What is Christian Diet? Controversial Program Founder Gwen Shamblin Dies in Plane Crash

What is the controversy surrounding Gwen Shamblin Lara, founder of the Weigh Down Workshop and Remnant Fellowship Church famous for advocating Christian Diet?

The news of a Cessna C501private jet plane crashing into the waters of a Tennessee lake on Saturday morning has brought Christian Diet Guru Gwen Shamblin Lara in news again. Shamblin, along with her husband JoeLara, church leaders David and Jennifer Martin, Jonathan and Jessica Walters, and Gwen Shamblin Lara's son-in-law, Brandon Hannah are presumably dead.

Shamblin was a controversial figure whose teachings as a founder of Christin Diet Program The Weigh Down Workshop and the Remnant Fellowship Church was questioned multiple times.

First, let us see first see what Christian Diet program is all about. This is a program designed by Shamblin, which includes combination of weight loss programs with Christianity. Her books, which include weight loss lessons with a coating of religious aspects, have earned her thousands of followers and devotees across the world. Here is how the plan to implement Christian Diet started.

Gwen Shamblin Lara
Gwen Shamblin Lara with husband Joe. Instagram

What is Gwen Shamblin Lara's Christin Diet?

Shamblin grew up in a Church of Christ family. She has an undergraduate degree in dietetics from University of Tennessee, in Knoxville. She completed her master's degree in food and nutrition from the Memphis State University. She is a registered dietician and consultant. She also has worked as a faculty member at the Memphis State University for five years and has served state's health department for five years.

Shamblin is from a well-to-do family and lived in Ashlawn, a historic mansion in Brentwood, Tennessee, that was built in 1838. Shamblin is said to have struggled with her weight while in school. She had a notion that genetics, metabolism and behavior modification alone couldn't explain why some people were thin and others were fat. Thus she designed a weight loss program that aimed at developing a discipline to eat. Her program was ready when she was pursuing master's degree at Memphis State University. Accordingly, her books claim that people should only eat when they feel hungry physically and stop eating when they are full. Prayer and Bible reading will fill their emotional needs. She termed overeating as greed and encouraged participants to read the Bible instead.

She started counselling centre in 1991. By 1994, her teachings had spread to 600 churches in 35 states of the U.S. Within one year this number increased to 1,000 churches and by 1996, she had followers from 5,000 churches including eight in Britain. Reports claimed that by mid 2000s it had become one of the most popular weight loss programs in the entire US over 250,000 participants.

Controversies Including Child Abuse, Death

Shamblin had referred to starvation of Jews in Nazi concentration camps and had said that genetics do not play a role in weight loss. In a CNN Larry King show, she had told: "How in the Holocaust did you have all these people getting down real skinny? They ate less food."

Her ministry was criticized as business. When asked, she had told NewsChannel 5 Investigates in 2001: "I got them on simple principles: don't focus on it, focus on God, focus on his will." Speaking about money business she told, "This money, half of it goes to the government, the other half goes to keep it going so someone else can be helped." But in fact, she lived a lavish life. Went on world tours, had a private jet, lived in a mansion and owned land and farms. In 2002, the Shamblins purchased 40 acres of land in Brentwood, Tennessee, and built a huge church there.

Author Marie Griffith, a Princeton University associate professor of religion, had criticized the Christin Diet Guru and said: "In Shamblin's world, people who don't lose weight often feel like failures. If they don't lose weight, it's a failure of discipline; it's a failure of obedience."

Shamblin was also allegedly leading a cult. In one of her recordings, Shamblin was heard threatening her followers: "I have not been put in this position because I'm going to put up with you all's disobedience. If I hear of it, then I will correct it. If I have to come to you, then you're really in trouble," her recording stated.

In addition, she was allegedly involved in the child abuse, death case in 2003. Reports claimed that Remnant advocated locking up children up for lengthy periods of time with little or no food. NewsChannel 5 had obtained a recording where Shamblin had praised the mom for locking the child up. After the probe, parents of the child, Joseph and Sonya Smith, were convicted of their child's murder and Shamblin was unapologetic and rubbished any involvement in the incident.

Shamblin is the author of various books on weight loss [with a pinch of religion] and her popular books include The Weigh Down Diet written in 1997 which sold more than 1.2 million copies in one year. Rise Above is another of her popular books. She has self-published devotional book titled Exodus as the publisher terminated the contract after she claimed that the doctrine of the Trinity was not Biblical.