For the last 16 months I have experienced a spiritual and physical transformation. From January 2012 through June 2013 I lost 80 pounds. By paying closer attention to what I ate, and dramatically increasing my exercise, I transformed my body. I went from size 44 pants to having some 38 pants feel big. My XXXL t-shirts now look like garbage bags on me. My doctor stopped my cholesterol medicine. My blood pressure has gone down. According to this chart, my resting heart-rate is “Excellent.” As I have undergone this physical transformation, I have also experienced a spiritual renewal. My writing, preaching, and prayer life improved. I found new energy, focus, and drive. I discovered my mission statement to Love God, Live Well, and Do Good.
My work at church blossomed with new relationships, avenues of ministry, and a vision to create a new participatory worship experience. My blogging life expanded with the launching of the Pulpit Fiction podcast. I was invited to speak at the Lion and Lamb Festival, and I felt a need to open a FP Shop.
As I got my personal discipline in order, it felt as if all the other pieces were falling into place as well. People started asking me if I was going to change the name of this blog. I kept the name for various reasons. I never considered that one reason might have been the unconscious fear that this was all temporary.
The world of weight loss and fitness is littered with stories of people losing weight, transforming their bodies, saving their very lives, only to backslide. Many people have shared stories with me about their own adventures in yo-yo weight loss. I promised myself that it would not happen to me. Last summer I had an extended plateau. This was expected. After losing about 30 pounds in three months, I spent the summer months gaining 2 pounds. When school started in the fall, I rededicated myself to working out and tracking my calories, and I promptly lost another 40. When I reached my first goal weight of 260, I kept going. At the end of the school year, I dipped under 250.
Then the backslide started. This is how it happened:
The school year ended, disrupting my routine. During the school year, my workout time was built into my day. I dropped my daughter off at school, I went to the gym, then I went to work. Four days a week I had a built in date with the gym. I ran three days a week for nine months. As I approached my first 10-mile race at the end of May, I was running about 15 miles a week.
Annual Conference and Vacation Bible School. In addition to the lack of routine, I had two major events disrupt my whole schedule. These two week-long events in June took up an inordinate amount of my time. I could have gotten to the gym before sessions. I could have gone for runs after VBS. I didn’t. Instead I spent two weeks active, but with virtually no cardio vascular exercise.
I stopped tracking. Lose It! is a great tool for counting calories, but it is a pain. My weight loss started almost immediately after using it. Last summer I stopped using it for awhile, and stopped losing weight almost immediately.
I didn’t gain weight. After two weeks of not working out and not using Lose It, and amazing thing happened. I actually dropped a couple of pounds.
I ran fast. Since June 1, I’ve run four times. One of those runs was a 5K that I finished in 26:28, my personal best. I also won a prize for my age group in that race, a first for me. I ran another 5K on the treadmill this week in about 26:30. It turns out that my fitness level is at a place that it could sustain a short break.
The Fourth of July. Two cookouts. Lots of bratwurst, chips, baked beans, creamy cole slaw, chips, cookies, pop, beer, and chips. Did I mention that I ate a lot of chips in the last week?
The combination of events created in me a sense of complacency. After almost a year and a half of changing habits, it took about four weeks for me to slip. This morning I found that I have gained 10 pounds in the last two weeks. What’s worse than the weight is how I feel. For the first time in months, I feel fat. I feel tired. I feel like making bad choices. I feel like staying home is easier than going for a run. I feel like getting a quarter-pounder is better than making myself a grilled chicken salad. I put off getting up early to get to the gym. I put off tracking my food, and working hard to stay under budget. I put off working on refocusing the mission of this blog. I put off planning a new way to experience worship. I put off trying to change the world and settled for less. It has only been a couple of weeks, but it ends today.
I share this because I’ve been told I inspire people. I am constantly humbled when people say that to me. Today I offer not inspiration, but a warning. Backsliding happens. It happens slowly, sometimes imperceptibly. It happens when we get busy, or when routine gets disrupted. It happens even when we’re feeling fine, and all outwards signs indicate everything is going well.
Right now I’m struggling. I’m tired. I’m a little worried. Yet I never thought this would be easy. I’m not ready to give up now. I’m not going back to the person I was, for I have been made new by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m confessing my weakness, and I’m praying for guidance and endurance. I believe God can still use me despite my recent backslide. God’s still working on me. God and I have new goals and a new plan. Today, right now, I have a new chance to love God, live well, and do good.