The latest statistics show nearly two-thirds of U.S. citizens are overweight with nearly half of all Americans qualifying as obese.
To combat the condition, Americans spend about $35 billion for weight-loss products and services. The desire to lose weight has had some undergoing surgery to reduce the size of their stomachs.
A few people and organizations are recommending another alternative to fad diets and medical procedures. They suggest Americans try volunteering as a way to lose weight.
Volunteering helps people look outside themselves, and can lead to improved self-image and feelings of greater self-worth. Studies on volunteering have also shown that community service reduces feelings of loneliness, depression and stress by giving volunteers a positive perspective of their lives.
The benefits of becoming a volunteer are the subject of a new book by Gail Perry Johnston. Johnston relates in her book, “The Social Cause Diet,” how she struggled with an eating disorder for much of her life. She became so focused on her weight issue that her perspective on life was distorted. Her roommate chastised her for being so self-absorbed when Johnston “blew” her diet. Johnston wrote in her book her roommate’s words, “. . . caused me to realize that my obsession with what I ate and didn’t eat was making my world very small. All of a sudden, it was so clear to me that my eating disorder was robbing me of precious time and energy that could be spent in so many other constructive ways.”
Johnston collected stories of volunteers who found volunteering to be fulfilling mentally, spiritually and physically. One woman who submitted her story to Johnston wrote she lost 100 pounds when she volunteered at a horse-therapy program. The contributor lost more than 100 pounds by leading horses up and down a hill at the stable where she had enrolled her son in the therapy program. Not only did she lose weight, her fear of horses was replaced with a love of horses, which enabled her to gain confidence and a new passion in her life.
Volunteer activities offering similar benefits are walking animal shelter dogs, picking up roadside litter, working at a community garden, making hiking trails, helping to remove invasive plant species, helping at a neighborhood food bank, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, or organizing a walking program for seniors or youth.
With the current down-turn in the economy, Americans are finding they have more free time on their hands. A number have found they are between jobs, had their hours cut or have been ordered to take furloughs.
Community service is not only a formula for healthier living, it can also be a way to stay connected and engaged. In some cases, a volunteer position has been a way to network during a job search or has even evolved into a paying job.
It would seem one of the solutions for helping this county recover from unhealthy habits and a struggling economy is to get its citizens moving through service to others.
Causes Gail Johnston Supports
The Stephens Ministry The Siena Maternity Home Young Life International