A Pastor and His Physical Health (Part 2): One Man’s Experience

A previous post about a pastor and his physical health generated a good bit of ‘healthy’ discussion (pun intended). So after several online questions and in-person conversations, all which were nudging me to share more specifics from my own experience, here goes! But first, a few disclaimers.

  • I’m not an expert in nutrition or fitness, so what you read may cut across the grain of some people who are no doubt more qualified and credible than me. But it’s not my goal to debate people or disagree with the gurus; I’m not selling a book, seeking endorsements, or raising money. I’m simply sharing my experience for those who have asked.
  • I by no means think my way is the only way or even the best way. It is simply my way (with apologies to Frank Sinatra).
  • This took time to adapt to, and still I find myself experiencing this in seasons and cycles.

Narratively, here’s what happened.

At the end of 1999, I looked in the mirror and saw a 35 year-old man, just barely above 5’9″, weighing in at just over 200 pounds. Yikes! With four kids all under 10, I didn’t like the trajectory I was seeing.  After all, I didn’t want to be a sideline dad because I was always tired or out of shape, unable to even play on the floor without getting winded and having to roll over to get up. And if something didn’t change, would I even be around to enjoy their kids? That wasn’t a vision; it was a nightmare. Granted — we can’t control everything, and all our life is under God’s sovereignty. But with a hearty “Lord willing” in my grasp, I committed to changing what I could about my physical condition and striving for something different as a dad and husband.

So for Christmas that year, I gave our family a YMCA membership, with the promise that by my 36th birthday I would be a “lighter” man. Maybe it was a selfish gift, but I reasoned that whatever benefit there was to me, they had full access to it as well. Not to my surprise, they loved it. And I needed it.

Thankfully, by April of 2000, I had lost about 40 pounds. And man, did I feel totally different! And better! My cholesterol was down, my stamina was up, and my discipline regarding other areas was deeper. What I experienced was more than a loss of weight. I began to experience a change of lifestyle. What changed? Glad you asked!

Instructively, and in hindsight, here are 5 things I started doing as a normal part of my life. These habits summarize what I did to correct my spiraling weight issue, not just as a diet, but as a lifestyle adjustment.

1. Exercise early and often, ideally at least 4 to 5 days a week. Face it — you’re gonna have to sweat. But this is good, for it gets the endorphins going, the result being you feel better and think more clearly. Let me add that the point isn’t that its necessarily early, but rather that its the beginning. Exercise is simply a super way to start the day!

Admittedly, the amount of exercise was — and is — sometimes determined by the upcoming schedule. Not every day can be, or should be, hard core. But I believe some exercise is better than none. So do what you can even on the days with a packed schedule. Truthfully, those are the days you need it the most!

2. Cut down on portions and amounts. There’s no way around it — if you want to lose some weight, at some point you have to start eating less. And maybe even less often. Combined with regular exercise (#1), these two habits will have the greatest effect on your waist line and heart rate. By the way, when I knew I was going to be enjoying a delicious (and bountiful) meal (i.e., holidays, birthdays, travel, etc.), I’d usually compensate in advance by being extra diligent about portions (or even fasting), so that I could then enjoy the special meal guilt free. All that to say this — to me, it’s more about the overall intake over a period of time, not just the specific intake at a given time.

A word about fasting. Though I didn’t always use it for spiritual reasons, often I did. And still do. Regardless of the why, embrace fasting. It has incredible physical and spiritual benefits, and has done more to deepen my discipline than any one single action I can think of.

3. Avoid snacks. Honestly, I was usually snacking at various times to fill an emotional need. So I had to first dig out the “why” behind the “what.” Once I did that, I found myself much more motivated to say ‘No.’ By the way, even if there’s nothing going on below the surface with your snacking, try not to eat anything after 8 pm. You’ll sleep better, which means you’ll wake up more refreshed. Is this hard? You bet! But is it worth it? For sure! In fact, if you could only begin one of these habits, this one would be near the top. Don’t underestimate the significance of a Snicker-less life.

4. State your goals and track your progress. This was a great incentive! Whether its through Nike+, Y Miles, Wii Fit, or a homemade spread sheet, you will undoubtedly do better through personal accountability. Weight, calories, times, distance, or even a future race…pick your measuring rod and go for it!

5. Lastly, relax! Some days will go well, others terrible. Some seasons will be great, others awful. But if you will adopt a long-term view about movement, activity, and food amounts, you will, I believe, win in the long run. And that’s what I was after — the long run!

Essentially, you can boil my process down to a few simple phrases: Move much. Sweat more. Eat less.

Remember — Every day is a choice, which means every day can be a victory. String enough victories together, and you’ve got a lifestyle change.

0 Comments on “A Pastor and His Physical Health (Part 2): One Man’s Experience”

  1. Thanks for this post Pastor Todd. As you have discussed in the pulpit our cravings, both spiritual and physical, and intimately related. I appreciate your admonishment in this post!

  2. Pingback: Taming Your Temper « InkLink

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