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New Year's Resolution: Say No to the Temptation of Soul Food at Church

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Churches are notorious for serving unhealthy meals at their many celebratory affairs throughout the year. Every three or four weeks there’s something to celebrate, for example: Church anniversary, pastor’s anniversary, pastor’s birthday, friends and family day, burning the mortgage day, a funeral repast, some type of fundraiser, the choir’s musical, a bake sale, a pot luck, and on and on. In fact, it’s unnecessary for hungry families to sit home with their stomachs growling when there are churches in the neighborhood. All the head of household has to do is keep up with the church section of the local newspapers to know which churches are having a feast. Then go and sit through the service, whatever kind of service it is, and be blessed with a gourmet meal served by the holy fingers of church folks in plastic gloves. There’s always a big spread within a five-mile radius in any given city on any given day. While hungry families sit home vanishing by the ounce, folks in the Amen Corner are down at the church splitting zippers and popping buttons as they pack on the pounds.

A March 2011 research found that young people who frequently attend religious services are significantly more likely to become obese by the time they reach middle age. The study doesn’t prove that attending services is fattening, nor does it explain why weight can be related to faith, said study author Matthew J. Feinstein, a medical student at Northwestern University in Chicago.

“It highlights a particular group that appears to be at a greater risk of becoming obese and remaining obese,” he said. “It’s a group that may benefit from targeted anti-obesity interventions and obesity prevention programs.” Even so, it behooves each churchgoer to take a realistic observation and draw his/her own conclusion. Scientists have found signs that there’s a positive connection between regular churchgoers and health. For example, regular religious involvement is linked to things like better emotional health, less depression, and more happiness. Also the fact that most religious people tend to avoid cigarettes, alcohol, and illegal drugs puts them in better physical health than many nonreligious people. However, researchers have also found that people who went to services more regularly put on more weight.

As a frequent visitor of many churches, I have concluded the reason for the extra pounds around my waistline and that of many others is the soul food - plain and simple. Constant feasts may include rich desserts, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, potato salad, spaghetti, etc. The fact that church is predominately a sedentary session for up to two hours, more than once a week for many, those getting happy and running around the building excluded, offering high caloric meals are contradictory to biblical teachings. Pastors might consider a midweek low impact exercise program for those willing and physically fit enough to participate. Meanwhile, my New Year’s resolution is to stop eating so much fattening food especially at church and - if God says the same - inspire others to do so as well.

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