EAT MORE, LOSE WEIGHT: OH, MY GOD!

“The incredible shrinking couple”, says CNN, has lost a total of 580 pounds. No, they did not go in for bariatric surgery. They prayed to God. As did many other people. Faith-based weight loss is now a hot topic in obesity, and in the world’s obesity capital, the USA.

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In August 2002, the couple was married and they soon made a decision that would forever change their lives.
Before getting married, a friend introduced Maggie to The Weigh Down Workshop, a faith-based weight loss program, which teaches people to conquer their addiction to food, as well as other substances and vices, by turning to God.

Maggie says she was never consistent or committed enough to stick with the program. But shortly after their wedding, the couple started packing on the pounds and while Andy tried another diet, Maggie gave Weigh Down another try.

“At the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, I called Weigh Down and started taking the classes,” says Maggie. “My whole life, I had always wanted somebody to [lose weight] with me. But I knew if I wanted it bad enough, I would have to do it alone.”

She began to lose weight.

“I ate whatever I craved, but only when I was truly hungry and then I ate a lot more slowly, so I could tell when to stop,” Maggie says.

In February 2003, after seeing his wife’s results, Andy stopped counting calories, gave up the low-fat foods and reduced his portion sizes. Fifteen months later, he had lost 257 pounds.

“Once I started this program, it changed my outlook on my entire life. I realized that being happy is a choice. I can either be filled with hate and despair or I can be happy,” says Andy, who realized he no longer needed the anti-depressants.

I went into Weigh Down, the website that is selling this program where you eat all you can and still lose weight like the featured couple.
Truly, the success stories are impressive. So, does piousness melt fat in a magical way?
Before I address that, let me underline that obesity is often the result of an eating disorder, where the victim is obsessed with eating even in the absence of hunger. In the absence of a way of addressing this mental disease, nothing will help the obese patient.
Faith-based weight loss works at this level. The participants of this program are trained to focus on God. Classes help them read the Bible, and communicate with God, all ways of taking the mental bandwidth away from food.
Babies are fed on demand. The same feeding model is used by these people: they eat when they are hungry, otherwise not. At mealtime, they eat whatever they want, irrespective of the calories.
While Gwen Shamblin of Weigh Down would have us believe that this is a divine deliverance for which she is a vehicle, the real reason why she is successful is because she has found a way whereby people can shift their attention to something they can relate to (God) and feel good at the same time. This is a form of behavioral therapy.
As a rational and objective human being, my atheism scoffs at the premise of Shamblin. However, if by turning to religion, people can increase their life-spans and stay slim, why should I complain?

23 responses to “EAT MORE, LOSE WEIGHT: OH, MY GOD!

  1. On the flip side, US churches will also wean people away from the science of evolution, apart from food 😉

    Ashok,
    For them it is dar win-win situation!

    🙂

  2. yeah…makes sense. We dont eat as much while at work . Something interesting to occupy the mind never lets it think of food.
    But why is that we tend to chow when we are with a group of friends ?

    Sree,
    Because friends are united by fat!

    🙂

  3. It sounds absolutely ridiculous but I’m not one to question something that works.

  4. “I ate whatever I craved, but only when I was truly hungry and then I ate a lot more slowly, so I could tell when to stop,” Maggie says.”
    This is all you need to loose weight.

  5. doc i have a question: If you eat all the junk and food loaded with calories and fat, but you work out regularly, is it true that it won’t make you fat?

    Priyank,
    It all depends on the individual. If he or she is the type who burns cals fast, then there is no problem. Someone else, and maybe older, the workout may not be good enough. You see the types all around you: a young guy who can eat 30 rotis or a hundred paanipuris, and whose side profile is like an iPod nano… These are the luckiest guys: they will probably live long and never get fat.

  6. “…let me underline that obesity is often the result of an eating disorder, where the victim is obsessed with eating even in the absence of hunger. ”

    Really? I have just spent 5 years researching obesity. And I have never come across this unique causation theory.

    There are discussions about food addiction which are gaining ground now and DSM-V is rumoured to be considering the inclusion of obesity in “eating disorders”.

