Have faith, improve your health: How the Good Book helps you with good eating

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Having faith you will improve your health. Doctors get a little divine intervention in their efforts to educate the public and change health habits.

It’s a typical Wednesday morning bible study at Third Baptist Church of Chicago. But the message for the group gathered today – eat more vegetables!

Rev Alan Ragland, Third Baptist Church of Chicago: “It’s kind of like when you know better you do better.”

The idea started with Reverend Alan Ragland, who asked health care providers at Rush to help those like him – pastors tending to their flocks – lead a healthier lifestyle. In turn, he’d pass the message along to his congregation.

Rev Ragland: “The whole issue of disparity is common knowledge. African American populations suffer disease at higher rates and with greater devastation than other segments of the population. So as a person serving that population you certainly want them to have better health and better care.”

Called the Alive program, participants learn how to shop for and prepare healthier foods – particularly vegetables. Their goal – eat three cups a day.

Rev Ragland: “I mean, it sounds like it’s nothing, but it makes such a great deal of difference.”

Iniece Brown, Alive program participant: “Eating all of those vegetables and salad, less meat and more fish, and I’m down to 139 now.”

Elizabeth Lynch, Rush University Medical Center psychologist: “Instead of coming from the medical community and telling people, ‘This is what you should do,’ we’re trying to integrate healthier living values into belief systems that already exist in the community.”

To help the lessons stick, the group draws inspiration from the pages of the book already guiding their daily lives.

Iniece Brown, Alive program: “I read the bible, but I didn’t realize that it had as much in it talking about food and how you’re supposed to eat.”

Rev Francine Stark-White, Third Baptist Church of Chicago: “God said, ‘I give you every seed baring plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it … they will be yours for food. Honor God with your body.’ That did something for me spiritually, but it also made me more cognizant of what I really need to do to care for this body, so I dropped 30 pounds!”

Vivian Wesley, Alive program participant: “I felt better in my body, I’m moving better than I was and my high blood medication has been decreased by 50 percent … that’s really awesome.”

Clarissa Babrie lost nine pounds on the program but gained valuable knowledge about how to infuse flavor into healthier food choices.

Clarissa Babrie, Alive participant: “What clicked with me was the various ways you can prepare food, especially the veggies. Brussels sprouts, I hated them. I wouldn’t eat Brussels sprouts, and that’s one of my favorites now.”

Rev Stark-White: “It really does work, and if I could shout that from some mountain top someplace I’d be happy to do that!”

Rush plans to expand the program to 20 churches in the Chicago area. You can learn more at: http://cuhe.rush.edu/Pages/ALIVEAbout.aspx

 

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