Sunday, 31 October 2010

Are British Christians too fat? Almost certainly! But what should we be doing about it?

New research this week has shown that two-thirds of Britons are overweight or obese – making us the fattest country in Europe.

We are also the fourth fattest nation in the world behind only Australia (71.1 per cent), the US (69.9 per cent) and the United Arab Emirates (68.4 per cent).

According to research company Datamonitor, a quarter of Britons are obese (15 million), with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, while four in ten of us (25 million) are overweight (BMI>25),

This means more than 40 million British people are deemed to be at an unhealthy weight.

The figures were published this week as a separate study showed that the number of people admitted to hospital for obesity-related illnesses has shot up by more than ten times in the past decade.

The health risks of being overweight are significant. Obesity isn't just an issue of personal health. The cost to the NHS and to the wider economy - because of increasing time off work - is estimated at about £7 billion per year, of which £1 billion is direct health service costs.

The risks are higher as BMI increases for type 2 diabetes (20 times greater for those who are very obese), cancer (10 per cent of all cancer deaths among non-smokers are related to obesity), coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure (85 per cent of hypertension associated with a BMI greater than 25) and fatty liver (affects 90% of obese people and may lead to cirrhosis).

How fat are you? If your BMI is over 25 then maybe it is time to take action.(You can calculate your own BMI easily online)

Weight loss in principle is fairly simple. If you are overweight (>25) or obese (>30) you can lose weight either by eating less or by exercising more. Recommended daily calorie intake varies from person to person, but there are guidelines for calorie requirements you can use as a starting point.

UK Department of Health Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) are a daily calorie intake of about 2,000 calories per day for women and 2,500 for men. The key is to make your input (in food) match your output (in activity). If input is greater that output you will gain weight. If input is less than output you will lose weight.

But which is easier – to eat less or exercise more?

About 500 fewer calories per day (that’s one McDonald’s quarter pounder or one large chocolate milkshake!) over the course of a week (ie. 3,500 calories) will result in a one pound loss for an average person.

But to lose a pound through exercise the same person would have to run almost 30 miles at 8 minute mile pace! (Calorie burn calculator here)

So you can see that it’s far easier to eat less than exercise more.

The Bible tells us that physical training is of some value – and of course it is – but the key thing if you want to avoid obesity and all its attendant health risks is to eat less.

Are British Christians too fat? If US data is any thing to go by (and remember we are almost as fat as the Americans!) then the answer is a big ‘yes’. Because in the US, the more Christians per state, the higher the level of obesity. (see diagram above)

Christians do seem to be at least as prone to obesity as those in the general population.

But when did you actually last hear a sermon on overeating or exercise?

Maybe that’s part of the problem.

A much fuller treatment of the issue of obesity from a Christian perspective can be found on the CMF website. See Facing the Obesity Epidemic


  1. Not satisfied with preaching to the infertile about how it is part of God's plan for them to stay childless, you are now attacking the obese as "unchristian". Great, well done. My wife is plump and round, and I love her to bits. I love the way she looks, and I adore the way she feels - soft, silky and cuddly. She spends a lot of time taking care of her elderly parents, which may explain why she gets little time to exercise. Perhaps you would love your wife only if she were svelte. Fortunately not everyone's like you. Get a grip Dr. Saunders, and stop being so judgemental. Most folk really struggle with obesity. Telling them they're violating God's law is not very helpful. Do you think they don't know that greed isn't good? These are people who indulge in emotional eating - only an ignoramus would call that "greed".

  2. Thanks R. As I argue above it is far easier to lose weight by eating less than by exercising more. The reason this issue is seldom addressed in churches is simply that so many people struggle with obesity and pastors (and fellow Christians) are too afraid of upsetting people by suggesting they have a problem that needs attention. The result is that people who are dangerously overweight then end up being affirmed in their choices rather than being encouraged to admit they have a problem and seeking help to change. Your wife would be well advised, with your encouragement, to check her BMI and if appropriate seek help to change her eating habits.

  3. I see you just delete out all the comments that don't conform to your own narrow views. Wonderful. Just wonderful.

  4. Dear R. You are very welcome to make comments and take issue with anything written here provided you cut out the personal insults and obscenities. Try again.

  5. Obesity is not something that cannot be controlled. Christians just need to keep a watch on what they eat, in what quantity they eat and how active they are. A firm determination along with significant lifestyle changes, balanced diet, and regular exercise can help you get the weight loss results you want.

  6. end up being affirmed holidayin their choices rather than being encouraged to admit they have a problem and seeking help to change. Your wife would be well advised, with your encouragement, gclubto check her BMI and if

  7. Thanks R. As I argue above it is far easier to lose weight by eating less than by exercising more.


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