I had a chat with a friend about body image yesterday. A few quick thoughts. None of them are really new. They just hit home in a fresh way.
Guys don’t necessarily care if they’re obese, fat, chunky, big, lumpy, or generally have behinds the size of dump trucks. You try one of those terms with a woman and you’ll be fishing for your testicles somewhere near your tonsils, my friend.
There is a cult of body in the United States. We are food, and weight, and image obsessed. How does this fit into our Christianity? In this case I *don’t* mean how this fits into our culture. I think we all see the signs of the cultural bias toward large people. What I’m interested in, at the core, is how overweight people interact with the church . There are not any rules in the Bible, you know. Vague stuff from saint Paul about the body being the temple of the Holy Ghost, but never once does he shout the mantra of “Diet and exercise.” I can’t picture him doing exercises a la Jack Lalanne. His tunic would get in the way. Neither should we be gnostics – and endorse a clear split between body and spirit, willing away the things of the body altogether as impure figments of a less-than-good world. So where does that leave us?
We have bodies. Mine likes to be fed. A lot. Stupid body weighs a lot more than it should, in fact. My body needs to get out more and run a few laps around the neighborhood. The deck is stacked against us, my friends. Our culture has handed us a sugar-and-starch rich diet. That stuff is addictive. Also, in the last hundred years, even if food were *not* ubiquitous (a Starbucks at every street corner, my friends), there is MSG, invented 100 years back. Just sprinkle that stuff on anything, and it’ll taste amazing. I bet you could wolf down a remora, or a half dozen angle brackets from Home Depot, if you covered them with MSG. Remember a few years back, when a potato chip company had the line “Bet you can’t eat just one?” One. Right. One BAG, more like.
Back to my friend. Remember I said we were having a conversation about this, wayyy earlier at the beginning of the blog? She sat down and found herself glomming onto a bag of chips the other day. She felt guilt, remorse, and shame. She likened it to “cheating”, like you would in a marriage, only on her body. I have been rolling that thought around in my skull for a few days and I’m not sure I came to terms to it. I don’t get the idea of food being like cheating. I don’t cheat on my diet. Health professionals tell me that in order to lose weight, I need to stick to a certain amount of calories per day. I seldom do. But I also don’t feel the shame. Maybe I should, and I’d weigh less. Still trying figure that one out.
The one huge difference is we *need* food. It’s one of those three or four basic components without which, we find ourselves very, very dead. So where do we get off castigating ourselves for overeating? Have you ever breathed so very much in one day, or had so many glasses of water, you felt shame?
Like any good thing, we can become addicted to food. We can crave flavors. It can become the thing we use to fill up an empty spot, and I don’t mean just a stomach.
But the Church of the Golden Mean of the Golden Arches has become our national religion. Aspiring to a certain amount of calories per day: this is our cult now. I ask you Christians: do you think more times per day about God, or about your diet? I don’t mean to indict anyone. I’m just saying there’s a new church in town, and it, like all other excesses, can be unhealthy.
Here’s a thought, speaking of excess. Can you think of God too much? Can you obsess so much on The Lord, or on The Bible, or whatever, that it becomes unhealthy? I think anything that causes you to miss the wonder that is life, this thing has become unhealthy to you. This means food, or booze & drugs, or sex, or God, or work. God, you might say, gets a free pass. Does God? Would God be happy, knowing you’re missing life by focusing so much on the next time you get to pray to make it through another dismal day on This Hideous Ball we like to think of as The Creation?
Just a few thoughts. I think I’ve stirred the kettle enough for one day.