Cassie Steele- OCP News Service – 24/7/19
Around the world, as many as one in eight adults are obese. While the effects of poor nutrition continue to be a global problem, The World Health Organization predicts that obesity will soon become a bigger risk to public health. International Orthodox Christian charities work tirelessly to help provide underprivileged communities with basic elements that are essential for good health. This same level of commitment can also be beneficial in dealing with the growing obesity epidemic that affects whole communities around the world, as well as individuals in a church’s congregation. Practical provisions are less appropriate in these circumstances, however, the church can provide invaluable emotional and spiritual support to those welcoming faith into their lives.
Causes and Consequences of Obesity
Obesity contributes to several serious illnesses. One recent study in the UK shows that people classified as obese have a 70% higher chance of heart failure and double the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In Greece and other Mediterranean countries, the previously healthy diet of predominantly fish, fruit and vegetables is becoming more westernized. This has resulted in over 40% of children in Cyprus being overweight or obese. There are, however, many factors beyond diet and overeating that contribute to weight gain, including lack of exercise and poor sleeping patterns. If, in addition, an individual is anxious or depressed, they may even start to use their weight as a barrier against the world around them, so making it harder to make positive changes. This is when the presence of a strong support network is particularly valuable.
The Church Promotes Well Being
In their position at the heart of a neighborhood, churches and other faith-based institutions offer an environment conducive to support, comfort and friendship. For these reasons, they are proving to be beneficial in the reduction and prevention of obesity. Studies have shown that spirituality and being involved with religion can lead to a healthier and longer life. Attending church and actively taking part in congregational life further enhances these benefits. Through offering an unprejudiced welcome to all, churches can help promote a healthier diet, encourage exercise and inspire greater self-belief.
Finding Strength in Christ
In the US, where obesity levels are amongst the highest in the world, one in three people are now overweight or obese. By finding the courage to address obesity with a healthy diet and, where necessary, follow a structured program to deal with the addiction of overeating, it is possible to make life-affirming changes. Research on the impact of faith on health has found that religious people have a stronger sense of self-control. A 2009 study found that factors such as religious rituals, religious lifestyles, and the fact that religious people view their goals as “sacred” help them to have greater self-control. So, in addition to taking practical steps to address problems with weight, the stillness and strength found in the pursuit of Christ make facing up to the reality of obesity, and its causes, much easier.
As the epidemic of obesity spreads across the globe, it’s important to look to its causes beyond simply overeating. Just as the church supports projects to help to eradicate world hunger, through reinforcing faith, it can also help to tackle the social and psychological issues behind obesity. With a peaceful mind, all aspects of life, including overeating and the problems it causes, can be improved and enhanced.
Cassie Steele- OCP News Service