Man does not live on bread alone, but Americans have become increasingly reliant on doughy carbohydrates in their diet. Now many in a rapidly expanding country are asking: “What Would Jesus Eat?”
That is the title of one of a growing number of Christian diet plans crowding the lifestyle shelves of mainstream bookshops. Other bestsellers include The Maker’s Diet, The Hallelujah Diet and Body by God. For the persistently overweight, they hold the promise of spiritual and bodily redemption.
The selling strategies vary. Stephen Arterburn, the host of a Christian radio show and author of Lose it For Life, says: “If you want the world to notice Jesus, it helps to look and live like Jesus. We don’t do this so we can look in the mirror and be more attractive. We do it so people can look at us and see Jesus.”
Don Colbert, a Florida doctor and author of What Would Jesus Eat?, portrays his book as a way of putting some backbone into weak-willed believers.
“They’re letting the flesh rule them and they’re eating anything they want,” he told the Guardian. “We’re making them accountable. Many people will not eat the right kinds of food unless they’re held accountable and before they put something in their mouths ask: ‘Would Jesus eat this?'”
Dr Colbert said Jesus ate “whole grains, fresh fruits, seeds and nuts, rather than processed food”. His book has recipes for Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus.
In a country where 65% of adults are overweight or obese, few dieticians would argue with the Mediterranean-style diet these books advocate. But Marie Griffith, a professor of religion at Princeton University, said: “The negative part is that people feel they have failed God if they don’t lose weight.”