Divine Dieting

God calls us to take care of our bodies. We can do that by improving our health and losing weight. Here’s how.

Attending church is good for you

BY NEVA COCHRAN, MS, RD, LD

A little divine intervention may help you overcome the battle of the bulge. If church is the center of your spiritual life, why not also make it a partner in improving your diet and health? Several studies have found that people participating in faith and church-based weight management programs can improve eating habits, lose weight and boost physical activity levels. Let’s take a closer look at these items.

The Body and Soul Initiative,” a 24-week faith-based community weight loss program with 450 participants from 24 churches in North Florida featured exercise sessions, nutrition presentations and cooking demonstrations with a registered dietitian, chef, and exercise expert. Weight loss was as high as 58 pounds in six months while physical activity increased from an average of 64 minutes per week initially to 157 minutes per week at six months.

Scripture reading and prayer helped build confidence for successful members of a faith-based weight loss program, The Weigh Down Workshop,at three churches in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area. By teaching them to identify their bodies’ true signals for hunger and fullness, the program allowed participants to eat the foods they liked but not overeat.

When researchers surveyed the diets of nearly 2,400 people in Seattle, Washington, they discovered that those with a religious orientation ate less fat and more fruits and veggies. People who use a church for social support often find it a good place to obtain credible health information and positive reinforcement for healthy eating and exercise habits.

And never underestimate the power of music in helping pare pounds. Facilitators for a Temple University study with Philadelphia churches played rousing spiritual music to get people moving and used scripture for motivation and strength. Participants evaluated their eating habits and the changes they could make, learned how to get support from friends and family along with new ways to deal with stress. To maintain the sense of community that people find in their congregations, the group used e-mail, blogs, and chat rooms to share with each other and schedule meetings outside of church.

If starting a weight loss program at your church sounds like an idea you want to pursue, look for trained professionals like registered dietitians and certified fitness instructors within your congregation who might be willing to work with you in setting it up, or you can find a registered dietitian in your area at www.eatright.org.  Click on “Find a Registered Dietitian” on the homepage. iT!

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