I have just endured my very first diet. I hardly qualified as overweight, but an unauthorized 13 pounds suddenly appeared on my body and I determined to do something about it.

My friends, especially those truly overweight, showed no sympathy whatever: “A diet, huh? Are you trying to lose or gain weight?” Very funny. As for me, I felt offended that my body would take it upon itself to enlarge without prior consultation.

The diet worked, I’m happy to say, and now that my proper physical shape has reasserted itself I can reflect on what I learned. Mainly, I realized that I had long borne a ponderous prejudice against fat people. Never having had to battle weight problems, I felt little compassion for those who do. (It seems odd that in this era of protest against racism, ageism, and sexism, no movement against “fattism” has sprung up.)

A Jolly, Fat Saint

During my diet, I sometimes found myself thinking about G. K. Chesterton. As far as I know, that extraordinary English gentleman never attempted a diet, and as a result, his weight usually hovered just under the 300-pound mark. His girth and general poor health disqualified him from military service, a fact that led to a rather brusque encounter with a patriot during World War I. “Why aren’t you out at the front?” demanded the indignant young lady when she spied Chesterton on the streets of London. He coolly replied, “My dear madam, if you will step round this way a little, you will see that I am.”

That distinctive shape made Chesterton a favorite of London caricaturists. It took only a few strokes for a skilled cartoonist to capture his essence: from the side he looked like a giant capital P. Chesterton rounded out his reputation with other eccentricities, which, taken together, ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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