Health problems, weight, Michael Moore and me

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As much as anyone here, I understand the pain of being overweight. I live it every day. HOWEVER, I do not have a disease that makes me that way. I do not have a glandular, hormonal, metabolic or any other physical problem that MAKES me be the way I am.

I do not suffer from any psychological "disease" that I can blame my problem on. I have a very good friend who is anorexic and fights the battle to stay alive. There are psychological problems that lead to overweight the same way that her psychological state has lead her to be so thin you can practically see through her. But those people are, in my opinion, few and far between.

I think we live in a culture that has taught us that if we are not perfect, it is because we have some condition, some syndrome, some disease that makes us that way. We are damaged goods, unable to control or help ourselves. It is a pernicious thought process--because it takes responsibility away from us, and makes us unable to confront our weaknesses.

We live in a culture of abundance and of leisure. We have the ability to eat past health, satiety and common sense every single day of our lives. At the same time, we live in a culture that has the utmost in technological advances, making our lives so much simpler physically than our great-grandmothers' days that it is almost unbelievable. What my great-grandmother did to do up her laundry burned thousands of calories! When I did my laundry today, I sat on my behind, reading and noshing on pretzels, while a machine did all the work! Is it any wonder that I carry around extra weight?????

If my favorite foods are not fruits and veggies, but are Doritos and Twinkies, and I indulge those preferences, does that get me off the hook for my weight? Of course, it does NOT. If I choose to eat when I am lonely, or sad, or bored, or happy, or glad, or, or, or, or.....does that make me "sick" enough that it's not my fault? Nope, I don't think so.

Every single one of these extra pounds I carry around with me I have EARNED. I have eaten the m&m's, the doritos, the Krispey Kremes, or whatever. I have eaten when it was "time to eat" even when I wasn't hungry--as if the food was never gonna be here later! I have sat on my you know what and read or crocheted instead of getting some exercise. But every single one of those things was MY CHOICE.

Look, there are people who live terrible lives because of their obesity--shut up in a house weighing 450 pounds, unable to walk to the mailbox, with blood pressure and diabetes shortening their lives with every breath they take. I have a lot of sympathy for them--they've got the real problems.

Me, and, I suspect, Michael Moore? We're just brats who don't want to do what's hard--take control of our appetites the way we are supposed to.

Me? I want to be able to eat all I want, when I want, and never gain an ounce. I don't want to schlep off the pounds at Weight Watchers 1 or 2 pounds a week for a solid YEAR to get down to a healthy weight. It's too hard. It's too long. It's too, too, too.....something.

But it ain't the way it works. Why should I be exempt from struggle in a difficult place in my life? Don't I expect people with same sex attraction to rein in their urges and remain chaste? Why don't I expect MYSELF to rein in my appetites and retrain my tastebuds? If I expect a heroin addict to get clean with something that is mind-bogglingly addictive, shouldn't I get clean with sugar? If I expect an alcoholic to get sober, shouldn't I expect myself to get sober with regard to food?

And finally, there is the last weight issue that I am only just now coming to grips with. That's the sinful nature of my problem. I only want to think that the "g" word only applies to someone else. Gluttony? Me? One of the Seven Deadly Sins? Me? Yeah, baby. It's an ugly word for an ugly problem. And I am only now coming to see that I'm not fighting "weight issues" or "health problems." I'm called to fight up close and personal with an ugly habit that I've given over too large a place in my life to.

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On Gluttony from Two Sleepy Mommies on February 1, 2004 7:06 PM

Terry muses on the sin of gluttony. Gluttony (an ugly name for an ugly sin) seems to be a stealthy sin, like sloth. It's easy to ignore it, to rationalize it away, especially by focusing not on gluttony itself but... Read More


With respect, Terry, I wonder if this feeling is something you brought along from your non-Catholic days? There's nothing sinful about being fat, nothing at all. I suppose it might be sinful, under some rather unusual conditions, for a person to eat something in a certain situation; perhaps if it were a matter of snacking while someone else standing in front of you was in want of a meal. It may certainly be sinful for someone to be so fussy about his food that he's a nuisance to the family (Screwtape talks about that). But just being fat is morally neutral. Catholics are supposed to look after their health in a general way, but the specifics are infinitely variable and extremely vague: smoking, for instance, is not a sin. You may be fretting about this more than you need to. What do you think?

