Is church making you fat?

Margaret linked to a story this morning that I thought deserved a closer look. While studies have shown that regular church attendance is linked to greater levels of happiness, lower rates of substance abuse, and better marriages, a new study has reported that middle-aged people who are religiously active are also more obese.

Is it all those church socials? The coffee and donut receptions after Mass? The bake sales and pasta dinner fundraisers?

…researchers at Northwestern University sought to find out how attending religious events is associated with weight gain over time. They analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which followed more than 2,400 people aged 20 to 32 for 18 years. Over that time, the scientists reported at an American Heart Association conference, people who went to church or church activities at least once a week were more than twice as likely as people with no religious involvement to become obese.

While the study did not tease apart which church activities were associated with the most weight gain, the authors speculate that those who attended church were more likely to have a broader social network, which in turn may lead to more opportunities to gather over food and drink.

I also wonder if religious people pay less attention to their bodies. I certainly know Christians who are almost hostile to the suggestion that healthy food and regular exercise are part of what it means to treat our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.

The good news — as the article points out — is that the same infrastructure and support in religious groups that may foster overeating and bad habits can also do the opposite. It just takes a little leadership.

Zoe Romanowsky

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Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Godspy.com. Zo

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