Sarah Williams, overweight since childhood, lost 20 pounds since Thanksgiving without the help of diet pills, Weight Watchers or a fad diet.
She did it through the Bible.
After spending four years in India where she and her husband were Baptist missionaries, the Baltimore woman returned last summer and discovered Overeaters Victorious.
The program, started nearly three years ago by a chronically overweight St. Paul, Minn., woman, combines a high protein diet with daily scripture readings designed to reinforce will-power and self-confidence.
The founder, Neva Coyle, attributes her 100-pound weight loss to the program, which she designed for herself after failing to lose weight permanently through commerical diets and intestinal bypass surgery.
Following the failures, Coyle, 37, sat down with a spiral notebook and a Bible to see if there were any inspirational scriptures she could apply to her 248-pound condition.
"I began with Deuteronomy and took out passages on how God gives us choices," she said. "I decided, okay, I'm in charge of my body -- it's up to me to make the choice -- even down to what I'm going to eat."
Noticing her continued weight loss, Coyle's friends began quizzing her on her secret of success. She shared it and soon she was meeting weekly with a small group of women. Overeaters Victorious incorporated in July 1977.By December of that year, several chapeters had formed.
Today Coyle's program has approximately 1,600 members, most of whom meet weekly for group sessions in addition to following a printed guide and cassette tapes. Members are concentrated in the South and Midwest. Williams is one of two members on the East Coast.
Followers also fill out daily weight and calorie charts and interpret biblical passages which they mail to Overeaters Victorious headquaters in New Brighton, Minn. Williams said she always receives a personal reply to her weight records, either commending her or suggesting diet changes.
Williams says she will be able to keep up the diet when she returns to India in June because the study guides and tapes will give here support.
Coyle now has a staff of seven who run the program while she fulfills speaking engagements all over the country.
Coyle said the Overeaters Victorione correspondence course costs $20. Cassette tapes cost an additional $30 and study guides, $5.95.
Coyle said she is not getting rich from her venture because expenses take nearly all the corporation's income.