It may be near heresy in the Bible Belt to eat grits without butter, but a growing number of church members say God has told them to lay off the fat. They’re part of a Bible-based wellness program that is expanding even faster than baby boomers’ waistlines. Since beginning at First Baptist Church of Houston in 1981, the First Place program now operates in about 10,000 churches in all 50 states and 12 foreign countries.
The program is similar to other established programs that emphasize slow weight loss, a well-balanced diet and moderate exercise. It’s the Bible verses that add a twist. A focus on the Almighty helps during that stressful step on the scales.
“We memorize a Scripture verse and recite it when we stand on the scales. This puts your mind to reflecting more on being God’s creation than whether or not you’ve lost weight.” Weight loss is a popular side effect – not the goal of – the 13-week program. Weekly meetings consist of a wellness lesson, Scripture study, and scrutiny of what dieters have eaten. The program uses the American Diabetes Association’s low-fat, high-fiber diet.
“Many times, the Bible talks about not eating fat. It’s amazing at how we’ve come back to the fact that the diet that Daniel ate was very healthy.” Daniel, an Old Testament prophet, ate only fruits and vegetables.
Materials include a cookbook and a notebook with instructions, general tips on good health and space for diary entries.