The fashionably attired diet guru Gwen Shamblin is not easily confused with the shabbily robed monks of the early church (though she does wear black on the cover of her current book). But when I hear Shamblin (creator of the Weigh Down Diet), it is the early monks who most readily come to mind:An anonymous desert monk: "One man eats a lot and is still hungry. Another eats a little and has had enough."Shamblin: "When I approach food, I'm prayerful, thankful, and full of joy toward the Genius of recipes. This fullness prevents me from desiring extra food."Monk-turned-pope Gregory the Great: "When the disturbed has lost the satisfaction of joy within, it seeks for sources of consolation without, and is more anxious to possess external goods the more it has no joy."Shamblin: "Our hearts were programmed by God to love, to worship, to adore. … God has given us an object for this affection that will not rob us or hurt us."And so on. To be sure, differences abound as well, as staff writer Lauren Winner's "The Weigh and the Truth" (p. 50) shows. Weigh Down and other diet programs may raise as many issues as does extreme asceticism. But it is more than a controversy over a fad that sparks our journalistic interest.Balancing our avaricious appetites and the demands of discipleship has challenged Christians since day one. It is no accident that both Jesus and Paul often singled out food as the antithesis to things spiritual: "Doesn't life consist of more than food?" (Matthew 6:25) "The kingdom of heaven is not food and drink but living a life of goodness, peace, joy" (Romans 14:17). The current Christian dieting movement is fascinating also because it is our late-20th-century attempt to address this perennial concern.• • •We're expanding ...

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Perennial Diet Wars
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September 4, 2000

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