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Fat Girl

By Michelle Lehnardt

the first of a two-part series

If you want to see me come undone, just make fun of the chubby kid.

BYU. 1989. Religion 324: Doctrine & Covenants Manual pg. 382.

My aged instructor read Question A out loud:

“Why did God give me a body that is fat and ugly? I’ll never get a date because I’m too homely.”

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, but the pretty brunette across the aisle shot her hand into the air, “That’s ridiculous! God didn’t make her fat—she did it to herself. The spiritual solution here is to stop feeding her face.”

Laughter rippled across the classroom, but my spine stiffened and I rose to my feet. “Don’t you laugh! Obesity is a genetic curse; if you’ve never had to face it you don’t know what you are talking about.”

Shaking, I turned, slowly scanning every face in the classroom before dropping back into my chair.


Yes, yes, yes, I know. American obesity rates are horrific. Mormon obesity rates aren’t much better. As a people we need to turn off the TV, lengthen our stride and throw away the funeral potatoes. Thanks to the Word of Wisdom and our spacious ward gymnasiums we should be the healthiest people on the planet.

But individually, it’s not that simple. Modern science is finally proving what we’ve always known—that the same diet and activity level can result in vastly different body shapes. It’s not about “calories in, calories out” as much as it is “how much does your mother weigh? Your brothers and uncles and grandmother?”

My mother was fat. And it killed her. But not in the way you’d assume.

Shortly before her death this summer, my mother was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder: Cushing’s Disease. Cushing’s causes a round face, a hump in the back, depression, pain, uncontrollable weight gain.

Her weight was a symptom of her illness. Not the cause.

For years my mother had visited doctors complaining of poor health. The right blood test or MRI would have alerted doctors to her ridiculously high cortisol levels and/or revealed the tumors forming in her liver. But the doctors never looked that closely—they took one look at her bloated body and told her, “Go home, honey. Lose weight. You’ll feel better.”

I’m furious about that advice now, because an early diagnosis could have saved her years of agony. And instead of sobbing over the breakfast dishes this morning because my five-year-old asked, “Do you think I’ll get to play Candyland with Grandma Zoe in heaven someday?” I could simply call my mom and arrange a play date.

I see prejudice against fat people everywhere. Certainly in advertising and on airplanes and at sporting events, but also at the mall where an overweight woman is ignored by salespeople and the slender one is fawned over. Are heavy people judged at church? I think so. The assumption is that they lack self-discipline, holy restraint.

The answer in the Doctrine & Covenants manual is thought provoking (in fact the entire discussion is excellent) “I realize that I have been placed in a body that is not thought of as physically beautiful. But my study of the Savior convinces me that what really matters to Him is inner beauty. If the kind of body I have to live with is important to my salvation, then He would have given me a different body. I will try to make myself outwardly as attractive as possible, but my real desire is to become spiritually beautiful.”

I find this sentence especially intriguing: “If the kind of body I have to live with is important to my salvation, then He would have given me a different body.” I’ve often thought that life would be easier if we were all given a standard issue body, similar levels of intelligence and an equal inheritance of wealth and talents. But that’s not the Lord’s plan.

Why do you think the Lord gave us unique situations rather than a more uniform life experience? What can we learn from each other’s abilities and weaknesses? Do you see bias against overweight people? Do you struggle with your own body?

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

74 thoughts on “Fat Girl”

  1. Thank you Michelle. Thank you.

    I have an Aunt and Uncle who have always struggled with their weight, from childhood (at his heaviest my Uncle weighed between 400 and 500 pounds). They were sent to fat camps as children, were ridiculed endlessly, often by their own parents. I spent summers with this Aunt and Uncle and their children as a child (they babysat me daily while my mom worked), growing up one town away until I was in my mid-twenties. We shared every holiday and celebration. They ate no differently than myself, their habits met none of the stereotypes that society places on fat people. All three of their children struggle with their weight.

    And although my life and weight trajectory has been different (I struggle to stay anywhere between 100 and 200 pounds whereas they fight to stay between 200 and 300), I feel personally assaulted when I hear easy quips about weight loss and fat people. That being said, my cousins face their weight challenges with humor and love. One of them served a mission to South Africa where one of the first things people said when they met her was, "You are SOOOO fat" said with a smile, a simple acknowledgment of fact. She learned to smile back and say, 'Yes, I am'. It wasn't meant to be offensive and she didn't take it that way. She has come to accept herself, but that doesn't mean it's easy.

    That being said, living in Europe has helped me notice a huge difference between how Americans look and how Europeans look, especially as young people. There are problems with American FOOD that, I think, has contributed to problems with its consumption and contributed to the weight gain by those of us who are already pre-disposed.

  2. I agree that genes play a large role. However, I think there is a difference between overweight and obeses. Genes can make you overweight or "chubby" (which 20 years ago wouldn't even be considered chubby) but I don't believe they make you obese. Both of my parents are very overweight and I've struggled with mine for manny years but I understand where genes cut off and where my role comes in.

  3. "my study of the Savior convinces me that what really matters to Him is inner beauty"
    Although true, living in the world doesn't make this easier to embrace and internalize.

    Nowhere in the scriptures have I been able to find a description of the ideal body shape or weight. I'm convinced that, knowing our strengths and weaknesses so intimately, the Lord knew what he was doing when he gave us the gene pools we were born into.

    It breaks my heart to read your post, because discrimination against obesity is a REAL societal problem. Discrimination in any form is wrong… is it human nature to practice it? If there were no overweight people in the world, sadly, there would still be discrimination.

  4. Anyone who has ever tried to lose serious weight would never say things like the girl in your class. Losing 30 lbs was one of the hardest things I've ever done. People think that just doing diet and exercise is a matter of willpower or putting in the time, but our bodies are far more complicated than that. Watch "The Biggest Loser" and see how those people can eat professionally-engineered healthy diets and exercise upwards of six hours a day, and yet some weeks only lose a single pound.

  5. I'll probably get thrown under the bus for this comment, but I don't see how airlines or sporting events (or movie theatres or compact car manufacturers) are "prejudiced against fat people." If you make that claim, then you'd certainly have to say they're also prejudiced against tall people. My husband is 6'5" and spends much of his time when in any of these locations sitting uncomfortably with his knees practically up to his chin. When these people are designing their venues, I think it's profitability and space-efficiency, not prejudice, that motivates their decisions. Is it selfish of me to say that I don't think they should have to make their seats a foot wider, especially when it means an increase in cost for everyone else? Yes it is. But really, there is prejudice out there against all different kinds of body types: amusement parks have height minimums for rides. Door frames are generally less 7 feet high, creating a hazard for tall people. There is a social stigma against short men. Tall women are seen as "intimidating." Dress and bra shopping are a nightmare for women with flat chests. Women with large chests get unwanted attention and ditto on the dress and bra shopping. People with crooked teeth or some accents or speech impediments are often viewed to be less intelligent. And let's be honest: I know I deem many beautiful women "stuck up" before I even talk to them. The list goes on. I guess my main point is that everyone experiences prejudice of some kind. Sometimes it's vindictive, and sometimes, like with clothes or seat-sizes, it's because it's just cheaper to accommodate 95% of the population than it is to try and accommodate everyone.

    My rantings aside, I do appreciate the themes of this post–it's so easy to look at someone and judge quickly based on what we see, when we really have no idea what storms they're weathering. Thanks, Michelle, for a sorely needed prod in the conscience.