Elinor, I think Terry is making the distinction between merely being fat (which can be the result of any number of physical or psychological disorders) and being fat as a result of the sin of gluttony. Fatness, as you point out, is not in itself sinful, but gluttony is a sin.

As Terry points out, not all people who are fat have fallen into the sin of gluttony.

Not all people who have fallen into the sin of glutton are fat.

Terry, I am with you. I think the overweight people who REALLY can't help it do exist but make up a very small percentage of the total.

Some advice from one who is a "recovering glutton" in every sense (likes to eat too much, eats when not hungry, and is an "epicure" - has very low tolerance for bad food and bad cooking):

One thing you may want to try, Terry - if you haven't already - is go to Confession and confess your gluttony. It may take a few times before you receive enough graces to stop eating like a fiend. Meanwhile, pray to WANT to stop eating so much. (I'm assuming you aren't quite ready to pray to actually stop eating so much yet!)

After a while, if you persevere, you will receive enough grace to defeat the sin of gluttony. Then you can join Weight Watchers, or other program, to learn to eat what you really need.

A testimonial - I did all of the above and have lost 33 pounds since the end of August. (I backslid a bit over the holidays, but I am still so much less obsessed with food than before!)

The biggest challenge, though - to Peony's point - is to try to keep focused on defeating the sin rather than getting svelte and beautiful. I don't know whether I will ever be at a "good-looking" weight again, and part of me is disappointed about that. But I remind myself that what I really wanted, more than "svelteness," was to stop being a glutton (and, secondarily, to be a good steward of my body), and through prayer and Confession I have received very much help with those.

Elinor, I agree with you that being fat does not necessarily correlate with being a glutton (although I think it often correlates with having been a glutton at some point in one's life). But I believe that the Church considers eating more than one needs (as Terry has described, and Terry I can RELATE!) as a sin. The first grace I received about my gluttony was to realize that my love of food was separating me from God. I loved the food more than Him - so it really is just like all the other sins.

Terry, thank you for this post. I think gluttony is a forgotten sin for many. Our culture, of course, worships thinness, but it's hard to find much Catholic/Christian discussion of the spiritual aspects of gluttony.

I believe there is a Catholic weight-loss group that treats gluttony as a sin and tries to fulfill the spiritual needs of the participants on the theory that if they are spiritually fulfilled, then food will lose much of its magic. I can't remember the name of the name of the group, but it sounded interesting. They were on EWTN a few months ago.

A very sober, honest, and disconcerting post. Every age, in every place, has its "pet sins" that are overlooked by the majority, and of course these are precisely where the faithful will be most vulnerable. Fast and pray.

Amazing post, mostly because I've never seen anyone overweight take responsibility for it - very refreshing. It always seemed to me that the body is a relentless computer when it comes to calories. Take more in than you burn and you'll gain. Take in less than you burn and you won't. (Although metabolic rates vary greatly and that it isn't fair that some have to eat far less.)

I agree with previous commenters that fatness is not a sin per se, wasn't St. Thomas Aquinas overweight? I don't think he was a glutton. :) I think the NT proscriptions against gluttony are perhaps mostly a reaction against the Romans of the time who would eat a meal and then vomit it, in order to eat another one immediately after. Now that is gluttony writ large.

I read a book where a priest said suggested spouses have a somewhat of an obligation to remain physically attractive for their mates. Very politically incorrect. I don't sign on to that suggestion. I just report, you decide.

There's no doubt in my mind that men have an easier time losing/keeping weight off than women. Muscle (unlike fat) burns calories even when it's just sitting there, so men, having a naturally higher percentage of muscle, have an unfair advantage.

