Thursday, September 29, 2016

An Update, A Celebration, and An Encouragement

Back in May, one of my first blog posts to this relaunched blog was called “A Confession, An Apology, and A Challenge.” I confessed, among other things, that I had gained back all of the weight that I had lost (and then some!) the last time I had seriously committed to a weight loss program. I also shared that I was ready to begin again, but this time, with purposeful and manageable lifestyle changes rather than strictly programmed diets and “quick result” programs.

But then came June. I was very busy… and stressed… and my actual choices did not live up to my earlier good intentions. By the end of June, I hadn’t lost any weight. And while I was recovering from our annual summer missions trip to Mexico, I had a little health scare. Thankfully it turned out to be nothing, but it did serve as the wake up call I needed to get back on track. I made some adjustments to my eating habits, and within a week I was seeing some results on the scale. So in early July, I asked Rich Carlisle to spearhead a Facebook group where we could encourage each other and share our progress on this health and wholeness journey.

Rich has done a wonderful job of sharing encouragement and helpful articles. And while I’ve jumped in on a few threads here and there, I’ve been pretty quiet about my progress. But this week marks three months since I began my journey towards a healthier lifestyle in earnest, so I wanted to update you on my progress. I’m happy to report that as of this morning, I have lost a total of 29.6 pounds! I was really really hoping to reach that “30” mark, but my goal is to be transparent, even when I don’t quite hit the mark!

And that’s OK. 29.6 is still cause for celebration!

I wanted to share a screenshot of my weight loss graph over these past few months because it shows not just the overall trend towards losing weight… but because it demonstrates that I didn’t lose weight every day. I’ll be honest, I’d rather see a nice smooth downward curve on that graph. I’d rather see my numbers coming down, slowly but steadily, every single day. But it doesn’t work like that.

Those little peaks in the chart can be discouraging, especially when you’re in the middle of one! But it’s up to us whether they become insurmountable obstacles or just bumps in the road. This time around I’m happy to be able to report that I didn’t give up! I would never have made it to this point without an extended series of small victories punctuated by minor setbacks. The peaks and valleys show that our journey can be productive without being perfect.

So take the time to celebrate the small victories because strung together, they lead to great successes! Remember, it was a string of small bad choices (one bowl of Blue Bell ice cream at a time!) that got me off course. So it’s going to take a lot of small good choices to regain lost ground.  

The same thing could be said about virtually any area of your life. One of the spiritual disciplines that we strongly encourage at Christian Challenge is daily Bible reading. Typically, people start out strong in January, making it their New Year’s Resolution - but how many of your 2016 New Year’s Resolutions are still going strong now at the end of September? Don’t let the bumps in the road throw you off your journey!

That’s why this year, our Bible Reading group on Facebook is taking a series of short reading plans rather than one large “read the Bible in one year” plan. I wanted as many people as possible to participate, even if they joined in the middle of the year. I also didn’t want anyone to fall so far behind that they became discouraged and dropped out completely. Any day is a good day to start a new good habit or spiritual discipline! Don’t wait until January 1st to start your next New YOU Resolution!

Celebration is a wonderful thing once you’re on your way to reaching a goal. But what if you’re not sure where to start? That’s where the encouragement part of this post comes in!

I’m a pastor, not a dietician or nutritionist. We’re all different, and despite what the latest books and TV doctors might tell you, there is no one-size-fits-all prescription. I don’t want what I’m about to share to sound like a “Hey, follow me! I figured it out!” post. What is working for me might not be best for you. But there are some general guidelines that can help.

Over the years I’ve come to understand that things which can be done quickly can also be undone quickly. Money that is easily made is easily lost. Overnight fame turns into long-lasting obscurity. And if you lose a lot of weight very quickly… it’ll probably all come back and then some! (Just check out this article about the many Biggest Loser contestants who lost amazing amounts of weight during the show, only to regain some, most or even more after the show was over.) Success isn’t really success if it’s only temporary. Those who succeed in the long-term most often have a long-term goal. And know it’s going to be a long-term journey. Their commitment to reaching that goal has to be strong enough to withstand the inevitable setbacks.

Trying to do too much too fast will almost always lead to disappointment, no matter what your goals are. Trying to learn Spanish? That’s not going to happen by binge watching three years worth of spanish lessons in one weekend! Want to learn guitar? Watching youtube videos of amazing guitar players all weekend won’t make you a superstar. Be realistic. If you’re serious about your goals, you also need to be serious about what it’s going to take to achieve them.  

It’s not just about the pace, it’s about the process. Having a definite goal doesn’t mean that you have to following an inflexible or overly ambitious plan. My long term goal is to lose weight through long term, sustainable lifestyle changes. In keeping with my original post, I’m staying away from pre-packaged programs and strict diets. And I’m trying to be realistic about what will and will not work for me based on past experience.

The one meal I have the most control over in my life is breakfast. My work as a pastor and City Councilman often means that I’m eating out or eating catered meals at different functions. So I do what I can to make my breakfast count. One of the things I really enjoyed from previous weight loss programs was having a shake for breakfast. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really looked forward to them! So these days, I’m starting my day with a shake. I start with a (generic) protein powder and add fruit, veggies, peanut butter - items that contribute to the taste and to the nutritional value. (Having a great blender like the Ninja really helps!) And starting the day with a healthy breakfast really does make it easier to resist sweet temptations throughout the rest of the day.

"If it's white, it ain't right!"
For everything else, I have two rules:
  1. The first is summarized in a phrase that may sound a little edgy: “If it’s white, it ain’t right.” That’s not a racial statement!! The foods and ingredients I do my best to avoid are white sugar, white rice, white flour, and white potatoes. In essence I’m eating a modified low-carb diet, although I enjoy complex carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc.
  2. If I can’t follow rule #1, make the healthiest choice available. For example, if we stop to eat at Sonic, I chose the grilled chicken sandwich and throw away the top half of the bun. Or if I’m eating in someone’s home and the food doesn’t fit my first rule, I just eat smaller portions. This way, it’s not about dietary legalism, but consistently making the best possible choice.

That’s what’s working for me right now, but it’s certainly not the only way to lose weight or live healthily. And, of course, if you have a different goal that you’re working towards, you’ll need your own plan of attack and rules of thumb!

I’m curious as to what you’re doing! What are your goals, and what are you doing (or what would you like to begin doing TODAY) to reach them? Would you mind sharing in the comments what you’ve found to be helpful in weight-loss or healthy living? Let’s encourage each other!

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