Keeping Work from Impacting Clergy Eating Habits

Maintaining healthy eating habits is difficult these days, with fast food restaurants on every corner and store shelves stocked with high calorie/low nutrition sweets and snacks. It is a particular challenge for clergy, as many church duties and responsibilities include readily-available food.

Busy and constantly fluctuating schedules cause many clergy to miss their regularly scheduled meals, so they seek out quick, less-than-nutritious food solutions. Additionally, many duties and events clergy take part in involve food, such as:

  • weddings,
  • baptisms and other sacramental celebrations,
  • church meetings,
  • social gatherings,
  • prayer groups,
  • religious seminars, retreats and camps,
  • home visits,
  • wakes and funerals, and
  • hospital visits.

Church Systems Task Force Survey Findings

The Church Systems Task Force conducted a survey of 1,006 active clergy, which identified 13 key factors highly correlated with health, differentiating those who are healthy from those who are unhealthy. One of the key factors the survey identified is, "Eating habits with work that often involves food—struggling to maintain a healthy diet with food available at church meetings, social gatherings and home visits."

Findings from the survey included the following:




Incorporating Healthy Eating Habits

Here are some ideas clergy (and others) can use to develop healthier eating habits:

  • Start the day right. Have your first meal before you get started on the day’s activities so you don’t lose track of time and find yourself hungry mid-morning. Have a bowl of cereal or oatmeal with fresh fruit added.
  • Stick to your meals. Avoid eating snacks in between your breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Have healthier snacks. When you do have a snack, opt for a piece of fruit instead of a brownie or other sweet. Request that meeting organizers include fruit or other healthy options in addition to cookies and other sweets they provide; do the same if you are hosting the event.
  • All things in moderation. It is ok to have a cookie off a tray at a meeting; just don’t have 10. Select the smallest piece of cake from the dessert table when attending celebrations.
  • Eat slowly. Do not rush to finish your meal. If you sit down and take time to eat you will feel yourself getting full, which is a sensation you might miss if you rush the eating process.
  • Serve yourself. Fix your own plate at buffets and events; that way you control the items you choose and the size of your portions.
  • Follow the FDA. Try to follow the Food and Drug Administration's Dietary Guidelines for Americans—Selected Messages for Consumers to make sure you are eating the right amount from all the food groups.
  • One and done. Don’t go back for seconds; once your plate is empty consider your stomach full.
  • Avoid late night eating. If you eat right before falling asleep, the food just sits in your belly all night while your body breaks it down and stores it away (as fat!) Forgo your evening snack and you will wake up hungry, ready for a nice nutritious breakfast.
  • It is ok to say, “No thank you.” If you are offered food, it is ok to decline. Tell your host that you just ate. If people ask if they can bring you food, request that they instead bring it to a local shelter, care facility or other organization that serves those in need.

Let Us Know

Click on this link to send the Center for Health your answers to these questions about health eating:

  • What are the times when you find it most difficult to avoid unhealthy food and snacks?
  • What have you done to improve your eating habits?

Share your thoughts with us; let us know your stories and ideas and we may include them in a future clergy health article.

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