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FIRST-PERSON: Losing weight is not the point

KENNER, La. (BP)–“Joe, you’ve gotten fat!”

I had driven 100 miles to a funeral, walked into the mortuary and bent over the grieving widow to offer my condolences. She looked up at me and said the last thing I expected to hear from someone mourning a death. I suppose my weight shocked her out of her grief, at least momentarily.

I used to know a pastor who, if he was on a diet during the week, you heard about it in the sermon on Sunday. I have bent over backward not to be that way. But Sunday, Feb. 15, 2004, was an anniversary of sorts for me, and I thought perhaps you would allow me to say a few words on the subject of weight loss and health gain.

I’m tired of reading about celebrities who go on a crash diet, lose a lot of weight, write a best-selling book and then a year later, regain all the weight. Losing weight alone solves nothing. The goal is good health, of which weight loss can be one aspect.

After many years of carrying 175 to 185 pounds on my 5-foot, 10-inch frame, in recent years I had gradually swelled to a hefty 230 pounds. Blame it on that great New Orleans cooking, particularly the shrimp po’boys. At various times, as I bumped into someone from a former church, they would blurt out, “Joe, you’ve put on weight,” like I didn’t know. We have a senior adult lady in our church who would call the church office and say to my secretary, “Tell Brother Joe he needs to lose some weight; he’s losing his good looks.” We laughed, but her point was well made.

A year ago, I decided to get serious about my health. I determined to walk three miles every morning, not just occasionally, and skip lunch whenever possible. I would eat more fruit and cut back on sweets and soft drinks. I added a brief exercise routine consisting of 15 minutes of stretching and exercises in the morning and again at night. I followed no videos or fitness guru, just some things I’d picked up over the years. Any exercise has to be better than none, I figured.

One year later, I now weigh 208 pounds — still not great, but 22 pounds less than last year. My blood pressure is terrific and my pulse is 48. All of which leads me to the seven lessons I have learned about good health.

1. Losing weight is difficult due to the Creator’s genius in the way He made us. If simply cutting back on calories brought quick weight loss, people in poor countries could starve to death overnight. God made us so that when the calorie intake drops, our metabolism slows down. The body is fighting starvation. Affluent Americans may not value this feature, but people all over the world are grateful. The psalmist said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We are indeed.

2. I’m not competing with anyone else except myself. Once, years ago, I was humiliated at being beaten in a 10-kilometer run by a couple of Mississippi State cheerleaders. Only later did it occur to me that no one out there was competing; everyone was a winner. The goal is good health.

3. There will be periodic lapses over a long period. At Christmas or on a visit to Grandma’s house, food comes at us from every direction. In a revival at a former pastorate, everyone graciously invited us into their homes to eat. I put on weight! But you can’t be a perfectionist in the business of getting healthy. This is not a sprint but a marathon. When we fall, we get back up and go forward.

4. I avoid weighing myself as much as possible. Sunday, a friend told me he has lost 20 pounds in six weeks on a “Sugar Buster” diet and that he weighs himself several times a day. By reminding ourselves that losing weight is not the only goal, we call a halt to the compulsive need to continually weigh ourselves. How my clothes fit became a more satisfying yardstick. When I could get into some of the smaller shirts in my closet, I knew the plan was working.

5. We need to be under the care of a good doctor. In 1995, I began to worry that, at age 55 and not having seen a doctor in a decade, I was taking unnecessary risks. My wife’s doctor ran a battery of tests and prescribed a regimen of vitamins and minerals as well as an 85 mg. aspirin once a day. She said to me, “I think we have prevented you from having a heart attack.” I still get regular checkups.

6. Stay open to new insights. These days, I’m following a plan I call “BECAW.” Each morning starts with Breakfast and Exercise. During the day, a Calcium tablet, and Apple, and lots of Water. I saw some people on “Good Morning America” promoting this plan and it sounded right. (My wife and I have agreed that if we are to constantly have fruit in the house, from time to time some of it will spoil and have to be thrown out. That does not keep us from buying more, however. Blueberries and strawberries are among the best gifts God ever thought up!)

7. Keep at it. We do not lose a lot of weight and suddenly get healthy. Health is a complex business. We’re always working, learning, adapting and growing. What works when you’re 30 needs to be revised when you are 50 and again at 70.

The Bible teaches that our bodies are the temple of the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:19). “Temple maintenance” ought to be a subject dear to the hearts of all the Lord’s people.

I realize it’s possible to do all these things, have a perfect body and still get run over crossing the street or die of any number of diseases that have no known cause. That does not excuse me, however, from taking care of my body. It’s just good Christian stewardship. The psalmist said, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Joe McKeever is pastor of First Baptist Church Kenner, La.

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