Madre Liz Simmons

Madre Liz Simmons

I ate a McDonald's Egg McMuffin in front of Lindsay today. Yes, THAT Lindsay. Gym trainer Lindsay, who probably eats puffed grass for breakfast with fat-free soymilk. Five percent body fat Lindsay. (I don't really know if these things are true, except the gym trainer part; all the rest of the stuff is just my inner fit person being projected onto Lindsay).

Yes, I carried my McDonald's bag into a public place, and shamelessly ate from it in public. Well, not shamelessly. Not at all.

You see, I am one of those people that the news pundits lament as a huge drain on the health system. I am a person with Syndrome X, which you may not have heard as much about: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, diabetic. When people find out I am diabetic, they ask "type 2?" as though I am telling them I have leprosy. They don't actually step back, but I can just see their respect for me drain right out of them.

As a country that has about 29 million adults with diabetes, 86 million with pre-diabetes (blood sugar higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed), and with 1 in 4 who are undiagnosed diabetics, we're pretty hard on diabetics.

It's because we're conflicted.

As "get it done", optimistic Americans with "can do" attitudes, we want the rest of the world to see us as healthy, vibrant, and in great shape. The world's most powerful country can't be overweight, out of shape, and still get respect.

I know the feeling.

And yet, we also keep manufacturing tastier and higher-in-calorie snacks and beverages (scientifically designed to taste good and FEEL good in our mouths, and then set up a craving for more "tasty" snacks); we are getting more and more efficient with time- and energy-saving devices; and we are pressured to work longer and longer hours to keep our jobs, so that we need quick food and energy-(our energy)-efficient devices, and don't allow ourselves TIME to exercise the 50 minutes a day that my doctor just prescribed me.

Hence, the conflict.

As a person of faith, I believe that I am called by God to be a steward of the temple that is my body (meaning that I know God would probably prefer me to take better care of myself). I believe it, but I am SO far from the integrity of acting on that belief.

When I meet a supposedly "spiritual" person who is overweight (unless they're Franciscan friars), I wonder about their integrity. And that judgment comes back, like a boomerang, to haunt me. It's funny how judgment works, isn't it?

But I do believe that overeating is a spiritual issue.

There's this God-shaped hole inside me that aches and yearns for something (I can't put my finger on what it is), and it's quicker to try to fill it with KFC buckets and Taco Bell chalupas and ice cream than it is to wait for God, whom I'm not sure has gotten my latest text. And because it doesn't really satisfy the craving, I just keep trying more and more to fill it with the latest thing. (Did you know Oreos just came out with a thinner version? That means you can eat twice as many!)

For awhile, I believed that being thin was a patriarchal expectation of our culture, a demand for women to be a certain shape (which is true), and one more way for men to control women (which might be partly true; just go to dinner with a group of single people, and watch how the eating patterns differ of the guys and girls. Many women will not eat in public, if they think guys are watching!)

I lost 50 pounds a couple of years ago, going from a size 20 to a size 14. I read somewhere that the average size for women these days is a size 14, and even though I was still 20 pounds from the American Insurance official table of weight (who died and made them god?), I relaxed my weight loss efforts. Still, my blood pressure and blood sugar numbers were down.

There has got to be a sensible alternative to starving ourselves (and feeling superior for passing up all the beautiful, non-manufactured food that is available in our country) to meet our culture's expectations of what beauty is, or the gluttony that many of us have succumbed to because life is too much for us, and we will never meet that standard of beauty, even at our skinniest.

I know that the alternative is spiritual. God wants to give me fullness of life, and that includes wholeness of body, mind, soul and strength. (I also know how to eat healthy, what exercise is best, and could even teach a class on any of these from a theoretical perspective). I continue to pray for the willingness to be willing to act on that knowledge, especially after being put on insulin last week. That was a huge blow, and yet another layer of shame.

I also know that until God can be enough, until my faith is that level, I need "God's love with skin on it", better known as supportive people. Instead of AA for alcoholics, I need an SSC group: Spiritual Solutions for Cravings. If you're interested in such a group (seriously), email me at It would be mutually-supportive and a step toward trusting that God gives me everything I need to live the life God wants me to live.

Without that mega extra tall Snickers milk shake.

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