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February 9, 2011 / Katie

“A more healthy weight”

As many of you may remember, I was commissioned last June as a provisional United Methodist deacon.  Provisional status lasts (at least) two years, the first year of which I am required to “check in” with the provisional committee and update them on my progress in ministry. Next year, I will be requesting this committee’s recommendation for ordination in full connection.

As you can imagine, there are a number of materials I need to prepare for this interview. One of them is a set of questions about my personal and professional habits and wellness.  The “Self-Understanding” section includes the following (emphasis mine):

a.      Do you have friends outside the local churchb.     What recreational activities do you participate in?

c.     How often do you engage in physical exercise lasting at least 30 minutes?  What is that routine?

d.     How are your eating habits?  If you are over/under the average weight for your age and body type, do you have a plan in the next year to move toward a more healthy weight?

e.     Do you meet regularly in an accountability/support group?  How often do you meet?  How has this group helped your spiritual, emotional, and mental outlook?

f.      How many nights per week are reserved for “home life”?

g.     How many days off do you take consistently each week?

h.     Do you take all your vacation?

i.      What are your interests and hobbies outside the church?

Oh, this question is going to be fun to answer. Right off the bat we have not only the assumption that there is “one healthy weight” for all people, but also the conflation of weight with eating.

I am sure I will post my answer here once it is complete. As I am contemplating my answer to this… any insight from my readers about how to go about answering this? Assuming no one on the committee has probably ever heard of FA, or they have, may have wild misconceptions about it?

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22 Comments

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  1. human / Feb 9 2011 11:12 am

    Yuck, that’s uncomfortable, isn’t it? I suppose I’d say start by laying out the assumptions inherent in the question, then point out they do not apply to all people universally, then get into the particulars of your situation, why those assumptions don’t apply to you and what you do to stay healthy.

    It occurs to me that here’s a place where you could make the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory work to your advantage — by coming up with an answer you’re satisfied with, then posting it on some non-FA site. You’d get trolled of course, but then you’d have a sense of everything that the committee might possibly come back at you with in response to your specific answer, and then you could prepare to answer them back.

    Good luck!

  2. Carol Gwenn / Feb 9 2011 11:20 am

    What on earth does THAT have to do with your call to ministry, pray tell, and what business is it of a committee that you may be larger or smaller than “average” (whatever THAT is)?

    • Katie / Feb 9 2011 11:26 am

      Well, honestly, I actually really like that they check up on your personal well-being. Far too long the church has stayed out of how pastors care for themselves, to the detriment of not only the well-being of the pastors themselves but of the church communities too. It is pastors who don’t engage in self-care who end up crossing boundaries large and small, and who burn out and either retire too early or remain but are ineffective.

      Take for example, psychotherapists, of which I am one. Studies show that beyond 25 client hours per week, therapists are much more likely to be engaging in a sexual relationship with a client. If we are not making sure our needs get met in healthy outside-the-counseling-office (or outside-the-church) ways, then we start seeking out our needs getting met in the wrong places–clients, parishoners, etc.

      In addition, as ministers/counselors, our very selves are our tools. We don’t have pencils to keep sharpened, computers to keep up-to-date, for the crux of our work. The crux of our work is to be able to communicate the Love of God to the People of God, and our own internal spiritual and emotional health is crucial in us being able to do that. So they have a vested interest in it more than, say, a boss on a construction site.

      I think with the weight question, their intentions and hearts are absolutely in the right place. They really believe that being above an average weight is unhealthy, and in a universe where they are right, it would be an important question to ask. Unfortunately, that is not the universe we live in, and by asking it they are doing more harm than good. I am hoping and praying that I can use this as an opportunity to share what I have learned with them and they will be receptive to it.

      • Twistie / Feb 9 2011 1:05 pm

        I agree that the question is probably asked with the best of intentions in hopes that ministers will take better care of themselves and thus be better able to help others. But the fact that the only two questions they ask in relation to this are whether you are exercising regularly and how you intend to change your weight if it falls outside the commonly accepted ‘healthy BMI’ is problematic to me.

