CP Opinion

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Obesity and Me

March 29, 2008|8:43 am

In October of 2005, I went to visit my doctor about a matter unrelated to my weight. Nevertheless, as most physicians require, the attending nurse asked me to step on the scales to record how much I weighed before entering the examining room. When she called out the figure, I said, "What?" "Yes, you weigh 266 pounds," said the nurse. "That just can't be true. Look again. I've been plateaued at around 235 for several years," I protested. "No. I'm sorry, Reverend, but it is true. You weigh 266 pounds," the nurse insisted.

As I stepped down from the scales, for the first time in my life, all the bells and whistles went off in my head. My weight gain was terribly alarming. Then I heard a loving, yet chiding voice, which I attribute to the voice of God, saying to me: "How about that, Mark. You weigh almost 300 pounds. Did you ever think you would weigh almost 300 pounds? If you don't change your lifestyle, you're going to weigh that much. It's time for a change."

During the doctor's entire examination it was all I could think about, though I never mentioned it to him. I hardly heard what he had to say regarding the reason why I had set an appointment with him. So preoccupied with the conviction of my soul, I could think of nothing else. But I do remember breathing a prayer of repentance and saying: "Yes, Lord, what do you want me to do? And who can help me with this?"

I was fortunate to find what I believe to be an excellent weight loss program. The program was not about starving to lose weight. It was about something that, at least for me, was somewhat harder. It was about relearning how to eat and making the right food choices in life. Moreover, it was about accountability. It was about subjecting myself to constant scrutiny by persons who were passionate about my weight loss success.

It is with great humility I report that I've lost a total of 70 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year. My health has considerably improved. I not only have more energy, but nearly all the debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia – which I was diagnosed with about five years ago – have all but disappeared. What is more, I think my credibility with many people has drastically improved. It didn't help that the nature of my ministry was to tackle problems of vice when I had one of my own – gluttony.

Today nearly one-third of American adults are overweight and a third more are technically obese. Many health organizations across the country are reporting that serious weight problems are pandemic, putting people at greater risk for heart problems, diabetes, blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, troubles sleeping and some forms of cancer.
So bad is the increase of obesity among children that Kate Steinbeck, an expert in children's health at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, says that the children in this generation may be the first in history to die before their parents because of weight-related issues. [1]

Yet this is a matter conservative evangelicals have largely been silent about. There has been much said from our ranks about the evils of tobacco, alcohol, and immorality, but very little, if anything at all, about overindulgence.

Dr. Billy Graham once noted that a woman called him on the phone during one of his crusades and said, "I have a sin that haunts me day and night. I cannot get victory, and yet I have tried a thousand times. I'm guilty of the sin of gluttony." Graham said, "This was the first time that I had ever heard anyone come to me and confess that they were guilty of this sin. I have had many people laughingly tell me that they had 'overstuffed,' but few consider it a sin." [2]

However, the Bible has particular relevance at this point: "All things are lawful for me," said the apostle Paul, but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything," he exhorted. Our bodies are supposed to be God's temple, and to sin against the body is to sin against God. (I Corinthians. 6:12, 19-20).

There are a number of reasons why some people are obese. Some have chemical imbalances that make them genetically disposed to food addictions, just as alcoholics may have a predisposition to alcohol. Some cases of obesity are related to how parents may have conditioned their children to unhealthy eating behaviors. Some are emotional in nature. But the most common cause for the problem is cultural.

America is bombarded today with messages that accent: "[T]ake thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry" (Luke 12: 19) – the emphasis is on satisfying our appetites. It is an emphasis on a materialistic way of life that fills the belly and ignores the soul.

Instead of recognizing and addressing the sin of gluttony, unfortunately much of the church has capitulated and conformed. Even our church meetings perpetuate the problem with unhealthy feasts and refreshments that often cause people who are addicted to foods without nutritional value to stumble. These meetings sometimes even encourage overeating.

My weight loss actually wasn't just the result of a spiritual epiphany that occurred on one day's visit to the doctor's office. The realization of my need for change was more the sum total of the numerous times family and friends loved me enough to confront me about how heavy and unhealthy I was. Moreover, it was the result of being held accountable and encircled by persons who cared enough to walk with me through my struggles until I reached a place of success. That process is still ongoing.

When carefully considered, the whole experience of dealing with the sin of overeating in my life was quite biblical – a microcosm, if you will, of what the Church should do in saving millions from unhealthy lifestyles and curbing the nation's myriad of problems with excess.

[1] "Experts Warn of Obesity Pandemic," September, 2006; ConsumerAffairs.com

[2] The Seven Deadly Sins, Billy Graham, Zondervan Publishing House, 1955, pg. 83

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