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"Whose god is their belly" [Ph 3:19]
Imagine an immensely talented surgeon, able to cure blindness. What would happen if this surgeon placed a huge neon sign outside his clinic saying:
Hey! Blind people! Come here, I can cure you!
Quite probably, few blind people could read his sign.
It's somewhat the same thing for us Catholics. We have Faith, so we clearly see the spiritual world, but it's useless to "post a big sign" that the unbelievers can't read! We can talk all we want about Jesus and the Bible, but the unbelievers (by definition) don't yet believe in Jesus, so they might not see the point. Of course we have to continue to talk about Jesus and the Bible, but we also have to attract the unbelievers with things they can see and appreciate.
Another way of saying this is that we have to avoid giving "negative testimonies" to unbelievers. A negative testimony is a bit like a big speaker (that the blind can hear) that blares: "Go away, blind people, we can't do anything to help you!"
Some negative testimonies are horrible and almost guaranteed to chase unbelievers away from Jesus (like bad inquisitions, for example). Other negative testimonies are far less serious, yet they still harm the Church
One of these minor negative testimonies is the obesity of Catholics. Unbelievers might not know what the Immaculate Conception is, or Transubstantiation, but they know what's a healthy weight. They also know that Jesus said we have to love ourselves (as well as God and our neighbors) [Mc 12:29]. Perhaps they are even aware that the Catholic Church teaches that the Sacraments confer Grace, and that Grace and prayer permit us to do God's will.
Unbelievers can therefore come up with these arguments:
"This Catholic is fat, therefore he doesn't love himself, which is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Therefore the Catholic Church is not the Church of Jesus."
"This Catholic is fat, but he tries to lose weight without succeeding. If it's because of some endocrine disorder or something like that, it's not his fault. But if it's by lack of willpower, then the Catholic religion is false, since the Catholic Sacraments are supposed to cure man from his spiritual diseases, among them the lack of willpower to do good."
These arguments can seem simple, even simplistic, but they have a large proportion of truth, and a truth that even the spiritually blind can see. And there is no use replying that these people should be able to see "beyond our appearances" and see the "beauty of our soul". These people aren't crazy. They know we can be physically ugly and morally beautiful. But on the other hand, they also see that normally, if the Catholic religion were true, Catholics as a group should be not only at their healthy weight, but also sober, courageous, just, humble, charitable, and so on.
Before taking your resolution to return to your healthy weight, you need to list in writing all the good reasons you have to lose weight. Here are a few suggestions to jog your imagination:
2.1) To convert unbelievers. If you cut short your love affair with your fridge, you'll be in better shape to attract and convert unbelievers!
2.2) To mortify ourselves. The words of Jesus are like the good seed we must sow in good soil. To have good soil, we have to remove rocks, pull out weeds, till the ground. More specifically, we have four good reasons to mortify ourselves: (1) we must mortify the remains of original sin which incline us to evil; (2) we must mortify the remains of our personal sins; (3) we have to mortify ourselves because of the infinite elevation of our supernatural end; (4) we have to mortify ourselves to imitate Jesus crucified. [The Three Ages of the Interior Life, p. 406 in the French edition].
2.3) To be the bulwark of purity. Let's not forget that gluttony is the advance guard of impurity. When we feel a bit of hunger, it's as if the divine Alarm System was ensuring us that the barbarians were locked out of the our soul's castle!
2.4) Because Jesus is the chocolate of our life! Seriously, the more we seek out divine consolations, the less we need human consolations, whether fancy dishes, or TV, or daily newspapers, etc.
2.5) To gain more willpower. "Inevitability exists only through of the spinelessness of beings" [V. Cousin].
2.6) To improve our intellectual life. It's hard to concentrate when you're busy shoveling food into your mouth, or drinking at the trough. "Food that is light and simple, moderate in quantity and in preparation, will grant readiness and freedom to your work. A thinker doesn't spend his life in digestion sessions." [Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life, chap. 2.4].
2.7) To avoid type-II diabetes. The medical community is talking more and more about a pandemic of type-II diabetes in North America. It's a wave that is hitting us, and some say it will have terrible consequences on our hospitals and taxes. And yes, I've also done a conference on wound management where I saw pictures of the feet of diabetics, and heard physicians explain how they could stick a huge hypodermic needle right through a foot, with no blood coming out, and without the patient noticing, and how they "debrided" (cut out all the dead stuff) before sewing over it all with a "flap" of flesh. I've also heard a physician laugh at the expression of people who claim to have "a little bit of diabetes". There is no such thing. You can't be a little bit pregnant, and you can't have "a little bit of diabetes". It is a terrible disease, and when you have it, you have it, and it will follow you to your grave.
