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Is it a sin to be fat?


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#21 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 04:19 PM

6. And finally: is is a scientific impossibility to increase one's weight if you expend more calories than you eat no matter what medical condition you have. It is also impossible to maintain one's weight if one expends more calories than one eats.


Maybe extremely rare that this happens, but not impossible. Back in the day when I was working in a mental health clinic, I had a patient who was a slightly overweight young woman suffering from a form of depression which manifested with extreme suicidal ideation. She had attempted suicide more than once and so at one point was in an inpatient setting under suicide watch. She was so depressed that she did not even eat (the suicide watch made that pretty well verified) and yet continued to gain weight while drinking only water. No calories and while activity was at a minimum, still just staying alive expended more calories that she was taking in. The weight gain was actually a side effect of her medication (a very individualized reaction to the meds - not even listed in the PDR). She not only maintained her weight but gained weight while ingesting 0 calories. So like I said, it is rare and exceptional but not impossible.

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#22 John Konstantin

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 04:35 PM

She not only maintained her weight but gained weight while ingesting 0 calories. So like I said, it is rare and exceptional but not impossible.

Fr David Moser


One has to also factor in time to the other factors. This indeed might be possible over a short period of time. Things like water retention can massively effect one's weight. I would postulate that weight gain ingesting 0 calories over a protracted period of years would be impossible, not least because it would defy physics.

The body eats it's own fat eventually. It then moves on to one's muscle tissue.

#23 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 04:54 PM

Yes there are many MANY factors, too many to justify simplistic conclusions and caricatures. The what may be simple, but the WHY is something else entirely. A conclusion of "fat people eat too much" may seem "obvious" but it is really just not helpful, and neither are over generalizations of "this {subset of sinner} standing in judgement over that {subset of sinners} ... " regardless of pet theories, no matter how slowly typed.

Something about pots and kettles and black seems somehow appropriate, but then again, perhaps unnecessary?

Herman the Pooh, looking for his pot of hunny, perhaps it is behind the kettle?

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 16 March 2011 - 01:19 AM.


#24 Christina M.

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 05:19 PM

6. And finally: is is a scientific impossibility to increase one's weight if you expend more calories than you eat no matter what medical condition you have. It is also impossible to maintain one's weight if one expends more calories than one eats.


I believe you are overlooking many other health issues that can cause someone to be obese. It's not just about calorie intake/expenditure, even though this might be the most common cause.

-Metabolism: People with a fast metabolism have more of their calorie intake converted to energy, and people with a slow metabolism have more of their calories converted to fat. Those with a slow metabolism also feel fatigue, which decreases the chance of them having an active lifestyle. As a personal example: I have a fast metabolism, and it is literally impossible for me to gain weight, even if I eat like a hog. I've tried very hard to gain weight in the past, (on account of a certain health problem,) but I was unable to.

Listed below are some other factors:
-Certain drugs can cause people to gain weight.
-People with insulin resistance have a problem with excess fat storage, and fatigue. This might be affecting up to 10% of the US population.
-Certain chemicals, like MSG, make foods addictive so that it is un-naturally difficult for people to stop eating them.
-The change in hormone levels after menopause can cause women to gain weight (this actually effects 90% of women, with the average gaining 10-15 pounds after menopause, at a rate of about a pound a year).

These are just a few examples of how obesity can be caused by other factors besides calorie intake/expenditure. I'm sure a doctor would be able to list many more causes.

#25 John Konstantin

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 05:32 PM

These are just a few examples of how obesity can be caused by other factors besides calorie intake/expenditure. I'm sure a doctor would be able to list many more causes.


Everything you have cited above works in tandem with calorie intake. None of the above can make you overweight unless you are eating. Problems arise in certain cases where one maintains the same calorific intake but one's medical situation/life situation changes. Hence as one gets older, less active, post-menapausal (as you point out) if you maintain the same calorie intake you will gain weight.

#26 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 05:34 PM

A number of posts which deal exclusively with overeating and weight have been moved to this thread from the thread "Saints who smoked simultaneously when holy"

Fr David Moser

#27 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 05:50 PM

How could anyone tell if fatness was due to gluttony or a metabolic dysfunction?

To think that someone is sinful by their appearance is too close to the kind of thinking that has people without a skin-melamine deficiency shipped from home and out pickin' cotton. Dreadful thought!

Love,
Richard.

#28 Christina M.

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 05:56 PM

Problems arise in certain cases where one maintains the same calorific intake but one's medical situation/life situation changes. Hence as one gets older, less active, post-menapausal (as you point out) if you maintain the same calorie intake you will gain weight.


What you have just written is proof that one doesn't have to be a glutton to be overweight. Thank you for helping us answer the question at hand.

#29 Nina

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 06:04 PM

Medical conditions and medicine-induced-weight-gain aside here is an article about the larger portions we consume in modern days. In the times of the Last Supper, people walked a lot and worked (physically a lot) and had smaller portions. Maybe we eat more in modern times since products are less nutritious and because of mass-production? I am not trying to justify the sin of gluttony - plus as it is said before not every person who overeats is overweight.

