The Carolina Cannonball has a posting regarding the increasing rates of obesity in America and asks the question: can obesity be considered a sin?
That's a tough one to answer. I watched earlier this year a program on cable called "Inside the Brookhaven Clinic", which is a clinic in New York City for the morbidly obese (those where the excess weight in some cases exceeded 500 pounds). The director of the clinic was adamant that (a) the problem that these people had was an addiction to food and (b) diet and exercise were the means to regaining control, and not some fix such as a gastric by-pass surgery. I thought about it for a while and found myself agreeing with him. I felt very sorry for these people - if you were an alcoholic, you could live the rest of your life in recovery by never drinking alcohol again, because it is not necessry. But food? It's a daily issue that you must face.
But is being obese being sinful? I suppose the answer lies in how you feel about the term "addiction." Are these people helpless? Interestingly, the first steps in any 12-step program is to acknowledge that one has lost control and place trust in a "Higher Power." Is that not what we do as sinful creatures? None of us - from me to His Holiness, Benedict XVI - believe that as soon as we step out of the Confessional, that's it, we've gotten our ticket punched and now we're never going to sin again. In fact, we do sin again - however, rather than just throw up our hands, we are mandated to avoid the near occasions of sin (remember that phrasing?) and to seek Divine Help in avoiding the commission of sin . . . and Divine Mercy when we fall again.
Let's also consider - is being obese a problem with addiction? Or have some of us (I count myself in, since I don't need to take off my clothes and dance in front of the mirror to know I got a lot a-jigglin') just gotten lazy and complacent with the fact that we can easily buy cheap clothes in larger sizes and wonder drugs will keep our blood pressure down, so what the hell . . . pass me another corn dog, will ya?
For my part, I do think that in recognizing the gifts that God bestows upon us (whether as profound as His Grace through the Sacraments or as simple as beautiful sunsets), included in those are our physical selves. If we are set as stewards over the Earth, we are not excluded. We are mandated to respect what God hath wrought and so if we do not make good choices with regard to our health, we are disrespecting God - and thus, there is sin.
Does that mean the corn dog is off-limits? Not in moderation, I suppose. Even Jesus drank wine and I don't think He would object to a lovely dry martini come Cocktail Hour (I prefer vodka over gin). But if we abuse certain "guilty pleasures" regularly - and let's call it excessive consumption, because it can be food, drink, tobacco, shopping, etc. - then I think we have set ourselves up for the sin of gluttony.
I am about to head out to the annual International Street Festival in Orange, CA to get my kids some lunch and drop off some posters at my parish's booth, where we are selling margaritas. Ironic? No, I don't think God sees a little indulgence as sin (and to the friend of mine working to eliminate one particular guilty pleasure that keeps the tobacco companies wealthy, keep the faith and keep at it!) but there can be too much of a good thing.
Consider this - I had my children when I was 36 and 39, later in life rather than earlier. I think I have a responsibility to remain healthy for them so I can be there for them when they face adult issues. There is one reason to watch my weight, take a moment to consider the choices in front of me, and try to keep alive and in good health. My kids are relying on me - isn't that enough?
BTW, this musing came about after visiting Angela Messenger's new blog dedicated to her efforts at getting into shape, called Hebrews Twelve One. Its name comes from Scripture, naturally:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverence the race that is set before us..."
Very fitting, indeed! I exhort people to go over there and give her support. Guys, you too . . . I have seen a few male blogsters who bemoan the spreading waistland and now is the time to step up. Especially - and sadly - some priests - with your super-busy schedules and the lack of wives to nag you, too often you see a "priestly paunch."