        They do not ask if you are under a physician’s regular care, whether you have gotten age/gender-appropriate testing for cancers. They do not ask if you have any chronic physical or psychological issues under control. They do not ask for your blood pressure or blood sugar readings. They do not ask about your stress control habits, or how much alcohol you drink. They do not ask whether you are getting adequate sleep.

        In other words, the only questions they ask about self-care are limited to weight control, since, like food, far too many people consider exercise all about maintaining or reaching a ‘healthy weight’ rather than anything to do with physical resilience and muscle strength.

        So yes, I do agree these questions are probably asked out of genuine concern for the well-being of ministerial candidates and the ministry in general… but they really strike me as both invasive and inadequate to reach that goal.

        I don’t really have any suggestions on how to answer these questions beyond ‘honestly’ but I really am flabbergasted at them. I kind of needed to vent.

        • Katie / Feb 9 2011 2:27 pm

          thanks Twistie, your ranting is actually immensely helpful to me.

          I know most of the members of this committee, and the interview is mostly a basic check-in, which means I’m not seriously on the hook. It’s just asking for “continuance” of my provisional status until next year when I will be asking for them to recommend me for full ordination.

          With that said, in the last few hours since posting this one of the things I’m seriously contemplating is challenging them on this a little bit. I feel I’m being pushed (a boundary is being pushed) and I’m thinking rather than deflect or simply hold my ground, I may actually push back.

          You make some really excellent points that will help should I decide to push back. Part of my pushing back can include mentioning what they haven’t asked about; thus challenging the way they are (narrowly) defining health and self-care.

          so, thanks for the vent!

  3. outrageandsprinkles / Feb 9 2011 12:12 pm

    My mom, who has no concept or knowledge of FA or HAES recently asked me about my “health” via my weight. I told her simply that I try eat well and don’t weigh myself because I feel that focusing on weight, not food and feeling well, leads to being unhealthy.

    Good luck!

  4. Ashley Pariseau / Feb 9 2011 1:39 pm

    Interesting. I wonder how they will respond to your answer, whatever it may be.

    • Katie / Feb 9 2011 2:29 pm

      yeah, me too.

      Because really, the interviews themselves are usually quite short compared to all the materials turned in. You turn in the materials two months before the interviews, and certain committee members read different portions of what you turn in. During the interview itself, people ask questions based on what they read.

      So a lot of the committee’s response will actually come down to whether the individual(s) who read my answer to that find it noteworthy enough to ask about, or choose to ask about other things.

      It also will depend on whether I make the choice to bring it up myself when they ask me if I have anything in particular to say.

      I am sure I will be updating this blog on how the process all goes :)

  5. Jenna / Feb 9 2011 1:56 pm

    While I get the intent is to get an idea of your health and well being I think these questions are intrusive and won’t get the info they are looking for. They are very badly written.

    Can I write in my answers just for fun?

    a. Do you have friends outside the local churchb. What recreational activities do you participate in?

    Pole dancing. bare back swine riding. strip poker.

    c. How often do you engage in physical exercise lasting at least 30 minutes? What is that routine?

    My sweet love making sessions are quite strenuous as we no longer have a bed frame. Our routine is: we warm up with a good spanking, then….

    d. How are your eating habits? If you are over/under the average weight for your age and body type, do you have a plan in the next year to move toward a more healthy weight?

    My eating habits include baby seals, endangered orchids and the blood of englishmen. How else am I going to nourish this rocking body? My plan next year is to continue to preen in the sunlight and gaze upon myself in reflective pools of mist.

    e. Do you meet regularly in an accountability/support group? How often do you meet? How has this group helped your spiritual, emotional, and mental outlook?

