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Does Weight Matter?
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6: 19 - 20
So far, it had been like any other speaking trip: decent flight, new city, nice hotel, my room service tab taken care of.
Mmmm. Room service.
But shortly after I boarded my flight home, there was a glitch: after much concentration and effort – all the while trying to look “normal” – I hadn’t succeeded in buckling my seatbelt. How I’d come to hate this moment, when no matter how well I thought I’d camouflaged it, I had to acknowledge the reality of my belly. But the crisis usually passed and I conveniently forgot.
Now I was panic-stricken: Would I have to ask the flight attendant for help? Did they have extenders for people like me?
I sucked it in as best I could and gave it one more try. Click. A sigh of relief. But what about the next time?
Sigh and Surrender had been the name of the game for me for twenty years as I shifted up from "Petites" to "Misses" to what they politely call "Woman" – omitting the still silently screaming adjective Big/Abundant/and let’s face it: FAT. As I continued to march my ponderous way up the clothes rack, at 22w I wondered what was to come: I was on the next-to-the-last size.
Today, after losing 80 pounds, I look back and see a spirit of defeat I can hardly believe was part of me – white flags everywhere!
Where did it start? Was it my obsessively-thin mother who wore only skintight 50s sheath dresses – a woman anorexic way before the problem had a name? As a 5’5” teen weighing in at 135 pounds, I was hopelessly convinced that I was fat – I only had to look at my perfect mom to be reminded.
Was it the early abuse which eventually led me to promiscuity, drugs and alcohol during my twenties and thirties? Was it my desire to become a good Christian mother that led me to distance myself from my pagan confusion by making myself as shapeless and unattractive as possible?
The answers to these questions are not as important as the fact that it wasn’t until I started losing weight that I began asking: Why would a woman with several decades of life still ahead cripple herself, her family and her future by lugging around an extra hundred pounds?
For me, being fat was not a victimless crime. With a husband and 12 children I was certainly not the wife and mother I could/would/should have been. As the excess inches peeled off, so did my denial. As my energy level increased, I came to grips with the fact that through the years I had become less and less involved in the things we had once loved: the outdoors, hiking, discovering new places. If forced past my reluctance to don a bathing suit, I sat glued to one spot until the ordeal was over.
Early on I felt the need to acknowledge the loss my obesity represented to my family and to apologize to them for it. No matter their protestations – “We love you the way you are, Mommy!” – they were dealing with a mom twice the size she should have been with half the get-up-and-go.
I thought my family’s acceptance meant unconditional love. Looking back eighty pounds lighter, I see it means something else: hopelessness and denial.
While my original resolution was shaped as a simple imperative – Lose Weight! – just a few days into my diet I was convicted in no uncertain terms that my obesity was but a symptom of spiritual problems standing in the way of a completely authentic relationship with God. While the evangelical world seldom speaks of fat as a sin, I came to believe that it does indeed represent our clinging to attitudes that Satan uses to keep us from the fullness of our faith.
I saw it as I began to reckon with my sense of entitlement. Since I was responsible for feeding my family – none of whom had a weight problem – I had to learn to handle food without sampling it myself. As I resisted the nagging impulse to bring my hand to my mouth, I could feel another layer of denial being stripped away. I had eaten more than I’d admitted to myself.