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Smack in the center of the Genesis story about Adam and Eve and their decision to go against God is a piece of fruit.

So it isn't a big leap for Ron Williams, a much-decorated bodybuilder, personal trainer and Christian church founder, to conclude that food is a tool used by Satan to separate God's children from their creator.

While food is a gift from God and necessary for life, Satan from the beginning has recognized the power it holds to enslave people, says Williams, a Draper resident who promotes his "Faith & Fat Loss" program nationwide.

Gluttony is one way. "Your belly becomes your God," Williams says.

Stripping food of its nutrients and pumping it full of toxic additives is another method used by "the adversary," as Williams describes the devil. "We see this as an attack."

Not only do unhealthy foods make people sick, but they also lead to too much weight and obesity. And when people suffer such problems, he says, they often are too depressed about their health and appearance to spend time with God or serving others.

The prescription Williams spells out in his 2008 self-published book, Faith & Fat Loss , is a lifestyle transformation centered on God. The four-part plan involves reading scripture, prayer, exercise and eating balanced, nutritious meals.

"There is no transformation without God," he says.

Williams' formula is not the only faith-based approach to weight loss on the market.

From Weight Loss God's Way to The Maker's Diet to Body by God , diets and eating plans centered on the Christian faith abound.

Yet there is little research that faith actually can help one lose weight or overcome obesity, says David York, director of the Center for Advanced Nutrition at Utah State University.

"There is no magic way faith can melt fat away," York says.

If faith causes a person to change habits, to reduce stress and become more engaged with friends and family, he says, it may be part of the permanent change needed to lose weight.

"There has to be a complete change in lifestyle," York says.

While there are many root causes of obesity, Williams argues many overweight or obese people suffer "soul wounds" inflicted by abuse, neglect or trauma. Left unaddressed, those wounds impede growth.

Identifying and, with the help of God, overcoming his own "soul wounds" helped Williams, 47, turn around his life.

Born in Indianapolis, Williams says he was abandoned by his teenage mother when he was 3. He was left at the baby sitter's and she and her husband reared him. Occasionally, his father would visit. He suffered verbal and sexual abuse, he says.

Williams excelled at sports, but by the time he was 13, he was depressed and suicidal.

"I didn't care about my life and I didn't care about anyone else," he says. "I believed there was a God, but he didn't love me."

While a near-death experience -- he was trapped under ice in a frozen pond -- assured him he wanted to live, he remained reckless.

He had fathered two children before he dropped out of high school to join the Army. There, he almost was dishonorably discharged for fighting.

When a sergeant sent him to the boxing team to be whipped into shape, he found his athleticism -- and a killer instinct -- to be a gift. Eventually, Williams competed internationally for the Army in boxing, weightlifting, platform diving and track. He still uses diving and sprints as part of his fitness regimen.

Once out of the Army, Williams ran the fitness-training facility at Fort Harrison near Indianapolis and made "natural" bodybuilding his life. Natural bodybuilders are tested to ensure they do not use illegal substances to enhance their bodies.

In 1988, Williams won the title Mr. Universe Natural Bodybuilder competition, the first of dozens of international titles.

And, yet, he felt unsatisfied and alone. He often would pick up women just to be held.

When a voice two times told him, "I'm going to take your life," and he had a brush with a woman deliberately spreading the HIV infection, Williams asked a God he had never known to save him from Satan.

From then on, his life changed.

Williams began reading the Bible, the first book he ever had read, and attending church.

Competing once in Utah, he found it to be home of "some of the nicest people on the planet."

He felt God wanted him here, so he moved to the Beehive State in 1992 and began working as a personal trainer while rising in competitive bodybuilding.

In the late 1990s, Williams conducted a Bible study at the Redwood Road Recreation Center. Success there led him and his Utah-born wife, Tonja Williams, to found Back to the Foundation Church, a small congregation that has had a number of homes.

Recently, the couple bought a building in Midvale's old downtown and plan a grand reopening of the church, which Ron Williams pastors, in early November.

In the meantime, he and Tonja are on the road so much that their church often conducts services on Wednesday instead of Sunday.

Williams has taught exercise physiology and nutrition classes at Utah Career College and last year won the Natural World title and was inducted into the International Natural Bodybuilding Association's Hall of Fame.

Faith & Fat Loss is a culmination of everything he has learned about God and nutrition.

"My whole life was a preparation for this," Williams says. "It had to be written. It is truly a answer. It's not just another book."

The 'Faith and Fat Loss' formula

Ron Williams' "Faith & Fat Loss" program begins with a 21-day "jump start" that he says detoxifies the body and prepares it for permanent weight loss.

During that time, the list of proteins, carbohydrates and essential fatty acids allowed is short. Food must be eaten in the right combinations.

For permanent weight loss, Williams prescribes:

» Eating five or six small meals a day, and stopping within two hours of bedtime.

» Allowing starchy carbohydrates only in the day's early meals.

» Consuming carbs only when eaten with a protein and an essential fatty acid.

» Doing circuit training that combines a cardiovascular workout with resistance bands, three times a week, with 15 minutes of cardiovascular work on off days.

» Reading scripture at least 15 minutes a day, and memorizing specific verses that Williams' points out. Consistency is essential.

» Praying on the knees at least 15 minutes a day for success in the weight-loss attempt, for family, friends and associates, and for forgiveness for anyone who has ever caused you a "soul wound."

Church's new home

Ron and Tonja Williams plan a grand reopening of their Back to the Foundation Church at noon Nov. 1 at its new home, 7687 S. Main, Midvale.