Food and Religion – Its Ugly Shadow

Food and Religion – Its Ugly Shadow November 29, 2014
On 'Mad Men' Betty Draper Francis was thin-heavy-thin and it had more to do with her emotions than anything else. Like it does for many of us.
On ‘Mad Men’ Betty Draper Francis was thin-heavy-thin and it had more to do with her emotions than anything else. Like it does for many of us.

by Stephanie – a guest post at Lana Hope’s Wide Open Ground. Please be sure to visit Stephanie at her blog – Stephanie Hoffpauir

(Editors Note: In the wake of Thanksgiving and the build up to Christmas I think it is important to think about how much stress and unhappiness play a role in keeping us bound to some not so healthy habits. No fat shaming here, lawdy I’m the last person to be throwing fat-rocks, but just have to point out the hypocrisy in the church over weight. Where I attended we were told that being overweight was a huge sin, the sin of gluttony, which only made everyone feel guilty and eat even more. It added to the stress and seemed cruel considering the high percentage of people in that church were overweight. There is something about Fundamentalist Evangelicalism that discourages people from taking care of themselves on top of all the shaming. )

I was an overweight kid starting around fourth grade.  We spent a lot of time in church.  Church twice on Sunday, once on Wednesday, and anything in between.  I can’t say I didn’t like it.  Church fueled my passion for music and the art of a good service.  I learned a lot.  I questioned a lot.

When I was about twelve, my aunt became Pentecostal, a big jump for us traditional Southern baptists.  It rocked our family big time and strained relationships as our Avon selling, make-up wearing, yummy smelling aunt changed before our very eyes.   To make things more complicated, I was putting on weight.  The physical weight was a place to put my feelings and the fear of being unsure if I were saved or not. Tongue or not tongues?  By grace?  

I ran from preacher to preacher and verse to verse asking, demanding explanations.  Not one person ever answered my questions to my satisfaction.  I began to see the merry go round of it all.  Some in my family may consider that my demise, but I call it my awakening.

It took many years for me to feel safe enough to allow the extra weight to come off.  I don’t count it as coincidence that the year I started losing weight was the year that, for the first time since I was twelve years old, I stopped regularly playing piano for a church.  I took off any steady work at a church for almost ten years!  I needed it.  I needed to give my thoughts a chance to breathe and explore.  Over those years, I lost 100 lbs.  

I have explored many religions and found things in them that I love and thing I don’t.  I can be around and in other churches without heading to the fast food joint afterwards.  I have realized the shame I was carrying was not for me to hold.  It was placed upon me to adhere to a way of living I had not chosen for myself.

When I see children today who question their religion at young ages, like I did, I want to give them a high five and a hug.  A high five for their bravery and a hug to get them through all the people around them who will see that bravery as a sin.

The courage to be who we are is not to be taken lightly.  The courage to live a life of freedom and to be our own best friend is not only a gift, but a skill I had to learn.  I am glad I learned to be a part of the world of difference and feel love in my heart.  I hope I can help others do the same.

Stephanie is a free thinking, piano playing gal from the south who mentors and supports women through weight loss stress and shame while at the same time, helping them tapping into what truly inspires them from the inside out. Visit here on her website.

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  • Allison the Great

    I can understand that. I was born with no thyroid and my levels are currently out of whack. It’s easy to gain weight without changing your habits. I’ve spoken with my doctor about this and she understands. In 2012 I lost 50 lbs, but then my levels got out of whack and I gained 20 back since then I’ve kind of plateaued and my eating habits haven’t done anything to change that. Thanksgiving didn’t agree with me this year, it nauseated me so I’m gonna try a clean eating thing until Christmas or around there and after Christmas, when I can afford it, I’m gonna try to get another prescription for Belviq. I tried it before and it works wonders for those of us who have trouble with metabolism. I still have a ways to go in weight loss. I’m 5’0 and I want to get down to like 125-130. That’s a couple of pounds over what the BMI chart says but I think whoever made that chart never accounted for boobs. Even when I’m thin I’m more than a little top-heavy. Right now I’m at an E cup so yeah I don’t think much or those are going to go away.

  • Joy

    “…I think whoever made that chart never accounted for boobs.” Hahaha, love that!

    Side note: is there a BMI chart for men and one for women? I think there should be, if there isn’t.

  • ShinyZubat

    I think there is actually. Also one for children. But it should be taken with a grain of salt anyway, since it still doesn’t account for muscle mass or frame size.

  • Trollface McGee

    BMI doesn’t account for muscles either. I’m like at the edge of being overweight BMI-wise but I’m a size 4/6. There are male athletes and bodybuilders that are considered morbidly obese by that measure.

  • Amarad

    BMI was developed by a mathematician about two centuries ago (give or take), has no real basis on modern understandings of medicine or health. It’s a weird medical superstition that’s stuck around.

    And yes, there is a separate one for women – but it generally states that women should be 10-20 lbs lighter then a man of the same height. Which is where the BMI *really* shows it’s fault and age. Because it builds in an assumption that men *always* are more muscled then women. And that women must be enough thinner/less muscled then men to make up the difference in weight for boobs too.

  • Bodhisvaha

    “There is something about Fundamentalist Evangelicalism that discourages people from taking care of themselves on top of all the shaming.”

    Part of the reason that I never became a Christian is its tendency to finding we fallible humans unworthy. There’s a tension between the forces (scriptures, congregations, and movements) that value and uphold people despite their limitations, and those that judge, belittle, and tear down people. The latter are often the dominant emotional tone. Being told that we are not good enough and can never be good enough is emotionally toxic. Having that idea implanted this way — especially if we are soaking in it — could well spill over into our lifestyle choices and metabolism. On top of that, current Western culture associates thinness with goodness, adding more pressure.