Overeating a sin?


#1

I'm new to these forums, so I'm sorry if this question has been done to death before. I was talking to a friend of mine recently about my sister - I'm worried about her because she's quite heavy, and I know her husband has been dealing with some heart trouble (he's only 32, and overweight as well)!

I don't want to lose them early, and my friend was telling me that overeating is a sin because it's disrespectful to God & the body. She's very Catholic, my sister, but I know she and her husband do eat a lot. How would I bring this up to her? I know she feels uncomfortable because the rest of us (I have 6 siblings, all adults) are thin and healthy. I don't want to make her embarressed, but I do want her to be healthy and I don't want her to be living "in sin" with regards to eating. :(

Any advice given will be appreciated. Thanks.


#2

Gluttony is a sin, and if gravely offensive to one's health and one's ability to share what one has with others, could be gravely wrong.

Not all overeating is gluttony, however. Even with true gluttony, it is also possible to be less culpable over time, because one has a habit that is so ingrained that one has lost some of one's self-control.

The question for you, however, is not whether your sister is culpable, but how you can best encourage her and her husband to have healthy habits. You might want to read up on eating problems, in order to get an idea of strategies by an extended family member might work and what is expected to be counter-productive. Nevertheless, you cannot respectfully make this anything but their decision. The only time this would not be true is if your sister was directly impacting you: That is, an alcoholic who shows up drunk at family functions or fails to meet commitments, the over-eater who takes so much of the pie and cake that others have to live with small portions of the delicacies, or the liar who expects you to cover for her fibs. In those cases, it is entirely acceptable to put your foot down and refuse to tolerate the transgressions. That would be as true if it were a skinny brother eating half of the pie all by himself, instead of the overweight sister!

If you do approach her, remember that the most important thing part of a message comes after the word "but". If you were to raise this issue with your sister, for instance, what you say might go like this: "Sis, I worry about your weight, because you and I both know that extra weight is a health issue, but I want you to know that I love you and accept you just the way you are. I admire your faith, and I want you to feel free to tell me if there is anything I could do or that you'd rather I not do in order to make you feel I'm on your side when it comes to managing your own health. Does that make sense? I don't want to tell you what to do. I want you to know I want to listen, if you ever want to tell me what to do. I want you to feel you can speak your mind and make your own decisions. I want you to know I'm on your side and trust you to run your own life. I hope that makes sense. If there's anything about me that concerns you, I'd hope I could do the same with you: that is, that I could talk to you and get your help if I wanted it, without giving up control of my own decisions or my right to do without your input if I wanted to. What do you think?" Then you would have to be as good as your word: That is, if she told you to butt out, you'd have to butt out. I think it is very likely that she will say, "Butt out, but thanks for letting me know you accept me as I am. That is nice to know, because sometimes, you being so skinny, I have wondered what you must think of me. I love you, too."


#3

I think it COULD be…it depends on the circumstance. I know I find myself overeating sometimes because I turn to food instead of God. i think that is a sin.


#4

I wish priests would talk about sin in a more natural ebb and flow of the life cycle. And in a way that gently nudges people toward confession of inordinate desires. Our priests don't directly bring up contraception, abortion, sexual acts outside of marriage, etc.

And, both of our priests are overweight, actually obese by medical standards.

Like all addictions, eating becomes a compulsive behavior, and choosing the wrong foods to eat even develops into a compulsive behavior.

I'd suggest encouraging her toward OA (Overeaters Anonymous) it is a semi religious weight loss program and very inexpensive to join. To read the 12 Steps, you'd think it was orthodox Christian, but people of various faiths join the 12 Steps and the word God can mean various things to various people.

There is a free 60 day Protestant Scripture Study weightloss group online at:

settingcaptivesfree.com/resources/book/lords-table/

They talk about feeding on the Word, etc. and it might help to orient her weight loss toward a desire to please God through healthy eating and healthy lifestyles.


#5

**12 Step of OA **

We admitted that we were powerless over food - that our lives had become unmanageable.

