Up front a confession – I’m overweight. When I stopped doing 30-60 hours a week of hard labour in the Texas heat, my calorie burning was cut by at least half. I did not cut my calorie intake by nearly as much. The result was weight gain. I’ve made several attempts in the last five years to lose the weight, including a good start last year, but I’m nowhere near where I need to be. In part, I think I have needed a good reason to motivate me. I recently found that motivation – if I can call God hitting me over the head with it “finding”. In general, I’d say being significantly over weight is a bad witness, and for me in particular it’s a problem because I know it limits my ability to what I most want to do – minster to marriages. I am now working diligently to lose the weight, and then to keep it off.
As I was thinking about this the other day, I wondered if the rates of obesity differ in Christians and non-Christians. Google confirmed what I expected – the faithful are far more likely to be overweight. One study found Christians as a group have a 50% higher obesity rate than non-christians. Another found the more religious individuals were (based on the common metric of frequency of attending services) the more likely they were to become obese. By middle age, a third of the most religious are obese!
Why would Christians have such a big issue with weight? One clue comes from the finding that the most “restrictive” groups have the highest rates of obesity. So, for example, in general those denominations that forbid all alcohol use would have higher obesity rates than those open to drinking in moderation. This goes back to what I said yesterday about self-control being limited, and adding to God’s rules means something has to give. Additionally, in most churches, being overweight is “safe” – odds are it won’t get mentioned from the pulpit (especially if the pastor or his wife are a bit heavy) and it’s not likely to be on any accountability list. When food is the one allowed excess, it’s to be expected many will eat to excess.
I realise I am stepping on some toes here. I don’t expect I will mention this often, if at all in the future. I am concerned what an overweight church says about us, and what it says to the world. If God uses this to nudge you, great. As to marriage, I know being more fit makes sex better, and being overweight can lead to a variety of sexual problems, including erection problems. Maybe that is the necessary motivation for some!