A recent perusal of a major denomination’s regular publication, its written mouthpiece, contained lots of photos. Some were if its highest ranking leaders. It also contained pictures of recent seminary graduations, special denominational conferences and obituary pictures. If the text of the publication was ignored and the pictures searched for a unifying theme it would require little research. The blatant unwritten message is, “We’ve been suppersized.”
From graduates to leadership, the pictured ministry professionals had chubby cheeks, bursting waistlines, and bulging suits. This is not an atypical reality for most denominations and clergy. One could wonder if our Higher Power were our bellies. Yes, it is easy to poke at this publication and over weight preachers like the in crowd picked on larger classmates in Junior High. Our intentions are better than that. A serious addiction to food increasingly communicates its presence in the pulpits of North America’s churches. Though the above observation sounds unkind and harsh it is intended to point out a potentially tough unflattering reality. Members of the clergy are hooked on food as an addictive substance.
The seriousness of clergy obesity indicates a little discipline, cutting back or giving up sweets for lent will not solve this all but accepted addiction. Every indication is addictive eating is rampant in clergy ranks. Because we have to eat to sustain life and because eating appears so innocent compared to other ministerial addictions, it is easy to be deceived or unconcerned about why we eat and whether or not we are hooked on food. Whether consciously or unconsciously a pastor eats addictively, it is clear clergy eating is increasingly compulsive and done for reasons much like those alcoholics use for drinking. Eating for comfort, eating to celebrate, eating because of depression, eating because it is why churches gather (We often call it fellowship but the centrality of food in Christian gatherings cannot be denied.), eating because we are bored and eating because we crave food and long to satiate deep personal longings are some of the reasons. A bottle will never meet soul needs. Cuisine cannot quench these clergy longings either. Some ministry professionals find they are powerless over the pull of the plate.
Gluttony and obesity are seemingly uncharitable terms used to describe this brand of eating and its result. Though each of us would shy from ownership of the judgment those words carry, if we as pastors serve our stomachs, it does not help us to hide from hurtful words. We must squarely face our food addictions as surely as an anorexic must face her eating disorder. Too many of us are eating our selves to death.
Yes, North Americans in general are loosing the battle of the bulge. Obesity is more accepted and more prevalent than ever despite its alarming health consequences. Alert health professionals and some government agencies are waking to the dangers of being supersized. Laws are being passed and add campaigns launched. The impact of supersized meals at MacDonald’s made its way to the big screen. Never before have we heard so much and heeded so little.
If you wrestle with using food as a substance to calm, to deal with boredom, to celebrate because you don’t drink or eating has become a factor which is controlling your health, your moods and your enjoyment, it is time to face it squarely as a potentially dangerous addiction. Approach it as an issue which is addictive and embrace the full healing of a recovery journey. There are lots of reasons to hope.
As recovering food addicts clergy members have unprecedented entree into the lives of struggling parishioners. If pastors deal deeply and decisively with this spiritual/emotional issue the results will be obvious to congregations who long to be lead and hate themselves for their own lack of control over food.
If you suspect your eating is controlling you or you at least are willing to investigate it further there is a helpful quiz. Honestly facing this issue and getting whatever help you need to progressively recover is important to your health, your family and your church/ministry. For helpful recovery groups and a host of information consult Overeaters Anonymous. This issue is one which easily deceives.
If you struggle with this issue and are seeking personal help, insight and mentoring for your recovery journey go to Finding Help and get started today. Your wonderful life may depend on your courageous recovery. You are worth it! You deserve all the grace you can give yourself on your recovery journey.
Many people have found help with Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, a 12-step group that is free to all who wish to stop eating addictively. Some have been diagnosed as morbidly obese while others are undereaters. Some were severely bulimic, others have harmed themselves with compulsive exercise, or have had the quality of their life impaired by constant obsession with food or weight. We tend to be people who, in the long-term, have failed at every solution we tried, including therapy, support groups, diets, fasting, exercise, and in-patient treatment programs. FA has over 500 meetings throughout the United States in large and small cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Internationally, FA currently has groups in England, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. The website, http://www.foodaddicts.org, can help you find a meeting near you. You can contact the FA office by emailing fa@foodaddivts org, where someone will help you.
Dale W says
Thanks so much for sharing, Susan. Your strength, hope and encouragement on this issue mean a great deal. I know your journey was not easy and is on-going but I am so personally grateful for your story. I know others will be as well. You are a model for all of us who wrestle with this issue and you stand as an example of the power of working a recovery program. It works if we work it. Way to go!
I am so glad to read this article. I am seminary student and have been a members of Overeaters Anonymous for more than 20 years. I lost over 100 pounds in this life-saving 12-step program and have maintained my weight for more than 17 years. It is free, it works, and it includes an approach to food addiction that is physical, spiritual, and emotional. If you’ve never heard of it, check online or in your phone book. There are meetings all over the world, and there is probably one in your town. God Bless!