THE author of a church-based course to help people develop a healthier relationship with food is looking for churches that would be interested in holding trials in their congregations and communities.
The course, Taste and See, encourages participants to accept God’s help with their eating problems and find freedom from the control of food over their lives.
The author of the programme, Dr Deborah Lycett, who is Reader in Nutrition, Dietetics, and Spiritual Health at Coventry University, used to work as a dietician with the NHS.
She said that she believed that churches had an important part to play in providing spiritual support to a “society struggling under the ever-growing burden of weight-related diseases”.
“Many people feel guilt and shame around their eating habits, and those who struggle to maintain a healthy weight may experience weight stigma in many places — the Church should not be one of them, but, instead, a place of love and acceptance.
“Secondly, both overeating and undereating are unhealthy; perhaps it is because we know that there is a sense of guilt associated with it. But, as Christians, we can live a life free from guilt and free to enjoy food [that] God has provided; sometimes, just knowing we have this freedom unburdens us in a way that actually enables us to eat healthy amounts.
“Sometimes, we discover that we are using food as a way to cope with negative emotions, or to deal with what life throws at us; as Christians, we can trust God to walk beside us during these times and direct us to the help we really need. The Taste and See programme is designed to help people journey through these issues to find freedom from the control of food on their lives.”
The programme is delivered via a DVD, in ten small-group sessions. A pilot has been held in St Peter’s Baptist Church, Worcester, and, at the end of the course, researchers found improvements in levels of spiritual well-being, uncontrolled eating, emotional eating, and mental well-being. Improvements in healthy eating resulted in individuals’ eating less fat and sugar, even six months after the programme ended, Dr Lycett said.
The programme is now being tested in a clinical trial, and churches that are interested in running the programme, which is to be free of charge, are invited to sign up. Some will embark on the course immediately; some will be asked to wait, as part of a randomised control-process.
Dr Lycett said: “Within every congregation there are likely to be several people who struggle with food in some way: a church that runs the Taste and See programme provides an opportunity for individuals to bring these struggles to God in a safe and supportive community.”
To find out more and sign up, visit tastes.coventry.ac.uk.