  6. I agree with Maralise. Start doing some reading into our FOOD and you get a real eye-opener. Try books by Robyn O'Brien and Michael Pollen. I can't comment on weight issues, but I think we can all benefit by learning about food additives, chemicals, pesticides, and genetically altered foods.

  7. Excellent post, Michelle.

    There's an excellent article in the most recent issue of Newsweek that discusses the alarming rate of obesity in babies. (I don't know how to imbed a link in a comment, but you can find the article here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/215179).

    Scientists noticed that babies have been getting fatter, and given that babies only drink breast milk or formula and have never been much given to cardio workouts, they started looking for another cause and the evidence points to environmental chemicals that mimic hormones, called "obseogens". One good quote from the article: " . . . Environmental chemicals may well account for a good part of the current epidemic, especially in those under 50. And at the individual level, exposure to the compounds during a critical period of development may explain one of the most frustrating aspects of weight gain: you eat no more than your slim friends, and exercise no less, yet are still unable to shed pounds."

    It's a fascinating article and lends credence to the idea that weight loss is NOT as simple as just calories in, calories out. Yes, we do need to take responsibility for our choices, no matter our weight, but for some people the deck is pretty stacked and being "thin" might be virtually impossible. We can all be healthy through our choices. But not all of us can be skinny.

  8. interesting timing on this topic michelle. i've been pretty down lately about the almost 20 pounds i've put on in the last couple months. i weigh more now than i ever have, besides from months 7-9 of my pregnancies. this has not been an easy thing for me to handle, and i find myself wondering where it stops. initially i think it was due to some medication i was on. but i stopped taking it, and have continued to gain. in my case i don't believe it's genetic…but the reason for it is of little consolation. the end is the same whether it's from meds, or genes, or lack of control: my clothes are too tight, my garments have been splitting up the seems and i had to buy more (why is mormon underware so expensive?! it's worse than victoria secret prices!) and i don't like going out because most of my clothes aren't fitting me well and i feel frumpy. but i can't afford to go upsize my whole wardrobe…still hoping i lose it.

    this is a newish struggle for me. i can't imagine living with it for years. i don't know how some people do it. i admire the story about the sister missionary in africa who made peace with her body…that must be key. and i look around me wherever i am and there are beautiful people of all shapes and sizes that i think are attractive…so i know it's not just size in my case. there are other issues at play in my self-perception.

    for now, i'm trying to find motivation to exercise (and an exercise that won't cause injury which i seem prone to when i try running), and gain control over my caloric intake. i am not comfortable with the idea of just getting "okay" with the extra 20 pounds. and i'm still trying to become beautiful on the inside…where it counts. ♥

  9. living in Europe has helped me notice a huge difference between how Americans look and how Europeans look, especially as young people.

    A huge difference? With 20% of Austrian kids overweight and the highest concentration live in Vienna, the gap is narrowing at a steady pace.

  10. I could go on for hours, but to stay on topic I've pasted your questions-

    Why do you think the Lord gave us unique situations rather than a more uniform life experience?

    Because our spirits are all unique so we need unique physical bodies to go with them!

    What can we learn from each other’s abilities and weaknesses?

    My answer is another question – What can't we learn from each other? There is so much I don't understand about people, but if you'll communicate it to me I will do my best to listen. I would like to think if I understood people better I'd be more compassionate. Tell me your story so I can love you more. I want to be better, help me to be better.

    Do you see bias against overweight people?

    Yes, I think I have them too. My Dad is a construction worker and told every polically incorrect joke in the book. I have tried to correct those stereotypes but some are reinforced by society and discrimination against the obese is one. A TV show is actually changing my attitude – I love to watch "Ruby" she is losing weight, showing her human side. It teaches me the reality of huge weight loss (I've lost 30 lbs, but not 100+), she is just like me, with hurts and trials, but maybe even greater because she gets stares and taunts and is still a sweet open hearted person. (I can't imagine having a bed break under me.) My heart goes out to the obese in a new way because Ruby has been brave enough to tell her story on national television.

    Do you struggle with your own body?

    The struggle with my body is different. My struggle is with undiagnosed pain. There is a stereotype of people that are ill being lazy, trying to get help or money when they don't deserve it. I don't want help. I want to do it myself. I don't want or need money. I want to be well. I'm not a hypochondriac. I don't want to bore you with my endless litany of medical stories but if you ask, be prepared to listen.

    I definately understand your frustration with doctors. You go to them with hope and often go away instead feeling hurt and lost. Just another chance for me to go to the Savior. I ask him to open up avenues not seen to men, so that I can function enough to care for my family.

    I'm sorry Cushings disease took your Mom away too soon and that she wasn't given the care and compassion she deserved.

  11. I heard some nutritionist say something a few months ago that continues to stick with me: not everyone can be thin, but everyone can be healthy. If we all ate the same diet and did the same exercises, we'd still all have different body shapes. I think that Heavenly Father's idea of beauty is far different than society's, and that there is an enormous range of "beautiful," and that's why we all have different physical responses to food.

  12. jendoop– you made me cry. I love you! I love your question, "What can’t we learn from each other? There is so much I don’t understand about people, but if you’ll communicate it to me I will do my best to listen. I would like to think if I understood people better I’d be more compassionate. Tell me your story so I can love you more. I want to be better, help me to be better. "

    Lindsay– point well taken on the discrimination issue. My 6'4" frequent flier husband would certainly agree. I guess what I'm especially sensitive about is when people complain about sitting next to the fat guy. My hubby came home recently from a trip and said he sat next to an unusually large woman. He said he just felt bad for her because she was clearly embarrassed during the entire flight and literally hugging the window. It just seems like it would be nice to have a few rows of wider seats, you know?

    jen– I adore Michael Pollan and my mom did too! Because of her lifelong weight struggle, she taught me to eat whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies and no processed foods. She felt like Pollan validated her personal philosophy. And isn't it interesting how Pollan's thoughts subscribe so closely to the Word of Wisdom? He also encourages people to keep the Sabbath Day just for the enviromental impact. Awesome stuff.

    Angela– thanks for that Newsweek link. THANK YOU!

    And Blue, let's go on a walk.

  13. My sister is tall and naturally very skinny, to the point that she has a hard time keeping weight on. She once worked with several women who were very mean to her and told her often (in a 'joking' way) that they 'hated' her for being so skinny. It was painfully obvious that they were just externalizing their own discomfort and pain by putting it onto another person. Unfortunately it made her work experience terrible whenever she shared a shift with these women because they spent so much time focusing on their bodies and on hers.

    I think that all of our different types of physical bodies are just another part of our test here in mortality. I also think that Satan exploits this diversity to keep us from focusing more on things that really matter. Obviously we know that are bodies are a vital part of our soul and that we should take care of them and treat them well. But I think we often spend too much time (and money) focusing on outward appearances, our own and those of others, instead of really learning to see who people are on the inside.

  14. Our bodies can be such a disappointment to us. They are mortal, after all. But our bodies are also one of our greatest gifts. We know that our soul is both our body and spirit together. We can't do something bad to our bodies and have our spirit escape the consequences. The Word of Wisdom is a spirtual law. To take care of this wonderful gift God has given us we need to eat right, sleep right, get exercise and avoid harmful substances (which probably includes most food Americans eat, i.e. processed). But even after doing all these things we won't have the "perfect" body or all the same body. But we can be healthy. I thik people can carry extra weight and still be healthy.

