Thursday, July 31, 2014

Straight Talk About the Stuff Killing Us...Well, the stuff we can control anyhow :)

First I need to get something off of my chest, a confession of sorts.  When I came to Louisville last year I was in great shape and lifting freakish weights.  As I established in another post, I weighed 240lbs and filled a doorway.  To get that big and that strong was not cheap.  Now do not misunderstand me, I was a clean lifter and would have passed even the most stringent athletic drug testing, but I was a supplement taking fool.  In addition to that, I had to consume massive amounts of calories to fuel what I was doing, which of course means lots of food.

The problem?  I minister in an area where such things are a foreign concept and I found myself often convicted by that thought.  How much was my witness to these folks damaged by such things?  I heard a pastor at the Ichthus Festival a few years back state, "I feel convicted to tell you, I know I'm fat and that it damages my ministry and my witness."  Ouch.  Same principle.  And let's face it, even if we're not ministering in a context like mine, there are an awful lot of us that set a really bad example by the lives that we live.  We cost our employers way too much money because of our higher insurance premiums because we have a tendency to be fat, stressed out, and have bad tickers.  How is this Biblical???  Honestly, what does our shape/condition say about stewardship?  Our empathy for the world?  The very idea that our body is a temple?  Not super.

So, with this established let's talk about diet.  That is a scary word for a lot of us.  As a matter of fact, it is so scary that it fuels the billion dollar industry of diets plans/fads/frauds.  We want a quick, easy fix to a bad problem and I've got news for you; the fix is relatively quick and easy if you're smart.  Now, let me establish something right up front, or perhaps a few somethings.  I am not a dietician, nor have I played one on tv.  I'm also not trying to sell you a diet plan.  I am a pastor who happens to know a little something about physical fitness and eating healthy, that got the tar scared out of him and is in turn concerned for my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Because if I felt that rotten while still in relatively decent shape, I can only imagine how some of you might be feeling.  I'm also pretty motivated by the fear that I felt; the fear of what the doctor might tell me.

Back to the diet...wait...something else about me...I know me.  I have a tendency to be all or nothing when it comes to things like working out, dieting, study, prayer, videogames, pretty much everything...sounding familiar?  If I can't strive to be the absolute best at something, if I can't find that motivation, then what's the use?  One of the very first things I told my wife when I vowed to eat better, "I ain't going to go crazy with this stuff."  I gave myself permission to be human.  It's a mantra I've chanted over and over.  Simple, small changes to diet can produce fairly quick results without going "crazy".

Probably the simplest is portion control.  Eating as a power lifter it was hard to distinguish between when I was full and when I was pushing into gluttony, until after the fact.  Retraining your mind and body to recognize "full" can be difficult, but it really is something we need to do.  Portion control helps us to determine that and keeps us from overindulging.  It also helps us to cut massive calories while still eating what we like.  Think about it, what if you are a second and thirds type of person?  Simply by stopping with a single serving, which is probably more than enough to begin with, you have effectively slashed your caloric intake by half or even two-thirds.  Not to mention the fats, cholesterol, sodium, and so forth.  It takes discipline, but you will be amazed at how quickly you see results, feel better, and find that you're really not THAT hungry after all.  I've been amazed at how many times after a single serving I was still convinced that I was hungry until I stepped away from the table.  Within minutes, the hunger was gone and I would realize that I was content.

However, I've gone a little further than portion control.  I've completely cut out fried foods, I try to monitor sodium intake, as well as cholesterol and fat.  Once you become adept at reading labels, you will quickly become shocked at just how much bad stuff you've been eating.  It really is crazy.  I now eat a lot more vegetables and salads, usually with grilled chicken or lean steak mixed in.  I also eat a lot of fruits and whole grains.  With those things (aside from the chicken and steak) I by no means skimp, I eat as much as I want, whenever I want.  Which requires mixing up the greens, as well as the other vegetables in the salads to keep things "fresh" and new.  Beyond that, I eat a lot of lean protein (chicken, fish, Greek yogurt).  When I crave sugar or something sweet, which isn't that often, I quench that with bananas or granola.  Once again, I'm not being stingy with these things.  When I consider how and what I was eating before, an extra handful or two of granola is not a crime.

The not going crazy part?  I've not completely cut out carbs (although I do watch them), I'm not chasing after"organic only", or any of the other things we hear so much about.  I also occasionally cheat.  I love pizza and I refuse to give it up entirely.  There's just too many great pizza joints here in the Ville.  But now rather than being a staple, it is now a treat and a pretty amazing one at that.

The results?  As of this morning, I've dropped 30 pounds since the initial health scare.  I'm sleeping better, I've got more energy (which is really dangerous...muhahahahaha), my digestion is like clockwork, I'm not hungry, I don't have the frequent "crashes" I was experiencing where I'd get dizzy and the "shakes", and I'm also much happier.  My energy now comes from my food, not caffeine.  I'm doing more work than before (I've also worked hard on time management) in less time and the headaches that were pretty much an all day every day occurrence are gone.

Those things are all great, make no mistake.  However one of the greatest benefits is that I've found  that I am now enjoying food more than ever.  When we go out for pizza, it's something special and fun again.  When I experience a new vegetable, fruit, or grain (I've gotten pretty daring) it's exciting.  Food has in essence become the blessing that I think it was intended to be and our grocery bill has gone done significantly.  Things just taste better.  Weird :)

Lastly, one area where I've not gotten back on track in my exercise routine.  I've purposely taken a break to let my body recover and to find some sort of balance.  When I lift, I do have a tendency to push way too hard and this has been a struggle.  There is no need for me to carry 240lbs anymore.  I like being strong and truth be told, I'm a little put out that I'm no longer taxing the sleeves of my shirts.  So part of this has been attempting to discern what body type suits me best moving forward and then insuring that I could stick to the plan.  I know how I work.  Without this break, I would have behaved in the gym for about a week before I'd start piling weight on again.  I nearly canceled my gym membership earlier this week and couldn't quite pull the trigger.  I had considered starting to run again and getting involved in Krav Maga, which I enjoy.  However, I have decided to go back to weightlifting (high reps/lower weight) with an added emphasis on cardio.

I'll keep updating as we go and things change, for better or worse.  Also, I'm now one month away from my next round of blood work.  I have a sneaking suspicion the problems have been corrected :)

(June 5, 2014...247lbs)

(July 31, 2014...216lbs)

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