So, Why Are Pastors Fat?

Erik Raymond —  October 13, 2010

I have been in full time ministry for 5+ years now. Prior to this I have been heavily involved in local church ministry since my conversion over 10 years ago. One thing that has always intrigued me is overweight pastors. If you want to get a gage on how prevalent this is, you just have to visit a pastors’ conference. I am not saying that everyone is rockin’ the elastic waist pants, but, there are a lot of guys that, well, are fat.

As a guy in the fraternity, the pastoral fraternity, I want to think about this a little bit. In this post I want to highlight some of what I believe to be the causes and then in another post, I want to talk about the way out off it.

So, here are some of the reasons why I think a lot of pastors are fat.

1. Schedules- Pastors have crazy schedules. There are times when we are really busy, moderately busy, and then somewhat quiet. It seems that the ‘really busy’ phase lasts far longer than the ‘quiet’ phases. Therefore, we run from meeting to meeting to deal with the issues. A lot of said issues are ad-hoc, or they are not planned. We are putting out fires or assessing wounds in pastoral triage. When we are not in the meeting we are thinking about the meetings. Therefore, it is easy to let the unpredictable and emotionally draining schedules get the best of us. Instead of thinking about food as fuel and medicine for the body we may grab something quick and easy. Often times this translates into fat and unhealthy choices. If you do this over time you will start to look like Homer Simpson.

2. Lunch Meetings- In these meetings we often meet with folks over a meal. Eating out on a regular basis is a subtle trap. Most food on the menu is not helping your waistline. There are some healthy options but you usually have to work to find them. Often times we want to order something fast and then ‘get down to business’. If you are eating 5 pound buritos 10 times a months you will get fat.

3. Given to Extremes- This may not be true with all pastors, but many of us are given to extremes. We are bold and loud on truth and we want to go a hundred miles an hour. Sadly ministers can take this attitude to the table as well. I have seen guys talk about food and their ability to throw it down like college frat guys boast about their ability to toss back beers. It is taking the fundamentalist extremes to the dinner table. A good idea might be to be an extremist about moderation…just a thought.

4. Lazy- Let’s face it, the bottom line for the expanding waistline for some guys is that they are lazy. They sit around at their computer, drink soda, eat chips, then go out and eat burgers and fries everyday. There is no effort here to lose weight or eat healthy. Guys are lazy with eating well and exercising but hard-core committed to eating bad and sitting on their cans. The words lazy and pastor should not be in the same sentence. It’s as nonsense, like being a blind truck driver.

5. Hypocritical- Being a fat pastor might be probably is a symptom of a bigger spiritual issue. Pastors preach and teach about being disciplined and self controlled. We talk about doing all things to the glory of God (funny that the verse actually talks about ‘whether you eat or drink..’ 1 Cor. 10.31). However, we conveniently compartmentalize our lives to exclude food, drink, and health. If I am visiting a church and the pastor is preaching about living for Christ, the power of the gospel and the pastor is fat (and not because he has a medical condition) then I’m thinking he doesn’t really believe what he is saying. Fat pastors unwittingly let the air out and deflate of the gospel tire of its power by rocking their own spare tire.

6. Work/Reward Mentality- This was me. I work in an environment of pastors that are all about getting after it in ministry. The motto, “Work hard, Play hard” has been uttered many times. This is what we do. I think we have the work hard part down, but at least for me, my play hard often meant eat hard. After long days of ministry I would feel like I earned the right to polish off a half gallon of ice cream, a bag of Doritos, and perhaps a pizza (not in that order). Aside from the fact that I think I was making food my functional savior in an Oprah-esque way, this pattern was really not healthy or helpful for me. I found that this type of release often translated to misunderstanding of ministry work, true reward, consolation, and overall joy. In addition, I was getting fat.

7. De-emphasis on the body- I don’t know if this a fear of being seen as mystical, worldly, vain or what, but a lot of guys do not see their physical bodies as a stewardship.

Pastors think about their bodies and the earth in much the same way: they have expiration dates on them and God will one day make them new. But this type of fatalistic thinking omits a key feature: God gave us our bodies (and the earth) for us to be stewards over. If we are treating our bodies like people (allegedly) treat their rental cars then we have a stewardship issue. I don’t think guys think about this when they think about what they are going to feed themselves  each day. Instead we think like little sovereigns over our rental bodies, so to speak. Our bodies are not like a suit that we just walk around in, they actually affect how we work. Our study, preaching, shepherding, prayer, families, friendships, indeed everything is affected by how we treat our bodies.