    For me personally it is not so much what I see in the mirror but what my habits are that determine how I feel about my body.

  15. "Why do you think the Lord gave us unique situations rather than a more uniform life experience?"

    I think we have different bodies basically because of evolution. There's lots of genetic diversity in this world. Lots.

    "What can we learn from each other’s abilities and weaknesses?"

    To be grateful. To be compassionate.

    "Do you see bias against overweight people?"

    I haven't noticed it much, but I haven't really been looking for it, either.

    "Do you struggle with your own body?"

    Yes, I've always wished I had a body shape more like my sisters. Now that I'm in my 30s, I'm starting to feel like I can accept myself without losing 15 lbs, but it's taking a long time to get here.

  16. I feel like no woman can win when she listens to what others tell her how her body should look. One is too thin, one is too fat, another has bigger hips while yet another has nothing in the way of a chest size. It's taken me a long time to accept my body the way it is, to get to know it and understand how to keep it healthy, and to feel good about the way I look. It doesn't seem to matter what a female looks like – it seems to never be good enough for those around them.

  17. i was listening to a show the other day and the interviewer had worked with athletes and models and people of all types for years, and routinely asked them if they were at peace with their bodies, if they liked themselves. the universal response: "NO". that no matter how "perfect" they were, there was always something about them that they wished were different.

    and if their bodies were deemed "good enough", then their attention shifted to some other thing about them that they didn't like…and then nipping and tucking, bleaching and lasering, dying and cutting and make-over'ing became the focus.

    seems like more than just overweight that we need to learn about when it comes to these wondrous bodies.

  18. So many good comments to such a great post!

    I am in the "everybody is different" camp. My husband has lost 30 pounds in 7 months simply by going off sugar and eating more home-cooked meals. I've lost a pound or more a week when I've gone off sugar. Yet I know things like that don't work for everybody. And I know meds, illnesses, etc., can also cause weight gain. We really need to not judge others.

    I like what Tay says about how we can't win if we listen to others. I want to qualify, if we listen to the media. I have plenty of friends who say I look great, but the media would still say I've got a bit to lose. *I* know I could be healthier, and that's what counts for me.

  19. I would say I'm pretty happy with my body. It has its flaws and I have my least favorite parts, but most of the time I don't really notice them. I get frustrated when I shop for new clothes because my body is such a hard-to-fit shape & length. In fact, if I lose much more weight, I'm not going to be able to buy jeans at Lane Bryant, and they're one of the few places that has jeans long enough that I can almost afford (36 inseem–help!). I seriously would almost rather keep this weight than go back to buying men's jeans. Almost. Maybe I'll have to start wearing home-made skirts all the time. 🙂

  20. Having come from a family that is naturally thin, I can attest to the role genetics play in body shape and size. I never had to worry about gaining weight while I was growing up; in fact, I tried hard to gain weight, to no avail. When I had my physical exam for my mission, the doctor asked me pointed questions that indicated she suspected I was anorexic, and I was embarrassed. I'm ashamed to say that until about five years ago, I've always had little compassion for those who are overweight and felt that they just lacked willpower. Meanwhile, I was able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight. Then my metabolism slowed down when I hit 44 or 45, and now I feel like I should eat my words (except that I have to watch what I eat now!). As well as a few pounds, in the last couple of years I've gained a much greater appreciation for those who struggle with their weight.

  21. one of my dear dear besties was morbidly obese. Over 350 pounds in fact, and she didn't think that was ever going to change.

    moving around was hard, and she was "invisible" everywhere she went. which was, in fact, why she allowed herself to get that big in the first place; if no one sees you they can't hurt you, right? but no matter.

    after over a decade of difficult living with this extreme overweight, we had a conversation one night about her situation. and as it turns out, that chat, and the support of a co-worker, made a difference in her somehow. and she decided to do something about it.

    she didn't join any organizations. she didn't use diets or fads or weight watchers or jenny craig or slimfast etc. she just radically changed her eating habits overnight. and she started walking.

    first she walked slow, and not very far. then she walked slow and a little farther. then a little faster and a little farther. she did it alone, but her co-worker girlfriend would run while she walked, and they'd meet up at the end. that co-worker is an angel, as far as i'm concerned. she turned this whole thing from possible but unlikely, to possible and probable.

    when she'd lost 37 pounds, my friend called me up to tell me about this new thing. she hadn't mentioned it at all in the previous few months (we live in different states). i was so surprised and excited for her. and happy that i had even a teensy bit to do with giving her the courage to do it.

    by the end of the first year, she'd lost 100 pounds. you can't imagine how that milestone felt to her. without the aid of a personal trainer or professional chef or even the luxury of a gym membership, she lost 100 pounds. just by walking and eating right. then she added riding her bike…a one-speed beach cruiser that she'd peddle along slowly.

    her latest exercise addition is roller skating (not blading). she loved doing that as a child, and has re-discovered her enjoyment of it. she never thought she'd do that again in her lifetime.

    most inspiring to me about her story is how she just found the fortitude somewhere inside to do this. she is in her late forties, and figured life was just what it was, and that it would always be that way. as a single parent, her only child was raised and gone, and she was alone and figured she would be that way forever.

    but since losing weight, she's allowed herself to re-engage in life and see some of the things around her that she couldn't see before…like the guy at her work who liked her all along (cause she's always had that "beautiful on the inside" thing down pat!)…even when she was obese. they're now dating, and she feels loved and cared for and she is not alone.

    her story inspires me in that i know if she could do it, that i should be able to find a way. i'm still struggling with acquiring the self-discipline to just eat right and exercise. she didn't have a family or other things besides her shifts at work to occupy her time, so spending hours every day to walk was an option for her that i know most don't have. but she made it a priority…getting up early and doing it no matter what. and when she did that, the weight didn't exactly fall off, but inch by inch she shrank to a regular size. she now weighs less than 200 pounds, and on her 5'11" frame, it looks really good.

    she's one of the reasons i haven't given up hope on myself finding some self-discipline…hopefully soon.

  22. If I'm being honest, yes I've definitely discriminated against obese people before. Nothing that I've said or did, but it's my thoughts. I know I've thought of obese people as lazy and undisciplined. I actually think watching The Biggest Loser has helped me see obese people in a better light–understand that most of them don't want to be overweight, and that they're just like the rest of us with struggles, feelings, etc that lie beyond just the issues of weight. Same with Oprah. I know I've even been a little discriminating with my own family. And while I agree with a lot of what you wrote–that we shouldn't discriminate because 1) they're still people with feelings, and 2) we don't know the cause of their obesity, be it genetic or medical–I have a hard time with saying that it's not about diet and exercise at all. Yes sometimes overweight people can eat and exercise the same as thin people, but wouldn't you say USUALLY it is about not eating right and not exercising? I guess from my own experience I see my mother's side the family and many who struggle with their weight–and it usually is due to poor diet and lack of exercise. In fact one of my uncles was a chubby kid his entire childhood. All the way through high school. At some point he said enough and in college he started working out and eating better and in his 50's he's still the thinnest and most in shape of the adults in the family. And for myself, the weight started creeping on in late high school–so when I got to college I was deathly afraid of the freshman 15–so I started working out. And I toned up and looked better.