Last Supper has been super-sized




#30 John Konstantin

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 06:11 PM

This is true Nina. For example. When the first German settlers farmed the prairies they had huge breakfasts of ham and egg etc (from whence hotdogs etc are descended). These were necessary for the huge amount of physical work on the farms. The farmers were still svelt like. When much of the farm work was taken over by machinery including sitting for long periods in air-conditioned harvesters, the culinary habits had already been fully cast. They farmers continued to eat their hearty breakfasts.

#31 Nina

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 06:35 PM

They farmers continued to eat their hearty breakfasts.


There is another article for the hearty breakfasts fit-for-the-farmers we consume today although our job can be a desk job. It was published recently. I do not seem to find it though.

See supporting your comment in the smoking thread that calorie intake and its equal spending will not lead to weight gain, almost got me into trouble. I have to explain that I support that notion a lot because I know it very well from many authoritative sources too and from first hand experience. However I thought we were talking about people in normal conditions, and not about people who are on medications, or are ill. It would be insane to say that because these people are not even at fault in my opinion and have a great burden so in no way in this world I was saying that about them. Plus when I was pregnant with Nicholas, I could not eat almost throughout my pregnancy because of morning sickness, it was so little what I ate and I wonder how God kept us alive. So I lost a lot of weight. I was also not moving much because I was so sick and still loosing weight. I was worried and thought I was harming my Baby because I could not eat. However when he was born he was so beautiful and perfect and in the highest percentile of weight and length. So I can not be called a murderer just because my morning illness caused me to not eat properly for my Baby, and caused me to loose weight while pregnant. However after I lost Nicholas and because I was grieving *a lot* I remember I was so addicted to chocolate and I am not really a chocolate person. I was eating chocolate and crying. I was missing my son and chocolate made me feel better - really. I hated myself for that though and did not like it. It was horrible so I gained weight (not a lot but still) after giving birth. So I know first hand about overdoing calorie intake. Was it a sin for me to eat so much choco? Maybe yes, maybe not, but my conscience told me yes, so I confessed it.

#32 Jason Hunt

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 07:14 PM

It appears here that all agree that gluttony is a sin. St. Benedict of Nursia, in his Rule for monastics, memorably stated:

St. Benedict, the Rule, Chapter 39: On the Measure of Food

Above all things, however,
over-indulgence must be avoided
and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion;
for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character
as over-indulgence
according to Our Lord's words,
"See to it that your hearts be not burdened
with over-indulgence" (Luke 21:34).

http://www.osb.org/r...xt/rbemjo2.html


As it is established that gluttony is a sin for both the thin and the overweight, I would be very interested to know how people can become obese without indulging in gluttony. Is it possible? I understand that people have different metabolisms, but shouldn’t a person with a slow metabolism simply require less food than a person with a fast metabolism? It seems that many people still eat like farmers and yet live sedentary lifestyles, or they eat foods that are filled with calories and fat to please the taste buds but are devoid of nourishment. Consequently, there is today the phenomenon in the developed world of being “overfed and undernourished”.

St. John Cassian identified three forms of gluttony in his Institutes for monastics:

St. John Cassian, The Institutes, Book V, Chapter XXIII

For the nature of gluttony is threefold: first, there is that which forces us to anticipate the proper hour for a meal, next that which delights in stuffing the stomach, and gorging all kinds of food; thirdly, that which takes pleasure in more refined and delicate feasting. And so against it a monk should observe a threefold watch: first, he should wait till the proper time for breaking the fast; secondly, he should not give way to gorging; thirdly, he should be contented with any of the commoner sorts of food. For anything that is taken over and above what is customary and the common use of all, is branded by the ancient tradition of the fathers as defiled with the sin of vanity and glorying and ostentation.

http://www.osb.org/l.../inst5.html#5.3


These three forms of gluttony are no less applicable to the laity than to monastics, and by the definition given by St. John Cassian, in most cases both the overweight and the thin are often guilty of this sin. Since gluttony is a sin, we should not be quick to judge others because of their overweight condition, but should rather question ourselves to see whether we too are gluttonous despite our thin appearance, if indeed we are not overweight. Do we snack between meals or eat food that only appeals to the sense of taste but has no nutritional value? If so, then we are guilty of two out of the three forms of gluttony, even though we may not do so to excess, or even though such excess does not result in added weight on account of our metabolism or active lifestyle.

That being said, while we all struggle with gluttony in one form or another, I would still like to repeat my question above - is it possible to be overweight and even obese without gluttony? If a person begins to put on a multitude of excess pounds, are they not eating too much, too often, or foods that are only for taste and devoid of nutritional content? As St. Benedict acknowledges in his Rule, one measure of food is not equally sufficient for all, but rather will depend on a person’s age, health, the amount of physical labor, etc. If we put on excess weight, then, is this not a clear sign that we are consuming more than what our body needs, given our own unique characteristics and lifestyles, or that we are consuming foods that simply gratify the sense of taste but cannot be metabolized by the body?