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


#6

With the possible exception of those just awakening from a years-long coma, every fat person in the civilized world knows several things:
That they are fat.
That being fat is unhealthy.
That one must eat better and exercise more to lose weight.
That all their skinny relatives and friends want them to lose weight.There is just no possible way to relate any of this information (which they already know all too well) to them without being hurtful, no matter how sincerely you insist that you love them the way they are. If you want to open the possibility of a conversation, tread carefully. Perhaps bring up the subject in reference to yourself, or to a less dangerous subject, like cooking. If your fat loved one picks up the conversation, great. If not, let it go.

Example of a good opening: I just made the best stuff for dinner last night. I used Rachael Ray’s recipe for *spaghetti squash *with tomato sauce instead of pasta. Who knew something healthy could actually be good? Even the kids liked it.

Signed,
A fatty myself losing weight slowly because people have mercifully left me alone about it.


#7

:thumbsup:

From another current fatty trying to achieve non-fatty status, I salute you.

I was raised by divorced parents, one hated my weight and the other encouraged junk food (ever seen War of the Roses?) As such, I’ve gone in and out of weight trouble all of my life. I’m currently “overweight” as opposed to clinically obese, but I’m edging toward the other if I don’t watch it.

So many nasty remarks… my aunt used to call me Petunia Pig (porky’s girlfriend) and my dad used to comment on my weight all. the. time. I hated myself. I actually burned most of my childhood pictures because I wanted everyone to forget me.

I’d say doing THAT to someone is probably a bigger sin than the overeating. Not that either one is a good thing to do.

Being judgmental or making the person feel badly about the situation won’t help. They don’t call em’ “comfort foods” for nothing, after all.

I would say, encourage healthy habits (invite on a hike, etc, don’t invite out for food-related stuff…don’t buy a gift certificate to the Cheesecake Factory, etc) and love her for who she is.

We all want to be loved for who we are…not who others want us to be, anyway. Can’t go wrong there. Love is always a good thing.


#8

Good post!

I’m a big woman, and over the past year, I’ve lost 50 pounds. I have another 50 pounds to go, and it will take another year, maybe more, to lose it healthily and permanently. My husband has lost about 20 pounds in the last year, and continues to lose.

I work with a dietician, in case anyone is wondering what “method” I’m using. She has me eating 1800 calories a day (not bad!), and I try to work out for an hour and a half at least 3-5 days a week. (This type of exercise routine probably wouldn’t work for anyone with children living at home, especially if they are small children.)

My suggestion to the OP is to buy and read the book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A Kessler, M.D. (Rodale, 2009)

Dr. Kessler is a former FDA commissioner. In this wonderful, eye-opening book he describes various research that reveals why so many Americans overeat, with the result that many of us are fat (not all–some people overeat and manage to stay thin).

There are very concrete and complex reasons why people overeat, and just talking to a a fat person will probably NOT help the matter at all. This book will help you to understand your sister, and you won’t blunder in and cause hurt feelings and create a rift between the two of you. Also, sometimes a fat person who feels “cornered” will eat even more in a desperate attempt to hide his/her feelings of panic and shame. You don’t want this to happen to your sister.

Please get this book and read it. And I recommend it to other fat people and thin people as well. Seriously, after I read this book, my husband and I cut our eating out from 6 days a week to only two days a week. It’s a scary book! But I would say that reading it was the beginning of my quest to stop gaining weight and get control of my health.


#9

Good post!

I’m a big woman, and over the past year, I’ve lost 50 pounds. I have another 50 pounds to go, and it will take another year, maybe more, to lose it healthily and permanently. My husband has lost about 20 pounds in the last year, and continues to lose.

I work with a dietician, in case anyone is wondering what “method” I’m using. She has me eating 1800 calories a day (not bad!), and I try to work out for an hour and a half at least 3-5 days a week. (This type of exercise routine probably wouldn’t work for anyone with children living at home, especially if they are small children.)

