Last September, I had my first physical in five years. Like a lot of guys who don’t have beach bods, I didn’t particularly want to go. I knew I should. But I didn’t want to. And so, the obvious thing happened: my wife made the appointment for me.
As the old Chinese saying goes: “Behind every overweight man is a concerned wife scheduling his next physical.” 🙂
Looking back, I’m grateful that she encouraged me to do it. I needed it.
I knew going in that it wouldn’t be a stellar report. I was overweight. I was snoring. I was dealing with nagging acid reflux, which was interrupting my sleep. That made me tired, which made me want to sleep, which kicked up my acid reflux, which interrupted my sleep, which made me tired…you get the picture.
So, I had my physical. It wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t great either. My doctor cut it straight. My weight was borderline obese (215lbs). My cholesterol was borderline bad. My family history (with heart, blood pressure, etc.) was borderline problematic. And there was no Trump-esque wall to fix these “border lines.” I had to do it myself.
I spent that Friday getting my physical. I spent that Saturday thinking about the implications. And I spent Sunday repenting.
I say repenting but I’m not trying to be dramatic. I am a big believer that some things in life are right vs. wrong (the Bible is clear about those things.) But I also think that most things in life fall on a spectrum of wise vs. foolish. I don’t think my lifestyle was sinful. But I do think it was foolish. And I think Christians should pursue wisdom and repent of foolishness.
Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action. As another Chinese proverb says, “The fat guy’s journey of a thousand miles starts with one, dreaded sweaty step.” And that’s what I did. I read about nutrition. I signed up for a gym. I bought lettuce. I even ran a ¼ mile. It was hard. At times, I hated it. But it’s been worth it.
What’s been the key to it all? Simple: the two things none of us want to hear – diet and exercise. I don’t mean diet in terms of some fad or plan (I.e. Keto, South Beach, Atkins, etc.). I mean “diet” as in reassessing my relationship with food and coming up with a sustainable plan that I could live with long term. And by exercise I mean…well, exercise. I was doing zero. So, surely something would be better than nothing.
I don’t want to over spiritualize a basic self-control issue. But there’s a verse in Hebrews that has become a kind of personal motto for my eating habits. (I’m aware that I’m using the verse out of context. Forgive me.) But the wording is so apt.
Hebrews 13:9, “…for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace and not food.”
Like many people, I could be a stress-eater or a bored-eater or a happy-eater. But mostly, I was just an eater-eater. Now, I try to let my brain tell me what to eat and not my eyes or stomach. Before I go to bed I think about where will I be at meal times tomorrow and what should I eat. I don’t wait until I’m hungry. That’s when I fall into bad habits.
I have three simple eating guidelines that have worked for me:
- I eat a salad for one meal a day. To be honest, it’s not always the healthiest of salads either. I hate spinach. I despise kale. So, it’s usually plain old iceberg lettuce. It’s got cheese. It’s got some meat. I even use more dressing than I probably should. But it is more vegetables and less calories than I was eating before.
- I eat whatever I want for the other meals, I just eat half. Yep. It’s that simple. Good ol’ portion control. I still eat pizza. Bread. I put vanilla creamer in my coffee. I just consume half of what I used to. It’s hard sometimes to stop where I should – but that’s part of the process.
- I eat snacks – but I have an odd approach: I only eat snacks that existed as snacks 200 years ago. No Doritos. No Mountain Dew. No fancy protein bars even. I munch on fruit, cheese, crackers, and stuff the Pilgrims would’ve eaten. So far, so good.
We also joined a gym near our house. The convenience has been one of the keys to our consistency. It’s on the way home. I also have rules for it as well.
- I go to the gym like a dentist appointment. I put it on my calendar on definite days with definite times and I push everything else around it.
- I go to the gym with a plan in place. I use an app with workout routines. We do some light weight training and cardio. But I don’t just show up and then decide. I show up with specific exercises, specific weights, and specifics reps in mind. That helps me stay focused and feel accomplished.
- I go to the gym with someone else. Ah. Accountability, that all-important ingredient. My accountability partner is my lovely wife. (who, if you remember, is responsible for this whole thing. Don’t tell her but this is her penance for making me have my physical in the first place.)
Probably the biggest shift that has enabled us to go to the gym regularly is that my kids are getting older. Small kids are time-consuming. But now that we’ve got blossoming teenagers – Rebecca and I can sneak out of the house for a few hours. For now, our “us time” is “gym time.” It’s been fun. It’s been good for our relationship. So, to all you parents of small kids who feel overwhelmed – your day is coming! I totally understand the inability to find the time or energy. There are new seasons of life ahead. Trust me. And this is one I hope we stick with for some time.
So far, I’ve lost more than 40 lbs.
My acid reflux is gone. (No medicine even.) My snoring is gone. My energy level is much higher. My clothes are much loser. And, yes, my confidence is better. I’ve come to appreciate the dieting cliché: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I wouldn’t call myself skinny just yet – but, I have a sense of what that means now.
I still don’t like kale. I still don’t like leg day. I still don’t like going to the bathroom constantly because I’m drinking so much water. But I do like the results of making these changes. It seems to be the path of wisdom for this season of life.
Pray for me to continue on it. Pray for discipline and self-control. Pray for God to be glorified too. Who knows, I just might schedule my own physical this year.