Most guys don’t have this on the radar. Instead, we just rock our ‘man suit’, our bodies, with little regard for how we should live and care for ourselves. And further, there is little emphasis upon how this affects everything else.

OK these are some of the causes that I have thought of and experienced. I am sure there are more. You can feel free to pile on and add some of your own.

If you are overweight because of a medical condition, please note that I am not pointing at you. Some of these things may apply though, but I understand that some folks work really hard to be healthy but are still overweight.

Also, you could not necessarily be a ‘fat pastor’ but still fall into some of these traps above. I think it’s helpful to think through these things even if you are not wearing ‘stretchy pants’ (Nacho Libre voice).

And finally, if you are a fat pastor, don’t be discouraged. Instead, go for a walk today and pray. Ask God to help you to be disciplined, love Christ, hate idols, and serve him with joy and temperance. You don’t have to be overweight. I’ll write more about my story in the next post on this topic. Stay with me.

And here is a video that just needs to be on this post:

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

70 responses to So, Why Are Pastors Fat?

  1. I would say that there is some truth to what you mention but also I think some of it is mischaracterization. When you hit the age of 40, there are things that exercise and cutting back on sweets won’t even help. A person’s metabolism and even thyroid level do change in people that get older, which has nothing to do with self control. There are some things physiologically that occur that don’t have anything to do with behavior. Looking at one’s great grandparents (& grandparents) can tell a lot about what your body (and hair) has a propensity to do in the future.

    Can people be a glutton and get fat? No doubt about it. However, that paintbrush doesn’t cover everyone that is over weight.

  2. One pastor told me that after he feeds the soul, he feeds the body. He was fat because he ate too much.

  3. @Steve, genetics–sure. But behavior–yes too. It’s not just about genetics, which I leave room for here. I am more dealing with the fact that a lot of pastors are passive regarding their health. For a ‘profession’ that has a lot to do with self-discipline we don’t look very disciplined.

  4. Some good insight. Tough subject. Well done Erik.

    I heard an old southern Baptist preacher say once:

    “As I got older, I got the Dunlop disease. It dun lopped over the belt.”

    Actually this same pastor went on the Atkins Diet and he lost 35 lbs.

    Luther says this from 2 Cor. 6:5 (in labours, in watchings, in fastings;):

    “He [Paul] desires that Christians should show zeal in fasting and eagerly strive after moderation and temperance. …the pious Fathers declared that whoever desires to serve God, must root out, above all, the vice of gluttony. That is a prevailing vice which causes much trouble. If this vice is not altogether extirpated, it makes the soul dull for divine things, even if it should not lead to unchastity and debauchery as among aged men. Hence fasting is a most excellent weapon for the Christian, while gluttony is an outstanding pit of Satan.” From his commentary on Romans 13

  5. Awesome post Erick. I’m 45 years old and have to make myself go to the gym during the week; running, weightlifting, etc…. Sometimes though I know I’m neglecting the “Spirit Man” and have to work him out with just as much intensity as the “Physical Man”. Along with being an Associate Pastor, I work full time in law enforcement so I have to be on the top of my game and the gym keeps me there even though age is making it harder. Thanks again for the post………

  6. I’m not a pastor but…

    I noticed in college people gained weight due to the increase of studying they had to do. Basically, the more your brain processed, the more fuel it needed (food) to help with this process. I’ve noticed this pattern in my life that when I do an intense study of something I tend to crave food more.

    Now, I know we can’t draw hard lines with this because then we would come to the conclusion that skinny pastors are stupid and fat pastors are smart; when you think about it is kinda funny.

    Anyways, that’s my two cents…too bad you can’t buy anything with it.

  7. “heavily involved” . . . nice!

  8. Great post Erik – I for one am convicted as a fat pastor. And when did your post pop up in my feed reader? You guessed it, just as I was making my lunch!

    I don’t know about America, but certainly here pastors sit for long periods of time – reading, writing, prepping sermons, praying. Then you sit in the car to go on visits, and you’ll most always be offered a cup of tea/coffee and something to eat. In our culture, it would be rude to refuse…

    I know I have to do something about it, but am always putting it off. Rather, I need to put off the extra weight.

    Thanks for your post – and for your word in season.

  9. @Rob Hess– A pastor who works as a cop. You have my respect. Thanks for the comment.

  10. @Kris, I wish I had planned that pun. Nice catch.

  11. @Garibaldi- good words, sorry to disturb your lunch. Sometimes you can walk & pray & think. You can also do exercises in your study. There are ways to break up the long periods. But more on this in the next post re: this subject.