By the way, the above link to St. John Cassian’s writings on gluttony may be very helpful if anyone is having a difficult time in this area.

#33 Andra K.

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:09 PM

Yes it is possible for a person to become obese and not engage in gluttony. I have seen it with my own eyes. The medication Zyprexa causes a metabolic syndrome which causes significant weight gain in addition to diabetes, no matter how little a person eats. In fact, Eli Lilly lost a class action law suit regarding this and are now obligated to offer nutritional counseling for free for anybody on the medication--they have an online program and will also mail you a book and offer phone counseling. Locally we had many patients in group home settings, where meals were controlled by staff, gain tremendous amounts of weight--I am talking 50-80 pounds in a very short amount of time. We had one young lady gain 100 pounds. These patients did not have access to cars nor excess foods so their weight gain was not due to gluttony. This medication also causes blood lipid disorders. It is widely known that this medication causes significant metabolic problems and it is documented in the literature; it is also documented that Eli Lilly was aware of these issues and intentionally hid them, hence the lawsuits and black box warnings. The tragedy is that stopping the medication does not automatically correct the metabolic changes.

I bring this up as just one of many medical issues that can impact weight, irregardless of food intake. I could bring up more, as I work in health care and have many but I think that would really be off topic with regards to weight, gluttony and sin. I think that weight is not necessarily a good indicator of gluttony. I personally think that individuals need to examine their eating behaviors and assess themselves honestly regarding gluttony no matter what they weigh.

#34 Nina

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:46 PM

I personally think that individuals need to examine their eating behaviors and assess themselves honestly regarding gluttony no matter what they weigh.


You are right. I know people with great metabolic system and they eat *a lot*. Not that I am judging because I feel bad even to say this about them because maybe they just need to eat the poor things. We never know what is going on.

Also I have read somewhere that gourmet food is also sinful? Is this true esp in the light of the truth that what is gourmet for one culture may not be so for another. Anyway we know that excess is sinful and splurging much on one's self it is sinful too.

During Lent also I have read that even spices and herbs should not be used - in the strictest fast - since fasting food must be bland... I can never do that because my family's cooking tradition is from Constantinople and they use herbs and spices. Plus my husband will never eat bland food for long period of times now. And his family comments how the spices and herbs make our dishes tasty without adding too much salt in them since salt in excess is dangerous for our health esp. as we get older (my in laws have high blood pressure so now they are using herbs and spices like we do to avoid salt).

So there is no end really about the sin of gluttony, or excess food. Even if we do not overeat there is gormandizing, herbs and spices in fasting dishes. :(

#35 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:48 PM

St. Olaf of Norway as also known as Olaf the fat. G. K Chesterton wrote that we need more fat saints.


As with anything in the Orthodox Church dont we need a consensus for it to be the over-arching thinking of the church? St Olaf might have wanted more fat saints but is that a consensus?

#36 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:49 PM

It is not only what "causes" a person to be overweight that is a sin but the affect of being overweight that can be a sin ...

#37 Kusanagi

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 10:28 PM

I am looking for opinions on this. I would've never thought that someone would think such a thing, but there is at least one person on this forum who thinks so, so I'm wondering if maybe others are in the same boat, and what reasons they have to justify their thoughts.


I do not think it is. There is a saint from the lives of the desert fathers where due to a medical condition his body retained water and was bedridden, so over time he became very bloated which caused scandals to the brothers to see a "fat" monk. But the saint replied to them not to be offended by the sight of his body.

Also from the life of St Leonid of Optina when a visitor saw him the first time he thought that as a monk he was fat and when St Leonid went to meet him he stood up and slapped his stomach saying to the man look at my fat belly!

#38 John Konstantin

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 11:03 PM

As with anything in the Orthodox Church dont we need a consensus for it to be the over-arching thinking of the church? St Olaf might have wanted more fat saints but is that a consensus?

It was GK Chesterton that wanted more fat saints. Not St Olaf. Chesterton was an RC.

#39 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 11:45 PM

Who said anything about "over-arching"? Who said anything about it being a "teaching of the Church"? I provided one interesting and relevant opinion (admittedly non-Orthodox but he was a great Christian writer whom I respect) and an example of an Orthodox saint who was not thin. I think it fair to say that "fatness" as a measure of sinfulness is also not over-arching or consensus or even relevant. So what?

Eating too much is not a good thing. Granted, there are lots of other things that are not good things either. Judging someone because they don't meet your "standard" of appearance is one of them as well.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 16 March 2011 - 01:36 AM.


#40 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 01:30 AM

It is not only what "causes" a person to be overweight that is a sin but the affect of being overweight that can be a sin ...


In a word, no. Can sickness cause sin? Well, if in my weakness I curse God because I am sick, then yes, I suppose. But is the sickness sin? What an idea! If I am too sick I can't go to church and can't do metanias and prostrations. Prostrations and such can help fight against sin but is not doing "enough" prostrations a sin? Somehow, I don't think so, but I am a bear of admittedly little brain. O bother.

Herman the Pooh




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