    People have often said things to me like "You don't have to work out, you're naturally thin." And I'm thinking–NO that's WHY I'm thin…. because I work out! Additionally, if you look at my family you would see that no, I'm not "naturally" thin.

    So yes, I understand that it's not always the case. Sometimes it's medical and it's genetic, and sometimes it's genetic in the sense that the environment in which you were raised may have been conducive to bad eating habits, etc. And I'm definitely on board with our environment and the chemicals and how they're affecting our bodies. And seeing how recently I've gained some weight that no amount of working out is shedding I know it's not ALL about working out, eating etc…but I can't go along with the idea that for the majority of obese people it's medical and genetic. I know there are many overweight people who would benefit from exercise and better eating habits. I know that's like saying, "if everyone would just repent we'd all be better people." It's obviously not that easy or simple…but in some ways it is.

  23. My mother was overweight from birth – in an age long before the "childhood obesity pandemic." When you look at the women in my mom's family it's obvious there is a gene for obesity (yes, I'm saying obesity, not just being overweight) because every single woman in that family is obese. She definitely struggled with it and hurts me to see how much pain has come into her life from something she only has marginal control over. It has hurt her deeply and she has spent her whole life going from diet to diet (which is part of why I am so anti-fad diet) struggling just to gain approval of people around her.

    I'm not a super skinny lady myself, but I am 100% confident that the main reason I have been able to stay on this side of the obesity threshold is that I take after my father's family instead of my mother's. It always makes me very angry whenever anyone just assumes that any person's weight is simply due to a lack of self control. The question is not that simple, and it is cruel to assume otherwise.

    In my husband's family there is the opposite problem – many of the women are underweight. Again, just looking around at a family gathering at all the extremely skinny women tells you that something genetic is going on. For some of them, it has caused health problems, so I'm not at all trying to say it is a good thing. Many of them look just plain unhealthy, and although I haven't really talked to any of them about it, I'm sure they get some impolite comments at times.

    As I look at my daughter I wonder where she will fall in the genetic spectrum. For my part I'm trying to teach her to eat healthy, to enjoy playing and being active, but to not worry too much about her weight. When I remember what it was like to be a teenager, though, I worry a lot about if I'm doing enough to prepare her for the judging and competition that is in her future, whatever her weight is. I hope I can teach her to love herself and not worry too much about what other people think.

  24. I'm am horrified by the prejudice against overweight people. It seems like every movie has a fat person that's the butt of half of the jokes. There is no way people would be as biased and rude towards African-Americans or disabled people. I guess since others see obesity as something that can be changed, it excuses their awful behavior.

  25. No one would ever guess by looking at me that I had weight issues years ago. As such, from personal experience, I can attest to the fact that there is another element that sometimes comes into play besides genes on the physical side. — Mental and emotional layering (whether from genetics or just life — usually, imo, a combo of both) can also play into weight issues. In a big way. You simply CAN'T just tell someone who has body issues to just change the way they eat, exercise, etc. And you can't know how impossible it is to tackle those layers alone if you haven't experienced them yourself. For all that discipline can sometimes come into play, oh, baby, so much more can, too.

    I know one reason I experienced those very, very difficult years is so that I could know, without question, that when and if God wills it, healing from the seemlingly-impossible can happen. It doesn't always, and I realize that. I no longer have *those* body issues. Like jendoop, mine are different now, found in chronic illness and other issues. But I know better now that God is aware of my pain, and will not allow me to suffer beyond what I can. That there are things to learn. And, if He wills it, maybe some of this other stuff can be relieved someday. But if not, I have a different kind of feeling…at least I can know that if I'm not healed as I wish, there is purpose in it. I hold onto that.

    I believe we have these trials to learn — to learn to be grateful for what we have, to learn to be grateful for the resurrection and what a gift a renewed body will be, to learn to find out from God what to do to take care of our particular package (the answers will and do and should vary), to understand more about the atonement, to experience empathy if we will allow those lessons to penetrate our souls.

    I think it's important to eventually learn to love these bodies that cause us so much grief, because they are such an essential part of our eternal progression.

    But sometimes in my weaker moments, I just wish for the resurrection. Like now. Not that I want to die, just that I want a new body! 🙂

  26. Some people have pointed out that, hey, isn't it true if people diet and exercise they won't be overweight? It is true that if you restrict calories and exercise more, in general, you should lose weight. But, how much dieting? How much exercise? How much weight can you expect to lose? This is where that assumption breaks down. The fact that, in general, most people will lose weight if they lower their caloric intake and exercise more, does NOT equal everyone can have fine figure and look good if they just got out and exercised once in a while and stopped eating fatty foods. The first is scientifically true, the latter statement is blatantly false. Two people on the exact same diet and exercise regimen will not look the same. When we take it upon ourselves to judge another person when we don't have all the facts, we are potentially hurting another person and most definitely deluding ourselves. Even if that person we love to look down on could be a supermodel if she just quiet eating so much, we really have no way of knowing that. It is not for us to judge another, only to judge ourselves.

  27. I love your comments. I'm devouring every one. 😉

    I love what you've written about the spiritual component of taking care of our bodies– our bodies are connected to our soul and we must treat them accordingly.

    And yes, Miggy and others, I agree that diet and exercise will USUALLY result in weight loss. But only to a certain degree. I purposefully left out any reference to my own weight in the original post but I'm a dogmatic exerciser and eat very carefully. I'm a fat person hiding in a relatively thin body.

    I believe I was genetically gifted with an absurd amount of self-discipline and determination (watch out or I might start quoting my marathon PRs) but I swear I'd gain 30 lbs if I took a month off. And that's why I have a lot of sympathy for anyone with weight issues.

  28. Great post! I think we all have different body types (and intelligence, and talents, and skin colors, etc., etc.) because Heavenly Father values and loves diversity. If we were all the same, it could not be said that He is "no respecter of persons". And it teaches us to value the things that He values most – especially love, which anyone of any age or physical or mental variation has the ability to develop and feel as much as anyone else.

  29. I always chuckle when I hear American/Canadian white women say, “I can’t wait until the Resurrection when I will get a perfect body” (referring to body size). Wouldn’t it be a hoot if the perfect body size ends up being based on Polynesian standards or Hispanic standards?

  30. I sorta always took the "resurrection = perfect body" idea to be not that our bodies will automatically conform to some standard of beauty or another, but that, while we'd be healed of our infirmities, we'd be perfectly happy with whatever we had — we'd be the best version of ourselves, sure, but that the looks of the outside wouldn't matter. Who's to say that the best version of myself isn't 200 lbs? If health is no longer a concern and we no longer have the social stigmas of too fat / too skinny / not busty enough / too tall, what does it matter what size I am?

  31. That said, being a respectable 200 lbs (as of last Sunday, but I'm pregnant, so who knows how long that will last), I'm sure as heck not free of my own inner demons with regard to my weight. I see how much drama my mother has gone through with her on-again, off-again weight and it drives me crazy — probably too far in the "I will not care about this" side of the scale. I can't see how hating yourself for being "too fat" and constantly fighting against it is any better than being fat and happy.

    My big difficulty with weight loss has always been the time it takes to exercise. I know that time can be found, but when my schedule is so tight that *something* has to give, exercise is almost always going to be the first thing to go. I'd rather have a clean house, work done, dinner made, scriptures read, be prepped for my calling, and still have five minutes to sit on my couch read a novel than go outside and get sweaty any day of the week.

