How much would Jesus eat?

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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!


Reference: Firm Faith, Fat Body? Study Finds High Rate of Obesity among Religious

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11 Comments on “How much would Jesus eat?

  1. Long-time reader, first-time commenter! As a Christian who has battled weight issues, I believe you are spot-on. I’ve grown up in a conservative denomination, and the obesity rates are through the roof for a typical church (clergy and laity alike)! In the last year, I’ve worked hard to lose fifty pounds; only twenty more for my goal weight! My motivation came in a similar fashion to you; as a youth pastor, I was encouraging Godly decision-making by allowing Christ control over every area of one’s life. The only problem is that I turned a blind eye towards that one sin that pops up several times throughout the New Testament — gluttony. Combine that with having family history of heart issues, diabetes, etc., as well as having a third child on the way, and I quickly realized that (just like other sins) God wasn’t discouraging me from enjoying life! Rather, He’s just trying to help me get the most out of it! So, you can do all things through Christ Who strengthens you! Keep up the work on the weight loss, and thanks for addressing the elephant in the room (bad pun, I know)!

  2. First of all, the reason more Christians are overweight is because the church spells “fellowship” – “F.O.O.D.” – just kidding. More serious, yes I agree that overwight is a poor witness of the power of God in our lives that is why my wife and I changed our eating habits in starting Oct 2006. The change for us was to remove almost all sweets and reduce our Carb intake to 1 a day average. That means we eat more protein and more vegatables – a lot more. Our schedule does not allow for exercise time, so we intentionally do things like park at the end of parking lots and walk to the store, use a puch lawn mower instead of a riding, walk or bike to the church instead of drive.
    I can personally witness of how more crediable my advice has been to people since we have disciplined ourselves in the visible area of weight. Also, we have found it easier to no discipline ourselves in the non-visible areas of our lives.
    I believe “restrictive” groups tend be more over weight because when your relationship with Christ is defined by rules and obligations, there is a natural tendency to struggle to keep them and because we want to look “spiritual,” we work hard at reading our bible and praying, but our frustration outlet in our struggle to keep those rules is our eating, because we eat everytime we get to church, and because overweight is not considered a “sin.”

  3. I’ve lost about 50 pounds in the past 10-11 months. I’d say the first 30 was done by simply paying attention to what I ate.

    Eating around the outside of the grocery store and avoiding the processed foods in the middle.

    The other 20 (and more to come, want to get back to my weight and level of fitness when I left the military 20 years ago) came about because of exercise.

    Most weeks, I get 4-6 days of exercise. Spinning, boot camp, some cross trainer and some weight lifting.

    To see the before and after:

  4. The other benefits, besides what TGH mentioned above about sex are getting off my BP meds and just feeling better, having more energy, and not hurting as much.

    Well some days, boot camp left me hurting, but that’s another story.

    Played with my niece and nephews yesterday at our Mother’s Day get together and it was the kids who were worn out.

    Imagine, being 47 and wearing out three who are 12 and under?

    So it’s not just losing weight, but it’s also getting into some semblance of fitness that I believe makes for the best witness.

    Who are people drawn to? They guy who looks like jumping to conclusions may produce a cardiac event, or the guy who has the energy and fitness to see the task through?

    We have a group of guys in my Sunday School class that get together for workouts on the weekend. Working out, or a game of pickup basketball or something like that is an excellent fellowship opportunity.

    Plus, it helps keep up with the youth when you volunteer to work with them. Being able to play their game opens the door for disciplining those who want to know more about Christ.

    Have something people want. Not just a head knowledge about Christ, but a whole life that is about living as Christ would live.

    I really think Christ would be a great addition to any team. I think he’d play on the church softball or volleyball team, or shoot some baskets with the apostles.

    Maybe I’m wrong. But I think he would be a multi-dimensional person. Not just a single dimension.

  5. This is a relevant post…losing weight = improved sex! I have been losing 1 pound per week by tracking my food, excercise (core 2x per week, optimal heart rate 3x per week). There is a program Metabolic RX which I also used. It was physical therapy along with education.

  6. Thank you for being willing to share from your own struggle! I have to agree with John. When we Christians get together, there is ALWAYS food involved and that can be a struggle for me as well.
    I think you have a great point in that it can effect our witness. The sin of gluttony is one that I know that I try and pretend doesn’t exist, and most Christians I know do the same. We act like it is not big deal when we know that it is not what God wants for us.
    I’m also on a bit of a weight loss journey right now so I can look good for my hubby on our anniversary trip this year. Thanks for the extra boost of encouragement! :)

  7. Keep in mind though, that if you starve yourself, you will lose weight, but it will come back with a vengence! So-what to do? Your body needs nutrition, not excess calories. It can get all the calories it needs from your fat. If you eat low calorie-high nutrient density foods such as fruits and vegetables, you will lose weight, and be able to still eat a lot of food to satisfy. You will finally be able to enjoy eating. Get rid of all oils in your cooking, you can saute with broth or seasoned water. You will still get healthy fats through nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, and coconut. (whatever of those you like) Check out the Hallelujah Diet at You may not want to go all gung ho like they do, but definitely incorporating more fresh fruits and veggies can only do your body good. You will find other annoying health problems will go away too the more your diet resembles the Garden of Eden. :)

    • I’ve heard/read several variations on this same thing. Mark Sisson ( calls this eating primal. What Would Grok Do (eat?)