    The “victim” is usually a victim of societal and environmental forces which encourages eating patterns which are no help to someone aiming to lose weight.

    And “eating even in the absence of hunger” is complex phenomenon of hormonal imbalances and in a finite % of the population of chromosomal disorders.

    As for the fabulous weight loss by these people, it does appear that they were taught – in a religious wrapping – basics of eating that most kids learn at a young age: eat when you are hungry, eat as much you can eat comfortably, eat slowly and chew. Mastication – as well as slow eating – is known to elicit a satiety response quicker so a person, who is paying attention to the response can stop eating.

    So with those changes, frankly anyone who had 250+ pounds to lose would benefit.

    I would like to hear if this programme helps (a) those who need to lose 20-30 pounds AND (b) keep the weight loss off for more than 18 months.

    Thanks.

  7. I think science is way overthinking obesity myself. “Oh, it’s a gene. Oh, it’s how they chew their food. Oh, it’s all the fat they eat.” It’s never, “Oh, we’re eating spectacularly different foods than the ones we evolved eating. Oh, there are all kinds of chemicals in our food now that didn’t exist before. Oh, the way we make foods now does an end run around our instincts on how food is supposed to work, so we for instance drink when we’re thirsty only to find that what we drank was jam-packed with sugar calories and now we’re on the way to diabetes.”

    It isn’t like everybody suddenly decided one day to be fat, you know, or like suddenly there is this genetic disease. Culture and evolution don’t really work that way.

    And, y’know, maybe we need to work more on making food safe again, and on teaching people PROPER nutrition instead of teaching them fad ideas like “dietary fat makes you fat.” (I wonder how many people out there are deficient in vitamins A and E now that the low-fat dogma is so entrenched? Or how this plays a role in Alzheimer’s, since fat is needed to maintain brain tissue?) But I guess I’m asking too much.

    Not that we couldn’t be better served, say, putting all this effort towards curing AIDS or something. Because is it really anybody’s business how big someone is?

    Dana,
    Welcome here!
    Yeah, I think you are raising some concerns that really don’t have a satisfactory answer. I, however, don’t think there is anything less sinister about obesity (being that it is now being labeled ‘globesity’) as it established as a giant killer. More than two-thirds of the US population is now overweight or obese, and the world is threatening to follow suit. It certainly is going to be worth the research. Even if obesity is not solved, some other diseases may well be, for example, diabetes.

  8. Pingback: Christian Fat Loss Plan: Pray More, Eat More! « The Dojo

  9. This is in response to Shefali.

    My response to Shefali is in between her lines (mine in italics):

    “…let me underline that obesity is often the result of an eating disorder, where the victim is obsessed with eating even in the absence of hunger. ”
    Really? I have just spent 5 years researching obesity. And I have never come across this unique causation theory.

    First of all, welcome, Shefali! We are greatly privileged to have you around. But I am surprised you deny the behavioral aspect of obesity. Those who come to us surgeons for bariatric surgery have to undergo the basic psychological or even psychiatric check up to rule this out, besides other issues. This is standard of care.

    There are discussions about food addiction which are gaining ground now and DSM-V is rumoured to be considering the inclusion of obesity in “eating disorders”.

    Now, aren’t you contradicting what you just said above, re obesity being due in some cases to an eating disorder?


    The “victim” is usually a victim of societal and environmental forces which encourages eating patterns which are no help to someone aiming to lose weight.
    And “eating even in the absence of hunger” is complex phenomenon of hormonal imbalances and in a finite % of the population of chromosomal disorders.

    True, obesity is known to be a complex subject, especially in the causation aspects.

    As for the fabulous weight loss by these people, it does appear that they were taught – in a religious wrapping – basics of eating that most kids learn at a young age: eat when you are hungry, eat as much you can eat comfortably, eat slowly and chew. Mastication – as well as slow eating – is known to elicit a satiety response quicker so a person, who is paying attention to the response can stop eating.

    Exactly!

    I would like to hear if this programme helps (a) those who need to lose 20-30 pounds AND (b) keep the weight loss off for more than 18 months.

    Yes, there are people who have lost weight and held it off for years.

    Thanks.
    You are welcome!

