I’m fat. Technically, more accurately, I’m morbidly obese. But people don’t usually like technical, so I’m fat.
Being fat is hard in our society. Being fat and Mormon is even harder. As Mormons, we depend on outward actions and appearances to determine all things important, including our righteousness.
Fat Mormon Woman = Unrighteous
Maybe that is hard to swallow if you haven’t really thought about it, but it is true. Don’t you remember all of those talks during Young Women’s Conference that told us our righteousness would make us more attractive? And what does righteous attractiveness bring? Righteous returned missionary husbands! I have experienced plenty a singles ward conversation where these righteous male returned missionaries would talk about concerns of their future wife becoming fat later on in their marriage. That would obviously be the WORST (insert eye-roll and sarcasm).
Being fat and Mormon leads to all sorts of assumptions about your morals and self-control, regardless of the actual reasons you are fat. In Mormonism, we believe our good works will manifest physically and temporally. If a woman is fat, especially pre-children, it is because she lacks discipline (you must not be able to fast on Fast Sunday), isn’t self-reliant (if you aren’t healthy, it will cost you and your family more when you are older), are disappointing Christ (your body is a temple and is the only one you will get), aren’t following the Word of Wisdom (It is also a diet plan), etc.
As with all good judgments and stereotypes, there is definitely a hierarchy of the understandability and reasons for fatness. As a married fat Mormon woman without children, I’m on the lower end of the understandably fat scale. Actually, it is not understandable. To many, I have no excuse for such carelessness. Have you noticed that people are a little more understanding about a woman being fat when said fat is gained after the woman physically has children? People understand that it is harder to lose weight after you have children and are a bit more understanding about a woman gaining a few extra pounds. As far as righteousness goes, the righteousness points of having children counteract some loss of righteousness caused by becoming fat, but not all. Unfortunately, there is no such exchange when it comes to being fat without children.
When you do not have children and are fat, Mormons think that your perceived deficiencies are a result of your fatness and thus your fault. For example, I don’t have children, so there are plenty of helpful Mormons that will mention that being overweight increases fertility issues. If you are single, there are also many helpful Mormons that will let you know that finding a spouse would be easier if you were thin.
These sort of suggestions may seem rude but harmless on the surface, but really they get at a much deeper problem within Mormonism. Secular culture, the strict patriarchal structure within the Church, and sexism are more than enough to create a discriminatory atmosphere for fat women. When we add together the fact that many of these traits associated with fatness are traits that people associate with unrighteousness, the consequences of being fat are eternal. How does this really play out? If we are fat now, what implication does this have on the Resurrection? People have said that fat will be made thin, but isn’t it just aesthetics at that point? I’m not sure if I want to be made thin without any justification, especially not just because some people think that it looks better. What if my fat is not an imperfection at all?
People are quick to defend moms who put on a few extra pounds after children, but when our Mofem community rallied, along with others, against the #dadbod by using #mombod, why weren’t there Mormon feminist making room for #childlessbods? Why weren’t we as Mormon feminists inventing a hashtag–much better than the above–that recognized this large, mistreated, often invisible group?
As a community, we need to dispel the notion that fat indicates a certain lack of worthiness. Let’s eliminate the hierarchical acceptability of fat and embrace that fatness, no matter the reason, should be viewed no differently than thinness. Let’s stop looking at fatness as something that needs to be excused, explained, understood, or shamed. Righteousness should not be tied to BMI.