Shepherd Now Heavier Than His Sheep?

Friar Tuck

Friar Tuck

People working in certain professions bear a higher professional risk for weight gain – these include most people with sedentary jobs, but also chefs, professional drivers, shift workers as well as police and fire fighters.

One group that may bear a higher professional risk may have been overlooked: the clergy.

In a paper by Proeschold-Bell and Legrand from Duke University, published in this month’s issue of OBESITY, both obesity and related chronic diseases were reported to be surprisingly prevalent in a representative sample of North Carolina United Methodist clergy.

The study included 95% of all actively serving United Methodist clergy in North Carolina (n = 1726) and compared obesity rates and chronic diseases to the general population.

The clergy members were predominately male (75%), white (91%), married (87%), older (average 52 years) and highly educated.

Obesity rate, defined as a BMI greater than 30, among male and female clergy aged 35-64 years was 39.7% or a full 10.3% higher than their North Carolina population counterparts.

Among male clergy aged 45 to 54 years, obesity rates were almost 15% higher than in the North Carolinian male population of similar age.

In their paper, the authors speculate on what may explain these findings:

Unfortunately, clergy face numerous challenges to exercise and healthy eating habits. These challenges include a vocation that is sedentary, with an average of four evenings per week away from home, and frequent work weeks of (more than 50 hours) with little schedule predictability.

This observation is by no means new. Posts on the problem of addictive eating amongst clergy (who have few other means of dealing with addictions) can be found on the Clergy Recovery Network and other relevant sites that deal with clergy health.

I, personally, doubt that this is just a chance finding amongst US United Methodists, who happen to be in North Carolina, one of the fattest states in the US.

Rather, I think that obesity amongst clergy in most faiths is rampant and that this problem is by no means new (if you recall the aptly named Friar Tuck). I guess keeping the pastor off the pastries has been a problem through the ages.

Wonder what my readers have to comment on this issue….?

Edmonton, Alberta

p.s. Join my new Facebook page for more posts and links on obesity prevention and management

Proeschold-Bell RJ, & H Legrand S (2010). High Rates of Obesity and Chronic Disease Among United Methodist Clergy. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) PMID: 20448538