Fat chance

I read with horrified gasps Joy Beth Smith’s article, Fat. Single. Christian. In Church, being overweight and dating feels like a sin. Not being overweight myself, I was oblivious to the unique issues faced by Christian overweight singles attempting to date. I would like to take the opportunity of this weeks’ blog to highlight some of these issues.

Joy shares her experiences of being rejected by many Christian guys largely due to her weight. Joy laments the presence of such superficiality in Christian circles, where Godly character and rich personality apparently do not outweigh (pardon the pun) the stigma of being overweight.

While not naïve about the social stigma associated with above-average weight, I was certainly appalled to hear that this has been Joy’s experience of the Christian dating world. But perhaps that is due to my own values. Physical appearance rates relatively low on issues of importance for me. I am more concerned with the personality and spiritual traits of others, and perhaps I assume that other Christians are the same.

It seems that (unhelpful) platitudes from others have contributed to Joy’s sense of shame about her weight. Statements of thinly veiled blame suggested that Joy should lose weight, or that Joy should pander to the “visual creatures” of our society, and they made me shudder. Why should Joy have to accommodate other people’s lack of acceptance of who she is?

There is enormous pressure in out society to “watch our weight”. Conversations about weight loss fads and dietary requirements are commonplace. During such discussions it is possible for us to overstep our mark by subtly sharing our weight knowledge with others. We express it as concern – “Have you tried this?” – but what we really mean is that we are unable to accept the person just as they are.

Next time someone shares their weight concern with you, try to express unconditional love for them rather than reinforcing the idea that weight loss is favourable. Even if they need to lose weight for health reasons, try letting them know that they are lovable no matter what happens to their weight. See how hard it is for them to believe you – and for you to believe yourself.

The other issue Joy touches on is the idea of weight gain being a sin. It seems that in a rather lame attempt to help, some friends of Joy have leapt to conclusions regarding the origins of her weight issues. The assumption that all weight gain is caused by gluttony, and that therefore any overweight person is in sin, is inexcusable. Public shaming of the same from the pulpit is equally appalling.

Of course, if there are weight issues caused by gluttony, we absolutely should be addressing this in a supportive and respectful way. We can tentatively broach the subject with that person without assuming that they think their weight is a problem yet. I’m all for honesty about such things.

But I have a problem with the assumption that being overweight is always caused by sin. We need to check this sensitive issue out with each person individually, so as not to cause more harm than good. And we need to be prepared to admit that our assumptions about the other person were wrong.

I believe in equity. If we are going to scrutinize overweight people about the sin in their lives, let’s put everyone under the same microscope. After all, being gluttonous doesn’t necessarily result in weight gain. Skinny people might be over-indulging too. Funny though how we don’t scrutinize skinny folk.

Not all gluttons are skinny. . .

I think that being overweight can result in many issues, but it may not be an issue per se for everyone. It seems that being overweight can produce social pressure to be otherwise, and that all positive aspects of one’s self are void until weight loss is achieved. At worst, this can result in the slim majority treating overweight people like lesser Christians, even as lesser people.

Thank God for grace that covers us all. I am thankful that there is room in His family for everyone – even for the larger people.

For Joy Beth Smith’s full article, click here.

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