Dieting With the Deity
Weight-loss programs that tap into faith to help people shed pounds.
By Diane Vadino
NEW YORK, April 11, 2007 (http://health.msn.com) - Jordan Rubin is convinced God can help you lose weight. Rubin, author of The Maker's Diet, is fresh from a speaking engagement at Toledo’s Cathedral of Praise. He's in town to spread the word about his yearlong "Healthy Toledo" initiative, the name a church-friendly play on "holy Toledo."
But how exactly does faith help you lose weight? As Rubin puts it, "I think many people will rely on their faith in God to be disciplined. If I have a relationship with God, I can pray to him, and he'll give me strength."
Rubin says he discovered the connection between faith and healthy living while going through a serious illness 12 years ago, when he saw his weight plummet by more than a third, from a healthy 180 pounds to about 100.
"Medicine didn't work, alternative medicine didn't work, but my faith in God kept me believing, and it healed me," says Rubin, who formulated his Bible-centered approach to a healthy living after "reading 300 books" and speaking to dozens of medical professionals. The Maker's Diet eschews processed foods for pared-down preparations like broiled halibut, ginger carrots and cilantro lime chicken cacciatore, made with organic ingredients where possible.
Losing weight—never mind keeping it off—is one of the toughest health challenges many of us face. The obesity epidemic isn't even a national problem: It's a global one, with the World Health Organization reporting that more than 1 billion adults are overweight.
Closer to home, the figures are equally daunting, especially among children, with the rate of obesity among children aged 12-19 almost tripling over the past 20 years. (Today, about 17 percent of kids in this age group are obese.)
For would-be dieters, the most devastating stat may be this one: One recent study showed that less than 5 percent of those who do manage to reach their goal weight actually maintain it. It's enough to get even the most reformed eaters bingeing their way through The Cheesecake Factory.
There's a new breed of weight-loss evangelist, though, who says we have the strength to resist—if we call on God to aid us. They're crowding best-seller lists and preaching to thousands of devotees online, spreading their message of healthy, God-approved living on the Internet and on the bookstore shelves.
For many of these authors and advocates, God isn't simply a benevolent observer in our individual battle to stay in shape: He's an active participant, just waiting to be called upon.
"Before I came to First Place, I had never thought to pray about anything I ate—I just thought God thought I should have self-control," says Carole Lewis, who was 39 when she first attended the Bible-centric healthy-living program in 1981, and has since become the group's national director.
Attendees of the program practice a "biblical approach to weight management," mixing Bible study with recipes for black-bean enchiladas. "I thought God was interested in my marriage, my finances, my kids—but now I do believe he is interested in everything about us." For Lewis, "everything" includes her food choices.
Lewis emphasizes the role prayer plays in helping her make good diet decisions. "My body is always going to want what it's going to want, and that's not always going to be healthy for me," she says. "But God gives me strength."