A spiritual belief system is the cornerstone of many, if not most societies. It is the engine that drives faith, provides comfort and guidance, warms us when we are chilled by worry, soothes us when we experience loss, guides us when we are confused, and puts in perspective the mystery of all those unanswered questions.
My spirituality is very important to me and one of the pillars of my health and wellness. It is quite the surprise, then, to discover that church attendance is now associated with obesity in young adults.
Study Shows Church Attendance Associated with Obesity
A recent study has discovered religion linked to obesity. Young adults who attend religious activities on a regular basis could be more likely to become obese in middle age than those peers who do not attend religious activities.
The study was conducted by the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults and was made up of 2,433 younger male and female subjects. The group was followed for eighteen years and participation in religious activities was categorized as high (one time per week), medium (less than weekly but still regularly), and low (rarely or none).
It was found that young adults between the ages of twenty and thirty-two who reported a high participation in church activities were fifty percent more likely to be obese at middle age than those peers in the none category. The study also revealed that those in the high participation block tended to be African American females who had a higher body mass index.
Benefits of Religious Involvement: Live Longer and Happier
Before drawing firm conclusions that attendance at religious activities will ensure obesity at middle-age, it should be noted that those who are involved in religious activities have gained many positive outcomes from that involvement. People who are active in religious camaraderie tend to be happier overall, have lower rates of alcohol and tobacco use, and live longer.
In addition, the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study did not conclude if involvement in religious activity leads to obesity at middle age, or if overweight men and women were more likely to participate in religious functions.
Are Church Potluck Meals the Link Between Religion and Obesity?
Researchers believe that some religious functions simply center on unhealthy or high calorie foods. It is possible that getting together to celebrate good works and happiness leads to dietary habits that promote obesity.
Potlucks are a weekly event at many churches and offer fellowship for members to socialize with one another. For all the good that is rendered, church potlucks realistically do not offer the best diet options. It is not unusual for me to see spaghetti, Swedish meatballs, potato salad, and casseroles on the buffet at my church. There also are a good number of pies, cakes, and cookies. I avoid those temptations and go for the fresh fruit, salad, and nuts. My fellow parishioners often admire my healthy food choices. I admit that I often drool over their fat, sugar, and carb loaded plates.
It is also believed that church gatherers have a more broad overall social network and therefore more opportunities to come together over food and drink.
Healthy Churches, Healthy Families
Overall, researchers are optimistic regarding the positive habits of attending church activities. They quickly and readily point out that churches have infrastructures that are already available and groups of people who gather and offer support. Such a foundation can swiftly implement health interventions and programs for diet and physical activity.
The healthy eating principals learned at these groups and classes easily can be brought into the home as well as the church potluck. The Ainsworth United Church of Christ has prepared guidelines for healthy church meals and potlucks.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
Photo: United Methodist Church