Of Course I'm "Fat & Happy." I'm a A Pastor!

Deviled Eggs shot during the Inaugural Portabl...Image via WikipediaThis comes from Jeff Strickler at the Star Tribune of Minneapolis:

When it comes to keeping off excess weight, it appears that members of the clergy don't have a prayer.

A recent study funded by Duke Divinity School found that, on average, ministers make up the chubbiest profession. But this is one of those good news/bad news deals: The good news is that a separate survey by the University of Chicago found that preachers also tend to be the most-satisfied workers.

Yes, we're talking about people who embody the stereotypical image of someone who is fat and happy....

Although the studies were done separately, they arrive at a common touch point. Clergy tend to be the happiest in their jobs -- 87 percent describe themselves as "very satisfied" -- because much of their workday is spent caring for and helping others. At the same time, they tend to be the heaviest -- 40 percent of those in the Duke study qualified as obese -- because rushing around helping people all day wreaks havoc on their exercise and diet habits.

I have heard this for years...that ministers tend to be one of the least healthy professions.  Our insurance company is on us for this and many of us clergy in the United Methodist Church are "pedometer happy," and record the number of steps we take in order to save on some insurance costs.  There are a lot of factors at play.  Here are a few aspects of ministry that I think may have something to do with the "fat" part of the the "fat and happy":

  1. Tends to be sedentary.  (Reading.  Studies.  Counseling.  Writing.  Conversation.)
  2. Tends to be stressful and eating is a prime way of dealing with stress.  (Few laypersons have a grasp of how big a burden it is to bear many other persons' burdens.)
  3. The lack of a traditional 9-5 work day can get in the way of a regular eating schedule.
  4. A lot of ministry revolves around food (although less so at Girdwood Chapel).  We have our pot-lucks and coffee and donuts at "Fellowship Time."  Moreover, congregational members tend to feed us well when we show up at their homes.  And I do some of my best counseling work with a latte and a muffin at a coffee shop.
  5. Inability to be a "weekend warrior" for athletic pursuits since we're busy most weekends...at least on Sundays.

All of this can lead to a relatively unhealthy lifestyle if we pastors aren't making a concerted effort to be healthy.  That's what I'm doing as of late and have lost about forty pounds in the last six months or so.  I may still be "fat" but I'm a lot less fat than I was at this time last year.  And if my performance climbing our local ski mountain yesterday afternoon is any indication, the weight loss is working.  While my flat feet were still a bother, my back didn't hurt.  I felt pretty good.

No matter how fat I WAS, AM, or WILL BE, I still remain "happy."  There are so many aspects of ministry that I love being involved in.  I love the preaching.  I love the singing.  I love the service towards the community.  And, even though it's one of the main stressors of ministry--perhaps leading to some of my own overeating issues--I love being involved in persons' lives when they are in need of counseling, support, or a word of grace.  Sometimes that 9-5 job looks attractive...a job where I'd just need to punch the clock and do some repetitive task without getting emotionally involved in anyone else's business.  But those thoughts are fleeting and I go back to working with people.

I still have some more weight to lose until I get down to number that I think is both sustainable and healthy.  And I don't doubt that I'll get there.  Nevertheless, it appears the track record we pastors have indicates that I'll have my work cut out for me keeping that weight off. 

Perhaps my congregation can be an asset in helping me keep it off...rather than a hindrance in the process.  Meetings while cross-country skiing?  Salad pot-lucks?  Exercise classes in our new church?

Enhanced by Zemanta