A new study shows that religious Americans tend to be more overweight than their less devout neighbors. The news source I saw attributed the weight problem to the foods served at church potluck dinners. While I agree that high fat/high carb food is generally served at church socials, even the most faithful church members still eat most of their meals at home. I think the answer is not in the meals dished up at church, but in the guilt.
Popular media gives the religious guilt award to Catholics, but I think Mormons outdo Catholics in this contest. Do Catholics receive monthly phone calls asking if they’ve completed their visiting or home teaching assignments? Those calls require a brownie—maybe with a scoop of ice cream—to ease the feeling that not only God, but your church leaders mourn because you couldn’t bring yourself to visit Sister Crabbee and her houseful of dander-ridden felines this month. And what about being called into the bishop’s office and asked to accept a calling for which you have no aptitude or interest? Any variation of, “I’d really love to help you out by serving as Primary President, but I hate all kids except my own—and sometimes I’m not too sure about them” is not acceptable. Both accepting a calling you will hate or lying to get out of it will send you home to the pantry. And since low-cal substitutes like cigarettes and black coffee are not available to Mormons, chips and dip fill in—literally.
General Conference can really send Mormons on a food binge. Warnings about what might happen to you and your family if you aren’t diligent about Family Home Evening, daily prayer, scripture reading, Sabbath day observance, fasting, temple work, and sharing the gospel would push anyone less spiritual than Gandhi to seek solace in the box of Ding Dongs purchased for the kids’ lunches.
On the other hand, Evangelicals who are already saved probably don’t do Mormon and Catholic level guilt, yet plenty of them are portly. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe chubby church-goers are the result of spending Sundays sitting in church instead of biking and hiking with the svelte secular crowd.