2.8) To reduce the risks of Cardio-Vascular Diseases. Excess body mass is directly related to Cardio-Vascular Diseases. If the preceding sentence doesn't hit you, go push some stretchers in the hospital wing that deals with such people (yes, I did that). Look at the adults, sometimes tall and strong and rich, who are tied up to the wall with all kinds of wires and tubes. Look at them, while they beg for help to go to the bathroom. See their bank accounts draining out because they can't work anymore. See all the pain they impose to the members of their family, who now have to take care of them, just because they lacked the moral fiber to quit eating chips and Coka-cola...
(Oops, did I forget to mention that as soon as you have a cardiac attack, you automatically become diabetic afterward?)
2.9) To have some clothes on our back! Returning to one's healthy weight often means getting a free wardrobe of almost new cloths (our own!).
2.10) To be more mobile and independent. By coming back to a healthy diet (higher food quality and lower quantity), and by exercising regularly, we get rid of a whole slew of little slaveries: long and complex meal preparations; complexity in our kitchen (you need all kinds of culinary implements to cook refined meals!); trips to the grocery store that are frequent, tedious and dominated by all kinds of small rules to be respected; whisperings and complaints as soon as we have to eat elsewhere than in our own kitchen adapted to our culinary whims; etc.
2.11) To pay the rent. Franklin used to say: "One vice costs more to feed than two children". Eating better means getting financially richer.
2.12) To run faster and climb higher. It's not easy to run, when you're dragging the equivalent of a backpack filled with several kilograms of butter! (Also, the heavier you are, the more your articulations wear out. By losing weight, you might avoid painful and costly knee replacement surgery, etc., when you get older.)
2.13) To live more ecologically. By eating well, we often reduce our "ecological footprint" (think of all the plastic containers, the bags of chips, the electricity to cook fancy meals, etc.).
2.14) To avoid being deformed. Let's not forget that the human body was invented by God. Getting fat out of sheer gluttony is vandalizing the Temple of the Holy Spirit [1Co 3:16].
Why is obesity bad? One-slide conclusion of an advanced explanation by Dr. André Tchernof.
3.1) There is nothing miraculous about a diet. Fat is just excess "food fuel" stocked by our body. If we eat more fuel than what we burn through physical exertion, we get fatter. And conversely, if we burn more fuel than we eat, we get thinner.
3.2) Eat less, eat better, move more. It's the only good way to lose weight. (It's also an excellent metaphor for learning Philosophy, but that's another story!)
3.3) A diet is essentially a resolution. To learn more about resolutions, see among others New Year's Resolutions: A Satanic Plot?.
3.4) It's enjoyable to be on a diet. Warning! Food quacks will try to make you believe that you can lose weight while pandering to your vices. This is false. At some point of time, you have to deny yourself, at least a little bit. On the other hand, with God's Grace, prayer, Sacraments, natural means and good resolutions, you can develop a virtue! And once you've developed this virtue of food temperance, respecting your diet becomes easy and enjoyable.
3.5) A diet is for life. If your medulla oblongata and your pons stopped controlling your breathing, you'd stop breathing and die. This control is a life-long process. It has to be the same thing for your diet. Some not-too-bright persons quote statistics according to which people who stop dieting return to their previous excessive weight. Well duh! If you stop controlling your feeding, your feeding will be out of control!
3.6) Flee from drugs, alcohol and tobacco. All of this dieting stuff aims at giving you bodily health, so of course dieting is pretty useless if you also do things that destroy the health of your body!
Good shoes for fast walking, cardiometer and something heavy.
4.1) Consult your family physician before and during your diet. A diet is partly something "in your head", but it's also something that occurs in your body. The experts on the human body are medical doctors.
4.2) Think as little as possible about food, and as much as possible about your noble ideal. Some persons are completely obsessed with food. Their whole existence revolves around their stomach, and a diet is for them the opportunity to think even more about food. You have to do the exact opposite. Find a healthy passion, a noble ideal. Think about this noble ideal, give yourself body and soul to this healthy passion, and you'll forget about your stomach.
4.3) Kick out all the food quacks. If you are being monitored by a physician, and you eat appropriately, you can kick out the whole circus of food quacks. Anybody who tries to sell you something complicated and expensive to lose weight is a food quack. Anybody who tries to convince you that you need ultra-special food recipes to lose weight is a food quack. Anybody who suggests that you can lose weight without at least a bit of self-denial is a food quack. Anybody who tries to convince you (with an annoying Parisian accent) that "No! No! It's absolutely not a question of burning more calories than you eat! Buy my book and you'll see the light!" is a food quack.
