The Eye-Opening Truth About Gwen Shamblin Lara's Religious Childhood

Cults have been around for ages, and there seems to be no shortage of them in various aspects of society. The rich and the famous as well as the everyday impressionable have been or fallen victim to cults. Common traits that leaders of cults share include charisma and narcissism, which is how they're able to attract and grow a following (via Refinery 29). One of those alleged cultists was the Tennessee-born author Gwen Shamblin Lara. Known for often sporting a pompadour hairstyle, she was best known as the creator of the Weigh Down Diet and Workshop — a weight loss program whose mission states that you should only eat when it's necessary and that it is God's will. The concept turned into a religious belief system, and Lara founded the Remnant Fellowship Church.

Lara died in a plane crash with her husband and others on May 29, 2021, per Tennessean. But despite her death, a new documentary sheds light on a variety of accusations associated with Lara, her church, and a cult following she led, per The Daily Beast. The documentary, titled "The Way Down: God, Greed and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin," will demonstrate how Lara used harmful tactics in promoting her weight loss agenda under the guise of religion and enriched herself for years. But where did this mindset come from?

Lara's religious childhood

Gwen Shamblin Lara was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 18, 1955. She would spend most of her life there. Her father, Walter Henley, was a doctor, and she would follow in his footsteps. Her interest in the medical field would ultimately lead to becoming a dietitian.

Lara grew up in an extremely religious household — the obvious upbringing that would lead her to turning her weight loss mission into a religious one. Her family followed the Church of Christ — an ultra conservative form of Protestantism. Her Protestant church had very strict rules. According to Britannica, the aim of this church is to practice the New Testament version of the Bible. Each church is also independent of each other, meaning a single church can govern itself and establish its own rules. Lara's church, in particular, didn't allow female parishioners to speak or even preach the good word publicly. Women were also forbidden from being leaders of the church (via The Guardian). Additionally, music is not allowed in these churches as it doesn't follow the traditional way, per Christianity

Life after church shaped Lara's views

Per The Daily Beast, Gwen Shamblin Lara's religion played a big role in her young life, but also exposed her to very antiquated views for women. Yet, this is the church that Lara attended in Memphis up until 1999, when she decided to leave and create her own house of God. On Lara's church website, it states that she was raised with "strong faith and foundational values."

When Lara founded the Remnant Fellowship Church, it was likely a sign that she believed in using her voice to preach and share her weight loss advice mixed with religion. But in turn, she also allegedly pushed and encouraged harmful ideas for the women who followed her church. According to News Channel 5, Lara held some controversial views and had been accused of having a cult following for years before her death. A very common accusation the Church of Christ has had to shake off for years (via Oak Grove).