A few years ago, busy self-described soccer mom Emily Boller found herself scarfing down the leftovers from her kids Happy Meals, cleaning their plates of cold, boxed macaroni and cheese and even scavenging the trash after family parties for chunks of uneaten birthday cake.
With each of her pregnancies, she says, she watched her weight climb, until, after her fifth baby, she found herself more than 100 pounds overweight.
I became very addicted to food. I had to have it, Boller says. I used to love doing dishes at night because it was my time to eat all the leftover food while my husband was in the other room playing with the kids.
If any of that sounds even vaguely like you, the Aboite Township woman says it doesnt have to be that way.
In the last three years, Boller has lost 100 pounds and kept it off. And shes now a major force behind an effort at First Assembly of God to get its congregation – and the rest of Fort Wayne – on a path to better health.
The effort will be highlighted Saturday, when the church at West Washington Center and Lima roads hosts an all-day Health Immersion public seminar by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, developer of the best-selling Eat to Live diet plan. Boller, a First Assembly member, credits Eat to Live for her weight loss.
Fuhrman, a family practice physician, is making his first visit to a city in the Midwest, Boller says.
And he couldnt have picked a better place, says the Rev. Don Williams, First Assemblys pastor of adult ministries.
After all, the Centers for Disease Control did recently rank Fort Wayne as the second most artery-clogging city in America based on its statistics for heart disease. The CDC also cited Fort Wayne as one of Americas fattest cities in the early 2000s.
First Assembly is a reflection of Fort Wayne. And the reality is that we are in a community that doesnt take care of themselves, Williams says.
Williams says church leaders have been trying to educate members about a Christian view of the body as important to God, who took the form of a human body in Jesus, and promises a bodily resurrection. The New Testament encourages Christians to take care of the body, calling it the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Nonetheless, they havent always taken the teaching to heart. Historically, Pentecostals in North America have not been the healthiest of people. We dont drink, and we talk about (not) smoking, but we havent thought anything about the fact that we can eat ourselves into oblivion, he says.
While Eat to Live is not specifically Christian or faith-based, Williams says congregational leaders chose to host Fuhrman after seeing Bollers success. They liked the plan, he adds, because its a life-long approach that doesnt require prepackaged food; instead, it uses fresh foods available in any grocery store.
Still, Fuhrmans program isnt weight loss for sissies. His so-called nutritarian approach in the first six weeks cuts out animal-derived and dairy foods, oils, fruit juice, salt and between-meal snacks.
What do adherents eat? Thirty percent to 60 percent of calories come from two pounds of daily vegetables – mostly green vegetables and only half of which are cooked. Ten to 40 percent of calories come from fruits, 10 percent to 20 percent from beans and legumes and most of the rest from seeds and nuts.
Boller, a visual artist who now is a paid blogger for Fuhrmans website, says the diet stresses nutrient-dense foods she now finds more satisfying than the typical American diet.
I tell people I starved myself to obesity because I just ate crap food – anything with fat and salt and sugar, I ate it, she says. My body was starved for nutrients.
Many of those who have commented online about the diet say its so restrictive its difficult to stay on it. But Boller says her cravings eventually eased. It took her 10 months to lose 100 pounds.
It takes two or three weeks for those taste buds to change, she says. But when they do, they crave vegetables over junk food. For me, the craving has been gone for years.
The program offers an online support system for participants, which Boller calls critical in the first month.
Williams, who himself cut out sugar a number of years ago at Bollers urging, says the church is now contemplating adding more healthful food options to its gatherings. No, it wont stop serving coffee and donuts – but plans are to add more fruits and veggies.
He says he expects a bit of push-back from some members, as he would with any church emphasis.
Youll always have some people who wont engage with that process, Williams says. What you do is you love them anyway.
Boller, 50, who also is putting together an art exhibit on her weight loss, says theres much to gain from losing.
Before she started her diet on July 10, 2008, she was having chest pains and shortness of breath, was pre-diabetic and had high blood pressure. At 47, shed undergone a heart catheterization, her knees hurt and she constantly felt tired and depressed.
What can I do now? Gosh, she says. I can ride a bike. I can camp in a tent – I felt like a gorilla in a closet in a tent. I can get in the back of a two-seater car. I can jog. I can hike. I can climb the sand dunes in Michigan with my kids. I ran the Fort-4-Fitness (4-mile event).
The best thing is before I was a spectator at my kids sports. Now Im one of the participants, she says. Your body just comes alive eating this way.