Monday, February 23, 2015

Five things I've learned about losing weight and keeping it off.

body is a temple

1) Empathy

Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present... [without having them explain it to you].

I have learned that it is extremely difficult to lose weight and just almost as hard to keep it off. Really, it is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Especially in the beginning, it seems your body, mind, and of course "the enemy" are all fighting against you.

I learned a great deal of compassion for those who are overweight and for those who have tried and tried over their lifetime to lose weight and keep it off. I imagine with every pound put on it becomes more and more discouraging to try and lose it. I can't imagine how difficult it is for someone who didn't have the help that I did early on. I empathize and understand how difficult and discouraging it must be for someone who is so heavy that it is difficult for them to even exercise, who doesn't know another way, or feels like they have gone too far to ever lose it all.

I have a glimpse of how hard it is and I have nothing but love, compassion, and understanding for all of you who are discouraged by your weight. Maybe some of this will help you know you are understood; you are not alone on the journey. This may even give you the inspiration to give it another try.

2) Accountability

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself. Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to himself alone, and not with regard to someone else; for each will bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5)

Accountability: "liable to be called to account". Especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions.

I was warned that after Ordination you put on 10 to 20 pounds. It was true for me at the rate of 10 pounds a year. It is one of the blessings and curses of the priesthood. People love to feed you! They also find out what your favorite "guilty pleasure" is and gift you with it often. Comfort foods abound and everyone wants you to try "their" dish. I never wanted to hurt their feelings and have had some of the best ethnic food and desserts any man could ever want.

Thanks to my annual physical, I was able to not only realize my weight gain but be challenged to lose it every year. To my surprise, even with all the physical activity I do (water skiing, running, cross country skiing, insanity, and P90x) I was still gaining weight. EVERY YEAR!

Every year, I was asked to lose 10 pounds and to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how motivated I was to lose it. For the first few years I gave it a two. I wasn't really that concerned about it, but after coming back year after year and not only NOT losing 10 pounds but gaining 10 pounds, I began to get concerned. Two years ago when I was asked to lose 20 pounds, I rated my motivation at a 9.

My doctor had repeated this phrase to me every year,"Calories in. Calories out." Meaning whatever went into my body had to be burned. Our bodies only burn so many calories per day, more if we work out, but not as much as I thought.

I found that not only did I have to be accountable every year but I had to have daily accountability, make that moment by moment accountability. I decided to use an app called My Fitness Pal to track my calorie intake. I made a resolution that I would not put anything in my mouth until I looked up how many calories it was and whether or not it was worth it.

This was terribly annoying in the beginning. I think it was even more annoying for the people around me. Every time I ate at every meal, I would pull out my phone and look up the food, estimate the amounts, and enter it into the journal. It was exhausting in the beginning but it got tremendously easier after the first week or two once I learned the basic foods.

3) Annoyance

Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)

People will be annoyed by you!
It was once said by French Playwright Moliere: "I prefer a pleasant vice to an annoying virtue."

Really, if you try and lose weight, people will get really irritated with you. It is a real annoyance for the common person who does not realize that you are trying with all your might to be healthy. This is especially true for someone who doesn't seem that overweight. The truth is at my heaviest weight, I was not only overweight but nearing obesity. I do not think we realize how overweight we are as a country and how much that impacts our health and well being.

For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). The BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat. An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. See this table for an example.

I discovered people are annoyed when I politely decline what they have cooked. They become quickly irritated and even upset when I won’t eat their handmade spaghetti dinners, Hungarian Goulash, or a pie that they went out of their way to make for me.

I learned to hide my phone or even go to the bathroom to track my calories or look up food. I just could not take having to explain it or see the frustration or guilt on the other person’s face because I had now ruined their time to just enjoy a good meal. I have learned to be stealthy and even look up and plan my meals ahead of time before eating out. I think people get annoyed, rightfully so, because my needing to lose weight was incomprehensible to them. We generally like to indulge at every meal and for every occasion, so someone like me trying to lose weight can definitely throw a “wet blanket” on the party!

The truth is, like everything else, the people that love you will grow to accept you, especially if you are strong and consistent and they realize you are serious. I have found that not only do they get less and less annoyed, but they actually begin to understand. Then, without even expecting it, they begin to accommodate you. Just like before, they want to give you a treat. They just have to learn what is really a good, healthy treat for you.

Be patient with others, be patient with yourself, and do what you can to not be obnoxious about your losing weight. However, do not be surprised that people will be annoyed with you!

4) With God all things are possible.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also... I cannot do anything on my own." (John 5:19,30)

I now really understand the phrase: "There but for the grace of God, go I."

At the beginning, and even now, I continue to have to surrender to God and ask Him for His guidance with the great mystery of the health of our bodies, minds, and souls. Really our bodies are a gift and a mystery. I have learned that we probably know more about space than we do about the mysteries of our bodies. There is no magic diet or exercise or program. But science has given us a very simple, admittedly over-simple way of understanding weight. Calories in. Calories out.

It was not until I admitted to God that I needed to at least stop gaining weight, and hopefully lose it. I really did not know how, or if, I could do it. God made it possible. For as many people that were annoyed by my efforts to lose weight, there were a few that were encouraging, affirming, and thankfully insightful in sharing some of their health tips. None of this would have been possible without God placing the people, the wisdom, the insight, and even my personal motivation to help me with this.

5) There will be setbacks and falls.

"Though the just fall seven times, they rise again." (Proverbs 24:16)

I never had a sweet tooth until I entered the seminary. Once discovered, if left unchecked, I can ravish anything set before me. I do everything with passion and that includes eating. In some ways, I take after my father who can down a half gallon of ice cream in place of dinner. I have been known to eat Gelato at every opportunity, Key Lime pie, cheesecake (which I learned at Red Lobster is 600 calories!). I have hidden in the break room at the office eating Snoogles and Punchkis, carefully eating them over the sink, so as not to let the powdered sugar fall all over my clerics. Literally sneaking and hiding! Do you know how hard it is to eat anything powdered with a freshly pressed black shirt?

I remember during these times that losing the weight and keeping it off is one of, if not the best thing that I can do for my overall health and well being. I have to remember that when I lost that 20 pounds over a one year period the doctor saying to me with great pride: "You are a case study for how weight loss is the best thing you can do for your overall health and positive results especially with the blood work."

What I have learned is that mess-ups happen, pounds are gained, but they can be lost. I have learned not to beat myself up about it, and to laugh at it, and to realize again, how powerless and weak I am.

I realize that with every setback and fall, "I can do nothing on my own." I completely depend on God, the love of others, and His motivating me to care for my body as a temple, to take care of myself so that I can truly be the healthiest, holiest, and happiest priest I can be for myself and others.

As with any addictive behaviours or changes we need to make, the more times you try, the more likely you are to succeed.  Maybe this time will be the time.  With God all things are possible.  

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