  12. Erik, thank you for addressing this topic with grace. It is almost a taboo subject in the church, I think. Some here give excuses about age….o.k. well there is a few pounds overweight and then there is fat. Yes we do tend to put on some weight after 40, but I think you are addressing obesity here, not just being 20 pounds overweight say, but 30, 40 or more. This is not a matter of age-related weight gain. I agree this is a big problem (excuse the pun). I have visited a church before where the pastor was at least 100 pounds overweight and I had a problem with it, because godly character is required of church leaders according to the scriptures. How does this square with self-control, being blameless, setting an example for others, keeping yourself from idols, make no provision for the flesh, etc. Also, sin is never alone. If there is one sin being indulged to this degree, then there is at least one more significant one. BTW, may I suggest if you are a man and you are at least 30 lbs overweight that you try the low-carb diet? (such as Atkins). It works!

  13. Not to defend blubber tubbies, but, I think our culture is too caught up with weight right now.

    It is sort of the spirit of the age. Everyone is judged by their BMI or appearance.

    Which I think is bogus.

    Do I want my pastor to be able to walk up to the pulpit without wheezing? Yes.

    Do I want him to stuff himself regularly? No.

    Do I want him off to the gym each day, counting his calories, weighing himself compulsively, wearing a Body Bug, discussing the latest diet plans, going to fat camps, constantly looking at his image in mirrors/windows/photos as he anxiously critiques his mass?

    No. I don’t really want him to worry about it.

  14. I just wanted to address two things that have come up in the replies.
    First in response to Julie – (since no one else really addressed the issue of age so I think you are accusing me of making “excuses”)
    If you look at this issue objectively, age does affect what your body does. Ask someone that has a masters in exercise physiology (hper i think is the degree) about the role of age on the body. If you keep your eating habits & exercise habits at the same level in your 40s that you were doing in your 30s, you won’t get the same results. In fact, you will discover that your metabolism has changed from what it was. The real problem is that it requires some changes to your lifestyle when you get into your 40s but that is when your children are older and schedules get busier. So, lets just relax with the labeling of excuses.

    Second, in response to how we address the issue. If we are not careful, it begins to sound like a new Christian legalism about how we should be walking with the Lord as we do such and such a diet & do these exercises. I have family that are in a church in Texas that are legalistic in their approach to healthy lifestyles. At a birthday party (no less), the adults from this church were bringing their own bottles of “triple filtered water” and were refusing to eat cake. One guy insulted my mother-in-law by saying he wouldn’t eat that poison (referring to the cake that had sugar). It wasn’t just a few but they all had a sense that to be accepted (or considered in a solid walk with the Lord by others in their church) they needed to follow their brothers & sisters in their eating lifestyle. Legalism loves to creep in to situations like this.

  15. @Steve- “Legalism loves to creep in to situations like this” Well, so does excuses and sidetracking. I am not talking about legalism. I am talking about guys not doing anything proactively to prevent getting fat and instead doing things that make you fat (eating junk, being sedentary, and not being a steward of your body).

    If you are saying it is harder when you get older, then fine. I agree. If you are saying people who are older have an excuse for being fat, obese, lazy, undisciplined, or bad stewards, then I disagree.

  16. Erik –
    I love you brother & we both agree on a lot of things theologically. I agree that gluttony/ lack of self control is an issue of sin. However, there are some other things in the post (not just picking on you but even the replies) that I wouldn’t pound the pulpit over.

    Can you make a strong point from Scripture that God commands people in the areas of exercise and nutritional diet?
    I understand that 1 Corinthians 6 talks about the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit. Yet, it does so in the context of fleeing sexual immorality. In fact, it says that the role of foods (types of foods eaten) is not the issue but the sins of fornication is a problem.

    For the record, I do think exercise and eating healthy is important for a person to feel better physically. I just don’t want to make it a pillar that people measure their spirituality upon.

  17. Steve, “I wouldn’t pound the pulpit over [it].” & “I just don’t want to make it a pillar that people measure their spirituality upon.”

    I’m writing a blog article Steve..easy. There are a lot of fat pastors running around. This is a fact. I am asking and trying to answer why. I think I can do that as an observer and a pastor myself without building ‘pillars’ and pounding ‘pulpits’.

  18. Erik,
    I am sorry that I have given you the impression that I am attacking you. I didn’t use the word “you” in talking about “pounding the pulpit” or “making it a pillar”. I am not saying that you have been doing such either. What I was speaking about is that this is something that “I” wouldn’t push hard when preaching a passage or allowing it to be an unwritten rule amongst the church. That is where I come down in terms of atkins or south beach diets and exercise.