My suggestion to the OP is to buy and read the book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A Kessler, M.D. (Rodale, 2009)

Dr. Kessler is a former FDA commissioner. In this wonderful, eye-opening book he describes various research that reveals why so many Americans overeat, with the result that many of us are fat (not all–some people overeat and manage to stay thin).

There are very concrete and complex reasons why people overeat, and just talking to a a fat person will probably NOT help the matter at all. This book will help you to understand your sister, and you won’t blunder in and cause hurt feelings and create a rift between the two of you. Also, sometime a fat person who feels “cornered” will eat even more in a desperate attempt to hide his/her feelings of panic and shame. You don’t want this to happen to your sister.

Please get this book and read it. And I recommend it to other fat people and thin people as well. Seriously, after I read this book, my husband and I cut our eating out from 6 days a week to only two days a week. It’s a scary book! But I would say that reading it was the beginning of my quest to stop gaining weight and get control of my health.


#10

Thanks everyone who responded! I'll have to think all your advice over before talking to my sister. Umm..when I do talk to her, should I mention their children at all - the girls especially are 8 and 10, they're already getting picked on in school for their weight (we just heard about a nasty incident over the weekend, which breaks my heart, they're such sweet girls!)

I do realize that having so many fit family members probably makes it harder for my sister to discuss this with us, I dread the possibility of hurting my sister, but I also dread the though of her growing old disliking her body and unhappy with how she lived her life.

Thank you again!


#11

Why are you assuming she dislikes her own body? I don’t know how you tell her what you’re suggesting without coming out and saying it: If her body were your body, you wouldn’t like it, and if her life were your life, you’d be unhappy with how you’ve lived it…so much so that you “dread” her going on as she is even more than you dread hurting her by saying so. There is not a nice way to put that…and heaven help us all, if* she* ever says she doesn’t like her body, do not ever ever agree with her!!! You may as well tell someone who is depressed that you find their desire to die understandable! There are many times when agreeing with someone is a way of kicking them while they’re feeling down. This instance is very high on that list.

You do not learn to like your body by getting skinny! The problem your nieces have is also not with their bodies. The problem is their classmates, who give themselves permission to be cruel. If the girls are going to a school where people will make fun of your weight, be very sure that getting the heavy kids to lose weight is not what the school needs. Losing the inhumane attitude is what the school needs. In the meantime, the girls need to know how Christian people deal with the cruelties and thoughtlessness that life throws at them in the guise of people they might have hoped to have had as friends. The only up side is that they won’t have nearly as much trouble as those with less obvious differences can have when it comes to seeing who is worthy of their friendship.

You also have to let your sister be totally in charge of being happy with how she is living your life. Do not ever presume to speak as if you might know that better than she does. You will hurt her, and you will probably anger her, too.

Until you can get your priorities straight–that is, that your job is accepting her and being of help when she asks for it–I think it is better to mind your own business about the health issues in her family. As one poster noted, it is impossible that she is ignorant of them.

The only thing that might come as news to her is that you see her health issue as no more than one of a number of issues that everyone has, including you, that you don’t judge yourself to be superior to her based on the fact that her issue is harder to hide, and that you are not offering help that you would not welcome her to offer when it comes to your own long-standing faults. What fault do you have that you dread looking back on in your life? (After all, we’re all Christians, so we spend much more time dreading the effects of our own sins far more than we dread the effects of anyone else’s, right?)

If you don’t want her to give you a free assessment of your most serious faults and hints on how to fix them rather than passing them onto your kids, then maybe this is not a conversation that is anything like ready to happen. That is a conversation that takes a great deal of humility on all sides, and very few people can stand to have it with anyone except those with whom they feel extremely secure. If that isn’t a mutual relationship you have with your sister, don’t bring up the topic of her weight until she does. When she does, let her do the talking. You support her, you offer to be available in whatever way she might feel inclined to suggest, and that’s it. No more.

Truly: I think if you see this in light of imagining that one of your own issues were one that is widely condemned, you will see what I mean.

