Last January, Annandale, Va., minister Steve Reynolds told his congregation that they were praying too much at the altar of fatty foods, and he put them on a diet.
One year later, how did they do?
Very well, Reynolds said. About 250 people, most of them members of Reynolds' Capital Baptist Church, joined in his Bod4God weight-loss program that combined Christian principles with a low-fat diet and exercise. They lost a total of 2,100 pounds.
"It was wonderful," said Diane Cornell, a Falls Church, Va., homemaker who shed 46 pounds. "It was like you got your life right with God and the weight just came off."
The program was so successful that Reynolds is starting it up again, launching the 2008 version of Bod4God with a kickoff luncheon Jan. 19 at the church. As many as 300 people are expected to enroll for the first of three sessions this year.
Bod4God has also spread to other communities. A dozen churches and community groups in North Carolina, Texas and New York are launching their own versions of Bod4God this year.
Reynolds credits a story in The Washington Post in January 2007 for attracting widespread interest to his homegrown program. A former college football player, he developed it during his quest to lose the weight he'd packed on during 25 years of preaching, high-fat church suppers and little exercise.
After losing 70 pounds, he looked around his church and concluded that plenty of its members could also benefit.
Now, he has lost 108 pounds, published a book, "Bod 4God: Four Keys to a Better Body," and has become something of a diet guru to Christians seeking to shake off extra weight.
His new direction comes as a bit of a surprise to him.
"I really wouldn't have postured my life this way if it was by my own design," said Reynolds, 50. "But I feel like it's a calling that God has given me, and I'm going to step up."
In Bod4God, participants meet weekly at the church for weigh-ins, a motivational rally and a speaker. Then they break up into groups of 12 (like Jesus' disciples), where they discuss their challenges and pray for one another. During the week, the teams stay in touch to offer encouragement and prayer.
They also study the Bible, focusing on verses that appear to apply to issues of health and body image, such as Romans 12:1-2 &
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."
As the program grows, Reynolds said he's relying on God to direct him.
"I want to take it as far as He wants it to go," he said. "I want it to be huge."
An almighty weight loss