    I think I am going to ban myself from commenting on blogs again because it leads to either confusion or unedifying dialogue.

    • And I was not saying that you were ‘attacking’ me. I don’t think it is a matter of banning comments but rather staying on topic. I was trying not to (in this post) work out of this problem. My other posts that are coming are ‘why is this a problem’ and ‘what can we do about it?’. This was just a, ‘hey, I think we have an unhealthy trend here.’ post. Make sense?

  19. I will admit that I am a pastor who is “gravitationally challenged. (fat)” I struggle with my weight and have vacillated at times between eating Gerbil food and just giving up and eating the whole bag of chips. Currently, I eat in moderation, exercise regularly and simply try to be balanced in all things. I am still fat.

    I want to be careful in responding to your article knowing that my struggle with weight may cloud my ability to listen to what you are saying. I want to see what you say in your second article. I even agree that this should be something we need to talk about in the church. After all, we talk about other areas of weaknesses that must be addressed for the good of the individual and the body of Christ. None of us is exempt from being examined by God’s word, and often-times that examination hurts in that it reveals real weaknesses and deficiencies in our lives. But to be honest, it came across to me that unless you have a physical problem, – if you are fat, you are lazy, hypocritical, undisciplined and a poor example that has no credibility in the pulpit. You then close by telling us not to be discouraged. Sorry … it was discouraging.

    I continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling and am thankful for God’s grace in my life. I am looking forward to seeing what you will say in your second article.

  20. Like most people who are overweight, they are misinformed about nutrition and eat too many carbs in the form of grains and sugar – even if they are low fat foods. They eat too many foods that contain omega 6 oils, like soybean oils and other vegetable oils. Cut out the carbs/sugars/omega 6 oils and eat a lot of veggies, proteins and some fruit. Not only will they have more energy, but they’ll lose weight, too.

  21. As an overweight pastor I have to agree with Erik. It is hard reading things like the ones written above but it is true. We need to start talking about this issue. Thank you Erik for this post.

  22. I wanted to add that this issue was brought to the forefront in my live when my church began to have contact with different evangelical churches in Cuba. Several of the cuban pastors came to a conference we had and all of them were concerned about the fact that a lot of our pastors were overweight. I think we have to start thinking that our eating habits directly reflect the eating habits of our culture. We have to admit that one of the Idols of the American culture is food. Consequently, the way that we interact with food in our culture has a great deal to do with our worship.

  23. There are always people to help in the ministry. But we must not neglect our spiritual or physical life. Just as I must feed myself spiritually first before I can minister to others, I must take care of myself first physically before I can be used of God.

    For me I had to learn to put me first (this is not selfish). I also had to learn how to eat properly, since our society is chronically overweight. I now help others do the same. We need this kind of holistic discipleship in the church.

  24. I really liked this post. I work as a dietitian counseling people on weight managment in an outpatient clinic. Over the few years I’ve been doing this I’ve had a few pastors as patients, and just from observation, they tend to be some of the least motivated and most resistant to making changes. These aren’t guys who can blame it on genetics or age, they simply are eating way too much, eating unhealthy foods, and not exercising, and most of them I’ve seen have little interest in changing that. It always rubs me the wrong way.
    Nobody’s saying we all have to be a perfect size or have only super buff pastors in the pulpit, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect us all to follow a generally healthy diet and get some regular exercise.

  25. I thought your post was good. I am 63 years old and have pastored the same church for 30 years. Over the years I accumulated a lot of “fat”. I think for most of the reasons you mentioned. After a series of tests my doc called me and told me that I had better change my lifestyle and eating habits as I was headed for an early grave. I immediatly went on a diabetic diet, and started working out in the gym. I have lost over 30 pounds in 4 months, I feel better, think better, and dare I say it, look better. Although difficult at first, I now look forward to going to the gym, working out and eating healthy. My unsolicted advice would be to overweight pastors, is to change your deit, and excercise so we can give maxium effort in serving the Lord and His church. Thanks for the article, I am asking all the pastoral staff and elders at our church to read it.

  26. dear sir.I have my own notions about this thing.People who tent to go fat had mothers who fed them too much as babys.In that stage the baby is growing fast.Often hungry,
    mom feeds the baby too much what makes the baby develop more .fat cels.This is a natural thing.It explains a bit like some people who can eat and eat never get a big belly for the cels are not available.They never get overweigt either.These fat cels are only developt up to about a half year.So we can not blame the pastors.
    my two cents.

