Religion Feature: Group watches daily bread

CNJ illustration: Tony Bullocks Dieters discuss their struggles and Bible passages at meetings of the 3D group.

By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer

LaWanda Furney used to weigh 250 pounds. She has lost almost 75 pounds since January. She’s been on diets before, but this time she turned to a faith-based diet group that meets weekly at St. James’ Episcopal Church.

The group uses a program based on the book “3D: Diet, Discipline and Discipleship” by Carol Showalter. While it includes a diet developed from recommendations of the American Dietetic Association, the program also focuses on lifestyle changes and introducing discipline in participants’ lives.

“The program is about changing the way you live and that’s where the discipline really takes care of it,” said the Rev. Benjamin Wright, the parish’s rector. “There’s a lot of things we won’t do on our own, and we don’t. To change our behavior, it really has to be a change in where we are spiritually.”

The first third of each meeting is spent with participants checking on each other and sharing their struggles and successes. During the second third, Bible passages are discussed. The meetings close with members praying for each other.

Furney said she had a terrible Fourth of July week because she felt tempted to eat a fried tortilla shell salad bowl.

“I said I’ll have one little bite,” she said. “I could hear him (God) telling me, ‘You don’t need that,’ and I hated myself every bite I took, and I knew he was trying to help me.”

The program’s participants read selected Bible passages daily accompanied by a devotion from the book “Devotions for a New Beginning” with a theme for each week. Engaging in daily devotions and prayer helps develop discipline, Wright said.

Marsha Shade, a teacher from Clovis, said when she misses a devotion, her day is not as good.

Daniel Otero, a private practice physician’s assistant at Trinity Family Medicine, emphasized the importance of discipline when dieting.

“I have a lot of patients who say, ‘I can’t,’ and that discipline comes in very critically,” Otero said. “It’s not that they can’t but that they won’t. It’s using differing means to develop self-discipline. They don’t feel they’re strong enough for the discipline.”

Wright and his wife did the program several years ago. He lost 50 pounds and maintaining his weight. He said they keep each other accountable.

“The food addiction has its own predicaments,” Wright said. “With alcohol and smoking, you can live without it. The issue is you have to have food to live.”

Wright said fasting is an acceptable form of spiritual discipline as long as it’s done practically and safely.

“Fasting comes into play when a person uses it to help them develop self-discipline,” Otero said. “Other than for discipline, I don’t recommend fasting for weight loss.”

Interest in the program developed enough for a second support group to start in June and another one is planned for the fall.
Participants attend other churches besides St. James’.

“We all are asking each other to pray for discipline in all aspects of our lives,” Furney said. “I heard him (God) telling me, ‘I will not take away your desire for mountains of food, unhealthy food, but I will give you the strength to discipline yourself.’ This is what gives you the strength to want to do it. When you fall down, you think you’ve ruined it, but God gives us the grace.”