I was watching a BBC news item about the growing obesity problem; It found that ‘obesity in men had tripled and obesity in women had doubled from 1975 to 2014’ (www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35933691). Obesity is based on a BMI of 30 and above. Obesity can lead to a manner of health complications the main ones being Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and stroke; ultimately this can impact on mental health too. The NHS are struggling to cope with the extra £6 billion needed to combat the problem, each year, obesity is caused through poor diet and lack of exercise. What does poor diet mean? ‘It means diets that are low in fruit, wholegrain and vegetables and diets which are high in red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages’ (www.theguardian.com: Poor diet biggest contributor to early deaths across the world by Sally Boseley). when talking of sugar sweetened beverages we are talking about the hidden sugars that are hiding in delicious popular drinks. There is seven teaspoons of sugar inside a can of Coca-Cola! But how does this equate to sin?
When thinking about this I was reminded of a sermon Nick gave where he mentioned ‘the subtlety of sin.’ I thought about it and wondered how sin could be linked to the growing obesity problem. I found my answer in a study book ‘Ephesians 11 Studies for Individuals and Groups’ by N.T Wright. In Section three the author asks us to read ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’ (Ephesians 2:1-2) and then questions ‘what forces lure or compels us to go in the wrong direction spiritually.’ I looked at the passage for a long time and thought about how I was ‘lured’ into sin and chose to look at it from an addiction point of view because I can see that many people around me are filling their lives with addiction to cigarettes, drugs, porn, alcohol, coffee and sugar. Satan creeps up often unannounced and unnoticed, he attaches himself to the things that make us feel good. Satan is a master of promotion and manipulation and before you know it he has taken you through a threshold that you feel powerless to resist! Addiction is often the catalyst for a multitude of sins from violence and anger to theft and sexual deviance. As we become Christians and are instilled with the Holy Spirit we are a temple for Jesus and when we abuse our bodies this impacts on Jesus and the church as a whole.
In society we are often given guidelines on what is healthy and is unhealthy. With Jamie Oliver schools were instructed to serve healthier meals, packaging is being labelled, highlighting sugar/ salt/fat contents, so why are people still becoming obese? From a young age we are subjected to subliminal messaging, adverts on television in magazines and on billboards are infiltrating us on a daily basis. The adverts are suggestive, seductive and promote unhealthy eating. Take chocolate for instance, we all know that it has a high sugar content so why are we eating so much of it? For different reasons, as a child we have been subjected to advertising, we associate chocolate with pleasant experiences with friends (“if you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit, join our club”), they are given as a reward (“A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat!”); or are associated with happy quality family time (Easter eggs on Easter Sunday). As you mature other messages come into play like the promise all adverts where you are being shown a glamorous, beautiful woman devouring a chocolate bar seductively; the message is that you can become this attractive woman with her luxuriant lifestyle if you buy this chocolate and the Lady that is validated because the mysterious man broke into her bedroom to leave her chocolates and a calling card. Or for the men that can become ‘macho’ when eating a chocolate bar that isn’t ‘for girls’. You can see how powerful the advertising is and how it sells much more than just chocolate.
When a child already has a low self esteem or a distorted worldview because of problems at home, it is easy to see how they will want chocolate to make them feel better, but how does this need for reward become a life threatening problem? As the child grows and their physiology is changing, the world can seem a confusing place. Satan is waiting to spring, the advertisement has ignited the desire and after the first taste of chocolate, Satan needs to keep your interest, he makes sure that you are ‘attacked’ through your own senses, the first; smell is distinct; it has a velvety, almost dairy smell to it (Milk chocolate) which is remniscent of being fed as a baby, that nurturing environment; where safety and love is felt. Then there is the hint of cocoa an exotic delicacy, full of mystery and excitement. Now the shift is the touch; chocolate feels smooth to touch, it’s warm and inviting and can melt at the fingertips, it feels like a luxurious cream. Then there’s the sight of chocolate, it can be moulded into many beautiful, enticing shapes from smooth perfectly decorated easter eggs to gorgeous ripply bars. Then there’s the audio; that distinct sound of a chocolate wrapper, the purple one that becomes a pleasing, soothing sound as it is opened. Last of the senses to go is the seduction of the tastebuds; the sweetness moulds around every area of the tongue, the milky cocoa mix; paints a picture on the tongue, it coats every part of the mouth before it is swallowed; it remains for a couple of swallows; holding firm to every orifice. That is your first real encounter with chocolate and your first touch of quelling desire; how does this first encounter with satiating desire lead to addiction?
The first encounter has already stuck, you feel like the child who is part of the club. You have been validated by being given a reward, you are now the glamorous woman with the lifestyle to boot. Out into the wider world you go, rewarding yourself with a bar of chocolate for getting the job, moving house, a new boyfirend etc and so it goes on, but what happens when there isn’t anything to be rewarded for? You’ve just lost your job, the house has fell through and your boyfriend has left you, you turn to chocolate for a comfort to be taken back to that comforting time on the breast, that place of warmth, nurture and love. As you can see chocolate is starting to be placed at the core of all times good or bad, it is the comforting, rewarding vehicle we want to get us through, but as we consume more the need becomes greater; why?
There is a very high sugar content in chocolate, it gives you a rush; a burst of energy so physically you are feeling great, full of beans and highly motivated, but after a short while the burst diminishes and you are left feeling sluggish, lethargic and unmotivated. Phsychologically the rush makes you feel happier and when it is gone makes you feel depressed; so what do you do? You have more chocolate of course and the cycle perpetuates until you are consuming a vast amount of chocolate. People start commenting on your weight gain and the amount of chocolate you’ve been consuming; this leads to a lower self esteem and the need to increase the intake of sugar. You hunt around for something that can increase the rush and that quick rush can be found in pop. You start on one can and it increases to two until you are consuming bottles at a time; then the physical signs are starting to hit, spots, decaying teeth etc. Inside we are decaying too, not just physically but spiritually. Satan has taken his grasp on the young woman. He stole his way into her through desire and a gluttonous, insatiated person is what she has become. Her route through her desire for more and more has led to an unhealthy young lady, obese, addicted with a low self image that may lead her into other addictions, depression and promiscuity as she strives for comfort from being out of control. Satan is rubbing his hands with glee as he takes full control.
I hope this has shown you the subtlety of sin, it creeps in when we are caught off guard; in Luke we are told ‘Constantly be on your guard so that your hearts will not be loaded down with self-indulgence, drunkeness, and the worries of this life, or that day will take you by surprise’ (Luke 21:34; ISV). The perfect remedy for obesity and all addiction is God because he is our reward and he reminds us ‘AS a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…..’ (Isaiah 66:13 NIV)