  27. I agree with your post. I am also happy that the subject of weight and gluttony is finally being addressed more in the church, especially as someone struggling to lose weight. Second, I applaud your viewpoint that the issues of health and fitness are heart issues, not merely a discipline issue! I’m so tired of when I do hear a sermon on gluttony being encouraged into further idolatry. “You just need to be more disciplined.” or “You need to put more effort into your appearance.” Those things may be true, but they can easily lead someone to try harder and fail, or worse succeed for the wrong reasons. Our hearts are idol factories, and I could easily exchange food for vanity or self-discipline. That’s not productive and doesn’t bring anyone closer to Christ.

    A better approach is to prompt someone to ask themselves why food is a functional idol. What is making you run to this for comfort? How does the Gospel speak life into your situation? Be encouraged! Christ is Emmanuel, God with us… you don’t need this. He’s also our obedience… we can change. Sorry to rant. This is just one area where I see many people, even pastors I respect and admire, getting it wrong. Good job on getting closer to the heart of the issue… pun intended.

  28. Erik, tough topic but great post! I am a pastor carrying at least 30 pounds more than I should. And although I run weekly with my skinny wife, I also eat like a shortage of food might be coming around the corner. I can honestly say, here is one pastor that has not been honoring God with his eating habits. Thanks for the kind and witty exhortation. Sometimes I think it is easier to make excuses than to just “man up” admit it, and make some changes. I will make some changes!

  29. I’ll try to keep this brief. When I first read this post I had an opinion that Eric had not listed (Prohibition of alcohol lends to indulgence in food intoxication) my comment has changed since reading the other comments…

    I too am a pastor and have a family history of weight issues, diabetes and excusitus. I am in my early 50’s and have a typical busy schedule. However, I also compete in Ironman triathlon and eat without concern. Yes, metabolism changes but you can change metabolism. Discipline (the activity of being a disciple) should not be constrained to the mind and spirit. While I agree we can develop a legalistic attitude toward weight and health but how is any different than purity and integrity? I believe we needn’t be obsessed either way. Just simple, realistic, healthy lifestyles will speak much of the gospel we preach.

  30. Enjoyed your post. Didn’t read what everyone else wrote, but I can identify with many of the things you said. As a 56 year old pastor in a fast growing church I deal with many things and have been a “stress eater” for many years now. Last December I realized how overweight & out of shape I was; plus my health wasn’t great. I went to my Dr and found out I was borderline diabetic – my bloodwork revealed other disheartening things. About that time, I read Mark Batterson’s book Primal on the Great Commandment. The part on loving God with all my strength really hit home with me and even though I’ve been convicted in the past about my poor health habits – I’d never been obedient. As we’ve all heard – to keep doing the same things over and over the same way and expect different results is insanity. So my wife and I decided it was time to make some changes in our lifestyle. We enlisted the help of a personal trainer and began to eat clean (smaller amounts 5 times a day) and we excercise 4-6 days a week. We didn’t do this with a weight goal in mind – rather we wanted to be an example for our church and regain our health. After 6 months, we’d lost nearly 100 pounds together. We’ve both dropped several sizes of clothes and have more energy than we’ve had in a long time – which really helps in ministry. I had my bloodwork done again after doing this for 6 months and in my case – all the negatives had become positives. I’ve plateaued at a healthy weight and am wearing clothes I wore in HS & College and am no longer overweight or out of shape. My wife and I have very busy schedules, but we manage to eat clean and work out consistently even when we don’t want to – because we value the end result.

  31. I was once introduced to a college woman as a pastor. Her reply, “You’re a pastor? You’re the first pastor I ever met who wasn’t fat.” I think I am. Sad commentary.

  32. Erik: great post. I am convicted as an overweight pastor pushing obesity.

    Two thoughts.

    1) This is a problem that is acute in the last 30 years in America, specifically. Food is incredibly cheap, especially the bad stuff. Car culture is totally entrenched. Can you believe that regular people actually drive to a place with heavy weights and treadmills in order be physically active? But that’s what we have to do.

    2) One barrier I’ve run into is simple expense. It is much healthier to eat high-quality meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, and good cheese. But it is also very hard on a family food budget. In addition, anything more than a basic gym membership gets pricey fast. I found the local Planet Fitness a drag (with the thumping music and the tvs), and had a good experience with a specialized exercise program – but the former was $10 a month and the later $100 a month.

    Maybe churches could nudge their pastors in the right direction by offering a gym line-item as part of his compensation.

