Does religion make you fat?

| 32 Comments

Well, no, not exactly, maybe, but a recent article in the Los Angeles Times cites a study to the effect that young adults who participate regularly in religious activities are more likely to become obese than those who do not. Specifically, people with very high involvement in religious activities were 50% more likely to become obese than those who did not participate at all, even after the data were controlled for such factors as age, sex, race, income, and what I will call the initial condition, that is, the body-mass index of the subjects at the beginning of the study.

Why? The principal investigator, Matthew Feinstein, would not commit himself, but thought it might be the weekly potluck dinners. The LA Times worries about the future of the Jell-O salad. I immediately thought of the movie where Woody Allen decides to become a Catholic and brings home a loaf of white bread and a jar of mayonnaise.

iConfess. Speaking of Catholicism, this month’s issue of The Progressive cites a Reuters dispatch to the effect that the Catholic Church in the United States has approved an iPhone app for confession. Priests need not worry about technological unemployment, however; there is, at least so far, no app for absolution – or is that iAppsolution? – so Catholics will still have to get absolution from a priest.

April Fool joke? Yes indeed, but the stories are real.

32 Comments

I assume that Feinstein was speaking tongue in cheek (or potato salad in cheek). Surely he doesn’t think that one meal a week is causing obesity in this population.

Now how does the Catholic Church benefit from this new confession application? There has to be a catch.

At first I thought a single letter was missing from the last word of the title. An “r”.

At first I thought a single letter was missing from the last word of the title. An “r”.

You must be thinking of ID videos. But ID is not about religion, not one bit.

Absolutely no offense toward heavier people or religious people is intended by what follows. The idea of what body fat level is “ideal” is partly subjective (with the caveat that some levels are too high or low for good health, and some sports require a narrow range for competitive success). It is very difficult for many people to maintain what they perceive as an ideal weight in what is undeniably an obesogenic society.

Also, of course, I refer to attitudes that may associate with the religious beliefs of SOME people. There are millions upon millions of religious people to whom my conjectures below do not apply. If you are religious and they don’t apply to you, it means I am not talking about you.

With respect to the topic - I had suspected this from subjective observations. One guess was that exercise and weight control may be associated with efforts to maintain an attractive appearance, which may be perceived as relatively overt signalling of interest in mating activity, or as “vanity”, by some religious people.

(Please note that I am NOT suggesting that fundamentalist religious activity actually leads to a decrease in sexual activity or the negative consequences of inappropriate or unsafe sexual activity. Data may suggest the opposite.)

Also, exercise and weight control are often associated with health concerns. In non-religious (or or many religious) groups, health outcomes are perceived mainly as the result of genetics and random factors, plus the impact of lifestyle choices that can mitigate the former two and improve the odds. Among some (not all) religious people, health outcomes are frequently ascribed to magical intervention by a deity, and “miracles” that are the result of medical care, original misdiagnosis (possibly not by a physician), or simple expected natural history of a condition, are often proclaimed. (Sometimes the “miracles” merely represent the waning phase of naturally waxing and waning symptoms, or merely represent denial of a condition that remains unchanged, as well).

Technically, even if health outcomes are massively influenced by magical intervention to cause disease as a punishment, or cure it as a “miracle”, it would still be logical to make Jesus’ job easier by maintaining a healthy weight, but obviously, a tendency to rely on magic for health outcomes reduces the motivation to do so.

Maybe this wouldn’t be a problem if Christians followed the fasting practice of the Eastern Orthodox Churches: no meat or dairy products (basically a vegan diet except for some seafood) during Lent (40 days before Easter), 1 month before Christmas, 1 to 2 weeks after Pentecost, 2 weeks in August, plus every Wednesday and Friday. (I’ll skip any anecdotes of amazing Lenten potlucks that may have been witnessed which might contradict the weight-loss aspects of any of the above :-) )

Nintendo will soon announce the release of its own version of a confessional/penitential app for the Wii system. It will be called Mii-aculpa. (Self-flagellation accessory sold separately)

This is an unexpected development. In the oooold days the lyrics of a popular song read, “It’s illegal, it’s immoral or it makes you fat.” Now we know what the last “it” is.

Perhaps the clue lies in

very high involvement in religious activities

If those “religious activities” are mainly sedentary, it may just be a case of insufficient exercise (possibly insufficient opportunity for exercise.)

Too much creation, not enough recreation.

I’m religious and I weight 99 pounds. LOL!

oops I meant “weigh”

I think it’s from eating up all that DI and AIG bullshit.

Could we have it the wrong way around. Could the fatter people be attracted to be more involved in a religious group because they feel excluded from other groups. I mean if you are very fit you will be also busy doing other activities and not have time to be so immersed in religion. I think that if people studied any non sport activity you would find the same thing.

There doesn’t have to be a direct relation at all. Bad diet is correlated with low income and low education, for reasonably obvious reasons. Religiosity is also correlated with low income and low education, for arguably less obvious reasons. Because of this, I would have been surprised if they had not found this correlation.

Michael J said:

Could we have it the wrong way around. Could the fatter people be attracted to be more involved in a religious group because they feel excluded from other groups.

My understanding is that they followed these people for many years (a longitudinal study) and factored in initial BMI.

