Friday, February 24, 2006

Utah Mormons Like Food

I’m a Utah Mormon. And I like food. Is this common among my fellow Utah Mormons? A long-term BYU study suggests that it is (see here and here). For the last decade Mormons in Utah have carried an average of 4½ to 6 pounds more than the average non-Mormons in Utah. But it appears that the rate of obesity among Utah Mormons is dropping in relation to Utah non-Mormons. Maybe non-Mormons are merely catching up.

The study’s authors suggest that the extra weight is due to differences in food attitudes. However, they offer little more than casual links to validate this assertion. Citing the LDS Church’s prohibition on alcohol and tobacco, they suggest that Mormons tend to indulge in food instead of other culturally inappropriate escapes. They also cite the strong role of food in Mormon culture as support for this hypothesis.

This seems intuitive and it may be correct, but the study does not necessarily prove this linkage. Additional research would have to be done to validate it.

Yes, we Mormons always find reasons to serve refreshments. We teach about food in Relief Society and in Scouting. We hold dinner gatherings and have pot luck dinners where we showcase our culinary abilities. Utah consumes more ice cream than any other state. You can enjoy the state’s most wonderfully decadent gourmet buffet at the Roof Restaurant, which is owned by the LDS Church.

I have to wonder how many Utah Mormons suffer from some kind of eating disorder. I personally have struggled with food attitude issues for much of my life. I started fighting the battle of the bulge at age 16. Although I doubt anyone would call me overweight today, my current physique is the result of two decades of dedicated daily exercise and dietary discipline.

Human nature seems to dictate that we sometimes work to barely clear the bar. For example, you can’t get a Temple recommend if you indulge in alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, or drug abuse. Although the Word of Wisdom and other scriptures (like D&C 59) prescribe healthful eating and proscribe excess, you can still get a Temple recommend even if you ignore this counsel. Consequently, many of us do ignore it.

But is food the whole story? Could our busyness as a people have something to do with it? We Mormons are a busy people. Sure, there are “active” Mormons that get their religious fill by attending the Sunday three-hour block meetings. But many practicing Mormons are extremely busy people, spending many hours each week doing volunteer work and fulfilling church callings. We’re supposed to get to the Temple regularly, hold family home evening weekly, have family prayer twice daily, have family scripture study daily, attend multitudinous meetings, volunteer at school, help our neighbors, do our welfare assignments, have daily personal prayer and scripture study, do our home and visiting teaching, prepare our lessons, be exemplary employees, go camping with the youth, be politically active, read our church magazines, and get outside of our element and do missionary work. Add to this the busy lives of children with their own schedules, homework, sporting and cultural pursuits, and how are we possibly supposed to find time to exercise, let alone hold a regular family sit-down meal?

Whew! It makes me hungry and anxious just thinking about it. Maybe I’ll go down a half gallon of ice cream to calm me down.

I’m sure the researchers are at least somewhat correct in suggesting that food attitudes among Utah Mormons lends to their weight problem. But I think that more extensive studies would likely find other significant factors as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would be interestint to see how other "faiths" compare.. in state and out... like in New York, or in the south... I don't think weight and religions go hand in hand... it's just another way of comparing. I know people who have family gatherings and food is the main attraction. I think it's a family thing, not a religious thing.

Interesting thought tho...