Some Heavy Thoughts

And article on CNN Health yesterday entitled Frequent Churchgoers Frequently Fatter reports on  research that suggests that religiously active people (those who attended church once or more each week) are more likely than their non-religious counterparts to be obese. In fact, regular religious involvement almost doubles the risk of obesity compared with those who don’t go to church at all. That linkseems clear; what isn’t so clear is WHY church folks are so much more likely to more hefty than non-church folks.

My response was, “Sure... it’s all those potlucks!” And that really is a big part of the problem— church potlucks, small group dinners, prayer breakfasts, and the variety of setting for table fellowship. An old joke has as its punchline that our best know religious symbol is the casserole dish.  Erik Christensen of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Chicago is quoted in the article as saying, “There's certainly a church culture around eating. What I see among congregants in their 20s and 30s is they are very fit and what I see among congregants in their 50s and 60s is disproportionate obesity." So the longer you stay in church, the more pounds you pack on. Christensen goes on to say that the virtual disappearance of church sponsored softball, basketball and volleyball leagues adds to the fact that active church members are no longer so physically active.

Another possible explanation is marriage. I gained 15 pounds the first 6 weeks I was married after I moving from Gano Cafeteria at FHC to Lynn's home-cooking (she was already an accomplished cook when we married). Kenneth F. Ferraro of the Center on Aging and the Life Course at Purdue University suggests that “weight gain is common after marriage and that marriage is highly valued in most religious groups. Thus, one wonders if the results could be partially due to religious people being more likely to get married earlier and then gaining weight." I like that explanation better than blaming the whole thing on church potlucks.

It is a bit surprising that the church has not been more active in addressing the issue of obesity. For years we preached against things like cigarette smoking and social drinking from the perspective that these are harmful to the body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is becoming undeniably clear that obesity is one of the major health concerns in our society, the cause of all kinds of deadly things from heart disease to diabetes. And yet not only does the church say nothing about this danger, but we allow church to add to the problem.

An illustration from the article. One church wanted to get involved in helping to deal with the growing problem of childhood obesity. They called a meeting to discuss ways to help with this issue… with a potluck supper to start things off!  Maybe we should have fewer church feasts and more church fasts?