4.4) Buy a bathroom scale that is metric, with a large digital LED display, and at least half a kilo precision. "Catholic" rhymes with "Metric", and body mass is measured in kilograms. Moreover, the large digital LED display means you can check your mass easily. Finally, by being sufficiently precise, you can check your "food cruising speed" on a daily basis.
4.5) Your interventions to control your body mass should be barely perceptible. A good diet could be called a "food cruising speed". You have to "aim" for the right number on your bathroom scale, and accelerate if you dip below, and brake if you go over. By weighing yourself regularly (once a day max), you'll never have any big nasty surprises, and your interventions to maintain your healthy body mass will be barely perceptible, and cause little pain.
4.6) Generous portions of whole grain products, of fresh fruits and vegetables, reasonable quantities of milk products, and finally of proteins. You can consult the Canadian Food Guide, among others.
4.7) Eliminate Junk Food. Get rid of the capitalists who want to exploit you like cattle to get richer. Our body is hard-wired to be attracted to salty, sweet and fatty foods (small quantities of these things are necessary for life). Junk food abuses these natural tendencies.
4.8) Forbid yourself to eat between meals. (Of course, we're not talking here about people with special medical conditions.) Burning fat is slow and painful, accumulating fat is quick and fun. In a few minutes of overeating, you can destroy the efforts of many days of hard physical exercise. "Losing weight is 20% gym, and 80% kitchen".
4.9) Jump on every opportunity to exercise. Eliminate elevators and escalators. Hunt down opportunities to walk to go to work, to shop, to visit your pals, etc. Believe me, as your diet will progress, your town will shrink.
4.10) Equip yourself for walking, not fashion shows. Buy good trail running shoes (non-slip sole, good support for the foot and ankle, shock-absorbing to protect the joints, etc.), a good little backpack, and real outdoor cloths. It's amazing to see how few people know how to dress for rain, wind and cold (even here in the Province of Quebec!). I guarantee you that if you're reasonably healthy, and appropriately equipped, you'll be able to exercise in the worst weather, and yet be as comfortable as if you were in your living room (except for hot weather, since you can't take your air conditioner with you!). This is not really an expense for losing weight, since you need these things anyway.
4.11) If you're a woman, throw out your fashion magazines. Forget the silhouettes of those fashion models (who are often anorexic). First of all, those photos aren't real: most are heavily modified with powerful software, to "improve" those poor scrawny models. You'll never look like that, and anyway, your body is declining day by day. You're headed for the grave, and your body will be eaten by worms. Put your treasure in Heaven, where it will be safe.
4.12) Reduce the amount of meat you eat, without falling into the vegetarian superstition. Maybe it is possible to be a vegetarian without falling into some superstition, but I've never come across such a person. On the other hand, most North Americans eat too much meat, and meat production puts a huge strain on the environment.
4.13) Educate the people who share your fridge. If for example you're married, and your wife doesn't buy fresh vegetables at the grocery store, or she brings you large bowls of chips when you're reading in the living room, you'll find it harder to respect your diet.
4.14) Respect your fat cells. The human body is a wonderful machine, invented by an Engineer who always had 100% on all His exams. A fat cell is a fantastic energy reserve. First, you don't need to eat greasy foods to get fat: the body is able to transform any excess food energy into fat. Second, fat contains roughly three times more energy than sugar, which explains why losing weight takes so much time. Cheer up, because this also explains why we're not all dead already, like a silly cell phone that uses up its battery!
4.15) Maybe buy a bit of equipment. In theory, equipment is almost totally useless, since to exercise, you just need to go outside and run, or walk briskly, or swim, or chop wood, etc. But since I'm lazy, my "brisk walk" tends to briskly turn into a "nonchalant daydream"! My cardiometer calculates a heart rate that is reasonable for my age, weight, sex and general fitness level, then it goes "beep-beep" when I slow down too much!
As far as exercising inside when the weather is too bad, I like to use two things that are very easy to find: water and gravity! Water is heavy, and exerting a force on a mass to make it go up is almost the definition of work! (Joule = Newton * meter, or kg*m*m/s*s) With a bit of imagination, you can make just about all your muscles work, without injuries (by putting the right amount of water), without making noise (gravity is usually pretty silent!), and cheaply!
4.16) Each time you feel an irresistible urge to eat, go on an "urban pilgrimage" . If you live in the Province of Quebec, there is probably a Catholic church near you. Go on foot! Go see Jesus in person! If you want to double the effectiveness of your pilgrimage, distribute some Lost Sermons in that church: you'll then have to run away! That's an excellent way to burn calories!
Go hug your fridge for the last time. It's all over between it and you. Your heart and your stomach now belong to Jesus.
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