  32. But sometimes in my weaker moments, I just wish for the resurrection.

    BTW, I am not sure that I really even know what the resurrection will bring, except that I won't be sick anymore.

    What a resurrected body looks like in terms of size/color/shape? I have no idea. Twill be interesting. I trust that it will exceed expectations, though.

    Although I have heard it said that even the perfection gained after resurrection will be a process, which is an intriguing notion to me…but prolly a topic for another day.

  33. I haven't read the comments, but I thought I would share my own thoughts:

    I struggle with being overweight. Not obesity, thank goodness –and I say that with complete honesty. Who wants to struggle with obesity? Any obese person would tell you they don't LIKE being obese. My obese aunt never liked it; my mother didn't like it. In fact, I have NEVER met a person with obesity that was "okay" with it. Ever.

    Which, we could say, is half the battle? I mean, with people like your mother, the obesity/weight issues was completely medical –it truly was not her fault. My weight issues? My overweight body? My fault. Completely. I know exactly what caused it, and I know how hard I had to work to fix it. And I will struggle with it for the rest of my life because I am predisposed to a few things:
    1. Emotional eating
    2. Eating out of convenience instead of nutrition
    3. Making excuses when it comes to exercise.

    Honestly, honestly, honestly, if a person follows the word of wisdom, believes in the Atonement, and trusts in God, then they will not have issues with their body; they will see it as a gift. Sure, there will be some who will try their darndest to lose weight and won't be able to –sure there are genetics in play, here. But not for the majority. For the majority of us fat people, it is simply a choice. An easy choice?? No way!! It's a hard one. But a choice nonetheless.

    So, I will continue to work hard at keeping the weight off of my body. I already have asthma –I can't imagine getting diabetes and heart disease and all those other things simply because I'm not willing to keep my weight in check. Plus, I'm starting therapy. That always helps, too!

    And holy cow –this was a tangent I didn't mean to get on. Half my comment didn't even make sense, did it? Ah, well. Hopefully you know what I mean and it didn't come across as cruel –I truly was speaking from a personal point of view…

  34. Michelle L,
    During the past 15 months I've spent about five months traveling in Europe for fun and for family history purposes. I've traveled in a dozen European countries, and Maralise is absolutely right, you don't see obesity in European adults. The only exception this summer was in Naples where the obese Italian women over 50 who don't wear bras made my daughter a bit uncomfortable; however, Naples has the best pizza in the world, so I probably would become obese if I lived there for any extended period of time. Americans were a rare species in Europe this summer, so I felt rather conspicuous as a dumpy 50 year old American; however, when I travel alone for weeks at a time, my dumpy "disguise" also feels like a protection. I am totally invisible to European men!

    A couple years ago I had an entire year of extreme health problems, including a shattered ankle, where I put on the weight that makes me look chubby now. As my body ages, it no longer allows me to be the fanatical exercise queen of my younger days. I agree with those who focus on eating healthy and exercising with moderation. I'm now at the age where I realize the quality of my "golden years" will be dependent on the health choices I make now. I think the Lord has a lot more work for me to do and I will be more useful if I've made choices that maximize my health and fitness.

    And Angela — that was a scary article — I wonder how many more growing health epidemics are going to be linked to the contamination of our food chain. Thanks for sharing that…

  35. This is a difficult topic for me, because while I personally struggle with the typical "I could stand to lose 20 pounds" thing, I'm married to someone who is morbidly obese.

    When we got married, he was significantly overweight, but not to this extent. I naively thought that when he ate my cooking, he'd lose it. I had NO CLUE that even though there's a genetic component to his weight, the deeper issue is emotional and spiritual.

    For him, food is love. Food is nurturing. Food is a drug. It is how he communicates and receives communication and love. To say that our marriage has been difficult would be an understatement. His morbid obesity has led to all kinds of health issues, but if I ever try to curb his eating or use brown rice or use less cheese, I'm trying to control him and I'm showing less love. If I won't get him a Big Mac, I'm not a loving wife. When I give and do those things, sure I'm just supporting the habit and contributing to his weight. But at least he feels loved–and since I can't change him, there's really no use in doing anything else until he's ready to change.

    It's difficult in other ways, because I get to be the only real active parent. He's too tired and sick all the time to go to the kids' events. He tends to miss church a lot because he doesn't feel well. I can't count on him to help around the house–or for much of anything, really. It's like having an overgrown kid. He hates it. I hate it. We both resent it. And we both get depressed over it. But until he decides that he needs to change from the INSIDE, no diet or exercise program will make a bit of difference.

    Here's one interesting thing I've noticed, though: very often, heavy people treat me better–much more friendly and open–AFTER meeting my husband. It's like they assume I'll be less judgmental of them because I'm married to someone as big as they are. I've experienced it so many times, it's uncanny.

    The irony? I'm probably MORE judgmental, because I assume they're making their families suffer the same way my family suffers.

    It's not a matter of diet and food like I thought so long ago. Man, I had no CLUE how deep his scars and issues went, or that he treated them all with food.

  36. I served a mission in a major European city, and it's actually one of the few times in my life that I lost weight. All that walking, all day long–walking to the bus, to the Metro, hiking up and down stairs in all those apartment buildings (4-5 stories with no elevators). The food was delightful, but I realized that a culture that doesn't encourage mindless snacking (eating while walking around is very ill-mannered) and where most people walk/use public transportation definitely contributes to weight loss. I did know some overweight people, but most of the people I knew were fairly skinny.

  37. I think we're given individual situations because that's what our lives are – individual. Individual lives, choices, countries, parents, genetic strands – our own individual situation.

    Weight has always been an issue for me – mostly in my head. My entire growing up had "You're fat!" as a soundtrack from my family. Looking at the photos from that time,I was gangly and long, but shaped differently. The issue was genetic. I look remarkably like my paternal grandmother, have done from a very early age, and her genes result in a different shape to what the rest of my family look like. The biggest difference is that I have a definite set of boobs. Of course, growing up my paternal side was hidden away, so I just assumed because I looked so different they MUST be right when they said I was fat. The liars.

    Until I DID put on weight because "I was fat". Now I'm trying to look after myself, have lost a stack of weight contrary to medical expectations, but I'm still not light or thin. I'm pleased to say that I'm strong – a good percentage of my weight is muscle – but I've found being round or having curves is seen as being fat/overweight regardless of what is really underneath.

    There is a bias against people above an advertised ideal size. It's unfortunate, and I don't compound the issue by making rash/uninformed judgements. It's the person I'm interested in, not how they're wrapped.

  38. I like how you frame this in a spiritual context. I've been thinking a lot lately about my own "unique situation" in terms of size and shape, and have been trying to find ways to be kinder to myself. It seems that when I work until 11 PM, and the alarm to wake up and work out goes off at 5:15 AM, I often opt for more sleep.

    The problem is that then I fight myself all day long, trying not to hear the voices in my head telling me I am worthless and lazy and will never convince someone to marry me if I don't start working out every single morning.

    But I can't imagine that's how the Lord sees me, and I know that all those thoughts are courtesy of the Adversary. I think my situation is giving me an opportunity to learn how to not give Satan the satisfaction of being able to affect me so much.

  39. I've been thinking about this topic all day–especially touch Anon in comment #39. I'm one of those who had always been thin and could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. That is–until my mission in Eastern Europe.

