Suzanne Fowler and The Light Weigh
Suzanne Fowler, founder of the "Light Weigh" is, according to her website, the mother of 7 kids (that's wonderful in itself). But when asked about her "weight problem" on the various interviews, she seems somewhat evasive. She supposedly had fought "weight" since the 3rd grade and "wondered what it would be like to not be tempted to overeat." She had an experience (after having four kids) of having a Christian friend turn on her over a foolish thing. "I realized I'd spent a lot of time talking on the phone," Suzanne remembered and said that she felt God had allowed this to happen for a reason to maybe clear her life. "Christ was my closest friend and it was during that time that I realized I wasn't special - this is how He felt about everyone." said Suzanne. She wanted everyone to know how Jesus loves them. But in an earlier interview, she said that she'd, after pregnancy, found herself overeating and sometime came to a realization that she should stop overeating and the Catholic church would offer the tools for doing this. So she devised a weight loss program for herself, which called for studying the Bible, eating very small amounts and when she was still hungry, calling it a "temptation" and praying instead of eating more.
Her daughter, Mary Katherine, told yet a third version of the genesis of the Light Weigh program. "I was in 5th grade so the story goes," said her daughter, "and I basically said to Mom 'why don't you write a program for Catholics to overcome temptation?' and she wrote the program while standing at the kitchen table."
"It's impacted our lives and how we eat. Seems everyone around me is struggling with weight whether overweight or thin and good foods and bad foods...[the Light Weigh] It's such freedom," said the Mary Katherine, who also practices the program.
Suzanne said she started doing the research while she was pregnant with her younger daughter, Breige Clare and then started writing it after the daughter was born. "The Light Weigh program is 10 years old", said Fowler in 2008.
It's seems that there are several different tales of how much weight Suzanne lost with her program. When she was on EWTN she said she lost 40 lbs however, in a 2006 article, she said her loss was 53 lbs and that she took a size 12-14 in college which definitely is more average sized than fat so it is not clear if or when she was, very overweight, which is typical of those who enjoy selling us diets. A Fox News clip aired in 2010 claimed she lost 100 lbs with the program. On the LightWeigh website, Fowler states she once weighed 100 lbs more than she does now but does not specify how much weight she lost on her Light Weigh program.
"We have such beauty in our church which has been put aside, put in the attic so to speak," said Suzanne, a convert to the Catholic church, in the 2008 program, explaining that she's just discovered the Latin Mass.
Fowler decided that since her program worked so well for her maybe she should offer it to others. For a price, of course.
The "Light Weigh" program is 12 DVDs. Suzanne said in her interviews that there is no "weigh in" at the meetings but participants do discuss their progress with the program, according to a happy "Light Weigh" participant... (the source said she liked the program but had not lost a "ton of weight" however, managed to keep from gaining during the holiday season).
The DVDs are issued only, to a group (not to individuals) but remain the property of "The Light Weigh" Inc. i.e. are "on loan" to the group, according to the website. As long as the group continues to hold weekly meetings. (At least, 3 individuals are required to form a "Light Weigh group"). The price per person to attend a series of 12 Light Weigh meetings (about 1 hour in length), is $141. This includes audio tapes, a workbook for the members plus the admission to the group as well as a set of loaner DVDs for the group. After the initial meetings are completed, a group can continue to meet and repeat the program at a cost of $55.00 per member per 12 week session.
In the videos, Suzanne talks about topics on the Catholic faith, how to eat foods and looking to the saints for an example of spiritual living (and spiritual eating - forgetting that some of the saints were definitely overweight). Her website includes several testimonials of folks claiming big weight losses (like all the diet sites).
According to Suzanne, group members should make healthy food choices however, there are no "bad foods" - you learn to be at peace with food. "You enjoy food but food no longer controls you." She assured people that they are precious to God whether they lose weight or not.
"One of the important parts of the program is moderation and balance." said the college aged daughter, "you have to find that middle ground. It's like balancing on a tight rope. You have to keep yourself in check on a daily basis."
Suzanne explained that you learn how to overcome a certain fault until you overcome it like you learn how to reduce your portions. You learn to go to God rather than to temptation (I'm assuming that means eating).
"A lot of the bible passages we study, deal with temptation." said Mary Ruth, another daughter. "The bible study is designed to not take up a ton of your time and it's very practical." she continued.
The dinner table at the Fowler's sounds almost like a Light Weigh meeting, quipped Fr Mark of EWTN. As one of the daughter's explained, they read from the Bible and the LightWeigh cookbook and discuss any problems they might have had during that day. Then their attorney father (who lost 50 lbs on the Light Weigh program) quizzes them on Baltimore Catechism.
Suzanne commented that the focus wasn't on weight loss but on Jesus. "We learn to know what our body needs but your focus is not on yourself but uniting yourself with the Sacrifice Jesus did for us. Who is the Holy Ghost asking you to set yourself aside for", Suzanne suggested we ask ourselves.
Suzanne gave us the impression that food wasn't really discussed on the DVDs but according to a "Health Ministries" newletter, one of the DVD's featured "Holy Spirit Milk and pizza". In part the newsletter wrote:
The program, is based on eating when you are hungry, says that same blogger who regained it all i.e. waiting until your stomach is growling and then, just eating the "right amount" (the fistful of food or what fits in a coffee mug). And if you are still hungry after eating a fistful of food, then, your hunger is called a "temptation" and you are encouraged to pray or read the Bible instead of eat offering your hunger as a "sacrifice".
