The Similarities Between Food Fundamentalists and IFB Zealots

bruce midwestern baptist college pontiac michigan 1978

Bruce Gerencser, Midwestern Baptist College, Spring 1978. I already had high blood pressure. 1969 Pontiac Tempest, by the way. 326 CID, three speed on the floor. Sweet ride.

Every month or so, I receive a polite, wordy email from someone who is certain that if I just following a certain fad diet, eat certain foods, or follow this or that program, whatever ails me will be instantaneously, miraculously cured. These Food Fundamentalists® certainly mean well, but I don’t find their “advice” helpful at all.

The contact page states: “Please do not send me unsolicited medical advice. I am under the care of competent physicians and I am satisfied with their care.” Food Fundamentalists® — who often eschew Western medicine — evidently believe that since they are “helping” me, my request does not apply to them. These food zealots are not much different from Evangelical Bible thumpers who fill my email box with sermons, Bible verses, and attacks on my person and present beliefs. Food Fundamentalists® believe their gospel, if believed and practiced, will “save” me from my “sins.”  In their minds, my biggest “sin” is obesity. If I just worshipped and obeyed their deity, why I would drop 200 pounds and look as slim and trim as I did the day I entered college.

Of course, when I investigate their Holy books, I find that they are filled with errors and contradictions, much like the inerrant Word of God. Every food cult has its own divine text, each purporting to be the truth. What’s someone like me supposed to do? Read. Investigate. Look at the science and studies behind a particular food cult’s gospel. I find, without fail, that Food Fundamentalists® preach gospels that are not backed up by science and empirical data. I am not saying that these cults don’t help anyone – they do. But the same can be said for Christian Fundamentalism. Some people find real, lasting help through believing in the miracle-working power of a dead man named Jesus. The reasons for this are many, and so it is with the various diets Food Fundamentalists® present to me as the cure for my afflictions. Despite the success stories, most people who put their faith and trust in Jesus find out that the dead Son of God is not what cultists claim he is. So it is with diets. Most people who go on diets lose weight for a time, but, in the end, they gain the lost weight back and then some. Diets don’t work, regardless of their name. Bruce, it’s not a diet, it’s a way of life, food cultists say. Sound familiar? It’s a relationship, not a religion.

Christian Fundamentalists blame the person when Christianity doesn’t stick. They didn’t pray the right prayer, believe the right beliefs, or really, really, really have faith. Food Fundamentalists® do the same. If an obese person fails to succeed or later gains weight, it’s their fault for not religiously, devotedly following the plan.

The biggest issue, at least from my perspective, is that Christian Fundamentalists and Food Fundamentalists® both make assumptions about my life — past and present. Food cultists assume — wrongly — that the reason people are obese is because of the type or quantity of food they eat. In the minds of these Fundamentalists, all fat people need to do is eat less and eat cult-approved foods. These preachers of fidelity to the BMI chart, make assumptions about me, assuming I am overweight because I eat too many McDonald’s Big Mac’s or eat processed foods. These zealots don’t know what or how I eat, they just assume that I must eat too much food or eat the wrong food because I am spatially challenged.

I hate to break it to them, but my diet is NOT the problem. Sure, I can overeat at times and I certainly am not going to pass up ice cream if it is offered, but on most days, I eat healthily — that is, if anyone can actually define what the fuck it means to eat “healthily.” Sorry, Food Fundamentalists®, but your super-duper diet plan is not the answer to my medical problems. If it was really that simple, I am certain one of the many doctors and specialists I have seen over the past twenty years would have mentioned it. Yeah, I know, they are all members of a secret cabal who deliberately keep me sick so they can make lots of money off of me. Child, please.

miller-peak-august-1975

Miller Peak, 1975, with my Sunday School class. Miller Peak is almost 10,000 feet high. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m the 18-year-old redhead in the back.