    I was fed at EVERY appointment; and at Easter–that's 8 Easter dinners. I began to see and use food as love and as a drug. I would have my favorite treats that I always carried; cookies, candy bars, chocolate. I would look around a table and wonder if everyone would clean their plate (because if they didn't–I would offer!). I knew the bread man, the pretzel guy, and where to get fresh milk and cheese. I gained more weight than when I was 9 months pregnant with either of my children.

    I noticed that no matter how I sat I always had rolls. None of my cloths fit. I'd unzip or unbutton when I had to sit for a long time. I felt ugly. I felt tired. I felt foggy and dazed half the time. I just wanted to sleep. And then I got a companion who liked to jog and was transferred to a city too poor to feed us. And slowly some of the weight came off and my head wasn't quite so foggy.

    I've since done a lot of research and reading about Health and Nutrition. I've found that I am suger sensitive and that if I eat ANY refined suger (or carbs; white rice, white bread, cereal, etc.) my legs itch. If I continue eating refined carbs or sweets I get a yeast infection. It may be from years of suger abuse or from the fact that my mother and grandfather are diabetic and my father is hypoglycemic–who knows? All I know is that I feel better and think clearer when I eat food in it's natural state, exercise DAILY, get plenty of sleep, and when I don't put myself in stressful situations.

    Two great books on the topic are "Sugar Shock" and Potatoes Not Prozac". They sure helped me.

  40. Smoking is more prevalent in Europe than in the United States and since nicotine can act as an appetite suppressant, it doesn't surprise me that it seems like Europeans are skinnier, particularly coupled with the different sort of lifestyle that FoxyJ mentions (although I wonder how big European cities compare with big American cities on that). That said, I'm not really sure how useful it is to compare America to Europe when the genetic/racial makeup is significantly different.

    What I wonder about is how obesity in America intersects with other identity markers, especially class and race. Why are the poorest states also the fattest? Why are certain ethnic minorities more at risk? I'm not sure there is a simple answer.

    This weekend I was at the temple and did initiators and was impressed by how central the body is in that ordinance, symbolically but I also believe literally. I feel like I need to appreciate my body more and remember that because of it I have much joy.

  41. I think it's interesting to read how even in 40ish comments here, there is so much variation on what works for some people, what doesn't work and why, what layers affect the issue of weight, etc.

    Seems like just like everything else, for all that there are certain basics of healthy eating and weight management that you might get at a class on the subject, in reality, there are often other factors that make it more messy and more personal. What works for one person might not work for another. How much can be changed, how much needs to be accepted, how much can really be controlled or disciplined away, etc. I think it may not always be the same for everyone.

    I also think that it's important that we not think it's just 'so easy' to fix it all. I don't have problems with eating/weight anymore, but my sleep is about as messed up as it could be. And I have had to realize that the simple solutions that others may present simply aren't my answers. While I care about it, I can't punish myself for it, because there are layers I don't even understand and so I have to work with God to figure out what layer to find now and what to wait on.

    Anon, your story in particular leaves me sad for you and your husband. It must be so hard, and yet he probably doesn't know what to do. I'm no expert, but it sounds to me like he has an addiction to food, the kind that could use therapy. He may not be ready to do anything, but have you ever considered going to a family support group for loved ones of addicts? I think the Church has such programs like that, or there may be other similar 12-step groups w/ family support in your area. ?? Just a thought.

  42. I've read that poor people have more weight issues because the cheap food is the not good for you food. I am struggling to start exercising again. I'm heavier now than during any of my four pregnancies. I know I use food as comfort, but here's the problem. When a person is addicted to heroin, and they want to get clean, they have to try to distract themselves from it entirely. You can't distract yourself from food entirely, because you need it to live. There's always something around to remind you.

    I think we all are different because I think God knows we all need different lessons to become more like him. Some of us need more humility, some of need more faith, some of us need more courage. I think he knows the challenges we need to grow into our best selves. Our lives give us that opportunity. Obviously I have certain things I have to learn/deal with, to get myself healthy. Once I learn that, I think I'll be able to accept my body and keep it where it should be for me, not for anyone else.

  43. Anon, my heart goes out to you. I support what m&m said. Find some private support for yourself even if your husband isn't ready for it right now. Sometimes we can influence our husbands by being strong in their presence. You don't have to nag, change his diet or necessarily "do" anything. Just continue to do the best you can and love him.

    Each of you are great, thank you to everyone for reading even if you didn't comment. Thanks for the variety of respectful comments. I love this. (And loves back at you Michelle!)

  44. The church does indeed have numerous addiction recovery programs, all of them administered through LDS Family Services. A Bishop would have resources for connecting someone to that resource, much of which is free. Just FWIW…

    Michelle, thank you for writing this. I sometimes look at my body and wonder why it won't change. I keep meticulous track of how many calories I'm eating and how many I'm burning, and yet my body doesn't budge much. It's partly genetic, partly medical, probably partly emotional. But I know the Lord still loves me, so I've got to love me too.

  45. I just wanted to second what others have said about the emotional and mental connection to food as a barrier to losing weight. Growing up, my mother constantly struggled with her weight. She would gain and gain and gain, and then have a burst of determination, pick a diet to go on, and lose a bunch of it. A few months later, she would slip up and it was back to the same gaining cycle. Her problem is that food is her comfort, her way of calming down, of forgetting life's problems. I'm here to tell you, that is NOT a connection that's easy to break for some people.

    As her oldest daughter, it was (and still is) heartbreaking to watch her struggle. And, because she is my mother and my biggest role model, she unconsciously passed a lot of those issues on to me. Right now, my weight isn't much of a problem, but I'm pretty sure the day will come.

    However, I do NOT want my daughter to have to watch me struggle with the same self-image issues I watched my mom have. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food and not be constantly worried about diets. But in order to do that, I've got to solve my own issues. And it's harder than just having "willpower" and "determination" – believe me.

  46. There is a bias against overweight people out there. I've noticed a huge difference in the way I'm treated when I've lost weight in the past.

    I happen to be six foot tall (and not one of the lucky "really thin" tall people) and have struggled with my weight since birth. I have mastered it a couple times, lost and maintained (with unearthly and almost not-worth-it effort) and then had all progress vanish with weight gain from pregnancy (twice).

    Usually I'm okay with it and know this is one of my trials, but the other evening at my SIL's house I couldn't help but feel pangs of jealousy as she ate her second helping of ice cream right out of the container. She's trim and slender (she could have worn her outfit back in high school), has had one more child than me, and has never worked out (she doesn't like getting sweaty). I love her so much. She's one of my best friends. I hate feeling jealous of her.

    But I also hate feeling so un-feminine. Not only am I taller and heavier, but I also got my dad's shape (goblet shape). I think more than being skinnier I've wanted to look feminine…

    And when I start complaining like this I start feeling grateful just to have a body, one that works and is healthy. That is truly a blessing. That has to be the focus.

  47. I worry about that,too. Passing my body image issues on to my girls. The "F" word is not used in our family and I try to never say anything about my weight in front of them. I save that for my husband when we are alone. Lucky him!!

  48. A Bishop would have resources for connecting someone to that resource, much of which is free. Just FWIW…

    as a p.s. while of course you can ask your bishop, you can find info about meetings in your area on your own here. I was told you can just show up, no approval or anything needed.

    That said, it might be worth considering talking to your bishop, too, for help and support.

