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Gwen Shamblin Lara is an American non-fiction author and founder of The Weigh Down Workshop and founder of the Remnant Fellowship Church. The most distinctive aspect of her writing is its combination of weight loss programs with Christianity.

Gwen Shamblin Lara
Gwen Shamblin 2018 (cropped).jpg
Born (1955-02-18) February 18, 1955 (age 64)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
OccupationAuthor and Registered Dietician
ResidenceBrentwood, Tennessee
GenreSelf-help, Non-fiction
David Shamblin
(m. 1978; div. 2018)

Joe Lara (m. 2018)
ChildrenMichael Shamblin,[1] Elizabeth Shamblin Hannah[2]


Early lifeEdit

Gwen earned an undergraduate degree in dietetics from University of Tennessee, in Knoxville[3] and then her master's degree in food and nutrition[4] from the Memphis State University. She is a registered dietitian,[5] consultant, and was a faculty member at the Memphis State University for five years.[6] She also worked in the state's health department[4] for an additional five years.

Personal lifeEdit

Gwen was raised in an interdenominational Christian family.[7] She has two children and seven grandchildren.[8][9]and as of March 1996, Gwen lives with her family in a historic mansion in Brentwood, Tennessee, known as Ashlawn, that was built in 1838.[10][11] In 2018 she married Joe Lara[12]

Ministry careerEdit

Weigh Down WorkshopEdit

Gwen began her consulting practice in the area of weight control in 1980.[6] She had struggled with her weight while attending school.[13] She became "convinced that genetics, metabolism and behavior modification alone couldn't explain why some people were thin and others battled the bulge."[14] In 1986, Gwen founded the Weigh Down Workshop,[15][16] a weight loss program which has “no forbidden foods, exercise regimen or weigh-ins,”[17] and avoids “calorie counting.”[18] As The Tennessean points out, the program lacks “some basic elements,” like exercise and guidance on food selection, as recommended by the American Dietetic Association.[19] According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “the Weigh Down Workshop attempts to help participants develop the discipline to eat only when they are hungry and to stop eating when they are full.”[20]

Gwen developed the program while working on her master's degree at Memphis State University.[21] As part of a counseling center,[22] she held the first class in a mall in Memphis, Tennessee;[23] the program was initially only offered as small classes in similar retail[24] and other non-religious settings.[25] In 1991[15][16] or 1992, she began hosting the program at Bellevue Baptist Church located in the Memphis area.[26] The program consists of twelve-week seminars guided by video and audio tapes featuring Gwen.[27] The meetings consist of a group viewing of one of her videos, along with prayer and discussion.[28] By 1994, the program quickly spread as far away as Europe and was offered in about 600 churches in at least 35 US States.[14]

According to the Associated Press, by January 1995, the program could be found in over 1,000 churches in forty-nine US States, as well as at locations in Britain and Canada;[17] but by July 1996, the workshop was at about 5,000 churches, with close to ten percent located in Gwen's home-state of Tennessee.[29] As many as eight churches in Britain were hosting workshops by December 1996.[30] Some participants in the US would also host meetings in their private homes.[15]

In 1996, Weigh Down, which consisted of a forty-person staff, began building a headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee.[16] The same year, Gwen Shamblin Lara and Weigh Down began hosting an annual summer convention, known as Desert Oasis, in the Nashville area.[16][31]

By August 1998, Weigh Down was holding more than 21,000 classes with over 250,000 reported participants worldwide.[32] Weigh Down Workshop classes would eventually spread to all fifty US states[16] and every continent,[33] becoming "one of the most popular weight-loss programs in the world" by mid-2000.[34] Gwen has also been traveling to other cities as part of the Rebuilding the Wall tour.[35]

Other dietitians have questioned the soundness of Gwen's diet advice, which focuses on faith instead of healthy eating habits or exercise.[36][37] In the book Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity, author Marie Griffith, a Princeton University associate professor of religion, examines the trend of religion-based dieting. Although critical of Gwen for using the Christianity label while building her business, Griffith credits her for the new wave of interest in creating "a more holy body", and substantial sections of the work examine Shamblin's movement.[38] Griffith notes, "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."[39] At the same time, Griffith's work places Shamblin's movement squarely within a historical tradition of perfecting one's body in order to be more Christ-like, or fasting and dieting in order to feel closer to God.[38]

In 2001, NewsChannel 5, a local Nashville news station, aired a story entitled "Is it a ministry or just big business?", looking into how Weigh Down Workshop's money was spent. Towards the end of the interview, Gwen states that "half of [the money] goes to the government, the other half goes to keep it going so someone else can be helped." According to the news report, "She says she would sell her belongings to keep the ministry going."[40]

Remnant Fellowship ChurchEdit

Gwen founded the Remnant Fellowship Church in 1999, which at first was a small gathering at the back of the Weigh Down building in Franklin, TN in the shipping department.[9] In 2002, the Shamblins purchased 40 acres of land in Brentwood, Tennessee, where construction for the church building took place.[9][41]

Building of the church wrapped up in 2004.[42]

The church has members from all across the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, and Canada.