If you’re trying to give up a difficult habit, like smoking, you might call her and ask for her advice and support. I wouldn’t expect her to reciprocate, though.


#12

I honestly think you should mind your own bussiness. Nobody likes being overweight, I am sure she already knows. I fshe mentions she is trying to lose weight by all means support her. For now I suggest you just pray for her.


#13

I tried to say it nicely in my first post. Now I'll be a little more forthcoming.

Don't talk to your sister at all, ever, about her weight. If she brings it up, that's different--follow her lead and listen lots. But don't YOU bring it up, ever.

Read that book that I recommended, but don't talk to your sister about it. The book is to help YOU understand.

Those who aren't overweight have no clue about what overweight and obese people are going through. You won't be helpful, and you might just send her over the top and bring on an eating binge that won't stop until she's gained a hundred pounds more. Seriously. Just don't take a chance.

Just accept your sister for who she is and what she looks like. If you can't hide your disgust with a fat sister, then stay away from her altogether until you learn. I hope it doesn't get to that point. Hopefully if your sister had any other illness or disorder, you wouldn't avoid her. So try not to avoid her because she's fat.


#14

Please listen to Cat.

No matter what you actually say and what you actually mean, here is what your sister will hear:
"You are obviously too stupid to figure this out for yourself, so I'm going to tell you. You are fat. You are unattractive. You are probably unhealthy and will die soon. Your kids are fat, too, and that's your fault. I, as a thin, fit person, am superior to you, but I will share my vast knowledge of how to live life properly with you."
As the kind, loving person you are, I'm quite certain you have none of this in mind as you think how much you love her and how much you want her to be thin and healthy. But I promise you, this is what she'll hear.

Please don't say anything.


#15

Technically, overeating is a sin because its not healthy to your body. God said that your body is a 'holy temple'. A gift, that you are supposed to take care of. Doing things that hurts your body is destroying your temple. However even though we should eat healthy, eating some pizza everynow and then is okay. Alcohol isn't necessarily good for your body but it is okay in moderation just like god turning water to wine. He didn't do that for no reason. ;) Just don't over do it.


#16

After reading your post, I went back to reread mine, to see where I went wrong. I didn’t mean to cause such offense. Maybe if I explain better. I know my sister doesn’t like her body because she says so, often. I know she is upset with how she is living her life because she complains often about not having the strength or the energy anymore to do the things she used to do. I dread her continuing on this path because I see the effect it’s had on her, her family, her friendships, and her spiritual life.

You do not learn to like your body by getting skinny! The problem your nieces have is also not with their bodies. The problem is their classmates, who give themselves permission to be cruel. If the girls are going to a school where people will make fun of your weight, be very sure that getting the heavy kids to lose weight is not what the school needs. Losing the inhumane attitude is what the school needs. In the meantime, the girls need to know how Christian people deal with the cruelties and thoughtlessness that life throws at them in the guise of people they might have hoped to have had as friends. The only up side is that they won’t have nearly as much trouble as those with less obvious differences can have when it comes to seeing who is worthy of their friendship.

I realize that you don’t learn to like your body by getting skinny, but I think that if you do treat your body better, it will treat you better. If you treat your body like a dump, your body will turn on you. My nieces have to be excused from many gym activities, can do very littel on the playground, and this is a body problem, even if their treatment by their peers obviously isn’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them, I only thought I ought to encourage my sister to take care of the girls’ health better. Why is that wrong?

Until you can get your priorities straight–that is, that your job is accepting her and being of help when she asks for it–I think it is better to mind your own business about the health issues in her family. As one poster noted, it is impossible that she is ignorant of them.

This, especially, confused me. My job, as I see it, is to love her - absolutely and unconditionally, not to accept her absolutely and unconditionally. My sister actually saved me years ago by not minding her own business about health issues in my life. She confronted me, and told me in no uncertain terms that the lifestyle I was living would kill me quickly. Why is it that weight is different?

