me—to find overweight people repulsive and have a negative opinion of them. Of course, not of the fat people we love. Just the ones we don’t know. The fat people we love are the exception, right? It’s all the others who are lazy and smell bad, and can’t find clothes that fit them in a way that don’t make us uncomfortable (because that’s the fat person’s job, right?), and aren’t possibly eating healthy, and certainly don’t get any exercise. It’s all the fat people we don’t love that have those traits.
I wonder why the only time anyone has ever confronted my weight with the gospel took until I was 25. And it’s still only happened that one time. I’ve talked more about sexual abuse and porn in small groups than I ever have about anything relating to my weight. I’ve been wondering ever since that one instance why we don’t talk about this in the church.
I want to talk about weight and food in the church. I want to talk about the social experience it is to be overweight inside and outside of the church. I want to talk about how the Christian’s perception of obesity is still SO fucked up—I know by the way you talk about the fat people you don’t love. I don’t want to talk about body shaming, I want to talk about Jesus and his image and how the single overweight woman in the pew is equally as made in the image of God every other person in the building. I want to talk about how a “good body image” is nothing in comparison to identity bestowed through the grace of God and death of Jesus. I want to talk about how “body positivity” is nothing in comparison to grace, and mercy—from Jesus, and for others, and yourself.
Granted, I don’t really want to talk about those things—at least not face to face—because it’s hard and scary. And uncomfortable—probably more for you than me, because I’m already down the path of confronting this within myself and around me. I’ll talk about it, you just gotta be ready for snot and tears and seriously evaluating your own thoughts and opinions about overweight people.
Here are some topics I hope to tackle in the future—like I said, this was just an intro:
- “Dressing for your body type” (Go fuck yourself.)
- The shame that comes being overweight
- Sin vs. Circumstance (medical issues)—and how others’ sins contribute to obesity
- How the way you treat fat people that you don’t love affects the fat people you do love
- Repentance & worship in relation to obesity-causing sins
- “You’re not like other overweight people.”
I’m sure there are more, but that’s where I plan to start. I’m probably going to go puke now.