Is Fat Sinful?

I’m obviously not a religious ambassador, much less an expert on how to differentiate what is sinful for one person and not for another, but a friend of mine recently asked me about this. The both of us consider ourselves disciples of Jesus (we don’t like the word “Christian” for what it has become) and he asked me what my thoughts were on people being overweight and gluttony. I was taken aback because of all the years I have been into fitness I have never actually thought about how one’s weight could be a reflection of their spiritual fortitude. It got me thinking, and I thought I’d share my thoughts in today’s post.

Now I will never claim to be in the position to tell you what’s black and white on an issue with a LOT of gray area like this one, but I do believe we should all view body weight management as an opportunity to honor both ourselves and our Creator (not that everyone has to be believe in both of those). We all know that there are things we can do that improve our bodies (resting enough, drinking lots of water, eating clean) and things we can do that mistreat them (skipping sleep, drugs, alcohol). When we knowingly and consistently make choices that contribute to the benefit of our bodies physical condition, we are honoring our bodies, ourselves and the one who created them. When we make choices that damage our body, intentional or unintentional, we are dishonoring all the same.

Since this topic is about sin, specifically gluttony, I’m not going to discuss why each human being should believe gluttony is wrong. Instead I’m only going to speak to those who already do believe that gluttony is a sin, and I will discuss what might help us decide when we are being gluttonous. Please know that I am not trying to shame anyone for being overweight or even obese, I am only attempting to offer professional insight into when food and body weight could be realistically considered gluttony, because as you will read, labeling either as “gluttony” invites a great deal of confusion and disagreement.

First, it could be argued that every time you eat more than you know you should, you are being gluttonous. The crux to that is, not everyone actually knows when they’re supposed to stop eating, especially when they have a leaner build. Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to cram as much food in as possible. Folks that consistently binge eat but are still lean are either not eating much at other meal times or are simply so active that their bodies burn through all the calories they consume, making it vital to get those calories in however necessary.

For those with the opposite of a lean build, especially if they are not managing their weight intentionally, you are consuming a surplus of calories on a regular basis, or at least did for long enough to get you where you are today. This brings up a second point of contention: is it only when you are consuming too many calories that you are being gluttonous, or is being overweight gluttonous even though you might be staying the same weight (no longer in a calorie surplus)?

This is where my professional expertise can be of assistance. I would measure gluttony the same way we measure the health of your body’s energy balance, by body-fat percentage. Better than BMI or circumference measurements, body-fat percentage gives us more accurate insight into the health of your weight. When body-fat gets above normal (>17% for men, >24% for women), additional fat stores begin cutting off circulation, putting dangerous amounts of pressure on internal organs, disrupting our natural hormone levels, and dozens of other harmful side effects.

I can’t see myself condemning every meal that puts someone in a calorie surplus for the day as being gluttonous, because sometimes people need to add weight, be it for health, fitness or athletic performance reasons, and the only way to add weight is to consume more calories than you burn. Living by that logic, where individual meals can’t be blamed, it seems difficult to objectively label certain meal sizes or even foods as gluttonous and others as acceptable. Sure someone maintaining a healthy weight eating ice cream all day compared to someone eating clean could be considered a glutton, but it would require medical observation to determine if the junk food diet was creating a dangerous health-hazard from a lack of necessary vitamins and minerals that would otherwise be consumed by a balanced diet. So judging gluttony by the type of foods consumed can’t realistically be done objectively; plus, what kind of God wouldn’t allow us to enjoy custard, cookies and cupcakes from time to time!?

Therefore, since meals and foods cannot realistically be used to measure gluttony, I have to suggest body-fat percentage as the best measure. But what body-fat percentage should you be? Surely an athlete whose team depends on his or her peak performance to succeed as a group is obligated to maintain a more athletic body-fat percentage than an average adult. Doing so maximizes their strength-to-weight ratio, assuring there is no excessive weight weighing them down, negatively impacting their endurance, speed, and movement quality. I would argue that everyone has both a natural healthy body-fat percentage range and an ideal body-fat percentage range, based on their age, activity and ability level. Depending on where one is in life and what obligations they have committed to, sometimes it might be gluttonous to be at a body-fat level and consuming unhealthy food choices that are not ideal, even though you might be in the healthy body-fat percentage range.

For example, I have maintained an athletic body-fat percentage almost my entire life (not always intentionally), but even though I have plenty of room to get fatter until I hit the >17% point, I know that the way my body holds fat and the activities I like to participate in on a regular basis don’t warrant me getting above 12% body-fat (the threshold between athletic and average body-fat levels). When I get above 10%, my energy levels go down, my belly holds almost all additional fat gained (dangerous for internal organs), and I honestly don’t really like the way I look with a shirt off. For this reason, I would say my natural healthy body-fat range would be 5%-12%, with an ideal range of 7%-9%.

It is worth mentioning that the further one gets away from gluttony, the closer one is to committing the sin of pride. So don’t think that just because you don’t struggle with gluttony that your body isn’t leading you towards sin. You deserve the happiness that comes with being proud of the accomplishments you make with your body, but becoming vain and prideful about those achievements is just as bad as being at the other end of the spectrum. Never rush to judgement!

Everyone is different, but body-fat percentage and honestly a quick visual assessment of one’s waist can tell you whether you are winning the battle with gluttony or not. Notice that I said battle and not war, as there is ALWAYS a way to turn around a losing streak and start winning, because the war isn’t over until your life is! If you need help winning against gluttony, comment below or message me directly to tell me how I can help. Here’s to a win against sin from here on out!

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