While reports continue to indicate that Americans are piling on the pounds, church leaders across the country are becoming more concerned over people’s health, and have started making plans for church congregations to fight obesity.
An increasing number of churches have realized the important role they have to play in the battle and are now pairing the battle of faith with the battle to eliminate obesity.
"Churches are a foundation in the community," said Victor Sutton, director of the Office of Preventive Health for the Mississippi state health department.
Plans in one church have begun by cutting fried chicken from the fellowship hall, according to a pastor from Mississippi. He has convinced his African-American congregation to initiate the efforts to try and fight against obesity among them.
“Our bodies are not our own. They're a gift from God," justified Michael Minor. "We should do a better job with our bodies.”
Other Christian leaders are also taking action to solve the problem. Pastor Charles Flowers of San Antonio launched a 100-day weight-loss challenge between churches in his city and Austin in July.
"The gospel is a gospel of spirit, soul and body," said Flowers, senior pastor at the Faith Outreach Center International in San Antonio.
The focus of the program is not only on slimming down but it also aims to help congregants resolve other issues such as emotions that cause them to overeat.
According to him, people in the church are more likely to pay attention only to spiritual matters but neglect their own physical bodies.
Flowers has said, "We pay a lot of attention to the spirit side and very little attention to the body side."
A church in Nashville has also eliminated fried food from its servings. Other initiatives have included using reduced salt and replacing pork-based products for turkey.
Early reports have said that the programs are bearing good results. Minor, who worked on health initiatives in the mid-South for more than ten years said the members of the programs have gotten better and looking healthier.
“We've got members who are feeling better, looking better," he said. "We haven't gotten everybody, but people are more accepting of it now."
Because of the success of the initiatives, Minor has been allowed by the educational arm of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. to establish a network of trained ambassadors to promote initiatives in each of its congregations.
As awareness of the problem grows, some churches have even begun developing health ministries and are addressing medical issues using weekly bulletins.