The church does a live webcast for their church program. normally, services are 6:00 PM Wednesdays (CDT) and 9:00 AM Saturday (CDT)[43]. The church's membership count is over a thousand.


Gwen Shamblin Lara is the author of The Weigh Down Diet.[44] First published in March 1997, this diet “advises using spirituality to avoid overeating and has sold more than 1.2 million copies.”[45] The publisher Doubleday reported selling four hundred thousand copies in less than a year.[26] In this book, Gwen expounds on her theory that there are two very different needs in each person: a need for food and an emotional need. According to her, people should only eat when they feel real, physical hunger and stop when full; prayer and Bible reading will fill emotional needs instead of food. Overeating is equated with greed. A core principle of The Weigh Down Diet, when people feel an urge to snack but are not experiencing physiological hunger, Gwen encourages participants to read the Bible instead.[46]

Since the release of her first book, Gwen has written a number of books including Rise Above[47] and a self-published devotional book titled Exodus.[48]

Controversy arose when Gwen began to teach that the doctrine of the Trinity was not Biblical. She stated that she believes Jesus Christ is not God but rather God's son.[49] This led Thomas Nelson Publishers to cancel the publication of Exodus, her next work. In a letter to her followers sent to clarify her position on the Trinity, Gwen wrote: "The reason all of this is important is that if you do not understand that God is the clear authority and that Jesus was under God's authority, then you will not have a clear picture of what it means to be Christ like. Jesus suffered, obeyed, submitted, denied his will, and made it his food to do the will of the Father." Later she writes, "I believe that Jesus and God are two separate beings." She also says that she does not believe that Jesus and God are equal in power and glory.[50]

Television, magazine and news media appearancesEdit

The popularity of Gwen's teachings has resulted in its appearances on BBC,[51] 20/20,[31], A Current Affair,[8], The View,[52][53] and Dateline (Australian)[54] as well as in such magazines as Family Circle,[34] Good Housekeeping,[55] Woman's Day,[14] and many newspaper articles.[23][28][32] She has been featured on The Today Show,[56] CNN's Larry King Live,[8][31] DaySide,[57] and The Early Show.[58] Participants from the Weigh Down Workshop have been featured on the cover of Good Housekeeping,[59] in the Ladies' Home Journal,[60] in People Magazine,[61] First magazine,[62] Quick and Simple,[63] and in numerous newspaper articles. In 2007, The Tyra Banks Show devoted an hour-long program to Gwen, the Weigh Down Diet,[64] the Fellowship and participants from Weigh Down programs.

In 2009, Gwen and Weigh Down were featured on such television programs as WeTV's Secret Lives of Women,[65] CBS’s The Insider.[citation needed] In late 2011, She began producing a live Internet show, titled You Can Overcome.[66]

Selected worksEdit


  • The Weigh Down Diet. Doubleday. 1997. ISBN 9780385487627.

