Word of Wisdom doesn’t work for obesity?

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In This Article it says that in a recent BYU study, the LDS were 14 percent more likely than nonmembers to be obese and that eating may substitute for other forbidden indulgences.

I’d be interested in hearing peoples opinions on the findings of the study as they relate to the observance (or non-observance) to the Word of Wisdom.

24 thoughts on “Word of Wisdom doesn’t work for obesity?

  1. Oh I’d agree with this big time. Members (when it comes to the WoW) have a tendency to focus on the things spelled out for them and forget the moderation part and also the fact the Lord expects us to use our common sense and brains. The treats and junk food at church events…good grief. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find LDS use these oh so tasty things as substitutes. At least, not necessarily a substitute, but since humans have a tendency to have a problem with the whole moderation issue, and we all have a tendency to be addicted to SOMETHING then, yep.

    Being a reformed sugar fanatic myself I know whereof I speak. Besides, anyone see the ads in LDS Living for the white bread and cinnamon buns?? OI, healthy eating it is not.

    It’s generally members who think we are crazy to reduce refined sugar for our children. Literally. I have had people suggest we are depriving them, etc etc. Depriving them of what? Unhealth?

    My grandpa used to say that pop is just as bad for you as alcohol is, and I agree with him. Mainly because it is so subversive. People think alcohol is addictive and those same people easily down 5-10 cans of pop a day and think nothing of it, perhaps not realising what havoc is being wreaked on their bodies because of the sugar rampaging in their system. And sugar is just one thing. Oh don’t get me started, when it comes to nutrition I can talk a blue streak about it.

  2. Sugar isn’t a problem for me. Chocolate, candy, pop, and cake do nothing for me. Yet I am somewhat overweight. My problem is things like pasta, roast beef, gravy, cheese, peanut butter, pizza, and milk. I’d take that stuff over sugar any day.

    You are right Mary, moderation is the key. Some things should not be ingested at all (alcohol, tobacco, etc.) and most everything else is fine in moderation.

    Are overweight members obeying the Word of Wisdom? If not, should they be allowed to attend the temple? How is the WOW question of the recommend interview worded?

  3. Mike

    Yep, sugar is only one thing. White flour, junk food, too much food. Yes, that too.

    Kim isn’t big on sugar either. He can let it sit in his desk (like a bag of candy) for weeks or months and take one a day if that. Me, it would be gone in two days. Which is why I don’t eat it.

    What I would like to see is people eating more whole foods, more vegetables and fruits, more real foods. Many people don’t consume fresh/real food for days or weeks on end. Everything comes from a box. Doesn’t make for a healthy start. If they knew how much their bodies craved healthy, whole food they might think twice. Most people don’t realise they are sick until they start to get better and then realise “oh yeah, I feel good! I didn’t know I felt bad before!”

  4. It might not be the food but all the meetings. Sit for this meeting, sit for that meeting. When do I have for anything but another meeting?

  5. Mike that is a good point on your question on TRI… we are told all things in moderation… IF a person is overweight due to consuming too many Mickey Dee’s (or substitute your current habit) then why is that not addressed?

  6. Bill

    It’s the food. Trust me. Most people LDS or not eat far too much food, like 2-3 times as much as they should, each day. Being LDS I still get time for exercise :) OK, being a mother, a homeschooler, in Primary, etc etc. I still get time for exercise. At 5:30 am, mind you. But still.

  7. I’ve been to many church events where the only things to eat were high-calorie/high-sugar foods: cookies, cake, brownies.

    I had beans and brown-rice for lunch today. I didn’t do so good on supper, when I had Moo Goo Gai Pan with a deep-fried egg roll and pork flavored fried rice for supper, but at least there were fresh vegetables in the Moo Goo Gai Pan along with the chicken.

    And I had a fresh apple for a late snack.

  8. Be careful about in misattributing the obesity problem. As I recall, for most of this century, obesity figures have been lower for LDS than non-LDS. Only within the last decade-and-a-half have Mormons become more obese than average.

    (Utah is not a perfect correlation, but a good one, especially if you compare it to Western States w/ a lower % of LDS)

    You might conclude that in the last 15 years, Mormon have become more abstemious and turned to overeating.

