U.S. Churches Join the Struggle Against Obesity


In spite of (or perhaps because of) a study earlier this year that linked religious activity and weight gain, church leaders across the country are launching efforts to improve their congregations’ health.  Their efforts aren’t always popular, but ministers say they want to do their part to inspire people to eat with more care.  In fact, they’re trying to turn it into a theological message of sorts.

“Our bodies are not our own. They’re a gift from God,” said Mississippi pastor Michael Minor. “We should do a better job with our bodies.”

Other churches have banned fatty foods from social gatherings or instituted traditions like “Salad Sundays.”  One San Antonio minister even created a weight-loss challenge for his flock.  The challenge was not just focused on curbing eating, but on addressing the emotions that caused people to overeat.

In communities that revolve around a church, religious leaders can have a unique impact on people’s decisions.  ”Sometimes you can have a doctor tell someone something, and they’ll blow it off,” said Victor Sutton of the Mississippi state health department. “A pastor can tell someone what to do, and they’ll take it as a scientific fact.”

It’s heartening to realize that pastors aren’t simply preaching against the sin of gluttony.  Instead, they are changing the way their churches operate to encourage a healthier lifestyle, whether it’s discouraging fried foods at picnics or creating a walking track in the church parking lot.

Religious leaders are highly influential, and it’s good to see that they are getting involved with their congregations’ health in a way that does not involve guilt or shame.  In the effort to fight obesity, it seems that perhaps churches should play a larger role.

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Photo from Nick J. Webb via flickr.


Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado7 years ago

This is good news. The church can certainly help in the fight against poverty.

Marilyn So Busy D.
7 years ago

The church can lead people to learn moderation in all things and have community gardens on their property to help feed the hungry.

Maybe when every minister, pastor or priest is required to take courses in nutrition....then they can give nutritional advice.
Meanwhile, they should stick to what they are there to do and try to lead by example.

Brian D.
Brian D7 years ago

perhaps the message is, "stop going to church and lose 10 pounds - stop believing in god and lose 20" ;~)

Doyal D.
Doyal D7 years ago

A good place to start promoting a healthy lifestyle would be feeding the hungry right here in the US: feeding them without a religious hook, just feed them.

Rachel Beckford
Rachel Beckford7 years ago

Poor people who ignore medical advice yet follow whatever the pastor says.

Chrissie Wilson
Chrissie Wilson7 years ago

When I attended church in my youth all the pastors I had were overweight. I worked with the middle school kids for volunteer hours and the middle school pastor was a obese man with an obese wife and obese kids. We had a lock in one year and he ordered all the kids 1 pound burgers to split with a friend but one kid wanted his own and guys what, he got it. He's not the standard for childhood church education but I know many pastors like this. My church had free donuts every Sunday and candy was often given out as reward for bible trivia. It's good to see them getting involved and I hope the pastors makes the first move.

Chris Ray
Chris R7 years ago

Thanks Amelia!~

Kamryn M.
Kay M7 years ago


Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

I come from a religious family and I was told simply, "Eat to live, not live to eat." I really don't what else they can teach that isn't already being taught (healthy diet, exercise, drinking lots of water, moderation, etc.) but they'll probably frame it in a religious context for those that prefer it that way. Whatever works best.

Meta Reid
Meta Reid7 years ago

It's good to see people get involved in health related issues in any way at all. Good for them!