The only medical problem I have that is affected by what I eat is diabetes (and it’s under control with medication). That’s it. Everything else: Fibromyalgia, MS-like neurological problems, osteoarthritis, and the pervasive pain that comes from these diseases are not helped, harmed, or cured by what I eat. I have high blood pressure too, but I have concluded, based on a thorough study of my 60-year medical history and family history, that hypertension runs in our family. My sixty-nine-year-old aunt started taking medicine to control her blood pressure in her 20s, and she has never been a pound overweight a day in her life. I took a careful look at my blood pressure numbers from my high school years. At the time, I was 6 feet tall and weighed 150 pounds soaking wet. I played baseball and basketball, I rode a bicycle virtually everywhere I went — spring, summer, winter, and fall. Later in my teen years, I frequently went hiking, including hiking to the top of Miller Peak in Arizona. I was a slim, trim, fit fighting machine, yet I had high blood pressure.

As I look back over my medical history, I see a plethora of reasons that better explain where I am today than simplistically saying, Bruce, you are fat. Lose weight and all will be well. I wish things were that simple, but they are not. I am at a place in life where I do what I can, and some days, “doing what I can” means getting through the day without committing suicide. Walk in my shoes first, asshole, before you decide to send me “advice” I didn’t ask for. Think I am being crude, rude, and unkind? Again, walk in my skin for a few days, weeks, or months, and then we will talk. When you are doing all you can to make it to tomorrow, the last thing you need is a pompous, arrogant son-of-a-bitch preaching to you his or her food cult’s gospel. Imagine, for a moment, you are walking home from a long 12-hour day at work. Every part of your body is screaming for an hour-long dip in a hot bath, followed by several glasses of red wine. As you walk towards your home, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) street preacher accosts you on the street, intent on evangelization and conversion. How would you respond to this man’s evangelistic efforts? What if he persisted to hound you every time he saw you? Why, I suspect you might feel homicidal rage welling up inside of you. You might even tell him you “tried” Jesus and it didn’t work for you, and with a flip of your middle finger say to him, now, fuck off. This is exactly how I feel when I receive yet another email from a Food Fundamentalist® wanting me to join their cult. If you really love and respect me as a person and appreciate my writing, then do me a favor: leave my medical treatment to me and my doctors — men and women who, unlike you, actually went to medical school to become experts in their chosen fields of practice.

Thank you.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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7 Comments

  1. Becky Wiren

    Oh yeah. I used to have people telling me about other people who were “cured” of fibromyalgia. Funnily enough, I never actually met any such person. And those people telling me were trying to sell vitamins from an MLM scam. I would tell them that I had used oceans of supplements and no, my fibromyalgia didn’t go away.

    Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    Yeah, I got caught up in that for a little while. As I have seen die-hard adherents come and go, and through my own personal experiences, I have given up on the notion that there’s a one size fits all cure all diet. There isn’t. Where folks were gung ho about paleo diet, now they’re into intermittent fasting or ketogenic diet. Same thing happens in the exercise world with one method of training exalted over others. Some things work better for some people than for others. Just do you.

    Reply
  3. Karen the rock whisperer

    But, but, Big Pharma! Big Healthcare! They spray poisons on the food in the field! We weren’t evolved to eat the way we do! Back in the old days…

    Sorry, that just burst out. Seriously, I’ve noticed that people with an evangelical bent tend to not recognize boundaries, whether they’re selling Christ, supplements, or Magic Diets. Their thing is Good For You, and you MUST Learn about it. Damn tiresome.

    Reply
  4. Caroline

    Why do people have to ‘help’ so much? I don’t need to be reminded that I could lose some weight, that if I wore make up I would be more attractive, that I should wear contact lenses instead of glasses, and the list goes on. “Mind your own business”, I’m screaming inside, and sometimes out loud. So many zealots of all kinds with their unsolicited advice.
    Sorry to know that you’re in pain every day. I know others in the same situation, and I admire their perseverance.
    Also, red hair is awesome 🙂

    Reply
  5. angiep

    Just a couple of questions about the Miller Peak group:
    (1) Did you all climb a 10,000 foot peak with one water bottle and no other supplies? If so, kudos!!
    (2) What’s with the boy wearing deer antlers and his shirt falling off?
    🙂

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I drove part way up on a mountain road in a 1950s stick shift pickup truck — with the kids in the bed. Those were the days. 🙂

      I have no idea about the deer antlers. Strange Baptist ritual? 🙂

      Reply
  6. Chikirin

    The kid in back is holding what looks to be a bunch of wild onions, very nutritious

    Reply

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