Is Obesity the Worst Disease?

Is Obesity the Worst Disease?

The television series, “This is Us” has sucked me in. I love it for the same reason many people do; the writers facilitate a discussion about issues that resonate with our culture. Race and sibling/parent relationships are at the forefront of the conversation and–interestingly enough–the show takes a very candid look at what it feels like to be overweight in a thin-obsessed society.

One of the main characters, Kate, is an obese woman who attends OA meetings and discusses her insecurity about her size. Chrissy Metz, the actress that portrays her, has been open with multiple publications about her struggles with weight in real life. I find her candor refreshing. She doesn’t minimize the impact obesity has on identity, and I believe she is charting new territory by not selling the fat-acceptance message in deference to the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Our culture too often takes sides in this matter and rarely arrives at a meaningful resolution.

I live in this tension. I know what it feels like to be helplessly fat and I know what it feels like to find success in losing weight and keeping it off. I know what it feels like to feel the pinch of “too tight pants” and to experience gut-wrenching hunger as I deny myself the foods I desperately crave. I fight on the side that accepts people for who they are(pounds and all), and I fight on the side of living as healthy a lifestyle as possible. In my reality I find these sides are not opposing at all, it’s just that we consumers have become so hopelessly conditioned to the lure of good marketing.

Don’t believe everything you read.

Americans are fat. The studies tell us so. These studies prepared by reputable organizations tell us everything we never wanted to know. We know the fattest and healthiest cities to live in. We have studies on studies, proving or disproving every theory known to mankind. (Bacon vs. no bacon, butter vs. butter-free) Today I read this headline. In the article Mike Stobbe states, “The researchers estimated more than 107 million children and 603 million adults are obese. I guess fat children scare people. Why is that? Are fat children somehow more worrisome than hungry children? I pulled up information on world hunger and read, “The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016.

I’ll be honest, every single time I read about people who are hungry or “wasting”, I feel like an idiot for talking about food addiction. Because, really, how can we possibly compare the two? But I digress.

There was a scene in an early episode of “This is Us” where Kate berates a thin woman for discussing her body issues(the woman was anorexic). It was vastly unfair. Kate was exasperated with her own inability to lose weight and the show justified her shaming the thin woman. I have learned that the very same emotional issues that cause obesity also cause anorexia (when in doubt read Portia De Rossi’s account in “Unbearable Lightness”). And while we’re being honest, we should at least acknowledge that we all have a disease. But rather than treat only the symptoms(obesity, anorexia, alcoholism, greed), why aren’t we working harder to fix the major malfunction inside our bodies, and—could I be so bold as to suggest—our hearts?

You Hypocrite!

I met a young guy named Zack at Sam’s Club the other day while spending more money on dog food than it would cost to feed three children for a month. We were discussing music when he introduced me to an artist who sings under the name, Father John Misty(Josh Tillman). Zack explained to me that he really likes Josh’s music because he points out the hypocrisy of Christians. When I asked him why the music resonated with him, he told me that the people who claimed to be Christians in his life had rejected and wounded him. I was curious and I went home and listened to a few his songs.

“Oh, their religions are the best
They worship themselves yet they’re totally obsessed
With risen zombies, celestial virgins, magic tricks, these unbelievable outfits
And they get terribly upset
When you question their sacred texts
Written by woman-hating epileptics” – Father John Misty

The thing is, Josh Tillman is right. Christians have done great damage in the name of Jesus. They have not loved rightly, or served humbly, or self-sacrificed properly. We have Jim Baker and Clyde Fant and Darrin Patrick and many more. But Tillman’s aptitude for pointing out the hypocrisy of Christians is really no different than Kate’s in pointing out the lunacy of anorexia. The truth is that we are all broken. When we stand around pointing out the brokenness of others, we do ourselves a great disservice by ignoring the real disease that plagues all of us. I feel like we’re trading in band-aids while standing around bleeding to death via our gaping wounds.

I need a Cure!

My problem is I’m hungry. I’m hungry even when I’m not hungry. I hunger for love; acceptance, companionship, and the gift of selfless admiration. I hunger for hope; depression-free days and anxiety-less nights. I hunger for faith; to know that my life has a purpose, that there is meaning for my existence, that I won’t evaporate into nothingness when I die. I hunger for forgiveness; to undo the harms I have inflicted on the innocent, to be absolved of the debts I didn’t mean to incur, to recapture the wonder of the first date, the first glance, the first kiss—all of the before’s that have been tainted by my harsh words and unforgiving nature.

The only place I find the cure to all of those things is in the person of Jesus. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. I would like to echo C.S. Lewis when I say that Jesus was either a lunatic or he was who he said he was.

I am a hypocrite because I am a sinner, but Jesus was neither hypocrite nor sinner. His whole life was love. He taught people to love their neighbors more than they loved themselves. He asked those who followed him to forgive their enemies and bless those who persecuted them. He modeled that love by going to the cross and in his final breaths uttered these words, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” He offered the only real cure to our tumultuous existence: peace with God. Peace where there was enmity. Peace where there was a broken relationship. Peace when we rejected the good He offered because we thought we were gods and knew better.

But I object!

When I was younger I felt persecuted by Christians who expected me to be good. I had failed to live up to their expectations and so a pastor and a panel of elders suggested I did not know Jesus because I had “sinned”. They heaped despair onto my already guilty and grieving heart. I walked away disgusted and sickened by their hypocrisy, but years later I can see that they were only men. Humans. Fallible and weak, just like me. I bear the scars of their words but in Jesus I find forgiveness and peace. I don’t trust men, but I do trust Jesus.

Us and Them

Statistics paint a poor picture of the real landscape of the human heart. We fail when we try to generalize the human body and the human spirit. We stand on battlegrounds with fists and swords and fail to recognize we are fighting the wrong war.

    Dear Fellow Christians:

God’s grace was never meant to be kept to ourselves. Why are our love muscles so weak?

    Dear Unbelieving Friends:

Forgive us! We have failed to love as we ought. We are broken, just like you. But Jesus is still worth knowing.

Hope

We are more than our bodies. We are more than our (Obese! Sinner!) labels. We are more than statistics. We are in fact sacred souls seeking a path through a polluted wasteland. We are hungry and not satisfied, grieving and not comforted, bound with chains of addiction and longing for liberation.

If I were writing for the show, This is Us, I would write Kate finding hope in Jesus rather than food. I would give her the realization that true satisfaction comes not from losing weight, but rather from finding peace with God and with her body. I would give her hope in having an identity that rejects stereotypes and discovers joy in pure and beautiful love that extends grace through the living person of a God so lovely He left the throne room of heaven to live among stinking Pharisees and helpless tax collectors in order to make a way for her to know true and lasting peace. Peace that is so rich that she would know she is wholly loved even if she never lost a single pound.

Comments

  1. Puts me in mind of Andrew Peterson’s song Come, Lord Jesus. Keep it up!! Love, Mom

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