For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You… – Psalm 139:13-15
Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
The F** Word – After church one Sunday years ago, while living in Morocco, we gathered for lunch with other American friends. It’s funny how we talk about eating while we eat. I don’t remember the subject of that conversation, but we all remember a particular humorous miscommunication. For some reason forgotten now, I said, “We don’t allow the F** word to be said in our home.” Another parent of teenagers said rapid-fire, “Well, I should hope not!” – thinking I was referring to the four-letter F-word. Then one of our teens said, “She means the word ‘fat'”.
I have struggled with my weight all my life. Part of it probably goes back to our Scottish heritage – not all of whom are stocky, I’m sure, but definitely our family was, for generations back. Part of it also is a propensity for filling whatever sense of emptiness (or lacking) I had at the moment with food. That being said, I don’t mind the culture of celebrating with food, either. There’s just no getting away from food, really, and who wants to? Using food properly is a challenge, and one I have taken on, with varying degrees of success (keep reading).
Fat-Phobia – Having had issues with food and experiencing “fat-shaming” from an early age, I did not want that for my children. However, I did NOT want them to be fat-phobic either. I did not want them to define themselves or others as desirable or not, just based on size or body type. We didn’t use that language.
However, knowing my own struggle with food, I didn’t want to pass that struggle to them, as much as was possible. When they were young children, we could help with their food choices and portions. As they moved through puberty with all its body change freak-outs, we operated from the God-inspired premise that they were “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Can’t say how successful we were, but we tried. Now young adults, their choices are their own. I never know what to cook for them, because there is that fear of “fat” lurking about, even though they are all gorgeous healthy young people. [Photo insert would usually happen here, but better not.]
Obesity Task Force – Years before marriage and children, during a time of major career investment, I was invited to be part of an obesity task force. We were all affiliated with Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia – a huge inner city medical center. The task force consisted of internal medicine docs, endocrinology researchers, nurses, and dieticians. We met regularly for several weeks, after work for dinner, to tackle the problem of obesity in our urban poor patient population. We all gained weight. One of our members was Italian, in the US for an endocrinology fellowship. He made the most amazing fettuccine carbonara I have ever tasted (recipe below).
Back to the subject: what we discovered on that task force is that obesity is not easily defined, nor its causative agents as easily identified as we all previously thought. Finally, we also realized how inadequate and unrealistic our interventions had been and we weren’t sure what we could do better. It’s too easy to judge the obese person who has dangerously high blood pressure and continues to eat in ways that will shorten his/her life. However, it is much harder to help someone change habits, their history of coping, and social culture related to food. Much harder.
What are the morals to these stories?
1) Fat shouldn’t be a bad word. Eating disorders and disorderly eating are part of our Western culture (for sure, if not globally). We do not help by harming – whether it’s another person or ourselves. Poor nutrition, leading to morbid obesity or thinness, is definitely a struggle for us as a culture. However, the trend in the US of being so food-conscious and food-controlling is surely not healthy. Or as socially conscious as we think. Something to think about. For each of us…not just for health’s sake, but for the sake of our community and world. The world can’t afford to eat the way we do – either to excess or for health. How can we simplify our diet and still enjoy the great good that food brings?
2) Food is meant to be shared. That brief season on the task force was so fascinating; we learned as much from eating together as talking together. Our family table, with the children growing up, sharing food with each other and lots of company, was a time I will always cherish. Today, in these times, sharing food is a bit more challenging, with busy schedules, and food-related issues (allergies and preferences), but I am determined to stay in the game. I think we actually eat less when we eat together. The company fills those empty places as much as the food does.
3) Face the reality of obesity without shaming or judging – yourself or others. For those of us who struggle with our weight, I am learning that it is possible to have some victory in that area, without dieting (notice that word has “die” in it). That doesn’t mean that I am thin (“the tyranny of thinness” is a subject for another time). My blood pressure is good, and I am not on any medications right now, but being thin is not the goal. Living healthy is the goal. The wee bit my husband and I try to do to live healthy is this: work hard, do some regular exercise, rest/sleep enough, try to limit salt and “white” carbs (sugar and white flour/rice/pasta/potatoes), avoid nighttime eating, battle a sedentary lifestyle (that comes with all the “screens” in our lives), nurture your sense of humor, practice gratefulness and forgiveness, find ways to serve people, spend time in community, and spend time with God.
I’ll close with what Jesus said about food:
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” – John 4:34
From other passages in Scripture, Jesus enjoyed eating with others, but He lived also with that greater purpose. I want to be like Him.
Italian Grandmother’s Recipe for Fettuccine Carbonara
Chipsy – Egypt’s snack-food giant – A Time to Munch – interesting article about a food industry in Egypt that has over the last 30 years affected a culture – “the Chipsy Generation”
Photo Credits: www.incourage.me and www.aholyexperience.com and image of Grady Memorial Hospital