  33. Speaking as a fat Pastor, (How fat? I’ve lost 70 lbs in the last year and am still morbidly obese.) I can tell you that my problem is that all the things I enjoy doing are low-calorie burning things. Here’s my list, Read my Bible, update my blog, read other books, study for sermons, help my kids with school work, watch a little TV at the end of the day. This is what I find the greatest amount of pleasure in doing and not of it requires any physical activity.

  34. Hi Erik,

    People, including pastors, become fat because their bodies are not FUNCTIONING properly. When we overdo sugar (including starches, which are sugar to our bodies), the liver begins to work in “reverse” and, instead of burning up the food we eat each day for energy, it stores it as fat for later use.

    The second reason people are fat in our culture is because they have been BRAIN-WASHED! We have been told that fat is bad; but, the truth is that (healthy) fat is excellent for our health (such as lots of butter and lots of olive oil). Our bodies only burn two substances: fat (oils) and sugar for energy. Our bodies do not burn protein for energy –although our bodies can burn the fat in proteins for energy! Proteins are broken down in the body and are the building blocks for many substances in the body, but not energy. So, to the extent we believe the lie that fat is bad, we stop eating it, and when we become hungry, we turn to sugar, which is health-destroying at the levels we consume it.

    People need to understand that processed and junk foods are made with really bad rancid, garbage oils/fats, not butter or olive oil (not to mention poisonous chemicals of all kinds), and lots of white sugar and deadly corn syrup, and that is why junk foods are health destroyoing.

    The remedy for overweight is simple: stop eating all sugar and highly starchy food until you lose all the weight you want. Eat lots of butter and olive oil (off the spoon!) for vitamins and enzymes and ENERGY.

    If you want to fast-track your way back to good health and quickly restore your energy, eat fruit in the morning first thing; and, after an hour any kind of veggies and butter and olive oil and Celtic salt the rest of the day; in about three weeks or less, your liver will be functioning in “forward” mode (when you can add back in eggs and fish–forget the near vitamin-less chicken and turkey), and you will begin to lose excess water and fat and restore health. The first weight to come off is water weight (which is full of stored protein acids and other waste products). Then, you know you are losing body FAT when your clothes get looser, and, eventually you see the results in the mirror.

    Please realize that a low-fat diet is nothing more than a LOW-VITAMIN diet. Do people not know (no, they don’t) that fat soluble vitamins are found IN FAT? And about the power of vitamins A, D, E, and K to heal their bodies? Diseases of all kinds?

    I know I’ve said a lot, but I would add that exercise has VERY LITTLE (I know, blasphemy to many of you) to do with weight loss. If you eat properly (restoring body function) and do some small stretching exercises, you will be as fit as you need to be throughout the rest of your life! The idea of health is to have a properly functioning body.

    If your readers are interested in learning more about health, they can visit: http://www.westonaprice.org (nutrition foundation) and, here’s a guy who understands how to be physcially fit (www.blogspot.thinkingdifferently.com).

    God bless.

  35. This is really helpful to read – thank you so much! I’m blessed with a metabolism that disguises my eating habits, though that expression of grace is reaching its limit as I cruise toward 40.
    Not to rehash the age issue, but I would assume this trend is mainly within the group that’s 40+ (based on my own observations, but please correct me if I’m wrong). I’m curious if you would start a discussion on a similar trend I’ve seen for pastors under 40, which is in their fashion choices. Like the weight thing, not all of these under-40 guys dress the same, but I’ve seen (both online and in person) quite a few who rock the hipster look.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it would seem that a disregard for the body and/or appearance for some pastors is paralleled by others’ over-attentiveness toward the body and/or appearance. Just to be fair.

    I might not be comparing apples to apples, though because I doubt fat was ever trendy like five-o-clock shadows, vintage shirts, and toms shoes.

  36. Well, my guess is that pastors in general don’t make alot of money. And we all know healthy food is more expensive than quick junk food. A buck will purchase more calories in the “instant food” section than the “produce” section at the grocery store.

    But I’m leaning towards the reason being a lack of sel-control in this area. It’s become an acceptable sin.

  37. I’m thankful you’ve weighed in on such a heavy subject.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. :)

    I’m a formerly fat daughter of an off and on fat pastor. I’m beginning the process to earn a Masters’ degree in Nutritional Science because I want to delve more deeply into the parallels between our physical and spiritual lives. Jesus cared enough about our bodies to live and die in one. He ate, he walked, he worked as a manual laborer. I think that matters. But I see/read very little about it!

