Book Review: 'The Joy of Weight Loss A Spiritual Guide to Easy Fitness' by Norris Chumley –

by KathleenDuffy

This diet describes a spiritual approach to weight loss. Norris Chumley believes that food cravings often mask a deep spiritual emptiness. But does his approach work?

Norris Chumley is an Emmy award-winning executive producer/director, and professor.

His diet book, 'The Joy of Weight Loss – A Spiritual Guide to Easy Fitness', grew out of his own weight gain as a young man.

At aged sixteen he weighed 28 stones, but for well over a decade Chumley has kept the weight off and is a healthy 17 stones.

Chumley’s breakthrough came when he attended a spiritual weight loss programme, Overeaters Anonymous, which emphasises the need to let go of pride. Like the Twelve Step Programme for Alcoholics Anonymous, members of Overeaters Anonymous ask a Higher Power for help.

Chumley realised that at the heart of his problem with weight was a spiritual void which he was filling with food.

Low Self-Esteem and Obesity

The first part of The Joy of Weight Loss deals with the low self-esteem which, Chumley believes, many overweight people suffer from.

Chumley admits that there is often a hidden value in clinging on to self-criticism. He explores the concept of fat as a buffer against the trials of life, possibly stemming from childhood traumas.

Chumley believes that obesity allows the sufferer to opt out of relationships that may be hurtful and difficult to handle, giving one the excuse to avoid stressful situations.

Two Upbeat DVDs by Norris Chumley

Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss

Meet five ordinary people who've won the toughest fight of their life - a lifelong struggle with obesity. Join host Susan Sarandon as she reveals how each of them lost tremendou...

View on Amazon

30 Days To Spiritual Well-Being

Norris Chumley presents a revolutionary 30-day program promoting overall health and well-being. Utilizing the latest DVD technology, this fully interactive disc puts you in cont...

View on Amazon

Overeaters Anonymous Helped Chumley Lose Weight

Once obesity and low self-esteem are recognised as life-denying, Chumley discusses finding joy in the acceptance of sorrow, allowing oneself to feel powerful emotions instead of suppressing them and being courageous enough to take a leap of faith to forego overeating and face life instead.

In conjunction with his weight loss plan, Chumley recommends the support of a spiritual programme, such as Overeaters Anonymous and offers the dieter the constant reassurance that one is never alone. “Let go and let God” seems to be the underlying theme.

Joy of Weight Loss Plan

USDA Food Pyramid
USDA Food Pyramid

The first part of the book, dealing with life-affirmation strategies, is followed by the Joy of Weight Loss Eating Plan which is based on the US Department of Agriculture/US Department of Health and Human Services Food Guide Pyramid (USDA Food Guide Pyramid).

Following the guidelines of the USDA Food Guide Pyramid will ensure a slow, steady, safe weight loss of about two pounds a week. Chumley explains in detail how to use the Food Guide Pyramid and how to recognise moderate serving sizes, the values of each food group and the way in which eating correctly can become habitual and enjoyable.

The difference with Chumley’s weight loss plan, however, is that training the mind and controlling one’s thoughts are a constant theme throughout the book, enabling food to become a means to health and happiness rather than an excuse to deny life.

Movement and excercise are encouraged, but they are developed slowly and take their natural place as joyful additions to the new life of the dieter, rather than as routine tasks.

Joy of Weight Loss Personal Guide

Chumley knows from experience that the road to weight loss is far from easy and provides a thirty-day Personal Guide to help ease the burden. It involves positive thinking, prayer and meditation, and monitoring one’s movements and activities.

The idea is to break the cycle of dependency on food for emotional sustenance and instead become active in shaping one’s life anew.

Watch this short video - Norris Cooks a Low-Fat Hamburger

Spiritual Approach to Weight Loss – Is it for Everyone?

Perhaps one criticism of this book could be that it appears to be exclusively geared towards Christians or people who once had a belief system but have lost it. Throughout the book, Chumley never loses sight of the importance of spiritual awareness. The margins are peppered with uplifting anecdotes and quotations from people as varied as Tolstoy and the Dalai Lama.

But could Chumley's approach work for an atheist, agnostic or complete sceptic?

Spiritual Guides that May Help With Your Weight Loss Programme

Learning to live in the moment is a vital tool
Meditation for Christians: Entering t...Meditation For BeginnersMeditation For Dummies, w/Audio CD

Norris Chumley Speaks from Experience

He's been there and done it!

Obesity is often such a life-threatening state, whether through the increased risk of severe health problems or suicide, that Chumley’s book is worth taking on board whatever one’s beliefs  - or lack of them. “Just do it” might be the best advice. 

For Chumley, it’s all about giving in, becoming humble and losing the pride that prevents one from asking for help from outside oneself.  But that doesn't mean being miserable!  Far from it!  Norris Chumley is forever upbeat and loves dancing - as You Tube will testify!  (It made me laugh...)

Chumley has been there and done it. He doesn’t blame the obese for their situation, but looks beyond food to what he regards as the real problem – spiritual loneliness.

The weight loss programme outlined in this book, with its upbeat message and positive routines, could be a really valuable companion along the way to recovery, whatever one’s beliefs.


The Joy of Weight Loss - A Spiritual Guide to Easy Fitness by Norris Chumley (Lantern Books, 2001 ISBN 1-930051-19-0)

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Updated: 06/28/2013, KathleenDuffy
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Mira on 06/28/2013

Right, whatever works for people. Only sometime after diets (which is different than anything of a psychological or spiritual approach) people's bodies are in a worst condition than when they started. Their blood work is not good, and too many end up gaining the pounds they lost and more.
With the advent of summer, I keep seeing weight loss stuff on Pinterest. Despite my skepticism regarding the claims of this book, it's probably much better than 99% of what I see there ;-)
And yes, I completely agree about dried fruit myself. I'm a fan! I use it with oatmeal instead of sugar + to add flavor.

KathleenDuffy on 06/28/2013

I guess you could eat dried fruit or other healthy sugar option things. I think there's lots of reasons people feel that they put on weight - this is just one of them. Different strokes for different folks as they say. :) some people feel that organisations like Overeaters Anonymous are valuable, just as Alcoholics Anonymous is, whilst others feel they are a waste of time. It's a personal choice.

Mira on 06/28/2013

What about when you're low on energy and need sugar as a pick-me-up? Of course, sugar can be addictive and creates a feeling of well-being, but from that to "spiritual loneliness" is a long way. In any event, I have many pet peeves with weight loss theories and books. Over here, for instance, many people believe you shouldn't eat grains!! How about that? I'm all for bread, pasta, etc. Whole-grain, of course. I could go on and on. :)

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