October marks the one year anniversary of my…I don’t know what to call it? Break-up with laziness and overeating? “Weight loss journey”? “Commitment to a healthy lifestyle”? And I just thought I’d share some of my reflections from the year of change that I’ve had. Weight loss efforts launch a person into a whole new world of thoughts and confusion - What is a healthy weight for me? Is the BMI scale SERIOUS? There is NO WAY I will ever lose that much weight. Should I be cutting out carbs? And buzzwords. Good GRIEF. Buzzwords everywhere! “Low-carb” and “gluten free” and “low sodium” and “no trans fats” and so on. Sorry, Jillian Michaels, I love you, but I do not want to read the 30-page preface to your cookbook about hormones and metabolisms and preservatives. And I know I’m going to get cancer or whatever from drinking Diet Coke, but that is my prerogative, okay? I do not think that I have all of the answers about how to lose weight. Frankly, I’m bored by all the science-y stuff and not interested in all of the trends. What I am interested in is how I can maintain a healthy lifestyle that still allows for macaroni and cheese sometimes.
So my method through the past year has been to track what I’m eating using Weight Watchers points. They don’t ban any foods, which is good because it has trained me to think of things in the permissible/beneficial terms. The idea that you may eat something coupled with the question of whether or not you should has been helpful to me in evaluating eating choices. The Weight Watchers method sort of reprograms your brain over time. For instance, I started off with a daily calorie allowance of about 1,650 – that’s 33 points. Now, I’m down to 26 points – about 1,300 calories per day. So when I was eating 33 points a day, I’d have a routine to eat, say, 5 points at breakfast, 9 points at lunch, and 14 points at dinner and then eat a snack before bed. But once I was reduced to 26 points a day, then I was sort of forced to cut out some of those “not recommended” habits like snacking after 7 PM or eating an entire box of macaroni and cheese by myself because now, in order to do that, I’d practically have to starve all day.
And I exercise. A lot. I’ve found that the best thing to do if you don’t know what to do is try it all. At the gyms I have used, they offer all sorts of classes and I have gone to most of them at least once. I’ve done Zumba, water aerobics, spin, almost all of the available Jillian Michaels videos, lapswim, jog, Couch to 5k, and the “let someone really buff tell you what to do in the weight room” method. I’ve finally reached a point where exercise has become a reprieve from stress rather than being a source of stress. The hard part with this is knowing that exercise, just like eating, can be attached to unhealthy and unproductive motives. For instance, and this shows the real and painful side of seeking freedom from an addiction, I found myself one day on about the third mile of a jog with a couple more miles still to go, just assaulted by thoughts that I would never reach my weight goals, that I was fat because I had eaten a cookie earlier that day, etc. In my mind was the idea that I had to “punish” myself for eating something I “shouldn’t have eaten”.
It’s easy to see that weight, food, overeating, exercise, laziness – all of the things that compose the issues of the overweight individual – are not just physical problems. These are spiritual problems, and we are a sick people. At times, my thoughts are that I am free to make a better choice than eating a cupcake for lunch – that I’m not a slave to my desire, and that God has provided healthy food through His creation that tastes sweet and is nourishing. And at other times, my thoughts are ones of fear and punishment (fear that I’ll gain weight back, punishment if I do) – things that the Word says in 1 John 4 indicate that I have not been “made perfect in love”.
This inconsistency of thought is why I reject the popular weight loss notion of what I call “the Aha! moment”: the moments in the Biggest Loser episodes when contestants fill in the blank of what caused them to finally “get it”. I think change and transformation are possible, don’t get me wrong. But I think if this is my “thorn in the flesh” so to speak, victory will be hard-fought in the daily choices I make throughout the rest of my life. As it is, weight loss is often portrayed as something that happens when it all “clicks” for you. You realize you overeat because your job is stressful and, just knowing that, you have the power to change. You realize you overeat to fill an emotional void left by an absent parent or a broken heart, and, just knowing that, you have the power to change. That whole idea seems so contrary to what I’ve always thought about progress and change. In my struggle against sin, I find that the desire is always there (the flesh) and I had access to all the power in the world to overcome when I was justified by Christ, but as I’m being sanctified, I have to keep accessing Him to get that supply of power I need to honor Him in my choices. I don’t think I’ll ever have a moment in my life when I find that there is a reason I love (idolize?) food and, now that I know what it is, I can “love myself” more. I still have to pray in those moments, you know, “LORD, I am thankful for this water that I have! It’s clean and I can have as much as I want!”
That being said, engaging in that struggle is certainly rewarding. It’s rewarding mentally and spiritually to see the fruits of a changed mind – that now, when I want something, it’s a want I can choose to overcome – it’s not a HAVE TO HAVE. There are vain rewards also – my pants are several sizes smaller than they used to be. I no longer fear falling out of my seat on upside down roller coasters because it is hard to push the restraint device down over my fat rolls. I don’t have to loosen the seatbelts on airplanes all the way anymore.
In all, in the past year, I’ve lost 65 pounds, gained the ability to do not one but 30 push-ups in a minute, taken to running 5ks with ease, become a better swimmer, and generally just feel great. I’d totally encourage anyone thinking they want to take the path to a healthier lifestyle to do it, and not wait another day. Don’t start Monday – start now. And call me up if you want an exercise buddy, or someone to go with you to Subway to make sure you order a Veggie Delite instead of a Chicken Bacon Ranch. I couldn’t have done any of what I’ve done without Dan who has stayed by my shuffling side through miles of very slow jogging. I’d be happy to pass on the favor to someone else.