    I’d definitely reiterate that we are woefully ignorant about how restaurant and packaged food is prepared. We are so particular (and rightly so) about being careful about what we take in through our ears and eyes, but somehow our mouths get a pass! Further, many pastor’s families live on very tight budgets. For many women, eating cheaply is next to godliness and coupon clipping is a spiritual disicpline. But most coupon-related foods are incredibly unhealthful, as are usually cheaper cuts of protein like chicken or beef. Simply put, it’s expensive to eat healthfully, and cheap to eat badly and mindlessly, at least in the short term.

    Add to that knee-jerk reactionism to Hollywood’s obsession with thinness and beauty, and you’re got a recipe for disaster (so to speak). Trading one idolatrous treatment of the body for another isn’t the answer. A proper theology of the body and the way it was uniquely made in the image of God is.

  38. Like animals, we crave because we are mineral deficient; it’s called pica & cribbing. That is why dogs will chew slippers, or horses will chew fences. Humans are similar; when we don’t get all 90+ nutrients (60 minerals, 16 vitamins, 12 amino acids & 2-3 EFAs) we will start craving & give in to our munchies, resulting in an overweight & obese society (not just pastors!). A chaotic, busy lifestyle (as most pastors have), only exacerbates the problem. Great nutrition has helped me push the plate away…..along with God’s grace & a bit of discipline.

  39. Great post? Eric, are there always this many comments or did this topic touch a nerve? I remember reading something a few months ago about the irony that some Southern Baptist churches refused to work with Acts 29 planters because they wouldn’t teetotal alcohol when what’s really killing most Southern Baptists (pastors and parishioners alike) is heart disease brought on by poor diet and exercise. I’m sure that’s an insane generalization, but one that could probably be rooted in some level of truth.

    The “idol” of food is huge in American and for some reasons we in the church act like it’s the last real taboo, like we can talk about smoking, cursing, and even sexual ethics, but everybody gets offended when you talk about being overweight (or, at the very least, the excuses come out and words like “legalism” start getting thrown around).

    The only danger I see is call a spade a spade is that gluttony one of the few sins that you just can’t hide. I can look at porn and still present myself as normal, but if I over-eat and don’t work out, everybody knows it.

    I kind of see it like this: it’s sinful (9 times out of 10) to be fat; but there’s no inherent virtue in being fit.

    Thanks for at least starting to talk about this.

  40. I am thankful for such feedback. Without a doubt this will serve me well in preparing the next couple of ‘Fat Pastor’ posts. So, keep the feedback coming as it uncovers other issues.

    Also, I want to say, to those pastors (or others) who have struggled with weight, and have come in and been transparent and offered advice, THANK YOU! I am very encouraged by what I’ve read. It is my aim that the next posts on this topic (Lord willing on Wednesdays of the next few weeks) will serve to help move forward from here.

    Erik

  41. Aside from normal human laziness and fleshly appetites ruling us, I think that Christian theology suffers from an overly negative and negligent view of the body and caring for it.

    One reason I as a pastor engage in yoga is that it is a physical discipline I can integrate with my spiritual practice – helluva lot better than ‘praise aerobics.’

    We suffer from bad theology regarding the body.

  42. “Can you make a strong point from Scripture that God commands people in the areas of exercise and nutritional diet?”

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned these verses:

    “Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air. Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified. ”

    I’ve often said “never trust a fat missionary”, and I see too many of those.

  43. Praise God! I have recently started a new business called Cross Fitness. I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to train pastors in physical fitness. Getting to help them gain a balance in four aspects of wellness which are spiritual,physical,intellectual and social is so special I can’t believe I get to do this. To be with pastors who are called by God to preach His word and to assist them in the physical aspect is such an honor.
    What I see mostly (where I live) is that many people can point to the problems but few are willing to point or to help out with the solutions.
    Let’s face it. Most pastors don’t have the money to belong to a gym. But even if they do belong to a gym, that alone will not motivate them to start working out. Just ask them.
    Here’s a solution. Have your congragations sponsor your pastor in a 3 mo or 6 mo training program with a personal trainer or at least pay for half the cost.
    Now you have the accountability factor.Not that we are excused from being accountable to God, but this is reality. If the pastor knows someone is there waiting for them, then guess what. THEY WILL DO IT! I know. I am experiencing it as we speak.
    I have much more to say on this subject and much to learn myself, but for now just know that pastors do sweat and do give it 100%. “Sweat is in, sweets are out!” LOL
    Tom

  44. I was about 20 pounds overweight over the last year and losing that weight and keeping it off has been the greatest spiritual exercise of self control that I have been through. I would ascribe the lessons I learned in that process to be the benchmark of self control that has helped me grow spiritually this year as well. I see the connection and resonate with it.