    The following factors have fueled the American increase in obesity, and may disproportionately affect Mormons:

    –increasing urbanization (Utah now is 88% urban versus less than 50% only 50 years ago); urban living means less healthy diets, less exercise, and high obesity among children.
    –fast food
    –GM food
    –substitution of corn syrup for sugar (studies show this is a big factor in increasing obesity: corn is cheaper than tariffed sugar, so sprite, twinkies, etc. are made with harder-to-break-down sugars) [*this is arguably the biggest one]

    One consequence affecting Mormons disparately: All Americans drink more soda than 20 years ago. but people who drink beer/wine don’t suffer from the last factor as much as those who replace their beer/wine with soda, candy, or ice cream. Beer and wine are still made from the same stuff.
    I think compared with these factors that demands of callings or the meeting schedule, etc. are negligible. Although I would love to see data on obesity in working women vs. stay-at-home Moms. (this may also explain something about Mormons shift from skinny to fat)

  9. I agree. But then obesity is probably not as destructive to the family as alchoholism or drug addiction. On the other hand, neither is a coffee.

  10. That is, I agree that excessive unhealthy diets should be addressed more in WOW teachings. Interestingly this exact issue did come up in my RS a while ago (before I got called in Primary) so I think more people are becoming aware of it being a real WOW problem.

  11. Nermalcat

    I agree with obesity being not quite as destructive to the family, but I would think it would come close to being as destructive to the individual.

  12. This shows that a lot of LDS misunderstand the principle behind the revelation which is that individuals who do not choose to eat healthy foods or exercise regularly are not taking proper care of their bodies.

    Their is are lot more “Words of Wisdom” to good health and how to respect your temple of the Holy Spirit than what is in D&C 89.

  13. I know some fat women who are way healthier than I am, because they exercise every day and eat regular healthy meals.

    I think there is a lot of ambiguity on the word of wisdom. But where would we be without it? Drinking and smoking would be okay, drug use would be more rampant and the spirit couldn’t reach us.

  14. … or you’d be consuming small amounts of wine for the reduction in the formation of heart disease, regular helpings of coffee and tea for the vascular benefits as well as warding off Parkinson’s disease.

    It’s not always the obeying the WoW with the only other alternative being the rampant destruction of self and society.

  15. annegb

    True, heavier people can be healthier than a lot of slimmer people, however, there are still a lot of effects related to excess weight. Been there, done that. I was healthier than a lot of slimmer people, ate much better, even exercised. But it’s not enough, because if we eat as best as we should, the majority of people would be at a healthy weight.

    I am not saying this to say anyone who is overweight is an unhealthy slob. Not at all. I have been there and know that when we think we are eating perfectly healthy, that isn’t necessarily the case. At least, not enough for the individual. It can be different for each person too. And of course there can be contributing factors. Some people have thyroid issues, digestive issues, etc etc. Some exercise can only be enough to maintain, as well.

    Anyway, I believe people were meant to be a realtively healthy weight. I am not saying skinny as skinny, but realitively healthy, not obese.

  16. You could argue that the Word of Wisdom is treated as the definitive answer on “what should we eat,” and that it’s interpreted in the form of “don’ts” only — so clearly, if the WoW says nothing about it, then it’s fine, and don’t you dare suggest otherwise.

    Our culture seems to have an allergic reaction to moderation: the “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids” show on (I think) Discovery sends in lifestyle experts to transform families overnight: it’s a “throw away all your sugar, eat only tofu, exercise five hours a week, stop going to football games, turn off the television, pack lunches every day, cut back on your work hours, be nice to your sister, and do it all RIGHT NOW” week, and no wonder the kids end out weeping. My mother put the whole family on a cabbage soup diet when I was fourteen, which only hardened our resistance to diets of any kind, and our committment to soda and cookies.

    A healthier approach might be to treat food choices as just that — choices. You don’t have to give up something completely or only eat some other thing to be healthy; you should try to choose healthier stuff today, and maybe eat less of the not-so-healthy stuff.

    And, I agree w/Anne. For my height (5’4″,) a “normal” weight is up to 140 lbs., and you’re not obese till something like 185. I’ve been above 140 since the day I hit puberty, even on the cabbage soup diet (there was no cheating — I had no money and we were homeschooled) and competing in/practicing Irish dance for hours at a time. I think that if I were on drugs, I might be able to get below 140, but tell you what, healthy (and attainable) seems to be, for me, about 150ish. That’s definitely lower than what I’m at now, but I don’t think most people would instinctively call it a “healthy” weight. And my grandmother (who was diabetic – again no cheating) was above 150 for the last 50 years of her life; she was done in by smoking.