I did not read the actual paper, but as I said in my article, quoting the LA Times, the data were controlled for age, sex, race, income, and initial body-mass index. So the correlation does not result because religious people are often poorer or uneducated (if that is in fact true).

But why are we being so serious on this day of all days?

Hello everyone, first time poster and I really enjoy the site. I am not a scientist but have been interested in astronomy ever since I was 8-9 years old. Christian fundamentalism has had me worried for my adult life and the fight against evolution is so irrational I don’t know how any objective person can deny it.

A very large church in my area (Saddleback, Rick Warren) has a program called Daniels Plan to address the hefties in the herd (of which he is one). After summoning all Gods help he has had several failed attempts at weight loss. However, he is at it again and this time I am sure he has several books, workbooks, cd’s, etc for sale to help line his pockets erh, I mean help him and his followers live a healthier lifestyle. Other denominations are missing the boat on this financial opportunity. Out of curiousity I checked his website but you must be a member to get anything other that introductory info.

JB said:

Hello everyone, first time poster and I really enjoy the site. I am not a scientist but have been interested in astronomy ever since I was 8-9 years old. Christian fundamentalism has had me worried for my adult life and the fight against evolution is so irrational I don’t know how any objective person can deny it.

A very large church in my area (Saddleback, Rick Warren) has a program called Daniels Plan to address the hefties in the herd (of which he is one). After summoning all Gods help he has had several failed attempts at weight loss. However, he is at it again and this time I am sure he has several books, workbooks, cd’s, etc for sale to help line his pockets erh, I mean help him and his followers live a healthier lifestyle. Other denominations are missing the boat on this financial opportunity. Out of curiousity I checked his website but you must be a member to get anything other that introductory info.

God wish’s him to be fat. And his bank account too.

OTH, it is sad that someone in a position to do good by helping people be kind and tolerant abuses his power and their beliefs. Hypocrisy is the disease and the bane of fundamentalism.

MememicBottleneck said:

I think it’s from eating up all that DI and AIG bullshit.

This is a heavy topic, and before throwing our weight around on the issue, maybe we should let them weigh in with ounce of their own wisdom. After that, we can pound home the point that their overstuffed egos have produced nothing of substance. They just chew the fat with each other and hash over the same old blubbery ideas, then huff and puff about the ponderous intellectual achievements that they layer on a public all too willing to swallow it whole. Intellectual empty calories.

Are creationists more obese than “real” Christians?

That would make a Ph D thesis

myfail for bad reading comprehension

Matt Young said:

I did not read the actual paper, but as I said in my article, quoting the LA Times, the data were controlled for age, sex, race, income, and initial body-mass index. So the correlation does not result because religious people are often poorer or uneducated (if that is in fact true).

But why are we being so serious on this day of all days?

I’m religious and I weight 99 pounds. LOL!

But how tall are you? If you’re a leprechaun that could still be obese.

harold said: But how tall are you? If you’re a leprechaun that could still be obese.

Not if she gets rid of all her lucky charms.

The problem is that praying is often a low-energy task but if it was performed on a excercise bike…

Karen S. said:

I’m religious and I weigh 99 pounds. LOL!

Then don’t stop being religious otherwise you might fade away! ;o)

Roger said:

The problem is that praying is often a low-energy task but if it was performed on a excercise bike…

Somehow I get a vision of a church organized as a gym, with exercise machines in rows before the pulpit.

mrg said:

Roger said:

The problem is that praying is often a low-energy task but if it was performed on a excercise bike…

Somehow I get a vision of a church organized as a gym, with exercise machines in rows before the pulpit.

Or this?

mrg said:

Roger said:

The problem is that praying is often a low-energy task but if it was performed on a excercise bike…

Somehow I get a vision of a church organized as a gym, with exercise machines in rows before the pulpit.

I’m thinking rowing machines, with the congregation singing “Michael, row the boat ashore”. There might, however, be problems with the Bible passage about the storm on the Sea of Galilee, since it could lead to a lot of seasickness.

Kevin B said: There might, however, be problems with the Bible passage about the storm on the Sea of Galilee, since it could lead to a lot of seasickness.

On the other hand, a fine spray of holy water would help the congregation cool off.

Matt,

Woody Allen’s character comes home with a crucifix, a loaf of Wonder Bread, and a jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise.

I guess I forgot the crucifix, but why is Hellman’s important enough to be emphasized? Mayonnaise is mayonnaise, as long as he didn’t put it on corned beef with lettuce and tomato. On Wonder bread.

Matt,

We see the jar of Hellmann’s last. It’s the visual punchline. Evidently he wouldn’t go so far as to give up Hellmann’s for Miracle Whip. From Wikipedia:

In 1905, Richard Hellmann from Vetschau, Germany, opened a delicatessen on Columbus Avenue in New York City, where he used his wife’s recipe to sell the first ready-made mayonnaise. It became so popular that he began selling it in bulk to other stores. In 1912 he built a factory for producing Mrs. Hellmann’s mayonnaise. It was mass marketed and called Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise.

Since I try not to let mayonnaise enter my digestive tract, least of all through my mouth, I guess I got only half the joke. The point evidently was not that it was mayonnaise but that it was not Miracle Whip. I still hope he didn’t put it on pastrami.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on April 1, 2011 8:00 AM.

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