Heavy on my heart
Admittedly, I didn’t want to write this article. It conjured up some painful memories. You see, I was an overweight kid. I know what it’s like to be labeled “fat” and “unattractive”. Those labels hurt to this day. I know what it’s like to be self-conscious at the beach during swimsuit season.
I can relate to the struggle with unhealthy eating habits that can lead to obesity. I’m also sensitive to the fact that not everyone is created equal when it comes to eating habits. Not all overweight people are gluttons, nor is every glutton necessarily overweight. Conversely, eating disorders such as anorexia represent the other extreme.
But the fact of the matter is, gluttony is a sin which leads to more sin (Prov. 23:2, 20-21). With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas before us, many of us are accustomed to gathering around the table for fellowship and, yes, copious amounts of food. Having said that, we would do well to take a look in the proverbial mirror and ask ourselves if we are honoring the Lord with our intake.
Here’s the skinny on fat North Americans
Obesity is an epidemic in North America, particularly among evangelicals. A 2006 Purdue study found that the fundamental Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups, with a 30% obesity rate compared with Jews at 1%, Buddhists and Hindus at 0.7%.
A 2011 Northwestern University study tracking 3,433 men and women for 18 years found that young adults who attend church or a Bible study once a week are 50% more likely to be obese. The Pawtucket Heart Health Program found that people who attended church were more likely than non-church members to be 20 percent overweight and have higher cholesterol and blood pressure numbers. 
Checking the pulse
When was the last time your elders called for the assembly to fast and pray? What if we got together as an excuse to feed others rather than feeding ourselves? As assemblies, we seem to be more diligent about teaching propriety in worship from the first half of 1 Corinthians 11 than we are about propriety in eating from the second half of the same chapter!
I reckon that much of the obesity issues among evangelicals can be traced to the unhealthy conditions in which we meet. Many of us indulge in sugary snacks and beverages in between morning meetings. The assembly potluck is a popular event; these high-calorie feasts offering more than we could possibly consume.
When I was single, I would join my peers for lunch at a local restaurant after the Sunday meeting (we weren’t there for the salads). Years ago, an itinerant preacher confided in me that he couldn’t keep the pounds off due in large part to the elaborate meals his hosts fed him during his travels.
Don’t worry about the exceptions
In moderation, getting together over food can be profitable for fellowship. Remember how many to whom the Lord Jesus ministered over a meal. Going to a buffet now and then and eating a little too much shouldn’t hurt your conscience. However, when it becomes a lifestyle, such habits contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
One way we can encourage others in our assembly to adopt healthy habits is by example. As I enter middle age, I find the battle of the bulge harder to fight. Having a full-time job, being an assembly elder and a father of four leaves little to no time for a gym membership. Nevertheless, here are some habits I’ve adopted over the last year which have helped me to lose some extra pounds:
- Start off the day with a healthy (yet filling) breakfast of oatmeal, no milk.
- Always leaving some empty space in my lunch box so that I don’t overeat at work
- Reduction of sugary beverages such as coffee, soda pop and even fruit juices, filling up on water instead
- If I stick to the above routine, I find that I can eat a full, regular dinner in the evening
- Walking to a bus stop 2 km (or 1¼ miles) away rather than taking the nearest bus
- Significant reduction of evening snacks (if any) in front of the TV, try to make them healthy instead of sugary or full of carbs
- Exercise at home everyday through push-ups and chin-ups
- During the summer, I run alongside my kids as they bike to the park
Please understand that above is simply my routine; you may find that a different routine works for you but this is what works for me. I have found that a good physical condition has affected me spiritually in a positive way.
Do you have an experience of your own to share concerning the relationship between physical and spiritual vitality? Please share below!