    Remember also that in and of itself, obesity isn’t so much of a problem as an indication of other problems: it’s a sign that you might not be eating very well, that you might not be exercising, and that you might have something else wrong with you. But if you’re exercising, eating well, and there’s nothing else wrong with you, obesity in and of itself isn’t something to freak out about. At least, it shouldn’t be.

  17. When I say obese, I mean obese, like 100 lbs overweight. 20 lbs overweight isn’t overweight, or not really, in my opinion, even 30 lbs isn’t overweight. Since having my baby I have 22 lbs to go to get back to my pre-baby weight, but I am still a runner, don’t eat junk food or refined stuff. I am very healthy.

  18. Yes, a nice glass of red wine sounds lovely, a fire, good food, nice music. My problem is after the glass, I start chugging from the bottle and the picture gets really ugly.

    There is the problem of morbid obesity, which is a terminal illness. That’s different. I don’t understand how people get that fat. I feel sorry for them, but I don’t understand how it happens.

    My mother gave all of me and my sisters mental problems about weight because she’s very tiny and she always used (she’s senile now) to rub it in and we always worry about our weight.

    Last year when she was in the hospital, she asked me how much I weighed and I said, “how much do you weigh.” And she said, “98 lbs.” And I said, “I weigh 90 lbs.” or something like that. I was playing with her head. She’s senile, but she’s not stupid. She just looked at me like, “you’re dreaming.”

  19. From a review of empirical tests of weight-loss plans by Wayne Miller, an exercise science specialist at George Washington University:

    No commercial program, clinical program, or research model has been able to demonstrate significant long-term weight loss for more than a small fraction of the participants. Given the potential dangers of weight cycling and repeated failure, it is unscientific and unethical to support the continued use of dieting as an intervention for obesity.

    Let’s closely examine a study cited as proof that weight loss diets work (I examined this study in a previous post): “Behavioural correlates of successful weight reduction over 3y,” from The International Journal of Obesity (2004, volume 28, pages 334-335).


  20. Stephen

    No one here said that dieting works or should work. Healthy living and eating is what is needed. Proper nutrition.

    Or are you trying to digress?

  21. Oh and when I lost my weight I didn’t diet, I just cut out the crap we equate with food, ate nourishing food (eat nourishing food now, too) and upped my activity level (my next goal is to train for a marathon, but that’s a few year down the road due to time constraints). Losing weight was a side effect of living healthy.

    But then this post isn’t about weight loss, it is about how Obesity and the Word of Wisdom don’t really match up because of the addictive natures of human beings.

  22. It would be nice if everyone had the ability to use these substances with the moderation that Rick suggests in #14. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. For example, some will take a small amount of wine only to find themselves addicted to alcohol, by reason of genetically inherited propensity. Fortunately, the Word of Wisdom is, as it says, adapted to the capacity of the weakest of the Saints. It saves me from ever finding out whether I’m an alcoholic (as some of my ancestors were).

  23. “The study was made by BYU health science professor Ray Merrill from data obtained in 1996, 2001 and 2003-2004 by the Utah Health Status Survey.”

    I’d like to see research that has a broader sampling of people outside of Utah, like California and the East Coast. Also what about LDS members in Europe, South America, Asia, etc? Maybe the results would be the same–maybe not. But definately more thorough study is needed.

    In my opinion it seems more of a cultural phenomenon than a doctrinal issue. I’ve been in many wards and branches inside and outside the US and I from what I remember the majority of members have been a very healthy weight. But it’s interesting to think about nonetheless…

  24. Mary – This is way off topic but you mentioned that you home school your children. May I ask why?

    I am curious about it because I have a daughter that home schools her children. Are the no public schools where you live? Are the public schools bad?

    I currently live in an area where Catholic High schools is the rage and I don’t see the Catholic’s getting a better education in fact I think it is the opposite. The same seems to hold true for home school high school age children.
    Young children seem to be better off at home (5 to 11 yrs old).

    Do you plan to send them to public school at a certain age or home school them untill college?

    Back to WOW – Are we judging people by how heavy they are? The answer is yes. The WOW does not mention white sugar or cola drinks. Fat or skinny people. Many people can have a medical reason that they are overweight. There was a time when being heavy was consider healthy. It meant you had enough food to eat. Have you ever wondered why artist from 100 yrs ago would paint women that seem chunky? The chunky woman was more desirable. Then came Twiggy.

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