What a timely post. I am in a terrible battle with my weight — again. I can lose 25—30 pounds and then lose steam and begin eating again. I know the right foods to choose in the right amounts but I just rebel. I live alone (divorced) and do not like to cook. I can nuke frozen dinners and can control calories by using Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine. I feel so much better when I am on a program of controlled eating—why must I sabotage it every time? What am I afraid of? I believe that the body is the temple of God and as such I am in charge of maintaining it. I believe that what I do is sin and I ask for forgiveness and strength to overcome the impulses. I even eat when I'm not hungry—just to have something going in my mouth. I am truly disgusted with myself and find it difficult to let Jesus in long enough to talk to me. I guess I'm afraid of what He will say to me and then I will have to obey and maybe do something I do not want to do or will find too difficult.
Good luck to you. Thanks for listening.

"I've never seen anyone overweight take responsibility for it - very refreshing. "

I pick this out merely because it's the most egregious of several preposterous comments posted in response to Terry's. "Pet sins, tolerated"? You must be joking. Mockery of fat people is almost the last socially acceptable boorishness in America.

Here's what I'd like to know: "take responsibility" for what, exactly? Is the condition of my body, or Terry's, or indeed anyone's, a matter in which you have a stake sufficient for you to be gratified by our "taking responsibility" for its not coming up to your standard? I wouldn't be pleased if you "took responsibility" for revealing a deplorably pedestrian taste in books and ideas when you posted a rate-your-library quiz a few months back. You read what you like, and it's no business of mine to find fault with it. By the same token, it's no business of TSO's or anyone's what another person looks like. I detect in this the common human desire to diminish one's own faults by pretending that it's other people's imperfections that are the really bad ones. For Heaven's sake, don't let's encourage this sort of sanctimony among fellow Catholics.

Elinor, as a man who tips the scale at about 280 lbs (mitigated only slightly by height), my remarks, like Terry's, were entirely self-referential.

Quite so - you didn't administer a pat on the head for Terry's having been a good girl and confessed her terrible fault. The fact remains that Americans think themselves entitled to censure other people's weight as if there were a moral component to it, which there emphatically is not.

Dear Ellinor and all,

Thank you so much for saying that so much better that I could. I was about to say that I would guess some of the commenters here might have to nix G.K. Chesterton's cause if it ever came up. And heavens, however in the world did St. Thomas Aquinas make it?

It is up to an individual to determine whether what they are doing is sinful. I respect Terry's analysis of her own position, but that is not the jumping-off point for concluding that fat = sinful. I have struggled along with my wife who has been overweight since we were married and long before that. She doesn't indulge in the things that classically are bad choices and yet still suffers from the problem.

There CAN be sinful choices in eating as in anything else, but fat does not equal sinful, and there's enough negative feeling about fat people out there already--we needn't inculcate more by making it a moral issue as well.



Man, Elinor, wake up on the wrong side of the bed today? Your unpleasantness isn't refreshing but it certainly is consistent. Sanctimonious indeed.

It seems as though weight is one of those things that people tend to find excuses for, even though it seems something entirely unsubjective given the relentless aspect of calories in/calories out formulation. I found Terry's post refreshing, though a bit hard on herself.

As for your usual gratuitous slam, I cheerfully admit to my middle-browness. In fact, I've been meaning to change the quote on my blog from "Discouragement is not from God" to "Serving all your middle-brow needs". I will do that since I seem to have left the mistaken impression that I have in some way reached your level of sophistication.

Dear TSO,

Under normal circumstances it would appear that the calories-in/calories out formulation is logical and appealing. All I can do is share anecdotal experience which indicates that after a sufficiently long period of reduced calorie intake and increased activity my wife would it a plateau below which she has never fallen in all of our married life.

However, she has faced true and fierce discrimination based on her weight and on hidden suppositions that she could do something about it only if she would. People tend to become a bit touchy about it. I know I do and I am only secondarily affected, but it really hurts when I see and experience it. Hence my endorsement of Elinor's comment above. I did not even realize that she mentioned you. I will have to go back and read through the entire thread. And my apologies for not being more careful about exactly what I was supporting/endorsing.

