SPOILER ALERT – This blog will appear in the TECUMSEH TRIBUNE on Thursday this week
I am nearly one hundred pounds heavier today than I was in 1994. This is not a feat that I am proud of. I was ok with the first forty lbs or so of that weight gain. Call it filling in and finishing growing. But the last sixty lbs of weight gain is really a problem for me that I need to get under control. You may be asking what makes 1994 so special. That was the year I departed my beloved Newfoundland for London, ON to attend seminary are Huron University College. One might have thought that nutritionally, the departure from salt fish, seal meat, fried cod tongues, salt pork, boiled vegetables, salt beef, toutons (fried bread dough), pea’s pudding, etc might have been a move in the right direction. So what could have happened? I had assumed that it may have been overeating, perhaps a lack of exercise, soothing stress with food, all of which would be plausible explanations. But I was wrong! (Note this moment – I am not wrong often…in my own mind).
This week, it all became very clear to me thanks to a study by Matthew Feinstein of Northwestern University in Illinois. He has solved the problem. Simply put his study concludes – Going to church makes young adults fat! Mr. Feinstein noted: “Our main finding was that people with a high frequency of religious participation in young adulthood were 50 percent more likely to become obese by middle age than those with no religious participation in young adulthood.” I will soon be forty which I think used be known as middle-aged – good golly, this study is about me. So let’s journey back to 1994 once again when I was a young adult. What changed for me in 1994? The biggest single change was the frequency with which I went to church! From once a week, most weeks in NL to every day once I moved to ON and I have been in church almost every day ever since. When you consider all that, it is miracle that I am not 500 lbs! All I can say is “Praise the Lard!”
The writers of the study postulate that this study’s findings may be due to the fact that most churches have lots of events around food – St. Mark’s by-the-Lake is no exception. Like most Anglican churches we do a lot of eating. We are almost known for it; Turkey Dinner, Steak Dinner, Soup Lunches, Meat pies, Coffee Hours and every event has the added tagline… ‘refreshments will be served.’ When the Roman Catholic child was asked to bring a symbol of her faith to school she brought a crucifix. The Anglican child was asked the same question, he brought a casserole. Going to church is not all bad however. The good news according to Mr. Feinstein is that “on the whole being religious has been shown by many studies to be associated with better mental health, lower smoking rates, lower mortality rates and better overall health status. There are a whole lot of things religious people are doing right, but it’s just this specific area (obesity) where there appears to be room for improvement.” So we are mentally healthy, smoke, free, stress free, happy, fat people. Well, I am not sure where that leaves me. I can’t say of it is conclusive or not, but my weight gain certainly took off when I got to seminary and increased my church attendance. I would also note that I got married while I was in seminary – coincidence? At the end of the day, I guess it really does not matter how I got to where I am today, I have arrived. Now what to do about it! I am overweight. It is therefore clear what I must do – stop going to church!
Or…I guess I could take control of my heath and my lifestyle. Besides the obvious fact that I am not happy with the way I look, there are the other customary concerns that weight gain brings. Many people in my family have suffered with Diabetes making it a big concern as it puts me at risk to develop type 2 diabetes if I do not lose the weight. So I am making an effort to change. I hope to lose 55 lbs by the end 2011 – pray for me – I need it. Perhaps to help me get moving we will plan an event or two at the church that focuses on exercise. I can’t say with any certainty, but I think people may be less motivated to come to a ‘Long Run and Lenten Bible Study than they would for our ‘Lenten Luncheon and Bible Study.’