    My FAT ACCEPTANCE support group is AWESOME. We meet every day and they love my fantabulousness… references upon request, baby!

    f. How many nights per week are reserved for “home life”? nunya bidness

    g. How many days off do you take consistently each week? nunya bidness

    h. Do you take all your vacation? nunya bidness

    i. What are your interests and hobbies outside the church? nunya bidness

    • Katie / Feb 9 2011 2:30 pm

      OMG, hilarious. I especially love your answer to letter e, lol!

      Thanks for bringing a big grin to my face :)

    • Miriam Heddy / Feb 9 2011 2:56 pm

      Fi, Fi, Fo, Fum!
      Reading your answers was lots of fun!

      I agree those questions are problematic. I’m surprised that there’s no linking of the spiritual to the body.

      I think I’d end up answering by reframing “weight” as gravitas.

  6. TropicalChrome / Feb 9 2011 1:59 pm

    You may or may not be able to get away with this, but if it were me (which it’s not! :)), I would focus my answer on what seems to be the intent behind the question, which is “how are you taking care of your physical body so you can perform the tasks you are signing up for”. I would focus on what other commenters have mentioned: that you have regular medical care, take the time to eat regular meals, what you do for movement and to feel good, etc. And completely ignore the weight question all together.

    If the weight issue does come up, I would first try to deflect/universalize the question, as in “bodies are different, and it’s better to look at how they function rather than comparing them all to a “one size fits all” chart.”

    And if they didn’t let up after that, I’d let them have it with printouts of all the studies publicized on the fatosphere :). Nothing like overwhelming people with data to get a point across :).

  7. jaed / Feb 9 2011 3:52 pm

    I’d be tempted to stick my nose in the air and tell them something like, “As a practitioner of Health at Every Size [insert nice academic URL here], I try to avoid unhealthy practices such as food restriction and attempts to control weight and height.” It makes your perspective clear, and gives them something specific to ask about (the HAES term) if they’re curious or want to explore your answer further. It leads the conversation in a more productive direction than “But WHYYY won’t you take care of your health???” or similar.

    (Actually, I’d be even more tempted to start loudly discussing boundary issues and the inappropriate intrusions apparent in this questionnaire, but I’m obnoxious that way – and you may not agree that it’s inappropriate anyway.)

  8. Living the Questions / Feb 9 2011 4:23 pm

    My best advice would be (forgive me if this sounds pat at first) to be honest and truly expect the best of the committee. I have recently (in the past year) had a couple of pre-FA 101 conversations with colleagues, and despite my tremendous anxiety ahead of time, I’ve been received with with politeness and some warmth.

    Pointing out that the questions makes some assumptions that may not be entirely accurate, you could talk about your commitment (if I remember previous posts accurately) to eat intuitively and move in ways that give pleasure and build strength. This is a simple and often refreshing answer for people to hear.

    Given that the future as at least *as* likely to be positive as it is to be negative, I’d assume that a simple but clear answer like that could be all they need to hear.

    (And if someone pushes or is hostile, if it was me, I think I’d say something like, “Thank you so much for your concern for me. I really am committed to having and have worked hard to develop a warm, good relationship with my body. I am grateful to be part of a community that values this, too. I have thought and even read a great deal about this topic of weight and health. I wonder if we could save this part of the discussion for another, separate time, that would be dedicated to this issue?” That way, you’re not having to debate FA in the context of what is a loaded time?)

  9. Amy / Feb 9 2011 8:39 pm

    I would just tell them that you are at the average weight for your height and body type. Your body type is fat. If your body type were fatter or thinner, that weight would be the most healthy weight for your body type. So you are, by definition, at the average weight for your body type. The weight you’re at right now is the most healthy weight for that body type, because it’s a weight that allows you to live a happy, fulfilling life without the physical and psychological damage that dieting or body hatred can produce.

    That’s what I would tell them. That, and that my eating habits are excellent.

