Divisive Preacher Speaks At School Meeting

Dietician Accused Of Advocating Near-Starvation Dieting

WSMV-TV/March 14, 2009

Hendersonville, Tennessee - A controversial preacher who has been accused of advocating "near-starvation" dieting was the featured speaker at a school nutrition meeting.

Gwen Shamblin, a dietician who founded the Weigh Down Workshop, took her message of prayer to curb appetite to Sumner County schools this week.

Now the superintendent admits it wasn't a good idea.

Shamblin is credited with helping people to lose weight. The message: Let God tell you when you're hungry and when to stop eating.

"You've got to be different," said Shamblin. "You have got to change."

Shamblin's program is controversial. Critics said it is a glorified form of starvation and employs mind control.

In 2004, the death of an 8-year-old sent investigators to her office, amid accusations that her church encouraged child abuse.

Thursday, Shamblin spoke at Station Camp Elementary School. She was an invited guest of the school system's nutrition association, a group made up of food service managers and workers. They meet regularly for professional development.

"She may have used the word 'God' instead of 'Lord,' but otherwise she really didn't over exaggerate anything," said Linda Becker, nutrition supervisor.

Becker said she didn't know about Shamblin's controversial past and didn't feel her appearance violated the separation of church and state.

"I felt like under the circumstance of trying to discipline your body, and the measure that it was presented and used in, I felt like that it was OK, you know, at that time," said Becker.

But school leaders say the choice of Shamblin was not OK and that the speaker should have been better researched.

Shamblin's publicist said she was told the visit went well and was surprised to hear that it had sparked controversy.

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