DayintheLife: Weight-Loss Evangelism

Inspired by Cherie’s post. [One of the occasional series of posts about my typical day.]

The last stranger who approached me about a weight loss program said it was a Christian program that her church was sponsoring.

I started laughing.

She looked shocked and stammered something.

I shook my head and told her no, diets don’t work.

She recovered a bit, and said, “Well, all the women in the group at church have lost a lot of money…”

This is when I really lost it.  “No, really? They LOST a LOT of MONEY? THAT I believe.” I was pointing at her face, nearly yelling. “THAT, I BELIEVE.  THAT. I. BELIEVE.”

Then I turned and nearly ran for the door.  

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

I wonder what she thought.  Did she think I was crazy?   I wouldn’t be surprised.  I think I acted a little crazy, myself.  I do think laughing was a better response than for me to fall apart, but raising my voice might have been overkill.

(Not that I was exactly thinking at the time, mind.)

I also wonder what sort of church she attends, whether it’s closer to the more evangelical/fundamentalist one I attended growing up, or the “mainline” churches I’ve attended since. I remember the Evangelism Explosion program I participated in during college.  If you’d filled out a visitor card at our church, we’d knock on your door one evening and offer to answer any questions you had about the church and, perhaps, peddle some religion. It was an earnest group, hoping to change the world for the better.

We did respect “No”, however. We didn’t push. Partly it was that we saw ourselves as representing Christ and the Church, and thus on our best behavior.  But partly it was simple politeness. This was about 10 years after Jim Jones and his People’s Temple had made the “evil cult” a TV staple; we didn’t want to be pushy.

Maybe that woman was a thin, alternate-universe version of me.  I don’t know.  I don’t wish her ill.

(Of course, the more mischevious part of me wonders now if she might have been trying to sell me on two cults for the price of one. Heck, add in Amway / Quixtar, have a trifecta! ;)

10 thoughts on “DayintheLife: Weight-Loss Evangelism

  1. This is really heartbreaking to hear. I have recently decided to give my life back to God but I struggle because of my liberal politics. I still believe in being pro-choice, I still believe in gay, minority and women’s rights. But I was thinking over the times in the past when I was closer to God and news flash, I was still fat. I know now that no amount of dieting and WLS is going to change that.

    Please don’t believe that all fat Christians are trying to lose weight. I thank God that I have the knowledge to know otherwise. Again, this is where things get tricky because people like Sandy over at Junkfood Science, have shown where science has proven that fat is not bad but telling the average Christian that science is right could start a slew of arguments.

    I guess evangelism is just like work or any other place you go to where there’s a need for healthy debate. These churches and Christians will eventually come around. Remember, at the turn of the last century, a lot of Christians refused to wash their hands in the same sink as a black person and in many communities, being an ordained woman pastor was forbidden.

    I’m so sorry that you had to go through this. But I just wanted to let you know that there are Christian feminists out there, such as myself and members of the Christian left, people who believe in liberal politics, God and social justice.
    It’s just that we’re often as heard from as often. And finally, yes there are Christians who are fat and okay with it, just as myself, whose proud to announce that I’ve been diet-free going on 4 years now thanks to the virtues of HAES.

  2. Mari, thank you…

    I’m sorry if I implied that I think all Christians are thin or evil or whatever. That was not my intent. I am aware there are less fundamentalist, more egalitarian types out there – my current church ordains women as well as men, officiates gay marriages, and so on….

    Yes, I was a bit shaken up by the experience, but more than that, I really surprised *myself*. I did not shrink away and feel inadequate because I’m fat. I *laughed*. Yes, a nice, calm short description of fat acceptance might have made more sense – but I’m not sure laughter is all that *bad* a reaction, either. :)

  3. I think you reacted just fine. And one doesn’t need to be religious to be a ‘weight loss evangelist”. I have met plenty of agnostics or atheists who believed that the path to salvation or maybe almost eternal life was through weight loss.

  4. That’s quite a story. The last person who approached me was of the new-age variety. She was peddling a weekend retreat where she would teach acupressure techniques to help you lose weight. I scowled as she explained. Suddenly her story switched to “using acupressure can also help people with body image issues, you know, women who haven’t learned to accept their big, beautiful breasts, or their hips and fannies.” Uh-huh. I said I felt pretty happy with my body, thanks anyway. After she wandered away I looked down at the flyer she’d stuck in my hand. It was all weight loss, all the time, not a word about self esteem or positive body image. I thought it was an interesting exchange. If I’d been more on the ball, I’d have offered her some suggestions about her marketing campaign.

  5. I too am a Christian feminist and believe in the rights of gays, minorities and women. I too struggle like Mari with being pro-choice and rededicating my life to God. Reading your post was eye-opening because churches, if they are not careful, can push fat Christians away. Thank God that the Bible doesn’t have anything bad to say about being fat. My mother is a big-time Christian and we don’t share the same ideologies. Though well-meaning, I wish she (and others) would just accept themselves for who they are. Great post!

  6. my inlaws used to leave brochures at my house to try and help me lose weight. I then found Alanon brochures to leave at their house because my father in law is an alcoholic. They no longer leave brochures for weightloss at my home.

  7. The following questions aren’t intended to incite an argument of any kind:
    1. Are you a christian yourself? just curious.
    2. You keep referring to the “man of the house”. Are you married? just wondering.

  8. I know this is an old post, but when I was a (pudgy) kid, and my oldest (perfectly healthy but not tiny) sister was in her teens, the church organist (a woman who still strikes fear into my heart even though I’m now 31) loaned her a copy of “Help, Lord! The Devil Wants Me Fat!”

    The whole premise was that God created us in His image, and the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we should take care of our bodies. But it didn’t say “the body should be healthy”; it said “the body should be thin.”

    I started to read it once, and never got past the opening chapter, wherein was discussed the title: the Devil is happier when Christians let anything come before God. Because of course if you’re fat all you ever think about is food. And we’re sinners because by eating more than, I don’t know, locusts and honey, we yield to the temptations of the flesh.

    And then, thankfully, I came to the realization that this book was silly (or more accurately, complete and utter bollocks.) The Devil doesn’t care if you’re fat or thin. More likely, he wants you to feel miserable about yourself. Even if that means having a terrifying-but-otherwise-well-intended church organist make a 14-year-old, or a 10-year-old, feel like a sinner for liking food.

    And not for nothing, but isn’t dieting its more extreme forms just the other end of the “obsessing about food” spectrum?

    Sigh. People mean well sometimes, but are still human and flawed in their execution. It’s a pity they have to use “God wants you to” as an argument. That rarely goes over well.

    Sorry for long-windedness; just wanted to share.

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