  49. I was told you can just show up, no approval or anything needed.

    That's what I'm remembering from our family services schpeel that was recently given on a 5th Sunday, anyway. I think you used to have to get approval for Fam Svcs stuff, but now you don't, even for paid, private counseling (unless there is a need for financial assistance). Just wanted to make that clear.

  50. Thanks for the fantastic info, m&m.

    And anon #39, thank you so much for sharing your story. So much to think about here.

    Anon #51– I feel that jealousy too and I hate myself when I do it!

  51. I gained alot of weight while I was pregnant. It didn't matter what I ate I would just gain. I remember one Doctor asking me if I ate whole boxes of cookies at a time. I don't even like cookies. I think it has to do with my hormones because I wasn't eating anything different. It was just while I was pregnant. After I had my babies I couldn't drop the pounds. After a while I became invisible at church.
    In our house we eat healthy meals that I cook from scratch including whole wheat pasta, lots of fresh vegetables and chicken. My kids are all skinny and skinny women often look at me in surprise when they realize I have skinny kids and they have over weight kids, like I should have the fat kids.
    I'm tired of people thinking since I'm over weight I must eat a whole pizza at a sitting or that I secretly buy doughnuts when no one is looking.
    I'm tired of skinny people who eat what they want but suffer from invisible issues like high blood presure or high colesterol. Just because you are skinny doesn't mean you are healthy and vice versa.
    Weight discrimination has to end!

  52. m&m,
    You're absolutely right–he does have an addiction to food. There's no question. I've known that for years, but but HE doesn't see it that way, so he refuses to get the help. (If I suggest something like that, I'm just "going all Dr. Phil on him.") I'm still praying that he'll soften on that point some day.

    I heard someone scoff at the idea of a bishop not renewing someone's temple recommend because they were obese and how wrong that bishop was–but inside, I was thinking that maybe the bishop, whoever he was, was in tune and knew that the person wasn't just overweight (because yes, taking away a temple recommend based on nothing but weight would be wrong), but the person had a serious food addiction, just like a drug addiction, and needed to deal with it just like they would deal with any other addiction before they could enter the temple.

    Somehow food addiction is the only one that's acceptable in our society. But it's just as wrong and damaging as an addiction to anything else. Trust me, I know, and so do my kids.

    My kids may or may not have been born with the genetic tendency toward being overweight, but man, I've done my darndest to raise them with a healthy mindset toward food so they don't end up fat. So far, so good, but it's really hard when there's so much junk in the house thanks to Dad.

    Yeah, I'm guilty of judging some overweight people. I try not to be, because I know in my heart that there are a multitude of reasons for why they could be overweight, and food addiction is only one of them. But it's really hard to see someone morbidly obese and not imagine what their family must be going through–because I have a pretty good idea.

  53. i think it's really great to try for being noble and non-judgmental, but the truth is that we're constantly sizing people up. i have a couple of friends who grew up with no respect for their own mothers because their mothers were fat. by the same regard, i've had people tell me i'm pretty and it came out sounding like an accusation. further, on sundays, i'm pretty much thinking more about the person who just had their lips redone rather than the overweight people in the chapel.

    actually, i can't think of any overweight people in my chapel.

    i don't have any sort of bias against people struggling with their weight (i feel like i've been struggling with my own weight for years even when my husband insists i'm only a fat girl in my head)– but i do feel sad for them if they seem sad. and is that wrong? i love watching the biggest loser because it is so inspiring to me to not necessarily lose weight but to just be my best self. to keep trying. to not give up.

    but… i have to say that while i don't judge others for it, i have issues with it myself. not a day goes by that i don't obsess about my body in some way and i hate that. i pray that it will go away all the time. but i think i was given my body for a reason and i relish the fact that we're given unique experiences to grow us the way we need to grow and to be required to step outside of ourselves and try to understand others. if the experience here was uniform then would we seek the other out? would there be any reason to serve others? to have conversations? to listen? there would probably be a lot less learning and not much of a need to change ourselves if we were all the same.

    gosh michelle… i could talk about this all day long. but i won't. stopping now… xo

  54. There’s no question. I’ve known that for years, but but HE doesn’t see it that way, so he refuses to get the help.

    I figured that. My suggestion was for *your* sake, though, to get support for *yourself* as you struggle with this. My understanding is that those who are close to those w/ addictions can benefit from learning what THEY can do to find healing and peace even if the person chooses not to do anything. There are family support groups for that very reason, I think (as I look at the list, they don't exist everywhere, but might be worth a look).

    You just sound like you are in so much pain, and as much as he clearly has things to work on, I just hope you can find some support and help in knowing what you can do, what you can control, in the meantime.

    In short, fwiw, I suggested those things for you, regardless of what he decides (or doesn't decide) to do.

    It sounds so hard, for all of you. Hang in there. Something else that comes to mind is a book that might be worth reading, called 'codependent no more.' This is written for loved ones of addicts, but I have found that I'm a codependent for emotional patterns alone (sometimes people can be "addicted," if you will, to emotional ways of responding to things, not even substances), and the book really helped me see and understand myself better so I can learn not to expend so much energy waiting for someone else to change, and instead realizing what *I* can do to be more healthy regardless of what others choose to do. That book has awakened me to some powerful principles, especially when considered in light of gospel principles of agency, of acting and not being acted upon.

    In the end, only the Spirit can fully help you know what to do, but that book came to mind, so thought I would mention it.

    Again, fwiw.

  55. There’s no question. I’ve known that for years, but but HE doesn’t see it that way, so he refuses to get the help.

    I figured that. My suggestion was for *your* sake, though, to get support for yourself as you struggle with this. My understanding is that those who are close to those w/ addictions can benefit from learning what THEY can do to find healing and peace even if the person chooses not to do anything. There are family support groups for that very reason, I think (as I look at the list, they don't exist everywhere, but might be worth a look).

    You just sound like you are in so much pain, and as much as he clearly has things to work on, I just hope you can find some support and help in knowing what you can do, what you can control, in the meantime.

    In short, fwiw, I suggested those things for you, regardless of what he decides (or doesn't decide) to do.

    It sounds so hard, for all of you. Hang in there. Something else that comes to mind is a book that might be worth reading, called 'codependent no more.' This is written for loved ones of addicts, but I have found that I'm a codependent for emotional patterns alone (sometimes people can be "addicted," if you will, to emotional ways of responding to things, not even substances), and the book really helped me see and understand myself better so I can learn not to expend so much energy waiting for someone else to change, and instead realizing what *I* can do to be more healthy regardless of what others choose to do. That book has awakened me to some powerful principles, especially when considered in light of gospel principles of agency, of acting and not being acted upon.

    In the end, only the Spirit can fully help you know what to do, but that book came to mind, so thought I would mention it. Again, fwiw.

  56. Thanks, M&M. I'm planning on getting some help for myself in the very near future. And I'll look into that book as well. I appreciate the suggestions.

  57. Want to add a bit more that is lingering in my mind today, to explain a little more of where I'm coming from. Years ago, the weird (and yet not uncommon with humans — hehe) emotional patterns that I experienced with a few people in my life left me pretty drained. I sought counseling. A social worker recommended a book (Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend) that started me on a journey to analyze more of my *own* life and behavior — I realized I had more choice in interacting w/ those w/ unhealthy patterns than I had thought. I was drained largely because of how *I* was dealing with and responding to things. It was amazing, empowering to realize.