  10. Rambodoc: Thanks for your comments.

    You say: “But I am surprised you deny the behavioral aspect of obesity.”

    I was reacting to the eating disorder part of your post. I do not consider ‘eating disorders’ behavioural but psychological issues. So am I missing something in your reply?

    My next sentence is not a contradiction. That the status of obesity as an eating disorder is being discussed shows that it is not ESTABLISHED as an eating disorder. Your note suggests that as a fait accompli, which is not strictly accurate. Amongst the reasons why it is not thus established is because its clinical diagnosis is not clear cut as say, anorexia’s, and the power balances between interested parties, as well as the economic implications of recognising it as a ‘label’ or a disorder (one for which we have no treatment yet).

    Incidentally I had written about this programme a few days ago (I write another blog, purely on obesity and its multifaceted causation, the science, the economics, the health policy, the politics – in line with my belief that it is too complex for single platform policies of the kind touted both in the UK and the US, the two countries compared in my doctoral thesis). I am not sure of its long term efficacy and like most diet programmes, it is hard to do controlled experiments to see whether it is working and if so, what is working.

    Whether religious people are more obese than non-religious ones is a question never fully resolved so the programme’s success may also be due to the specific flock they are ministering to…

    Thanks.

  11. PS: If you don’t mind the obesity blog is on obesityheadlines.blogspot.com

    And my name ends in a ‘Y’ not an ‘I’. Thanks.

    Shefaly,
    I have linked your name to your blog. In subsequent comments, please enter your blog name in the box, so that people can click on your name and be transported to the fascinating world of obesity research.

  12. This was a very interesting read and though I understand your analysis I do however have a concern that all ‘obese’ humankind have been blanketed beneath the confines of this well presented argument.

    I am 5′ 2″ and weigh in at 117lbs., while my sister who is eight years my junior is 4′ 11″ weighing in at, let’s say 190lbs. Not so many years ago, she was coined ‘peanut’ due to her being very petite, but has since gained weight at a very rapid pace. I on the other hand, have an under active thyroid and must swallow a pill each morning to boost my metabolism, while she has been tested on numerous occasions with no presence of thyroidal dysfunction.

    I know for a fact that she is not in the habit of over indulging when it comes to her eating habits and she spends most of her waking hours at work or at the church she is affiliated with. Why then is she extremely overweight? Surely there must be alternative reasoning behind such instances.

    So, what I mean to imply is this: What’s true for one, is most certainly not true for all…No?

    ~perplexed~

  13. Ambre: You are right. Many theories – from genes, to virus, to gluttony and sloth (two themes that make Churches potentially great vendors of diet advice!) – have been offered. There is no known and sustainable ‘cure’ except to remain mindful of one’s diet and do exercise.

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  15. Gwen Shamblin runs a CULT !!!

  16. I have always wondered why the church is so hard on some vices like smoking or drinking alcohol but just totally blind on others like drinking coke or stuffing your face.

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  18. doc – Besides the often used “eat well, exercise” message, what does the medical profession say about weight-loss? What are their recommended approaches? This is an uneducated guess and a bold presumption – but could it be that I think nothing beyond that?

    I say this because that could be why you have 1000 different variations of weight-loss programs. The “eat well, exercise” message while still true is not effective because it is not sufficient at all. The problem is not that the people who are struggling with weight-gain aren’t educated about these rules. The problem is that the real challenge is always the discipline to follow then religiously 😉 and avoid regression into “old habits” which led to the problem? What are the “doctor prescribed” techniques for developing this discipline?

    “Can I loose weight and keep it off” – my guess this comes only from mental discipline however that is achieved (in this case via a religious backdrop). I do not think this can be handed in a platter by a n-week diet-plan or program.

    Just my 2 cents/paise – entirely my views and guesses. Not sure if they are worthless.

  19. Hey, I was about 45 pounds overweight, then I got type 2 diabetes, pretty much got my act together overnight, after that…..NO MORE SUGAR, seriously, this works like a charm. cut out sugar and high and medium glycemic foods. Im sure we’ve heard it a thosand times but the weight will fall off within months, even without additional exercise.
    Just have patience.
    All the best. Dave
    http://www.theunknownweightlossfact.com

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