The only thing that might come as news to her is that you see her health issue as no more than one of a number of issues that everyone has, including you, that you don’t judge yourself to be superior to her based on the fact that her issue is harder to hide, and that you are not offering help that you would not welcome her to offer when it comes to your own long-standing faults. What fault do you have that you dread looking back on in your life? (After all, we’re all Christians, so we spend much more time dreading the effects of our own sins far more than we dread the effects of anyone else’s, right?)

My sister knows I have issues, better than almost anyone, and she knows I know my issues are a constant struggle for me. One of the reasons I wanted advice on this topic is because it is difficult for me to play the role of counselor, when I have for so long be supported by her.

If you don’t want her to give you a free assessment of your most serious faults and hints on how to fix them rather than passing them onto your kids, then maybe this is not a conversation that is anything like ready to happen. That is a conversation that takes a great deal of humility on all sides, and very few people can stand to have it with anyone except those with whom they feel extremely secure. If that isn’t a mutual relationship you have with your sister, don’t bring up the topic of her weight until she does. When she does, let her do the talking. You support her, you offer to be available in whatever way she might feel inclined to suggest, and that’s it. No more

.

As I said before, my sister has given me a free and unwanted assesment of my faults, it saved my life. I think that the idea of accepting someones distruction of their own body, whether slowly, in her case, or quicker, in mine, is morally negligent. Being overweight is much more acceptable, but the more I hear in the news, and the more I see my sister and her family struggling, the less I can consider sitting back to watch.


#17

I must have miss-spoke. I'm sorry to give so much offense to all those who wrote to help.

I'd like to clarify:

I'm not disgusted by my sister. I'm scared for my sister. I'm scared for her husband and her children. I don't want them to grow up unhealthy, and obesity is unhealthy.

I don't understand why I can't talk to her at all about her weight, if she were a smoker, or an alcoholic, I would be encouraged, I think, to talk to her, especially if she were offering cigarettes and liquor to her kids. Why is obesity so different when it is just as unhealthy?

I have always understood my role to be one of love, not acceptance. Acceptance feels too much like indifference in situations like these.

As for my sister thinking of me as the morally superior one coming down to lecture, she knows too many of my faults for that. My sister gave her own free and unwanted advice to me years ago, when I was being horrible unhealthy in different ways. It saved my life. How could I possibly ignore her situation when she risked our entire relationship to confront me with mine?

I do realize that this is a sensitive topic for many people, and I'm sorry if I sound like I'm judging you personally. Thank you for taking the time to answer, even in frustration with me.


#18

What are you going to tell her that she doesn’t already know? Play through the scene in your mind and imagine her reaction and how she will change her behavior as a result - for better or for worse.

She’s already had to buy new. larger clothes. She’s already noticed it’s harder to walk long distances and go up stairs. She already feels uncomfortable in her own skin. She’s already bought large clothes for her children and heard the stories of how they are bullied because of their weight. Can you really add something meaningful to this?

She sees the effect her weight issues have on her immediate family. Will it be helpful to her to add to this the need to be concerned about your fears for her family and herself?

Ultimately, only you know your sister. Only you know what it was that she helped you with and if that was as shameful and embarrassing to you as your expressing your feelings about her weight could be for her.

Please at least think about going at this indirectly. Buy a new cookbook - maybe one that has a Food Network personality cooking lighter foods - and cook your way through it with her just for fun. Share your enthusiasm for something that requires walking, like enjoying the autumn leaves and farmers’ markets or going to huge shopping malls to Christmas shop. Start a conversation by asking what she thinks about the First Lady’s childhood obesity campaign - is Michelle Obama too much into people’s private business, or will it be helpful? Someplace in California, the city fathers are thinking about banning Happy Meal toys from McDonald’s. What does she think of that? Any of these jumping off points will be much less hurtful than, “Dear sister of mine, I’m so worried about your weight.”

Weight really is different from other unhealthy habits. It’s out there for the whole world to see and react to, every single day. Please realize that as you try to help your sister. I have no doubt that you are doing it out of love. Just be careful.

Betsy


closed #19

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