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Thou shalt not eat fatty foods?

Does regular church attendance make you, um, a bit plump around the waistline?
A Northwestern University study suggesting that it might drew a spate of recent media coverage.
“Praise the lard? Religion linked to obesity in young adults,” proclaimed an msnbc.com headline.

“Why Going to Church Can Make You Fat,” reported Time magazine.
“The devil may be in the pepperoni,” said USA Today.
Julie Truex, a member of the Saturn Road Church of Christ in Garland, Texas, welcomed the news.
“I’m so thankful for this new excuse,” she joked on her Facebook page. “Of course I’m overweight. I go to church!”
Certainly, this study puts a new twist on this familiar chorus: “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”
However, the notion impresses Gary F. Berglund Sr. as half-baked.
“Church attendance has nothing to do with obesity,” said Berglund, minister of the Theta Church of Christ in Tennessee. “The preacher breaks the bread of life to us. We partake of the Lord’s Supper. No fat, no sugar, no trans fatty acids.”
The feast after the closing prayer? That might be a different story.
“In the Churches of Christ, we associate food with fellowship,” said Tim O’Hearn, a member of the Riverside Church of Christ in Albuquerque, N.M. “We have learned that unlimited food is good and associate it with pleasure.
“Church doesn’t make you fat, but it certainly doesn’t encourage thinness.”
According to the study, young adults who frequently attend religious activities are 50 percent more likely to become obese by middle age than young adults with no religious involvement.
“It’s possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happiness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity,” said Matthew Feinstein, the study’s lead investigator.
In other words, we church folks may enjoy our potlucks — Kentucky Fried Chicken, anyone? — a little too much.
“I do agree that potlucks can cause you to eat more and gain weight, if you are not careful,” said Jo Turner, a member of the Eastview Church of Christ in Tucson, Ariz.
We Christians may not drink, smoke, curse or commit adultery.
But, man, do we eat.
It’s a real good thing the Bible doesn’t say anything about gluttony, right?
“It just appears to be a more acceptable vice,” Autumn Marshall, a nutritionist at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., told me back in 2004.
On the bright side, previous studies have shown that religious people are happier and tend to live longer than those who aren’t religious. That’s partly because most of us never light up a Marlboro.
That’s the positive message.
“Here’s an opportunity for religious organizations to initiate programs to help their congregations live even longer,” Feinstein said. “The organizations already have groups of people getting together and infrastructures … to initiate programs that prevent people from becoming obese and treat existing obesity.”
Virginia Brannan, a member of the Sanford Church of Christ in Florida, said she’d love to see more church events featuring healthy activities such as hiking, biking and running.
“Some of my favorite activities in past years,” Brannan said, “have been prayer and aerobics for women, drama ministry, joining with groups of friends to do 5K walks for various worthy causes, teaching at Christian camps, doing yard work for people who are elderly or ill and other service events where we were active.”
On the other hand, an old-fashioned worship assembly certainly can get the heart rate going.
“Consider all the calories used in religious activities: sitting, standing, singing, teaching, preaching, clapping, praying, walking, nodding, rocking, serving, kneeling, cleaning the kitchen, minding the nursery,” said Loventrice Farrow, a member of the Naperville Church of Christ in Illinois. “Just think of the good workout you get by praising God!”
Amen, sister.
Now, please pass the potato salad.

Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

  • Feedback
    I am concerned by your article “Though shalt not eat fatty foods?”
    I do not agree with the idea that church attendance and obesity are related. However, obesity and gluttony are major issues in our nation, including the church.
    Your article makes light of these two important issues in a way I would consider to be inappropriate. I am certain you would not make light of adultery or homosexuality in this manner. The Bible describes our body as God’s temple, and makes numerous references to the hazards of gluttony.
    I am certain God loves each of us as we are, but he also desires for us to exhibit self control and a lifestyle that is worthy of our calling.
    Charles Dupre
    Westover Hills
    Pflugerville, TX
    United States
    June, 4 2011

Filed under: Inside Story

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