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Food for Thought: Why is the North American Church Overweight?

Food for Thought: Why is the North American Church Overweight?
Dec 11 Tags: diet | food | 10 Responses Print Save as PDF

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. [1]

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!

Table Talk

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.

Waist Management

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!

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/06/03/obesity-epidemic-in-america-churches.html

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.

Hanniel Ghezzi

Hanniel was saved at the age of 17. Married to Jannilea since 2006, they have been blessed with four children with whom they reside in Brampton, ON. Employed in manufacturing, Hanniel hosts a YouTube ministry, “Backpack Christian”, and speaks at various assemblies, including his home assembly Malton Bible Chapel where he also serves as an elder.

10 Responses to Food for Thought: Why is the North American Church Overweight?

  1. Avatar
    Crawford Paul

    Great article. I have been much more conscious of my diet in the past year and it has helped a lot. Thanks for the reminder though. I always need a little nudge now and then. 🙂

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for the encouragement

  3. Avatar

    Oatmeal and no milk…I know heresy when I see it. Probably not even salted 🙂

  4. Avatar

    But yes…great points Hanniel.

  5. barefoothippiegirl

    I really like this article, Hanniel. The statistics are alarming. For myself, I do try to get in early morning gym times at least 3-4 mornings a week. And I don’t eat breakfast. I skipped breakfast for years. But then I caved to the “most important meal of the day” hype, and I immediately started gaining weight. Now I try to confine my eating to between noon and 8:00 at night. I also try to limit snacking, and try to make healthy choices. Less dessert, more water.

  6. Avatar
    Calvin Fritchey

    These are great thots, but not necessarily applicable to all cases. I can only speak for myself where I used to be the 6 foot 3 inch stringbean. I worked on a farm before daylight til dark. I could eat the northbound end of a full-grown south bound cow (my fathers telling of how much I hate) for lunch and I would be starving an hour later and could not gain a pound. The statement; your eating too much, your eating the wrong kinds of food, too much this and too much that can be very misleading. Weight gain is not just related to what we eat, how often we eat, or even when we eat. In life many things happen to your body in which you have no control over that can easily affect weight gain. I was born with a narrow spinal cord column and nerve exits from my back bones. Until I hit about 30-35 my body could use, burn, and then digest food faster than I could eat it. I was hungry every hour on the hour no matter how much or how many times I ate in a day. I was enjoying the fat of the land (as discribed by the Lord) and couldn’t get fat. Then some time between my 30-40’s I started to gain weight. I at far less than before and stilled gained it. I blamed it on my wifes pregnancies because I gained 10 pounds at each pregnancy
    even thru the ones we lost. Later that excuse failed as we quit getting pregnant. I began to stumble and fall some, began to fall asleep driving, began having deep pains in my back. When I would get home from work I curled up in a couch in a ball to relieve my back pain. For the next 10 years I put on 100lbs, even tho eating less, eating better (per my coleaugues) and all those other healthy things. Even quitting Pepsi’s didn’t help. You see I had a physical disorder\problem that caused my body to absorb more of whatr I ate and stored it as fat instead of releasing it as waste, My mind was protecting my body due to the enormous pain I was having by storing food in my body. Igt helped relieve some of the pain. Then I had to have back Surgery. AHH the pain is gone! but now how to get rid of this extra 100lbs I gained. God is graciously allowing me to lose about 5-7lbs a year. Since my back Surgery in 2012 I have lost 39lbs. My body still thinks I need to keep storing. But I am losing weight!
    However, to get back to the point lets not be quick to judge. Another family member has hyper glands in her neck and that causes her to be unable to keep weight off. All this to say there are multiple cause to obesity that has nothing to do with how much, or what kinds of food you eat, nor how many times you eat. As a young child I ate only vegatables with a little meat in them to flavor them, and meat once a week on Sunday. And yet in Elementary school I was skinny. Upon reaching Middle school I became Chubby checkers eating the same way I always had. Then I got real skinny eating the same foods all the time but larger portions in high school. The physical issues I had were causing the inside of my body to change its behaviour and hog all the food and not let any go? I began to make the OT Conquering the land and enjoying the fat thereof jokes. We tried 5-10 varying degrees of diet and nothing helped.

    All of this to say that sometimes it may be physical issues causing bodily problems , especially Obesity. Your body not letting go of nutrients not needed and storing much more than what you need. Be ware of medical needs that can cause obesity.”’Calvin

    • Bernadette Veenstra
      Bernadette Veenstra

      I feel like Hanniel acknowledged the points that you brought up with this paragraph:

      “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.”

      Thank you for sharing your story. It is helpful to hear. Not everything is black and white. Somethings are quite grey.

  7. Avatar
    Mary Bruce

    I was raised healthy, and not allowed junk food…and blessed (or not) by a fast metabolism and difficulty processing fats. People think is is cute to see how much food a skinny girl can pack away….the same people who would sit in judgment if I had been obese, eating a slice of every flavor of those formerly forbidden cream pies. Growing up with processed foods being the forbidden fruit sometimes makes them more attractive when the restraints are removed. I think we are encouraged to moderation in all things…..and bodily exercise does profit, a little. We spiritual people like to emphasize the spiritual, and overlook the physical, except in areas where we can make up rules, such as “no alcohol” (sorry about your tummy, Timothy) “no tobacco” no exceptions.
    But how can you enforce a rule that says eat a healthy balanced diet with occasional treats? Easier to say don’t be fat, because man looks on the outside. But who are you to judge someone else’s obesity? Counselling such a person would involve getting to know them and their struggles….and a thin person tired all the time because of their diet also might need encouragement. Excellent article, we all need encouragment to use the bounty the Lord has made available to us to be the best we can be, and to take care of our bodies, which are the temple of God, after all. Eating healthy is a journey, as what is good for me might be different than what works for you. But gluttony is always bad….and food cravings need to be understood. Dehydration can feel like unsatible hunger, for example, or a lack in certain minerals can make us crave certain items, and alcoholics and diabetics may crave sweets. Life can be complicated.

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