Living a healthy lifestyle is important to everyone, and especially to Christians striving for excellence in all that they do. Unfortunately, as I look around me, I find alarmingly few who have achieved this—Christian or not. What I do see is a bunch of people with antagonistic relationships with food and their own bodies. Even health nut gurus can get caught in addiction, disordered eating and unhealthy lifestyles, so the problem can’t just be for couch potatoes or the undisciplined. As I reflect on this and the dramatic trend toward obesity in America, I feel dread anticipating what consequences this trend might reap in the future. The general population in this country is aging and dying of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Meanwhile, even young children are becoming morbidly obese. I’m wondering, as a Christian, what my responsibility in all of this is, and what can be done to find balance, while nurturing and respecting the body.
One recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted the potentially dramatic benefits of living a healthy lifestyle coupled with eating a Mediterranean diet. The Hale Project, a 10-year study out of Europe, looked at diets, lifestyles and causes of death in the elderly. This first major scientific study of its kind found that healthful living and eating a Mediterranean diet could be associated with decreased mortality, even in the elderly. In fact, those two factors were associated with a more than 50 percent lower rate of all causes and cause-specific mortality. The findings of the Hale Project caused me to wonder whether or not Dr. Don Colbert, wasn’t just onto something when he wrote the book, What Would Jesus Eat?
What if the Mediterranean diet and healthy, active lifestyle that Jesus most likely adhered to actually holds clues to a more healthful way to live now? By emulating the diet and lifestyle of Jesus, might Christians find a way back in touch with our bodies- circumventing the fad, yo-yo diets and preventable sicknesses that plague the general population? While I am definitely not advocating religious aesthetics, the Mediterranean diet could indeed end up having more merit than Atkins, South Beach and ancient Chinese herbs combined.
Two things seem very clear. First of all, diet as part of a healthy lifestyle (and especially as a part of one’s faith), is not an easy issue to tackle. Hailing one method as absolutely perfect is not wise, nor is it practical. Secondly, every body is different. Women have different nutritional needs than men, and all kinds of factors such as allergies, body chemistry and genes come into play. What is best for one person may not work for another. All that being said, I have come up with some interesting websites and places to go for those who, like me, are intrigued by the Mediterranean diet and feel the need to step up to the plate. My prayer is that we as Christians will take the lead in stewarding this wonderful body we are given by God, and work together to discover and bring health and healing for all who suffer from unhealthy diets and habits.
If you are interested in bettering your lifestyle and trying a Mediterranean diet, the first thing I would recommend is taking an inventory of your current lifestyle and diet. Once you know where you are on the spectrum, you can access all kinds of resources to set goals and achieve them. Find out your body mass index (BMI), go see your doctor, start a food journal and make an appointment with a counselor, nutritionist and/or a physical trainer. Tackle your addictions, reflect on your eating habits and level of activity, and get in touch with your feelings about your body. Taking a thorough inventory will show you what you can change, what you need help with, and how to implement a realistic plan.
[Jessica Lenington is currently interning at Relevant Media Group.]
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