"I would love to have that cookie right now but I'm going to not have it and offer the sacrifice for a little girl named Kaitlen," said Suzanne explaining the Sacrifice aspect of the program. "This is a very strong prayer" Suzanne told "Life on the Rock", "this little way I feel transformation, the little death - very powerful," concluded Suzanne.
"Even though I wrote the program, there were people doing better with it than I was," Suzanne observed, "I used to have to force myself to not go to the refrigerator and read the Bible instead."
Suzanne describes herself as an "inchworm for God". "I try to make a little progress and I keep getting knocked back but if you just go by inches, you will make progress."
"It's not easy," agreed one of the daughters.
The program does teach about healthy food choices and offers recipes, but participants are free to eat any type of food they want as long as they eat "in moderation".
The diet spot review website listed three advantages of the Light Weigh as being that it is international, it was relevant to all Christians, not just Catholics and it encourages a positive approach to weight loss based on prayer. It also listed several disadvantages of the program including that folks of non Christian religions might not find it relevant, that they felt the price of purchase was a bit "hefty" at $135 bucks (now $141 bucks per member of the group and $55 bucks if your group wishes to repeat the 12 meetings), and that the Light Weigh assumption that people get fat because of a spiritual hunger may not fit a large group of people who are simply overweight from holiday indulgence or pregnancy or living the American lifestyle wherein the events are usually centered around food.
The Light Weigh website which has been greatly improved since I did my original research, does NOT offer much specific information about the program that is, what exactly folks are to eat or how they are to keep track of what they've eaten. One diet website which felt the program may inspire some folks, but may not work for many others, stated that the Light Weigh Website is hard to find specific information on - a detriment since they feel the program is quite pricey and consumers should have more information available about it before they put forth their bucks. They also mentioned that the Light Weigh program does not seem to have (on their website) anything about guarantees or money back if not satisfied with the results.
Suzanne also gives speeches all over the country and although she is generally identified as the founder of "Light Weigh", her speeches are on a range of Catholic subjects including building the family and more. She also, has a short spot on EWTN, according to their website. Additionally, Fowler has written a cookbook which includes a recipe by Bishop Fulton Sheen for meatloaf. At a faith conference in 2005, where she was a featured speaker, the promos said she was a "revert" to the Catholic faith, having come back to the church in her early adulthood which according to Suzanne on the 2008 show, was not true - she said her parents were very hostile toward the church suggesting she might have been a seeker convert rather than a "revert" (returning Catholic), and attributes her conversion to Catholicism to Mother Angelica of EWTN (the Global Catholic Network) but about this, like so many other things, she was vague. It also stated that there were over 1000 Light Weigh groups all over the world. There may be more now.
I listened to three shows featuring Fowler as a guest. In one show, Suzanne gave mostly generalities about faith but in another show aired in 2003 (EWTN's "Life on a Rock"), she was more detailed about what the program taught and in the 2008 show, she told us a bit more about her life.
Especially significant was one of the phone calls from a successful user of the Light Weight - a person who apparently was able to continue working the program and keep her weight off. She asked Suzanne, "What do you tell people and family who say you are too slim and not eating enough?" Suzanne answered that this was a cross that many successful Light Weigh folks had to bear and to just say that you are full and cannot eat any more or you will get sick. Suzanne said that she gets that all the time, also - about being too thin and not eating enough but God has designed your body, according to her, to know what it needs. However her answer suggested that the program may not really supply a healthy amount of food for some folks...
The Light Weigh program has a couple of good ideas. Offering turning down food we do not wish to eat, as a prayer is a good idea. Also, people who have followed the Light Weigh have said they have learned a lot about the faith which is another plus although apparently not always followed by weight loss. One lady stated (in a blog) that by the sixth week tape, although her prayer life increased a lot, her weight had NOT decreased (and she's a weigh loss surgery patient also)!
On the negative side, the Light Weigh, by telling people they can eat "anything they want' may not be encouraging healthy food choices in its followers. (One failed gastric bypass patient featured in a Fox News video was shown eating some kind of cake and says she loves pecan pie with whipped cream).
Those who are fans, are very enthusiastic about this and other faith based programs but whether these programs work well to keep the weight off as well as staying healthy, remains unknown. You may learn something about your faith which is a good thing but to be constantly fighting your body which may require more food than you are putting in, may end up giving folks a negative idea of what Christianity and Catholicism is all about. Those I have known who tried faith based programs, did not continue for very long. But then, I've not known that many folks who tried this sort of thing. I got on a thread on a large Catholic site looking for people who were currently working the program but only found a couple who had heard of the program, a couple who had a one time smaller weight loss using the program and no one who was currently on the "Light Weigh"...
Addenda 5-2-09: The fact that Suzanne's husband, apparently an attorney, threatened me with a nasty "official" letter sent to my HOME ADDRESS, priority mail, saying I'd better take down this article or else, suggests that if you don't pay in time or want to return the materials, the Light Weigh may not be the greatest group to work with. I called him voice and explained that I knew my rights, including the right to pen an OPed - he then admitted this was true, but insisted that I take down the copyright (implied) photo of Fowler that I had originally, included with the article... this I did. (Hence the photo of the slim model included above)
Addenda 10-3-2014: I tried to find up-to-date info on this program and its founder - the Light Weigh Website is quite a bit more informative than it was when I first penned this article but other than that, I could not find any negative reviews (comeon folks, everything has negative reviews) on the web. Makes me wonder if anyone posting a negative review has been called and threatened in a similar manner to what was done with me. :/