    A few years later, I found that other book I recommended on codependency. I started looking back on other situations in my life (e.g., on my mission, in a calling when I was first married) and understanding more about how I have a tendency to become part of unhealthy emotional patterns (sometimes called collusion). The more weirdness there has been, the more I have internalized stuff, and often I have tried to DO something to try to "make things better" (to try to defend or 'prove' myself, to 'try harder' to 'earn' friendship/approval, to point out whatever the person might have been doing that was hurtful, to try to encourage *them* to change, etc.) — and often, the solution really should have been to let go, back off, respect choice and focus on myself. I'm getting better (albeit perhaps slowly) at that. I even work on doing more of that w/ my kids when they do things that I don't like.

    Anyway, this all led me to read other materials as well, including some of the 12-step book of the Church — I came to realize that codependency (unwitting collusion in cycles of unhealthy behavior, be they classic addictions or other things such as I was dealing with) can in its own way be an addiction. My way of responding to unkindness or weirdness from others was its own problem — something I could work on even if others didn't change.

    As I was exposed to the 12-step program, I saw in that program truths that could apply with *any* weakness. I started reading w/ that purpose in mind — because I saw it as a guide to accessing the atonement in a more general way.

    This is part of why I'm a fan of the addiction recovery program…even with my limited exposure to it, I have found true principles in it for me. And I have come to believe that most — if not all — of us are prone to responding to pain in unhealthy ways, sometimes out of ignorance or just trying to survive. That may not always lead to classic addictions, but the principles of that program can still help, imo. As such, I see the addiction recovery program as holding much powerful truth for ALL of us — more of a weakness recovery program, if you will.

    So whenever I hear of someone involved in a more classic addiction situation, I can't help but imagine how the addiction recovery program could help because of what even my limited exposure to it and principles it addresses have done for me. So, now when we have the family services presentation, where years ago I might have zoned most of it out, now I find myself thinking "I wish more people knew about and took advantage of this stuff."

    So, fwiw, there are more of my thoughts. (It's making want to go dig out my book again!)

    p.s. two other books that are powerful: Bonds that Make us Free (by Terry Warner) and Anatomy of Peace (by the Arbinger Group).

  58. anon, just saw your comment after I posted that long one…(I've been working here and there on it all day). Not that I think talking to me would be better than w/ a group or a counselor, and not that you haven't already heard more than enough from me, but since I love talking about truth that has affected my life, if you ever want to 'talk' via email, I'm at hotmail, username mulling_and_musing. 🙂 [I also have had an eating disorder of my own so I know a little of what it's like on the other side, too, fwiw.]

    And this may sound weird (and I don't want it to sound patronizing, so please don't read it that way), but I'm actually excited for you and what you might be able to find. These resources (all that I have listed) are CHANGING my life. Or course, you'll likely be led to your own resources along your way. The journey to uncover truth is hard, but it's exciting.

    Best to you!

  59. M&M, I might just take you up on that at some point and e-mail you about some this. Thank you for your kind words of support–I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

    The bits and pieces of success I have found tie in with exactly what you said–where I've worked on ME and backed off, stopped trying to make things all better and hold the world on my shoulders. I may have to return to this post just to write down the list of great books you've mentioned. It does get to be a bit of an addictive whirlwind trying to fix everything and be the only strong one–when I'm not supposed to be, when HE really ought to feel the effects of his choices and be accountable. I shouldn't shield him all the time. I should work on ME and being the best wife and mother and handmaiden of the Lord I can be. And that doesn't mean fixing him.

  60. Anon, I'm serious. Email me anytime. 🙂 Even though it sounds like you have a good sense for where the light lies, I still love talking about these principles because for me it helps solidify truth.

    Truth can make us free. It's awesome to feel glimpses of that, those 'bits and pieces.'

    Such a journey, though. This learning by experience thing is not for wimps! 🙂

  61. 69 replies and finally I am ready to post. I am so very thankful for all the sharing that this article has inspired. There are so many different things going on for all of us yet one of the strongest feelings that is common amongst all of us is just to be loved and accepted. I am encouraged by the support, love, and honesty I feel coming out of all of these posts.

    Now I must explain that I came across this article (and it's my first time ever on this site) out of total desperation! I read Michelle L.'s love and pain for her mother and I almost posted right then to say, "Help fix me, before I die like her!" Luckily for her I decided to read on. I'm sorry you had to experience that Michelle, but here is maybe one of the reasons for your pain, that you might help others.

    I was on my way to find some help via the web when I typed in one complete sentence in my search engine, and it only came up with one match. I clicked the heading and here I was at this blog on Segullah. I'd never even heard of Segullah before and my first thought was, "This is NOT what I was looking for, but maybe a good diversion." I love writing, and reading good writing. Hey, and it's not just a literary journal with good subjects, but they're LDS! How did that happen? I suppose I should tell you all what my search sentence really was…

    "Where can a morbidly obese person fit in an Open MRI?"
    Yes, I was feeling desperate and was trying to weed out all the advertisements for obesity treatment. But yesterday I drove 2 hours away from my home for the second time to a different imaging center that assured me over the phone that they could fit me. I got on the table hopeful and was quickly apologized to, because my girth is too high when lying flat. I carry most of my weight in my belly and abdomen. I cannot get a proper diagnosis to receive appropriate treatment for sever back nerve pain without an MRI. I fell apart yesterday and my husband lovingly supported me, and said we'll just keep looking.

    I prayed a lot yesterday and the Lord blessed me with some mighty tender mercies throughout the day that kept my mind off of the overwhelming pull towards depression guilt and shame. I went to bed last night thinking I will be okay, I will become my own advocate and I will find my own way to this super size MRI. I will not wait another month for my Dr.'s to send me to another humiliating experience.

    Now I don't even need to tell most of you that regardless of why or how I got this large I still deserve the best medical as anyone else could get. And if everyone knows there is an obesity epidemic, how can the medical community not be equipped to treat it. I probably don't even need to tell you how much I've tried to lose the weight, how many diets and programs I've been on, but I can tell you I am NOT giving up.

    The strength and understanding and spiritual reminders that have been shared in this blog are proof enough to me that Heavenly Father knows more about what I needed when I typed my question than I did! Thank you all for sharing and giving me the encouragement I needed. I will enjoy reading part II and learning more from all of you. I know I am a daughter of God of infinite worth and I know that my spirit and my body can be unified some day!

  62. Please note everyone: I am Dalene C and I posted my comments on #70 as Dalene. Then I went on to read Part II of this series and saw that there is actually another Dalene in here! I'm sorry Dalene if anyone thinks you wrote that, If I could edit the post I would.
    I'm sure you will be as surprised as I was to see someone else with your not so common name. 🙂

  63. It also makes me sad that weight is such an issue in our society… I also think it is one of satan's huge tools to distract us from what is really important. I have always struggled with my weight one way or another…. I was a chubby kid- skinny (borderline anorexic) teenager- and now I am a little overweight and it weighs on me each day. But- also everyday, I am accepting- that this is who I am, and I know when I am not being healthy- and I have to own it- whatever it is/ or whatever I look like. Sure, I would love to be 15 lbs. lighter- but I guess I am not willing to make the sacrifice- and I have other priorities in my life right now. For me, it is about balance. It is still a work in progress.

    Thanks for this discussion.

  64. BTW- thanks Jendoop… I, too, have undiagnosed pain that I struggle with… and It has helped me appreciate my body more than ever, when I am healthy!


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