What Would God Eat: We Look at Religion and Weight Loss

Can the belief in a higher power actually can help you shed pounds?

Last summer, my friend Amanda and I had a craving for Whoopie Pies from our favorite bakery. That we decided to indulge our cravings was a surprise, considering we’ve both had major eating disorders in the past. But we could not resist the bakery’s siren song. Sadly, the bakery was out of Whoopie Pies. Dejected, we skulked out. That’s when Amanda turned to me and whimpered, “God thinks we’re fat.”

That’s right. We blamed it on God. I wonder what Michelle Snow would have to say about that? A registered nurse and PhD in public health, Snow is the author of The W.O.W Diet: Words of Wisdom and Dietary Enlightenment From Leading World Religions and Scientific Study. She devised the dietary plan after struggling with GI issues for years.  The W.O.W Diet examines Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Seventh-day Adventists, and even Latter-day Saints as potential sources of dietary guidance. As a result, Snow lost 35 pounds and resolved her health issues.

Look, there are obvious links between religion and food: No matter whom you pray to, chances are, if you’re religious, certain foods hold esteemed places, whether it’s a Communion wafer and wine (the blood and body of Christ) or charoset (an apple/nut mixture eaten on Passover to represent the mortar used by slaves bind bricks in Egypt.) Hinduism promotes vegetarianism; Buddhism, mindful eating.. Many religions encourage fasting as a means of spiritual cleansing, or dictate specific methods of food preparation. Gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. (As an aside, I’ve long held the belief that being Jewish predisposes you to an eating disorder, but that’s a different blog.)

Millions of people look to Weight Watchers as their higher power. Jenny Craig is a supreme goddess to some, while Robert Atkins is the ultimate deity for others.

All joking aside, though, if someone finds comfort and strength in their religion, more power to them. Losing weight requires dedication, discipline and self-love. Some people find the structure of an organized diet plan immensely helpful, but I can see where organized religion could offer support -- particularly if you’re the kind of person who thrives on order and rules. And a strong sense of faith is absolutely critical to weight loss success – whether it comes from your God, your nutritionist or trainer, your bariatric surgeon or yourself.

Want more proof that we can find weight loss motivation in religion? Last year, Cornell University behavior expert Brian Wansink, PhD, and his brother Craig, a religious studies professor at Virginia Wesleyan College, partnered up to analyze the amount of food depicted in 52 of the best-known paintings of the Last Supper. They found that over the 1000 years, portion size has mushroomed by 69 percent, plate size by 66 percent, and bread size by 23 percent. I say: Oy vey. But, what are your thoughts?

Do you think religion can play a powerful role in weight loss?
Chime in below!


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