I was listening to a podcast the other evening and the pastor asked at the beginning of the message to donate candy for their Fall Fest. I cringed.

Our nation's health is currently in a crisis. Diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and yes, obesity abound and the church is participating (dare I say, promoting?) an unhealthy lifestyle. Note: According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), diseases including cancer can be up to 95% prevented simply by lifestyle.

A few fast facts to remind us that obesity is a serious illness:

  • One in three kids are obese. [Source: Journal of the American Medical Association]
  • One in every five U.S. teenagers have abnormal cholesterol levels, putting them at greater risk of heart disease. [Source: CDC]
  • Obese adults are more likely to have depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. [Source: Psychosom Med]
  • Around 20% of cancer in women and 15% in men is directly related to obesity. [Source: New England Journal of Medicine]
  • Obese children are more likely to become obese adults. [Source: Journal of Adolescent Health]
  • Obesity-related diseases and health problems account for 61% of healthcare costs in America. [Source: CDC]
  • Obesity-related healthcare costs us $147 billion each year. [Source: CDC]

Do I have your attention now? I don't know about you, but this is not OK with me.

As does the church, I believe that we should be at the forefront of our healthcare issues. That is taking care of our bodies - not just physically and spiritually, but also from a nutrition standpoint. Exercise and daily activity are important, but so is what we put into our bodies. Most pastors and churches are careful what they listen to, read and watch. But how many of us feed our bodies garbage? What we put in our bodies is a direct correlation to our mood, our attitude and our overall health. And ultimately how the world interprets if we "practice what we preach."

The church wants to raise a generation for Jesus, but how can they when a lifestyle of disease is promoted? It's really hard to have spiritual health when the mental and physical health is neglected. There is a huge need in the church/faith community as a whole (and an article for another day) for a health and eat real food movement. I'm passionate about helping the faith community learn about real food and fitness and how it all goes together. That's why I wrote this.

Are you a pastor? Involved in planning events for the community? Here are some ways to reach the community but not contribute to the disease of our nation.

No. 1) Think Fall, Not Candy. Have a Fall Fest, but opt for healthy options. Candy is filled with toxins, called food dyes, that go by the name Blue No.1 (petroleum), Red 40 (coal tar), Yellow 5 & 6 (coal tar). These dyes are known to cause a host of health problems, including a direct link to cancer and do not belong in our food or body. Have apples, mini pumpkins, or if you really must have candy, go for real candy options like Annie's Berry Patch Organic Fruit Snacks or YummyEarth or UNREAL. Or why not something active? Like jump ropes. A 5k? Wear the kids out by creating activities that use their mind, spirit and body. Throw a healthy Fall Festival!

No. 2) Think Faith + Fitness + Real Food. Just like you can't have wealth without health, it's really hard to say you have faith and not pay attention to what you are putting in your body or how you treat it. Get active and start reading the labels on what you buy. Don't know an ingredient? Research it! Learn what you are about to eat. Become educated. Subscribe to the eat real food lifestyle.

No. 3) Think Long Term. What is the goal of the event you are having? Community outreach? Sharing the love of Jesus? Being the hands and feet of Jesus? As believers, we should be living and breathing examples of a healthy life to the rest of the world. How can you and I be the light of this world and the salt of this earth if we personally don't take care of our bodies in all areas?

I have many pastor friends and my prayer for you is that you will lead the people not only spiritually, but in health too. And as always, please let me know how I can support you and your church to embrace a healthy lifestyle! Check out this resource to help you get started!


Photo credit: Tambako