  10. Living 400lbs / Feb 10 2011 12:25 am

    As others have noted, I would answer that “I am exercising and eating well to support my health. My focus is on my health, not my weight.” If you can put “Per my doctor’s instructions” or “After consultation with my doctor” at the front, so much the better ;)

  11. Alexa / Feb 10 2011 6:50 am

    Say that you eat nutritious food, if you cook it yourself, that’d be a good thing to mention. And I’d just put down something like “I’m a healthy weight for my age and body type”. It’s perfectly true and I doubt they’d be rude enough to bring it up and argue the point with you. In the unlikely event they do, insist you’re healthy, or as healthy as can be, and see no reason to change your weight.

  12. KellyK / Feb 10 2011 9:16 am

    I would answer the exercise question honestly. For “what are you doing to move toward a more healthy weight” I would explain why you don’t find attempts at weight loss healthy or helpful for you and ways in which you’re focusing on your health. Like, if it were me, I would say that attempting weight loss stresses me out, which is counterproductive for both mental and physical health. I do have both hypothyroid and PCOS, conditions that make it easy to put on weight, and I’m on a couple medications with weight gain as a side effect. So, for me to lose weight, I’d have to resort to drastic and unhealthy measures. Plus, based on the tiny percentage of people who are successful at losing weight and the studies that show it’s better to be fat and fit than thin and sedentary, I don’t see weight loss as a helpful or realistic goal for myself. Additionally, I find that I eat a wider variety of foods, including more fruits and vegetables, when I don’t count calories or focus on portion control, but pay attention to what I’m actually hungry for. Similarly, I exercise not to lose weight but to improve my cardiovascular health, reduce my stress level, and manage my sciatica and ankle issues. I’m not as active as I’d like to be because of those issues, but I’m getting there.

    I’m actually glad you shared this, because thinking out my own answer to this question was really helpful.

    • KellyK / Feb 10 2011 10:38 am

      Oh, and I don’t mean to sound like I only get a “pass” from dieting because of the metabolic issues. I don’t think it’s helpful for most people, but if I were asked the question, I would emphasize that I don’t have a snowball’s chance in he…er, um, a volcano, based on those things.

  13. Kate White / Feb 10 2011 1:07 pm

    “How are your eating habits? If you are over/under the average weight for your age and body type, do you have a plan in the next year to move toward a more healthy weight?”

    Average weight for age and body type. I’ve never seen it put that was. Fascinating. They are trying to be politic about it.

    I see how the first is an actual question but the second one ceases to hold any coherency whatsoever the more I look at it.

    How about:

    1. Fine. I eat, and yes, it is something of a habit.

    and 2. No.
    It’s a big If (pun wholeheartedly intended), by the way.

    But I plan to care for and about my body. In more ways than whomever wrote this question possibly imagined.

    Taking into account my actual Body Type, which pretty much negates what I expect you are trying to get at —
    A ‘body type’, well that can be categorized in so very many ways. I try not to label myself or force myself into unstated and highly ambiguous categories on the grounds that it’s a waste of my spiritual energy and has potentially negative effects on my self, my body and those around me.

    And do you mean just my physical self? Because that seems odd for a spiritual organisation but hey, OK, we’ll go with that for now. Do I really have to explain why ‘body type’ isn’t a useful frame of reference from the perspective of spiritual growth?

    What do I learn by planning next year around a ‘healthier weight’? Anything about faith, at all?

    Seriously, where’s the question? And don’t even get me started on the word average.

    (yeah, i normally lurk but this one i feel OK to chip in on a bit even though i freely cop to now having thin privilege. doesn’t mean i like these kinds of questions any more than i did when i was being told i was a lazy bitch for being bigger than people expected.)

  14. Salix / Feb 10 2011 3:09 pm

    “God has a plan for my life. That plan is not Weight Watchers.”

    Or if you wanted to introduce FA/HAES to them, you could try framing it in terms of the Spirit gifts? God didn’t make us all the same, so why fight to look the same?

  15. Ashe / Feb 10 2011 3:44 pm

    I agree with some of the other posters here, I’d just answer the question about healthy eating habits and leave it at that.

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