US Churches Join Battle Against Obesity


Michael Minor, a pastor at a church in Mississippi, recently triggered some controversy by banning fried chicken at his church. He urges fellow congregations across the nation to give priority to the health and diet of their church members. Minor says our bodies have been gifted to us by God and we need to take good care of them.

Churches Fight Obesity
This trend is catching up in churches across the US. In Tampa, Florida, a church has initiated classes to teach healthy eating. Others conduct exercise programs and motivate their members to work in community gardens and observe “salad Sundays”.

Churches can Pitch In
These are welcome moves as health reports show that Americans are becoming heavier. Obesity is particularly rampant in southern US states, which have the nation’s highest obesity rates. Health experts opine that as church communities are known for their charity work and helping the needy, they are well-placed to take the lead in the battle against obesity and its related health problems.

Going Beyond Preaching
In fact, some people may well pay more attention to advice from their pastor, rather than their doctor. Religious leaders also opine they need to go beyond preaching against gluttony and conducting health fairs once in a year.

Weight Loss Contest
In San Antonio, Texas, Pastor Charles Flowers has launched a weight-loss competition between his city’s churches and those in Austin. This contest focuses on slimming and also the emotional reasons behind why people are driven to overeat. Flowers says the gospel can be utilized to improve physical health too.

Churches Know their Members
Churches are well placed to dispense information and discern the needs of their members, who attend sermons every week. As a result, many churches are issuing weekly bulletins on medical issues, developing health ministries and connecting their members with health care providers. A Nashville church has removed fried foods, reduced salt and chosen turkey instead of pork in its meals.

Change is Not Easy
However, changing their diet is not easy for church members who are brought up on a culture of coffee and doughnuts. Some churches faced turbulence when they announced a switch to grilled and baked chicken instead. Minor, the Mississippi pastor, has taken the lead by creating a track for walking in the church’s parking lot. He has also replaced soda with water and encourages more physical exertion at picnics.

Efforts Paying Off
These efforts are paying off as the church members are looking and feeling better. Plus, more people have started to accept that these healthy changes are required to combat obesity. Last year, Pastor was selected by the African-American community of churches to establish health ambassadors at its congregations. Pastor says this move will help churches to focus on health throughout the year.

Faith Vs Obesity
In 2009, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded $5 million to a number of faith-based organizations to encourage healthy eating and physical activity among their members. Their focus is especially on poor minority children in the inner cities, who are exposed most to the risks of obesity. The Foundation says in the long run such moves will help the nation’s citizens live a healthy and long life.

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