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Churches pair faith with fat-fighting to curb obesity

submitted September 07, 2011 by Matthew Ellis   |   comments

(Reuters) - Pastor Michael Minor stirred a bit of controversy at his northwest Mississippi church when he banned fried chicken from the fellowship hall. But convinced that faith communities need to step up their efforts against obesity, Minor is now urging fellow African-American congregations nationwide to make the health of their members a priority.

"Our bodies are not our own. They're a gift from God," he said. "We should do a better job with our bodies."

Church leaders across the country agree. A pastor in San Antonio, Texas, last month kicked off a 100-day challenge that pairs faith with fat-fighting. A church in Tampa, Florida, hosted classes on healthier eating. Others have instituted "Salad Sundays," community gardens and exercise programs.

The wellness push comes at an opportune time, with recent reports showing Americans keep getting heavier. The problem is particularly worrisome in the South, the region with the country's highest adult obesity rates.

Public health experts say faith communities, with their long records of tending to the sick and driving social change, are in a unique position to help tackle the obesity epidemic and the severe health problems associated with it.

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What do you think? Do you feel that churches are influential in encouraging healthy behaviors? Or does the message seem to go in one ear and out the other?