      Others have mentioned Paleo. It’s all variations on the same theme. I have some simple rules that I try to stick to.

      1. Try to eat most of your diet from the periphery of the store. That’s where the meat, fish, veggies, fruits, nuts and other fresher foods are located.

      2. Limit how much you eat from the center of the store. This is where you find your processed foods.

      3. Don’t eat anything bigger than the palm of your hand. If it doesn’t fit comfortably in your hand, you probably don’t need to put it in your mouth.

      4. Drink lots of water. I carry around 1 liter water bottle and try to drink 2 or 3 full bottles each day.

      5. Enjoy, in moderation, some things you like. Just see if you can make more healthy choices. Today is my step daughter’s birthday. I made waffles, but used whole wheat flour, and honey instead of sugar. I then put honey on my waffle instead of HFCS maple flavored syrup. I limit myself to one or two squares of dark chocolate instead of an entire candy bar. Nuts and fruits for snacks instead of grazing in a vending machine.

      If you make good choices, as others have suggested, you’ll enjoy better food AND lose weight.

      6. I wonder how much of the “hunger” folks feel is because they are either dehydrated, or they are lacking critical nutrients? If you get the nutrients you need, I suspect many will find out they are not as hungry.

      7. Get a doctor who will work with you on a holistic approach. I changed Dr’s because my previous doctor passed away about a year ago. If your doctor doesn’t look like you want to look, maybe you need a different doctor.

      My ex-wife is in the medical field, so I just had the doctor she used. Well since she works in pharmaceuticals she chose a doctor who simply wrote scripts to deal with everything. Hence me being on a BP script with a diuretic.

      I told my current doctor that I wanted to get off the BP meds and was changing my diet and wanted to add exercise,. I followed the guidance of “consult your doctor before…” and he gave me the go-ahead for the plan.

      I had already lost a lot of weight on my first visit and he cut my BP script dosage in half. My second visit a couple months ago, he took away the diuretic. I hope by this fall I can come off it completely.

      8. Get some exercise every day and have fun with it. I’ve dropped my resting heart rate from 80 something to in the 50’s.

      Now this is no guarantee of a long life. Scripture tells us we are only promised today. Yet when I look at my family, if we are not killed in our 20’s by some accident, we tend to live 90+ years. So I’m probably hitting middle age if the Lord doesn’t choose to take me sooner.

      I’d like for those years to both be a great witness and be a quality life.

      Take care of the current temple of the spirit until I get a new body, that’s the goal.

  8. All _ Thanks for the comments, and for the emails I’ve recited. Cleary many of us are aware of this issue, and finding ways to deal with it.

    Tony – I can totally see Jesus playing Soccer with the disciples!

  9. As a health and wellness doctor, and also a christian this is an important issue for me. There is a lot to say about the issue of obesity in the christian community, but you hit the nail on the head about how it limits what we can do. Especially when we consider how it can limit or effectiveness in the ministry. I have seen this time and again in my current church family and it breaks my heart. I think there is this rule in the church that we can talk about a lot of sin, except when it come to sex and self control. And these are two areas that take people out – literally. My patients have a great success getting the weight off fast using the HCG protocol and maintaining the healthy weight with Loren Cordain’s Paleo Diet. It is a hunter gatherer diet so some Christians struggle with the evolutionary language in the book. Just remember that there are still hunter gatherer cultures in the world that eat this way and are wildly healthy.

  10. No doubt that weight / health is a spiritual issue. Our good Lord gave us these bodies for use while we’re on this earth, and just like anything else he entrusts to us (finances, family, etc.), we will be held accountable to how we use and care for them.

    Our bodies are a temple. Take care of it and you’ll feel great! I do crossfit two out of every three days and rest completely the third day. It is an amazing workout and requires 30 minutes to one hour at the absolute most. Cut TV out of your life like we did if you can’t seem to ‘find time’ for priorities like spending time with your family or exercising. You’ll be so glad you did!

    Eat lean meats, organic fruits and vegetables, mixed nuts, salads, and anything else that is natural and unprocessed. Stay away from fast foods and boxed, processed junk.

    Just like anything else in life, the hardest part is getting started. The first two weeks are the hardest. Once you incorporate any of this into your life and are doing it on a regular basis for a couple of months, it’ll become a habit and the new ‘norm’ for your daily routine. You’ll feel exponentially better and will be able to do things you normally couldn’t do without getting tired or being too weak to do so. It’s a great feeling, and it will undoubtedly make you a better husband, father, and fellow brother / sister in Christ.

    Don’t waste time thinking about it, wondering if you should make the changes. Just like any other area we’re struggling with in life, you’ll probably quickly realize you can’t do it on your own because it is difficult and out of reach. And just like any other area we’re struggling with in life, if we give it to Jesus and ask for His help, He is faithful and will come alongside us and give us the strength to help make it happen. Ask for His help everyday, and then do your part by showing up and putting forth your hardest effort with working out and eating right. He WILL help you through it!

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