Jesus Is The Weigh
If you want to slim for Him, there are now plenty of programs, books, and DVDs to help you. Christian diets are now part of a multi-million dollar industry. Many are claiming that faith is providing the ingredients missing from traditional diet programs that tend to be universally discredited as inevitably failing and even leading to weight increase.
Overeaters Victorious was founded by 248-pound Neva Coyle from Minnesota, who had failed at every commercial diet program she tried. She turned to the Bible and lost 100 pounds. The ingredients provided by faith are motivation, and power to do the impossible.
Faith can provide a positive and a negative motivation. First, there can be the positive desire to please a deity. Programs such as Praise Aerobics, or Praise Moves (the Christian alternative to Yoga) can tap into this motivation in two ways. On a surface level, you can participate in worship as you move to the worship tape that is played as you exercise. On a deeper level you can please ‘the Master’ by caring for your body (the body that he made and gave you as a gift) for him. And subliminally, of course, you are making yourself beautiful for him (Roman Catholic nuns don’t have the monopoly of being married to Jesus).
This aspect of motivation reminds me that the religious diet industry is, of course, aimed at women, not men. We all know that there are no such things as fat Christian men. But if there were, not all of them who might want to shed the odd pound or 20, would find it easy to identify with the deeper, positive (and possibly subliminally sexual) motivation described above.
The second aspect of motivation that faith can provide is guilt. I know, from personal experience, that many over-weight people feel plenty of guilt anyway – guilt about how they think they look and how others see them, guilt about what is happening long-term inside their bodies and how they are shortening their lives, and guilt about their failure to maintain weight-loss, despite momentous efforts over a few inspiring weeks. Faith can just increase that guilt immensely by making size a sin.
Titles such as The Weigh Down Diet, and Free To Be Thin suggest that your spiritual life is lacking in some way if you are fat, that your spiritual development is being ‘held back’. C. S. Lovett’s Help Lord—The Devil Wants Me Fat! was much more direct. The battle is not against flesh and blood (and fat!) but against principalities and powers and Satan himself. If your girth grows you are giving into Satan, and no self-respecting Christian wants to be seen to be doing that. If you are fat you are not a proper Christian and you should feel guilty about that, guilty that you are defiling your body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Too much size joins the ranks of pre-marital sex, adultery, dishonesty, alcoholism, drug addiction, and theft. You are a failed dieter and a blatant and obvious sinner.
In addition to providing motivation, faith is also meant to give you access to the secret power, the divine Spirit to enable you to resist temptation. You can pray for strength. There are even books of diet prayers that you can buy especially for the purpose.
I would just love someone to do some long-term studies evaluating the long-term weight loss in secular and faith based programs. Perhaps it has already been done. There is certainly a Ph.D. waiting to be written if not. I suspect that both types of program would show little difference between them, and both would result in little (if any) long-term loss and both may result in weight gain. The fear of god’s disapproval may, for a time, provide extra motivation in resisting deep-fried chocolate bars, and therefore create the illusion that you are receiving divine aid. However, I doubt that it would last.
One reason for my own loss of faith (see Coming Out) was my growing conviction that my faith did not provide any convincing ability to produce deep, long-term change. Christian dieters are encouraged to pray about their weight loss, but as others have argued, if prayer really works, why doesn’t god heal amputees? (See also They Always Win.)
There are several things wrong with this industry. As I have already suggested, it tends to lay the burden on women and ignore men, it is scientifically suspect and likely to lead to weight gain in the long-term, and it increases the layers of guilt that the fat already have which ultimately harms self-esteem. One of the more interesting objection to it comes from R. Marie Griffith (Professor of Religion at Princeton University and author of such books as God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission, and Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit). In an article in The Christian Century Foundation she writes:
What marks the more recent literature as distinctive is not its concern with corporeal thinness and good health per se but the apparent willingness of authors to accept, ardently and without flinching, the somatic standards of the wider culture and convert them into divine decree. “Think of your ‘promised land’ as a thin body,” writes one author. Another insists that God wants us aware that “sloppy fat, hanging all over the place (or even well girdled), is not a good Christian witness and is not healthy.” Here and elsewhere, diet writers display rather too little critical reflection on the profaner sources of these assumptions, such as the modern commodified images of seduction that make an idol out of hungry-looking, sexualized beauty.
There is an irony here that I find pleasingly satisfying. Just as Christmas (the season that results in tonnes of excess fat and produces the annual diet bonanza) was originally a pagan festival that the church kidnapped and used for its own benefit, so too the diet industry which has a large part of its origins in sexual seduction, is now being adapted and used for god’s service.
Before I let you go (for a coffee and doughnut) there is one program that is SO good (it really, really is) it deserves a special mention. It is the Saint Margaret of Cortona Weight Loss Package provided by Cukierski Family Sacramentals. The fat person is reminded of The (Roman) Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, VXIII, p. 293 which says:
One of the most remarkable effects of sacramentals is the virtue to drive away evil spirits whose mysterious and baleful operations affect sometimes the physical activity of man. To combat this occult power the Church has recourse to exorcism, and sacramentals.
If you are seeking to lose weight (presumably after having given in to the evil spirits mentioned above – and I don’t think he’s talking about gin here), the site author assures you:
St. Margaret WILL intercede for you and I’m here to help give you earthly support. I pray I can keep you motivated with my journal. In addition, we have a whole group of prayer warriors who will be praying for you, too!
After having helpfully reminded us that our bodies will be raised up on the last day and that we don’t want god having a hard time lifting ours, the author goes on to explain:
Why St. Margaret of Cortona? Because she is the PATRON SAINT AGAINST TEMPTATION! We wouldn’t be needing this package if we had avoided the temptation to “overeat” (I call it the over active fork syndrome!) St. Margaret can help us AVOID the temptation if only we call upon her!
If we are able to make a donation of only $29.99 (perhaps a donation rather than a charge as a way for the site author of avoiding paying tax) we will receive the following to help us in our dieting:
- St Margaret of Cortona Chaplet Beads
- St Margaret of Cortona Prayer Cloth
- A Bottle of Holy Relic Oil – touched to the first class relics of St. Philomena, St. Lucy, St. Anthony, St. Colette, St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Dominic Savio, Holy House of Loreto, St. Pio, St. Therese of Avila, St.Agatha, St. Barbara, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Margaret, St Dorothy & St. Catherine!
- A Special Prayer Card
- A Special Crucifix imported from Italy
- A Holy Oil History Sheet
- A Certificate of Holy Oil Authenticity
- A Bottle of Water with Exorcism Blessing
- A Package of Blessed Salt
I somehow don’t think that I will be ordering a St Margaret of Cortona package to help me battle my bulges. However, I do have a few female friends with birthdays coming up. I wonder …