‘How many Syns are in a sausage roll?’ ask Louise, the leader of the slimming group, in one Tuesday night meeting. It’s ‘scary’ how many, she reflects.

Fears about food and fat are common in Euro-American culture and part of the Western “cultural catechism” that insists that weight loss is the epitome of physical improvement for women, and thinness an unquestionable good. But this is not just a cultural truth, it is ‘gospel truth’, a view resourced by religion and by Christian thought in particular.

This inaugural lecture looks at how one UK secular commercial weight loss organisation recycles the Christian nomenclature of ‘Syn’ to speak about food and considers how critical reflection on women’s lived experiences of slimming might resource a Christian response. Although very little time and space has been dedicated to the subject of fat in Christian theology and in feminist theology, fat and weight are inherently theological issues that require urgent attention. If fat shaming and weight-based prejudice are diminishing the lives of a multiplicity of people across contexts and a diversity of women, then Christian theology, and feminist theology especially, cannot afford to remain silent. Using the experiences of slimming women as a starting point, Hannah considers how Christian thought might resource distinctly Christian speech about fat and encourage Christian communities towards ‘embodied alternatives’ in their foodways.

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