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Biblical weight-loss program relies on body's signals

For many, a new year means another round of resolutions to lose weight.

At First Baptist Church in Kannapolis, the new year is time for a new "Thin Within" program, now in its fifth year at the church. The program helps people "release" weight through a regimen that combines Bible study, group sessions and weight loss.

Kathy Joyce, who helps lead the program at First Baptist, said "Thin Within" doesn't count, measure or use points to facilitate weight loss. Many who have gone through the program, she said, have kept significant amounts of weight off for years.

"'Thin Within' deals with your heart," said Joyce, who lost 20 pounds with "Thin Within" in 2006 and has kept it off. "God is dealing with your insides, and what happens on the outside is a result of what happens inside."

End of their ropes

First Baptist started "Thin Within," a national program, five years ago. Some women in the church were battling "that huge monster" of weight loss, Joyce said, and the church wanted to help.

"Anywhere that you have overweight people - and that is in every single church - it's an issue," she said. "Anywhere you have women, you have the issue of weight loss.

Many who join "Thin Within" are at "the end of their ropes," Joyce said. They've tried all sorts of diet plans, but none has worked permanently. When Joyce joined the program, she had spent years losing and gaining back 20 pounds.

"Thin Within" is a 12-week program of daily Bible study and weekly meetings. Joyce said the program focuses on God's original plan for creation, teaching that people were created with an inner mechanism that indicates when they are hungry and when they are satisfied.

"If we pay attention to (the mechanisms), with his help, then we will be our natural God-given size," Joyce said. "But people don't pay attention to them. They eat when they're not hungry, and they eat more than their body requires."

Participants are taught to follow a zero-to-10 scale, where zero is true hunger and 10 is how one feels after a big Thanksgiving meal. "Thin Within" teaches that you should eat at zero and stop at five, waiting for hunger before eating and stopping when satisfied, not stuffed.

A change in thinking

Success requires a change in thinking, which is why many who complete "Thin Within" don't regain the weight, Joyce said.

Some people don't get it, Joyce said. Some people have been through "Thin Within" multiple times and are the same size.

"They're not willing to give up that food and wait for true hunger or stop at satisfaction," she said. "They are so used to following weight-loss rules and measuring because they've lived a lifetime with that type of dieting. This gives you total dependence on God and listening to your body."

Weekly "Thin Within" meetings serve as a Bible study and support group. Participants talk about what they've learned from their daily homework and their struggles and successes with eating. They don't talk about losing weight, Joyce said; instead, they discuss "releasing weight, never to be found again."

Joyce, 52, said "Thin Within" set her free from a lifetime of dieting, diet food and weight-loss programs.

"Not being bound by all those (dieting) rules and regulations was the most freeing thing for me," she said. "Once you've experienced that, no one wants to go back to the old way of life."

Once reticent about her faith, Joyce said her weight loss has become an evangelism platform. When people ask her what diet she's been on, she talks about God.

"It immediately gives you an opportunity to point other people to God," she said. "It's the biggest witnessing program I've ever been in."

First Baptist Church, 101 N. Main St., Kannapolis, will host an information session at 6:30 p.m. Monday for a 12-week "Thin Within" program that begins Jan. 24. The program is open to anyone with food issues, regardless of whether weight loss is the goal.

The community is welcome. For information contact Joyce at kwjoyce@aol.com or 704-236-2160. Information about "Thin Within" is available at www.thinwithin.org.

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