Do you want the short answer or the long answer?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is noooooo.
For so long, I have carried around baggage attached to the pounds my hips bear. This baggage is shame, and this shame is for being overweight.
I cannot remember a time in my life where I did not feel the weight of being fat. I know a lot of people don’t like the term “fat.” It’s a word that I am not completely comfortable using, but I think that it is important to press through my awkwardness.
Being overweight is not a sin.
Being fat is not a sin.
If you’re overweight, how does that statement strike you?
Well, it sounds good but I don’t know if she’s right. I’ve done so much to put myself where I am today, and this weight I carry is a result of poor decisions…I don’t know if I can agree with her.
I totally get you.
Let’s think about it another way.
My mom who is the fairest of the fair–red hair, pale skin, freckles galore. She is simply stunning even in her grandmothering years. I inherited her fair skin, not the deliciously tannable skin of the Cuban stock my dad comes from. My skin shows the years I have gone outside without sunscreen. I have freckles (a mark of beauty, in my opinion) and I have sun damage. I have this sun damage because of a number of factors which may not be apparent at first glance. Mostly, though, it’s because I kept forgetting to put sunscreen on as a kid engaged in the limited outdoor sporting activities forced on me by public education.
I have this skin damage and I could have done something to prevent it. Even now, I could buy creams and wear more sun protection. But even though it’s there, I have no feelings of moral failure about it the way I do about being overweight.
What’s the difference?
I can’t speak for other cultures or other times, but I do know that in our American culture, weight has been attached to a kind of morality. If I eat right and exercise, or at least try to do so, I have moral currency to deposit in the Bank of Health. (I’ll lay aside, for the time being, the Bank of Physical Perfection.)
How many times have you heard this line? As long as you’re healthy…as if health is a measure of a person’s self worth.
It’s not about a number on the scale, I have heard.
It’s not about your outward appearance.
It’s not about the size you wear.
It’s about your health.
So if I am overweight and in a bigger size than most stores sell, I don’t get any health bucks. If I carry more padding than is culturally attractive, I don’t get any health bucks.
“Let’s do something about this,” someone might say. “Let’s add some money into your Bank of Health account.”
I can do this in a few ways–actually start working out. That’s like 5 health bucks per workout. I could give up gluten–that’s like a hundred a week. If I want to be healthy and so I am trying and failing–either by missing my workout or by eating healthy all day until I blow it with ice cream after the kids are in bed–I earn one health buck for trying.
That’s what we’ve learned, right? What counts is that I’m trying not to be fat anymore?
But what if I don’t want to try anymore? What if I refuse to play the game where being overweight is equated with being morally inferior?
What if I recognize that no matter how little or how much I weigh, or how well or how poorly I fit into clothing, weight is not a moral issue?
That takes a whole restructuring of how my mind works towards food, exercise, health, and physical appearance.
It means once I convince myself that being overweight is not sinful, I can be content with myself even when I’m not trying to be healthy. No more shame about not trying to get to the gym.
It means that food can be enjoyed, because I’m not basing my eating decisions on how good or how bad a person this apple pie is going to make me. No more shame about eating a tortilla that isn’t ‘carb balanced.’
It means that I can love myself more freely because I have stopped judging every freaking thing I do in relation to how much I weigh or how I look.
It means that I can love the people around me more freely because I have stopped judging myself and so I can stop judging other people for how they look, eat, or move.
To get to this place, I have to stop using language that attaches moral value to food. No more “good food, bad food.” Food is morally neutral.
And that’s a good place to begin.