Other mediaEdit


  1. ^ "".
  2. ^ "".
  3. ^ "Williamson County Local Authors". Williamson County Library. Archived from the original on 2006-01-31. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
  4. ^ a b Thorp, Lori Frazer (1998-01-08). "Frazee woman shares personal weight loss story". Frazee Forum.
  5. ^ Gang, Christine Arpe (1988-04-13). "Unorthodox diet plan targeted at teens". Longview News-Journal. p. 4C. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  6. ^ a b "Heart & Soul: An interview with Gwen Shamblin, founder of the Weigh Down Workshop". Murfreesboro Matters. 1 (3). February 1999. p. 3.
  7. ^ White, Gaule (1997-03-31). "Dieting religiously". Democrat and Chronicle. p. 3C. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  8. ^ a b c Ieron, Julie-Allyson (January 2000). "Women of the Year: Gwen Shamblin". Clarity Magazine.
  9. ^ a b c "".
  10. ^ McCampbell, Candy (1996-03-11). "You could've had it, for $2.3 million". The Tennessean. p. 1E. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  11. ^ "Ashlawn". City of Brentwood. Archived from the original on 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2011-08-11.
  12. ^ "About - Gwen Shamblin". Gwen Shamblin. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  13. ^ Hull, Dana (1997-05-17). "Dieters putting their faith in sustenance of the spirit". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  14. ^ a b c Spencer, Paula (1994-11-22). "Divine Intervention". Woman's Day. pp. 76, 78.
  15. ^ a b c Waddle, Ray (1994-02-27). "Churchgoers leaning on God to shed their unwanted pounds". The Tennessean. p. 2A. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  16. ^ a b c d e Waddle, Ray (1996-07-03). "Weigh Down transfers love for food into love for God". The Tennessean. pp. 1B–2B. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  17. ^ a b Associated Press (1995-01-03). "God is focus of weight-loss program". Battle Creek Enquirer. p. 4A. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  18. ^ Whyche, Stephanie (1995-10-09). "The Weigh to the Lite". The News Journal. pp. C1, C4. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  19. ^ Quigley, Linda (1997-03-01). "Praying away the pounds". The Tennessean. pp. 1D, 4D. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  20. ^ Holmes, Kristin E. (1996-05-06). "Christian dieters saying faith can defeat fat". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. B1, B3. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  21. ^ Kleczynski, Jennifer Coleridge (1995-04-21). "Program helps dieters succeed". Strictly Hunterdon. The Courier-News. p. 5. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  22. ^ "Dieters seek help in religion". The News Journal. 1997-04-13. pp. J1, J7. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  23. ^ a b Bell, Bill (1998-06-17). "The wages of thin: By putting grace before meals, Christian diet programs are reshaping lives". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  24. ^ Graham, Jennifer (1994-12-07). "Weight-loss disciples are shedding the extra pounds through prayer". Democrat and Chronicle. pp. 1C, 6C. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  25. ^ Wells, Valerie (1995-05-06). "Weighty matters". Herald and Review. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  26. ^ a b Hill, Laura (1998-02-10). "In God's own image". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  27. ^ Johnson II, Lucas L. (1996-07-18). "Faith helps some people lower weight way down". Greensboro News & Record. The Associated Press. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  28. ^ a b Rosenfeld, Megan (1995-01-23). "Dieting with Jesus". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  29. ^ Associated Press (1996-07-26). "Program urges people to turn to God to shed pounds". The Daily Spectrum. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  30. ^ Brooks, Richard (1996-12-29). "The divine diet". The Observer. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  31. ^ a b c De La Cruz, Jessi (1999-03-19). "Heavenly help". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  32. ^ a b Lauerman, Connie (1998-08-20). "Christian Diet Programs: Nourishing The Spirit Is The Key To Slimming Down The Body". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  33. ^ "Random House". Retrieved 2010-02-11.
  34. ^ a b Long, Marion (May 2000). "The Power to Change". Family Circle. pp. 58–59.
  35. ^ Kennedy, John W. (2002-12-09). "New Sect: Weigh Down guru Gwen Shamblin's Remnant Fellowship grows". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  36. ^ Morning News, Dallas (2006-04-14). "God is Their Weight-Loss Guru". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
  37. ^ "Gwen Shamblin's Weigh Down Workshop". Retrieved 2007-05-23.
  38. ^ a b Griffith, R. Marie (2004-10-04). Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520938113.
  39. ^ Allen, Patricia (2005-01-27). "Religion professor examines 'salvation by diet' phenomenon". News@Princeton. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
  40. ^ "Part 1: Is it a ministry or just big business?". July 1, 2001. Archived from the original on February 24, 2012.
  41. ^ "".
  42. ^ "".
  43. ^ "".
  44. ^ Booth, Claire (1997-03-14). "Dietitian says God, not food fills void". The Times. Shreveport, Louisiana. p. 2D. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  45. ^ Stein, Joel (1999-10-24). "The Low-Carb Diet Craze". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  46. ^ Mulrine, Anna (1997-04-27). "A Godly Approach to Weight Loss". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2007-04-06.
  47. ^ Shamblin, Gwen (2000). Rise Above: God Can Set You Free from Your Weight Problems Forever. T. Nelson. ISBN 9780785268765.
  48. ^ Shamblin, Gwen (1998-09-01). Exodus: Daily Devotional. Weigh Down Workshop. ISBN 9781892729002.
  49. ^ Controversy, Trinity. "Home". Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  50. ^ Veenker, Jody (September 1, 2000). "The Weigh Is Narrow". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
  51. ^ "BBC Features Gwen Shamblin and Weigh Down". Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  52. ^ "Profile: Weigh Down Workshop/ Remnant Fellowship" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 20, 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  53. ^ "Founder of Weigh Down Workshop to hold seminar at Great Hall". Germantown News. April 6, 2011. p. 7B. Gwen Shamblin and the Weigh Down Workshop was featured on such shows as 20/20, Larry King Live, and The View, as well as in such magazines as Good Housekeeping and Woman's Day |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  54. ^ "This week on Dateline: Slim for Him". News. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  55. ^ Torgovnick, Kate (2008-01-31). "Lose the Weight for Good!". Good Housekeeping. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  56. ^ "The Today Show's Matt Lauer Interviews Gwen Shamblin Weigh Down Founder". Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  57. ^ "Can Praying Help You Lose Weight?". Fox News. 2004-06-14.
  58. ^ "The Early Show". CBS.
  59. ^ Bollinger, Caroline (April 2007). "Slim-Down Secrets". Good House Keeping. pp. 158–160.
  60. ^ Cherry, Rona (January 2007). "Diet help from on high?". Ladies' Home Journal.
  61. ^ Williams, Ashley (2008-01-14). "Incredible Shrinking Couple". People Magazine. 69 (1). Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  62. ^ "I stopped thinking about food and the fat fell off!". First Magazine. 2005-04-11.
  63. ^ "How I Prayed Off the Pounds". Quick & Simple. 2007-05-29. pp. 8–9.
  64. ^ "The Tyra Show: Season 2, Episode 143 Church of Thin". TV Guide. 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  65. ^ "Extreme Diets: God's Diet". WE tv. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  66. ^ "You Can Overcome Show Archives - Remnant Fellowship TV". Remnant Fellowship TV. Retrieved 2017-07-08.

External linksEdit