Victoria Kahl describes herself as a professional dieter. She says she has tried them all — Weight Watchers, T-Factor, Rotation, 3-Day, even the infamous Rice Diet — and none of them helped her lose weight as the WeighDown Workshop has. The 12-week program, designed by dietitian Gwen Shamblin, helps people turn to the Bible for help in taking off and keeping off pounds.
Kahl attends the Assembly of God church in Bangor, where she also works as a secretary. She led the first group last fall and recently began another session that meets once a week at the church. Each meeting includes the viewing of a videotape, discussion, testimonies and prayers, she said.
“There is no diet, calorie counting or measuring grams,” she said. “At the first class, we learn to listen to our stomachs and wait until we are hungry to eat, instead of eating by a clock. When our stomachs start growling, we eat. The next step is to learn to stop when we get to that first sigh of satisfaction, instead of continuing to eat.”
While the program does not lay out a diet per se, it does urge sensible eating, not fasting, according to Kahl. There are no forbidden foods as there are on other programs, no special foods or supplements to buy or regimens to follow.
“The spiritual component allows us to ask God to help divert us from going to food for our emotional needs,” she said. “We have audiotapes to listen to for inspiration. We keep a journal and are given a daily devotion and recommended Bible study to help us in our struggles with food.”
For Kahl, who lost 16 pounds last fall and kept it off through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, what makes the program different from other weight loss programs is the focus. WeighDown puts the focus on God, not on food, she said.
Debbie McLemore of Newport lost 20 pounds last fall. She was so happy with the program and the results that she is participating a second time. McLemore had a heart transplant in 1988 and must take maintenance medication that causes her to gain weight. Her doctors in Boston approved her participation in WeighDown.
“I know that I’ve eaten out of boredom or just because food was there,” she said. “To turn my focus from that to God sounded very logical to me. It sounded like it would work.”
McLemore added that this is the first time she has gotten control of her eating habits. She admitted that she still has a lot of weight to lose, but is confident she will be successful with this particular program.
“I have learned to give up control [of her eating] and to give God control,” she said. “This principle doesn’t just apply to dieting; it applies to all areas of life. It’s taught me that when I need help making decisions, to turn to God.”
When Pam Seymour of Hampden took the class last fall, her goal was to lose 21 pounds. She lost 23 pounds and 10 1/2 inches. While she had lost more than that on her own before, she had gained it back. This time she has maintained her weight for two months, yet continues to lose inches.
“What made the difference this time was the fact that I was the one making the decisions on what, when and how much to eat,” she said. “I got to decide what I really wanted to eat as opposed to having to eat what the diet allowed. My accountability was not to another human being but to God.”
Jenni Padgett of Bradley lost weight the first week of the program earlier this month. Although she has tried other diet plans, she felt something was lacking. She has discovered that it was the feeding of the spirit that had been missing.
“Every time I was on a diet, I always felt deprived,” she said. “I do not feel that now. I have seen this week how it is possible to go to the Bible and pray instead of going to food. … I never realized how much Scripture there was about food.”
The initial cost of the program is $103, which includes all tapes and materials. The cost of taking the program a second time is $55. Subsequent participation is free.
However, Kahl pointed out that the benefits of the program affect more than just the participants’ weight. She said that she has become more tolerant, patient and understanding of her husband, so there is less conflict.
“I also don’t have to cook two separate meals or force other family members to eat my `diet’ food,” she added with a laugh.
Unlike others interviewed who attend the Assembly of God church where the group meets, Joan Hall of Bangor attends the Glad Tidings Church. She said the Christian basis of the WeighDown program appealed to her.
“My sister-in-law told me she was taking this really great class that brought her closer to the Lord, and, oh yeah, `I lost 20 pounds, too,”‘ she said.
For information about the program, call Kahl at 947-1029.