  45. Thanks Erik, I always thought it was just my lack of understanding that I would be hearing a sermon about the evils of drinking and then see the pastor devour plate after plate of food at the potluck right after church. It is easy to lose focus of our overall well being and make excuses for staying at the desk and avoiding the discipline our body needs. I am a week into getting into shape. So far 10 pounds off in a week and I am surprised how much better I feel and how much better I feel towards other people. Thanks for touching on a usually Taboo subject. FIVE!

  46. Saturday, we had a work day to build props for a program at our church. Twelve of us worked hard to build the props. Three of our pastors dropped by, but none picked up a hammer or a board. I guess they have more important things to do than physical work.

  47. I’m not a Pastor but I too was enslaved to the sin of gluttony, laziness and I was obsessed with my looks (body-image). I have found grace, peace and forgiveness in Christ Jesus and His Gospel. I am currently taking a course on Setting Captives Free called The Lord’s Table and I have learned and I am still learning to feast on Jesus instead of letting my circumstances tell me to feast on other sinful things (not just food). So far, by God’s grace I have lost 10 lbs and I pray it continues and that my body will glorify God and in my eating habits continue to offer Him praise. One thing I need to learn to do more often is fast…not for weight loss but to focus on Christ more.

  48. Well put Erik, I’d like to point out that it’s amazing to me how we always hear in church about the prayer breakfast, ladies tea, potluck dinner, teens meeting at McDonald’s after church, pizza day, refreshments on Wed. etc… But in my 20+ years of being a christian I cannot remember a pastor ever having the congregation set aside a day for fasting. I’m sure one probably has somewhere suggested it might be a good idea if we skipped a meal now and then but not as something we are expected to do regularly or collectively on a specific day. I think it was Wesley who said “show me someone who never fasts and I’ll show you someone who never prays”. Remember Jesus didn’t say “if” you fast, but “when”, and let’s also not forget “who’s god is their belly their end is destruction”.

    • That is an interesting observation Dan. Are you saying the answer to the overweight issue is to implement more fasting?

  49. This can apply to fat mommies, too! :) Busy schedules, eating as a reward or consolation, etc. I am going to go work out now !

  50. Erick,

    While much of what I wanted to say has been said by others, let me pray that perhaps God will allow you some struggle in this area. Being overweight is one of the few sins where the evidence precedes you in the room – but I know you have other areas of struggle you keep under wraps. There is far too much obsession in our world with body type, and right now the body type that is in is thin. I was a college wrestler whose body fat was under 10%, yet all the supposed “health charts” still classified me as “excessively overweight.” I wonder how much effort you put into the “intellectual” side or the “emotional” side of your ministry – what if people could see the state of your mind, heart, or soul every time you walked in a room. While our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (still hard to see this justifying modern preoccupations), our bodies are not made to last forever – and all of them fall apart in various ways. Come talk to us in about 20 years when you know more first hand …

  51. When you say “Pastors are fat” are you just talking about American and British Pastors? Because all of the Pastors I’ve met from Africa are thin.

    Essentially western Christianity is very individualist – ‘me and God’. Even most of the worship songs are “I, I and I Lord’.

    And the individual looks after me, myself and I – including eat, eat and eat.

    Christianity is about community and sharing. If Pastors were more community and sharing minded then they wouldn’t be fat simply because they would spend their time giving stuff (including food) to those without.

    The reality is is that fat Pastors are actually already fat when they are in seminary and it gets worse as they get more ‘me, myself and I’ as their power goes to their heads and ‘the priesthood of all believers’ is thrown out the window.

    Then it’s just write a book, or a column or a news letter so that they never ever ever actually have to do the hard work of loving someone and embarking on the long journey of watching over and walking with someone.

    Am I cynical – you bet. I feel more at home sitting in a room full of life sentence prisoners than I do around most of the Pastors that I’ve met. When Pastors work for free and have a job on the side, that’s when we’ll see men of God.

  52. Excellent post. Do we think that Spurgeon would have potentially lived longer if he wasn’t so big? just a thought.

    I work full time and am an elder at our church. Ever since I got out of the military, i’ve carried an extra 3-40 lbs. one thing that has helped me is standing to work all day. I modified my desk both at the office and at home to be able to stand all day. keeps the legs and whole body moving around a lot. it’s caught on and many others have mod’d their desks too. I know I still need to take walks and I should probably do some jogging, but this is a start.

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