Those who know me know that I am passionate about a few things. First off is that I am passionate about God and my faith. I am passionate about my family. Those come first. After God and family, there is my passion for health and fitness and for fighting the disease of obesity that likely would have killed me had I not made a decision to take control of my health back in the fall of 2008. Trust me I was the poster child of unhealthy living. Fast food, huge portions, processed boxed meals, and pretty much everything I did not need to be eating. The change was not overnight and not easy. It is still a daily struggle for me, but my health is my priority and more important than the momentary pleasure offered by the taste of an Oreo or Doritos.
I have been thinking a lot over the past year about my faith and about strengthening my relationship with God. I had regained 44 pounds back in 2012 after an accident where I ended up having to have spinal fusion for some cracked vertebrae. Steroids, lack of being able to run any longer, pity party over my anti-obesity tour coming to a halt for medical reasons, lack of physical activity prior to surgery, and poor habits creeping back in, all contributed to this gain. I had to wake up and smell the nachos and realize that I was responsible for my health. Thanks to a good friend I discovered the tool of Plexus to help me make better choices and now Ben and I are both down over 50 pounds since last October.
I did a lot of soul searching and realized there truly is an elephant in the sanctuary. Obesity. In a report that came out last week by The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation the statistics are quite alarming. We now have two states with obesity rates over 35%. Mississippi and West Virginia have the highest obesity rates with 35.1% of adults in those states being obese, or having a body mass index of 30 or higher. My state of Alabama is ranked 8th and my birth state of Louisiana is ranked 6th. Here is a glimpse at the top ten.
1. West Virginia
10. South Carolina
Let me be the first to say that obesity has so many different causes. There are factors that range from genetics to environment to lifestyle choices. While we cannot control our genetics and sometimes cannot control out environment, we can control out personal choices. There are also a host of medical conditions that are made worse or caused by obesity. Hypertension, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and many joint issues, back pain, and so much more are all related to our obesity.
Knowing all of this, I made a conscious choice to truly treat my body as a temple about a year and a half ago. My martini bar became a coffee bar. Oh, and before anyone tries to lecture me about caffeine and coffee consumption, let me just say that for every study you can show my that says coffee is bad I can show you two more that show the health benefits, so let us put that aside. I love coffee. And it has almost no calories and helps keep things flowing and tastes amazing to me. (Especially with sugar free flavorings) I realized that for my to lecture someone about the calories in a cake yet drink a 300-500 calorie martini was a bit hypocritical. I choose to get my calories from nutritious foods and not drink them. Another great reason to have my own coffee bar at home where I can add some skim milk and have a healthy drink for pennies as opposed to the $4-$5 creations that are often filled with fat and sugar at coffee houses. Most people have no idea the calories they are drinking in some form. Sodas, lattes, and sweet tea- a staple here in the south- are the biggest culprits.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us:
“do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[a] and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
We often hear this verse when the preacher is speaking about drinking or drug use or sexual immorality but how often do we hear them speak of the sin of gluttony?
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
It sounds to me like God is telling us there is no difference in being drunk with alcohol and drunk with food. I am a recovering food addict. I know this and only by the grace of God and daily work do I overcome this addiction. For many food is their drug of choice when they are sad, lonely, or feel alone. This is no different than the user of other “drugs” like alcohol, pills, sex, pornography, or gambling, to name a few.
We have become such a sedentary society. God designed our bodies in such a way as to be made to MOVE. Our ancestors did a lot of manual labor and worked hard and burned off what they ate and often did not have enough to keep full. Now we have become a society of more is better and quantity over quality and faster faster. Most families rarely even sit down to a meal together during the week because of our busy lives. I hear people say they have no time to cook, but in all truth you can throw together a healthy meal just as fast as you can drive to a fast food joint and get dinner. And if you have time for TV and Facebook, you have time to cook a healthy meal for your family. Is it easy? No, of course not, but it has to be a priority. We have to decide that the health of our family is just as important as catching the next episode of whatever TV show you like to watch.
Unhealthy food is cheaper yes. And yes we can buy more empty processed junk for $25 than we can healthy food. However we CAN buy a good healthy meal that is enough to feed our family on a budget. This is part of what Ben and I show people how to do every day in our programs.
So why do we avoid the topic of obesity in church? Now I happen to attend a church where my pastor runs marathons and we have a running club for kids and tons of sports and physical activities we can participate in if we so choose. We have an amazing gym and fitness center that if free to use. This is a good and proactive thing. This is not the case in many churches though for various reasons and also how many people actually use these facilities in churches that DO have them?
We owe it to God to treat our body as a temple and not a garbage dump. There is no difference in putting unhealthy, empty carbs and food with no real nutritional value in or bodies on a regular basis than there is filling our bodies with drugs. Both have very damaging long term effects. The problem seems to be more prevalent here in the south where we center all gatherings around FOOD. When we are happy we celebrate with food. When we mourn or are sick, FOOD- how many times have you been asked to bring a dish to someone’s house after a loved one passed away?
So much of our social life surrounds food. Now I love parties and potlucks and gathering with friends over a good meal. This is a wonderful tradition. We southerners especially have a sense of hospitality and togetherness and that is something to be proud of for sure. But it is time to start looking at what we are eating and how what we eat plays into our health. Almost all of the top 20 states with the highest obesity rates are here in the south. Our culture plays into this in a big way. Okay maybe I am biased but come on now, where is the BEST food in America found? IN THE SOUTH!! (I grew up in New Orleans- I know good food). People come from all over the country to try the delicacies and wonderful traditional foods of the south. WE ARE FAMOUS FOR SWEET TEA?? This is about as unhealthy as you can get as far as a drink goes. A 24oz glass of Red Diamond Sweet tea is 210 calories, 51 grams of sugar. Pretty crazy. And we all know we use way more sugar when we make it at home right?
It is time to start a wave of change in our community of believers.
I would love to see a potluck or gathering where everyone brings their favorite healthy dish. We do this at our home when we have a Plexus meeting and I can assure you nobody leaves hungry or feeling like the food was not good. It is possible to eat well and still enjoy food.
Ben and I have created a program that involves total balance of physical, mental and emotional fitness called Cook, Eat, Live, Smart. We love showing groups and families and churches how to change their habits and improve their health. I would love to see this topic be discussed in church just as much as financial fitness, and over indulgence in other things that are not so good for us. I challenge any pastor or church goer who reads this to start looking at being a whole balanced person for God as a balance between not just emotional and spiritual, but also physical fitness.
Understand this does not mean everyone in your church needs to run marathons and wear a size 8. This is about healthy and active, not skinny. All it takes to start is 15 minutes 3 times a week of some type of physical activity to get your heart rate up. We need to create a movement of healthy living among our church peers. IT can be done and it can grow and spread and we can make a difference one person and one meal and one good choice at a time.
We owe it to God, our children and grandchildren and friends and family who want us healthy and able to live life to the fullest and serve God with the body He gave us. If you need help getting started, email me- firstname.lastname@example.org and I am HAPPY to help. Ben and I are happy to come to ANY church in America that wants to learn how do live a balanced healthy life and bring our program to your congregation and show you how to get started. When you start living healthy and changing habits one at a time it becomes a lifestyle. This is our ministry of health and we are passionate about spreading the blessings of healthy living. I would love to hear from you and get your thoughts on this topic as well.