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From the legend of the Forbidden Fruit to the exercises of Buddhism and Hinduism, to fasting during Ramadan, to Kosher dietary laws and the deadly sin of gluttony, every religion seems to have some sort of dietary guidelines. Whether they focus on what followers should and should not eat, or offer advice on weight loss and exercise, a religious slant on weight loss may be just what you need to keep that resolution to eat healthy and exercise more often. When it gets hard for parishioners to keep to their diet plan and exercise regime, many seek spiritual guidance to stay focused.

 

When it comes to the term “religious exercise,” many think of some sort of elaborate church ritual. For Hindus, Buddhist, and Jains, however, the term might bring to mind the ancient physical and mental discipline of yoga, which originated in 900 BC in Pakistan, but came to prominence in the Western world in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the New Age movement. Yoga focuses on mental meditation as well as physical stretching and exercise. Yoga studios have popped up all over the country as a result, and the movement has spawned the magazine Yoga Journal and do-it-yourself sites such as  Yoga.com and Yogabasics.com for beginners.

Torah Yoga

 

Recently, however, the trend of  Torah Yoga has been spreading through synagogues and Jewish religious centers across the country. Torah Yoga was developed by Rabbi Myriam Klotz, a trained yoga instructor who works for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality in New York. Torah Yoga brings yoga exercise into Judaic traditions. It applies teachings from the Torah to the exercise of yoga as well as uses Hebrew chants as part of meditation. 

 

Torah Yoga has spread rapidly mainly because of the books, seminars, and instructional videos by author Diane Bloomfield, and her regimen has become very popular in the international Jewish community. The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center has become a big sponsor of Torah Yoga, offering retreat sessions all year round for those wanting to lose weight and exercise their faith. 

Tai-Chi Yoga

 

The East Asian religion of Taoism incorporates the practice of martial arts with the intent of using them for defensive purposes only. Taoism originated in the Shaolin Temple in the Honan province of Northern China, where it was introduced by Boddhidharma. Taoism focuses on the gentler side of martial arts, especially the practice of T’ai Chi, which focuses on health, meditation, and basic combat techniques. T’ai Chi has even been recommended by the Mayo Clinic as a great stress reducer and way to keep mental focus. Sites such as Tai-chi.com and Taoist.org are great resources for the practice of T’ai Chi.

 

Western style exercise and gym facilities have become troublesome for some Muslim women, who are forbidden by the Koran from exercising in the presence of men. The web site  Muslimah Connection answers the call for Muslim women who want what the site calls “weight loss from Muslim Sisters.” The site uses Koranic verses and teachings to promote healthy eating and exercise habits as well as provides calorie counters, cooking advice, walking advice, and online diet journals. 

Muslim prctices

 

Over 70 percent of Muslims practice what is known as hahal dietary rules, meaning they only eat foods permissible by the Koran. The site www.Halaldiets.com offers a variety of recipes, products, resources, education, and explanations of the dietary laws based on the Koran. The aim of the site is to promote a healthy lifestyle within Koranic jurisdiction.

 

The Christian religion has advocated many weight loss, dietary, and exercise programs throughout the years. Sylvester Graham, best known as the inventor of the Graham cracker, was actually a Presbyterian minister who believed that an unhealthy diet led to an unhealthy religious lifestyle. He invented the Graham Diet in 1829 but didn’t gain prominence until the 1860s-1880s. His diet was vegetarian, anti-alcohol, and followers included the Kellogg brothers and Horace Greeley. He also was one of the co-founders of the   American Vegetarian Society and is considered one of the forefathers of the modern vegan and vegetarian movements. 

 

Hallelujah Diet

Followers of Graham’s include Reverend George Malkmus, whose “Hallelujah Diet” has made its home at  Hallelujah Acres in Graham’s own Northampton, Massachusetts. The diet is a vegan one, based on locally grown crops, and consists of 85 percent raw, unprocessed, and uncooked foods along with 15 percent cooked, plant-based food. Hallelujah Acres was founded in 1992 but stemmed from the diet Malkmus credits to saving his life from colon cancer in 1976. The diet is based on Genesis 1:29, which states: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat [food].”

 

Another Christian diet is Divine Health, sponsored by Dr. Don Colbert and based on his books, such as the best-seller What Would Jesus Eat? The diet offers a variety of biblical advice on good and bad foods as well as vitamin supplements, books, audio and video lectures, biblical homeopathic cures, as well as describing the foods that would have been eaten during Jesus’ lifetime.

Dr. Don Colbert

 

Founded by the First Baptist Church in Houston in 1981 and claiming to currently have half a million members belonging to 12,000 churches across the country, First Place is a weight loss regime based on spiritual discipline. The diet plan focuses on church attendance, prayer, scripture reading, exercise, healthy eating in accordance with the USDA food pyramid guidelines, and keeping a record of these activities in food and Bible study diaries. First Place’s web site gives recipes, advice, support groups, books, DVDs, and schedules for nationwide events for participants. Carole Lewis is the current director of the program and has been with the program since its inception, claiming to have lost over 40 pounds using the program. She has written several books that accompany First Place, including The Divine Diet

 

Carole Lewis

Donna Richardson Joyner, the host of the ESPN show “Fitness Pros” has turned her Christian faith into an exercise phenomenon called “Sweating in the Spirit.” So far, she has two DVDs in the exercise series where Joyner instructs viewers on aerobics, pilates, strength training, and stretching to Christian music hits with live performances by top Christian artists.

Sweating in the Spirit

 

“I created “Sweating in the Spirit” because after spending 18 years in the fitness business, I felt something was missing in the health and fitness programs that I had created in the past.” Joyner says. “I have taught every type of exercise class imaginable, but nothing moves me like a Gospel aerobic workout!”

 

So, if you’re looking for something extra in your personal weight loss regime, maybe adding some spirituality into the mix is just what you need to keep focused and eating right.


www.Dishmag.com / Issue 110 - September 2018
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