GiniLiz (giniliz) wrote in fat_theology,

Intro posts sound like a good idea

Hi there.  From what little I know of those already joined up here, I'm the least theologically trained in any formal sense.  I have some ministry experience and a lot of curiosity, but it wasn't until I started hanging out with theogeeks a couple years ago that I had words to put to some of my thoughts and learned that I was not even close to being the first to have such thoughts.  My theogeeks and my dad (a conservative methodist minister) tell me that my ideas reflect a liberation theology, but I just have to take their word on that for now.  I'm a grad student.  I don't have time to do a ton of extra reading. 

When I began graduate studies in health psychology in 2003, I was severely depressed, on the Atkins diet "way of life", and curious as to why people chose the weight loss plans they chose.  I wrote a thesis based on all the "obesity epidemic" rhetoric and discussing how important it was for people to find a "sensible weight loss plan... for their health."  In my research methodology classes, though, I was becoming a tad more sophisticated in understanding causality and confounds and controls, and when I re-read some of my thesis articles, I grew suspicious.  On my way to the American Public Health Association conference in 2004, I came across a copy of The Obesity Myth (Paul Campos) in the airport bookstore.  Bought it, read it on the plane, and learned that I was not the only one questioning this research.  I drove my roommate at that conference nuts as I grew increasingly excited.  By the time I returned from the conference, though, I knew I had some major hurdles ahead.  I could not go forward with my thesis as it was written.  Even more, though, I needed to do some personal work before I could return to the topic.  I got into counseling with a very fat-positive, HAES wise counselor I found on the fat-friendly health professionals list.  I reframed a lot of things, including my time in a Christian weight loss program and the relationship between my quest for godly thinness and my quest for godly straightness.  After that, I returned to the thesis work, starting from scratch.  I'm still finishing that dang thing 3 years later.  ;)

The fat stuff has made me think (and read and talk) a lot about how we define health and disease and illness and disability and beauty and morality and how all these things get tangled.  As I mentioned in a comment on the previous post, I was inspired by Crossan's approach to Jesus' healing of "illness", with "illness" being the social exclusion and ritual uncleanliness people with a particular physical condition face.  My professional work has, for the past 3 years, been very HAES-focused.  I appreciate how HAES counts healthcare access and personal and social fat acceptance as central components of "health."  I also agree with songquake that it should not be necessary for fat people to be healthy to deserve respect and love and trust.  Similarly, queer folk shouldn't have to prove themselves religious, monogamous, healthy, stable, family-oriented, "productive members of society" to deserve respect and love and trust.  Respect and love and trust are not things one "earns," despite how often we talk about people "earning respect" and "earning trust."  They are our birthrights as children of God. 

Correcting misconceptions about health and happiness, however, has proved useful for me in dealing with members of marginalized groups.  While I shouldn't have to convince Policymaker Smith or Bully Jones that fat people can be healthy and therefore should be treated well, I very well may need to challenge misconceptions fat people have adopted about themselves.  The parish nurse who gave a horrid sermon at my church last Sunday insisted she could not have been biased because she, too, is "overweight" and recognizes that she "needs to fix that."  Many patients (and friends) justify their hatred of their own bodies with the "for my health" line.  On a fat-positive health professionals listserv, a person once mentioned that it is difficult to bring fat people together to demand justice for themselves because they are constantly told that their membership in the category "fat" is temporary, completely negative, and to be cast off as quickly as possible. 

Just as I needed to hear that I could be queer and a "good Christian woman" when first coming out in high school, I needed to hear that I could be fat and a "good, healthy person" when first coming out in grad school.  I think of both issues much differently now, but I recognize that many people still need that initial reassurance and cannot completely change their worldview all at once.  My heart is with those who are at initial stages of self-acceptance who sometimes get overwhelmed seeing us as far away "on the other side" with radically different and completely unimaginable or just plain wrong worldviews.  I've been there.  I remember that time.

Wow, this intro post is all over the place.  Okay, so right now I am at a place where fat acceptance is a given, but I'm frustrated because it is not a given to those around me, especially those in the health fields where I work.  I may have an assistantship working as the coordinator of health ministries (working with the local parish nurses) next year, so that would be interesting, considering how some of the local parish nurses are all about convicting fat people of their sins of gluttony and sloth, and these nurses certainly promote the idea that health =  beauty = morality.  And I'm intrigued by how difference, in general, is framed in the church.  And I'm rambling, so I'm going to stop now.

ETA (a couple days later): I mentioned songquake's previous post above and, now that I have re-read it, I realize that I completely missed its point and assumed it was the usual concern about health being a prerequisite for respect.  That is what I get for reading and writing after midnight while leading a campus ministry trip (being distracted by students and movies, looking up return driving directions online, and trying to figure out what time to leave the next morning).  Apologies, and I'll work on slowing down a bit.
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