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I do not believe being overweight is sinful. As an overweight female Christian, however, I can tell you three specific things about my own personal obesity:
- It was and is, in part, caused by medical issues.
- It was and is, in part, caused by others’ sin.
- It was and is, in part, caused by my own sin.
I do not believe that the excess weight on my body is actually sinful. However, I do acknowledge the role sin—and this fallen fucking world—has had on my body.
(By the way, writing about this shit is awkward. I don’t like drawing attention to my body. It kind of feels like inviting you into the shower with me.)
Obesity is just an effect of sin and the fallen nature of this world. Obesity is a reflection of the fall—whether it is caused by sinful hearts or broken bodies. And I think it’s important to acknowledge both. Obesity is a full-body scar. Sin—whether committed by us or committed against us—leaves a mark. Some marks are physically visible, while others aren’t. The extra weight I carry on my body is nothing more than the suit this fallen world has left me with.
There are millions of sins that don’t leave a visible mark on the body. Some, however, do—whether it’s a deep scar in a person’s skin, or the fat underneath it.
If you were to just look at me—and judge my sins by my body—you’d probably name gluttony. You wouldn’t name the fact that I struggle with anger and lust, have spent much of my life being a manipulator, can be a giant asshole, and am selfish and unloving often. But, because of my body, you’d be confident naming gluttony. That’s probably the only sin you’d name—just by looking at me.
You might even be bold enough to confront someone who is overweight with their relationship with food. In my 30 years—and my lifetime of being in the church—this has happened once. Once was someone bold enough to (lovingly) confront me. What’s more likely, however, is that you’ll talk about the overweight person behind their back—judging their sins by the shape of their body—or the changing shape of their body. Oddly enough, some of you, over the years, have thought it appropriate to talk to me about others’ sin issues that lead to overweightness. That is why I know it happens—and it makes me wonder about the discussions you’ve had with others’ about me.
I want to address the three different statements I made about my own obesity earlier in this blog categorically:
My obesity was and is, in part, caused by medical issues.
I want to address this first, because it’s the easiest—and currently has a lot of bearing on the state of my body. I am severely asthmatic, was not born with enough cartilage in my joints, was born with ligaments that are too long (making it so my non-padded joints don’t hold together as tightly as they should), I have nervous system issues—all symptoms point to fibromyalgia for one—and I have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). This all fucking adds up. I am in pain much of the time. I have been since I was about five. These issues make it difficult to sustain the activity I’d need to to shed some serious weight. I do what I can—I walk, on average, about 3-5 miles per day. I’ve significantly changed my diet in the last year to seriously reduce intake of inflammatories and sugar. (Pro tip: Sugar is an inflammatory, too.)
Some people have serious fucking medical issues that don’t allow them to put the strain on their bodies to help them lose the weight—and you might not be able to see those issues. So before you tell someone to just “get more exercise”, maybe take a moment to learn if there are stumbling blocks in the way—like pain or a lack of ability to breathe. Those things are probably important to the person you’re talking to. To dismiss those issues is to dismiss that person.
My obesity was and is, in part, caused by others’ sin.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’re no stranger to my experiences as an overweight woman. (Here are some examples: An introduction to being overweight | The way we talk about overweightness needs to change.) The things I’ve been called, and the ways I’ve been treated, have absolutely left deep emotional scars. When it comes to this sin-suit that I wear, I still feel hopeless—even brief moments of victory in my present journey toward better health. Recently I got to buy a dress that was three sizes smaller than the last dress I bought for myself—and I still felt disgusting and hopeless standing there, looking at myself in the mirror in that dress, remembering the look a stranger gave me just a few minutes earlier when he looked over my body and grimaced—he literally contorted his face into a look of disgust—while looking at me. One of the reasons I struggle with accepting that my value, worth, and identity come from Christ is because it is a nearly daily experience for me to be treated otherwise—because of my body. I get treated regularly by strangers as a less-than. I watch men hold doors for pretty women, then let them slam in front of me. I get ignored every time I go into clothing store—and then I have to find my own way to wherever they hid the minuscule plus-size department in the third-floor-back-corner-next-to-the-last-chance-clearance-rack.
I had a gnarly allergy attack when I was 23. It left scar tissue around my right eustachian tube. Now, seven years later, when I have even mild allergies, that tube packs out with snot, the surrounding areas get inflamed, and my high-pitch hearing gets extremely muddy. It takes days of intentional, specific care to heal from that. Even when I’m not having allergies, I’ve got superb hearing in my left ear—and hearing in my right ear cuts off about 3k Hz below the left ear because of that scar tissue.
The scars left by the ways I’ve been spoken to and treated for most of my life are like that. Sometimes it’s just kind of a minor inconvenience. But when it gets agitated—offended again—it gets enflamed and becomes painful and hard to control and slow to heal.
And it makes me feel hopeless. Unwantable and unloveable. It makes me feel like no matter what I do—how I change—I will ever be good enough. It depresses me and immobilizes me. It is the earthquake that leads to my collapse. It is the sinking sand that I often feel like I’m up to my neck in.
And now, we move on…
My obesity was and is, in part, caused by my own sin.
We respond and react to everything that is said or done to us in one way or another.
My response to the years of shit I’ve faced because of my body—the names, the looks, the discrimination—the weird fucking conversations with friends about other overweight people—has largely been to turn to food for comfort.
I’ll clearly never be good enough, so why fucking bother? One of the first blogs I wrote here was about being a fantastic failure. I still often embrace that notion far more heartily than I should. Like I said, the hopeless feeling left behind—another person’s sin-wake—leaves me feeling immobilized and in those moments, I often turn to sin, rather than Jesus.
I don’t blame others for my choices. On very few occasions in my life has someone actually shoved food in my mouth. I make that choice—and realizing this has been one of the key factors in learning to take control of what goes into my mouth.
Repenting, for me, often looks like—despite feeling hopeless, worthless, and immobilized, choosing to turn to my God and my Savior for comfort, rather than food. It means not responding to sin with sin. It means learning (again and again) to see myself as an intentionally created, and unequivocally loved—purchased at a price—through the grace, mercy, and gospel of Jesus Christ—rather than seeing myself how much of the world sees me (and other overweight people). Fat. Disgusting. Lazy. Undisciplined. Ugly. Unwantable.
It means responding to attempts to strip me of my divinely-given value—Imago Dei—with a loud and resounding, “NO.”—or when I’m at my weakest responding to those attempts by turning to Jesus and saying, “HELP.”
I cannot control how others sin against me. If I’m honest with myself (not my strong suit), I can’t even control how I emotionally respond in that split second after I’ve been sinned against. But if I believe Scripture, and I do, I know “He is able to keep me from stumbling“. By the grace of God, I can respond to being sinned against with worship. I can respond to having a broken body with worship. And I can choose to repent and turn to the life-giver when I’ve previously chosen sin and death.
I get to repent of the sins that have lead me to wear this sin-suit. You get to repent of the sins that have lead to yourself, or others, wearing their sin-suit.
That’s all I have to say about that for now.