Nevertheless, I think you've seen that this is really touch, treacherous territory and while I admire Terry for coming to terms with her personal dilemma, I don't know if much, if anything can or should be generalized from it.




What can be generalized from it is this: If it seems true to your experience, then come and talk with me about how we might approach this together.

If it does not, as it apparently does not in your wife's case, then take it for what it is--one woman's musings.

However, I think that there are many more in MY boat than are in your wife's boat. And I think that's a lucky thing. For hers is a very hard "row to hoe" as we say down here. She really has the worst of both worlds. Coming to an acceptance of a body that is normal FOR HER that flies in the face of what society says is normal or desireable, is a monstrously difficult task.

And the problem with dealing with weight is that it is never DONE. You can't do something about it, then mark it finished. If it is your appetite for food you must battle, as is MY case, you must battle it every day.

But then, I assume that it is much the same for those who battle other appetites.


Steven - has a law of physics been repealed? See this.


No. But there are "extenuating circumstances." That do not make the equation quite so easy as all that.



Hi Terry,

I just wanted to say, I know where you are coming from. The kinds of foods I love are all the wrong things. I hate exercise. If I had the metabolism of a hummingbird, I wouldn't have gotten overweight, but unfortunately I don't.

Me? I want to be able to eat all I want, when I want, and never gain an ounce. I don't want to schlep off the pounds at Weight Watchers 1 or 2 pounds a week for a solid YEAR to get down to a healthy weight. It's too hard. It's too long. It's too, too, too.....something.

I felt this same way. But then I got very afraid for my health. My survival instinct kicked in, I guess.

I have been going to Weight Watchers for nearly seven months now. I've lost over 35 pounds so far. (More than that, now, I think.) Yes, it's slow, but slow is healthier. I'd still have those 35 pounds on me (and perhaps more) if I had not have done something. While I have more to lose, I'm feeling so much better. And it's truly wonderful to be able to get into clothes you haven't been able to wear in years. However, my main motivation is to simply be healthy again, and to treat this body God gave me with more respect.

Yes, I've had to deal with resisting that sin of gluttony. Sometimes it's very hard to grab a banana for breakfast instead of a doughnut.

Oh, well...I'll stop rambling. I wish you all the best. :-)

Poor TSO! It's never agreeable to be told to mind one's own bloody business, and not to be a patronizing donkey, but at any rate the root cause is easily remedied. I can't imagine why you would suppose that I'd be wounded by your petulant slaps ("unpleasantness"! Oh, I want to CRY!), but you've not surprisingly missed the point: another person's appearance is as little an injury to you as your taste is an injury to me. Take care not to adopt that condescending manner again, and there will never be a reason for me to take you down. Take responsibility for that, kiddo.

Oh stop! We are all wonderful here, especially me--oh, what? Did I actually hit the submit button for that?

I hate this stupid society we live in that judges on externals like flat abs or big houses or expensive cars. I like bringing joy. I like imbibing the Lord and exhaling Him, so to speak.

Sometimes when I see people who are thin I react with disgust. There's a lady at church whom I judge horribly (before I correct myself): "she looks like a fricking skeleton! She's scary! Anorexic to say the least!"

But I look at her daughter, and I can see the same tiny, tiny bone structure. The lady is not an anorexic: she's simply a sister in Christ who is THIN!

Why does my mind leap to judgment, when I bristle so much at other people's judgment?

Probably so that I never lose sight of the fact that I'm a real bitch without His grace every second of my life!

Elinor and TS--I treasure you both! Bury the hatchet (not in each other's skulls, though, please)!

Elinor, I wish I were married to an opera aficionado. One word: DIVA! WORK IT!

BTW, I made my "big confession" in an above thread.

Perhaps not a solution for everybody; but if you've united your life with someone who is increasingly bitter about your expanding girth (remember, men are inspired by SIGHT, women by HEARING), then it might be something to consider.


The Catholic group you are thinking of is called The Light Weigh, founded by Suzanne Fowler of Overland Pk., KS.

It has many brilliant tips, and it is based on mutual prayer, support, and encouragement. Plus, you learn a lot about many wonderful saints in the course!



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