Tag Archives: #Fat2Fit

Fat again

So, it happened. The thing I promised wouldn’t happen happened. The thing I swore I wouldn’t become, I became. I was another short-term success story. I’ve read that as many as 80% of people who have substantial weight loss gain it back within two years. Count me as one of the 80%. I got fat again. There are a lot of reasons it happened. Injuries, change of jobs, and grief are the top three candidates.

In case you missed it, this is how I went from Fat to Fit the first time:

In 2012 I dropped about 70 pounds. I followed a very simple formula: exercise more and eat less. I used the Lose It app on my phone to track every calorie burned and eaten. I learned a lot about portion size, and saw big changes from making little choices like fruit instead of hasbrowns at breakfast and broccoli instead of fries at dinner. I started exercising more, starting with the elliptical machine, and working my way up to jogging. I started my program in January, and in June 2012 I ran my first 5K in 36:00. In 2013 I stopped tracking the calories so comprehensively, but kept making good choices, and kept running. In June 2013 I ran another 5K in 26:28, which earned a trophy for second place in my age group, and remains my personal best. I added longer distances, including two five miles runs that I completed in under 50:00. In 2014 I slipped a little, but somewhat intentionally. I went to the gym a little less frequently so I could spend more time with my preschool daughter, but in May I completed my first half marathon. At that point it had been two and half years since I embarked on a new fitness journey. I felt good, and believed that I had made changes in my life that would be permanent.

Then it all came apart.

Injured at the Bix7 in July 2014.

One catalyst was an injury I suffered at the 2014 Bix 7 in Davenport. This is a huge event, one that is a part of the culture of the Quad Cities. Everyone who runs in this area has run the Bix. It counts as the National Championship for 7 mile runs. It features two large hills. On the second one, at about the 3 mile mark, a muscle in my calf popped. I couldn’t finish. I went to the doctor and he didn’t seem to think there was any structural damage. So I laid off of it, and let it heal. A couple of weeks later, I would run again and start to feel good, then it would pop again. So I would wait a few more weeks, and try again, only to hurt it again. So then I waited a month, got in worse shape, and tried to start again. It would be going well for a few weeks and then pop! After about six months of starting and stopping, I settled on stop. Also in July 2014, I started a new job. I went from being an associate pastor to the solo pastor. This meant more responsibilities, more preahing (thus less blogging), more stress, and more demands on my time. It became harder to get to the gym – or at least easier to find other things to do, especially one I was discouraged from being out of shape.

My memory of when a 3-mile jog was a light warmup weighed heavily on me. I became discouraged by how far I had fallen. I blogged less. Again, there were a lot of reasons I strayed from this blog. One was that my creative outlet was being met by preaching every week. I was prolific on this blog when I preached about once a month. When I started preaching 48 times a year, I found less time, and less creative need to write here. Second, I focused more attention on the Pulpit Fiction Podcast. Since 2013, my partner Eric and I have released over 300 episodes. I focused my social media attention on the podcast first, my new church second, and the Fat Pastor third.

The real reason I stopped blogging was simple. I was embarrassed.

Over the course of 2015, I slowly gained more weight, and worked out sporadically. After two years of finding a way to get to the gym, I found plenty of excuses to stay away. And for me, it all flows from regular exercise. When I’m exercising regularly, I eat better. I sleep better. I study and preach and write better. When I wasn’t exercising regularly I ate crap. The route from my church to home passed a Hardees, a Wendy’s, and a Taco Bell. Taco Bell is my personal Satan. On any given day you could see the passenger seat of my car littered with brown paper bags from fast food places. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have a Wendy’s lunch and a Taco Bell dinner (Mexican pizza, two soft taco supremes, and sometimes a Meximelt too). While I was already falling down this spiral, my Mom died.

This sent me reeling in ways that I didn’t even notice at the time. She died in August 2016. I spent the next year in and out of depression-like symptoms. I had low energy, so I wouldn’t feel like working out. I was depressed, so I sought comfort in bad food. I felt terrible, so I would punish myself with self-hating thoughts. I hated getting dressed because none of my clothes fit. No, I didn’t hate getting dressed. I hated myself. I would think to myself, quite often, “I hate myself.”

This death-spiral continued until I had gotten up to 360 pounds (30 pounds more than when I refocused on my health in 2012). My whole body hurt. I was out of breath all the time. Simple tasks like picking something up off the floor were difficult. After walking up the stairs to my office, it would take me a couple minutes to catch my breath before I could say hi to the secretary. Tying my shoes was difficult, and would leave me gasping for air and muttering to myself, “you are a piece of shit.”

The Challenge

One day in August my friend texted me a challenge. He saw that I had posted something no Facebook about being frustrated with my fitness and health. He proposed  challenge. We would both work on getting healthier, and whoever lost more weight by Thanksgiving would win. We exchanged some baseline information, getting details about where we were physically. When I told him where I was, his response was, “Jesus Christ, you’re going to die buddy.” He was right. I was going to die. That is where I was heading, and I knew it. At our official start to The Challenge, I was at 358 and it took me 16:00 to run a mile. The memory of the 8:40 pace for a 5K mocked me.

A few days after we got started, on the anniversary of my Mom’s death, I was at 360. I was on the treadmill, struggling to jog for a minute without stopping. Sweat pouring down my face, legs in pain, air hard to find, I cried. I cried as my heart raced, and for a moment I thought I was going to drop. And then it happened. I wanted to.

The grief.

The shame.

The pain was too much to bear, and I thought to myself, “You are going to die right here on this treadmill.” And I let out an audible response: “good.”

I didn’t die. I finished my mile a few seconds faster than the one I had run two days earlier, which was a few minutes faster than that first one. Four days later I was back, and ran it 20 seconds faster. I was sore, there was pain. I started doing more elliptical machine to alleviate the stress on my legs. As I grew faster and stronger I started feeling better about myself. I started tracking my calories again. Profits at the Taco Bell dipped in September. Then one day I looked at the floor of my car. It was littered with VitaWater bottles, the ones I would buy after every workout, instead of paper sacks.

This morning I weighed in at 318. I’m winning The Challenge (We bet dinner. He’s buying regardless. Winner gets to pick the spot). I’ll let you know who wins at Thanksgiving. Here’s the thing, I’m winning no matter what. This has never been about a number, or a weight, or about fitting in my clothes again. I feel so much better. I’m not in pain all the time. My heart doesn’t race any more – except for when I kiss my wife. I feel stronger, more patient, and more efficient. A few weeks ago my family went to a State Park. I was able to hike and climb and play with my girls. My daughter has noticed that I’m in a better mood and not as tired. It’s about making life-giving choices.

Today I was running a 5K on the treadmill, my third this week. My goal in August was to do a 5K in under 36:00 by Thanksgiving (which was the time of that first 5K back in 2012). As the mileage was ticking up toward 3.1, I realized I had a chance to beat that goal a few weeks ahead of schedule. I had to keep up my pace for one more minute without stopping. Sweat pouring down my face, legs in pain, air hard to find, I cried. I cried as my heart raced, and for a moment I thought I was going to drop. And then it happened. I pictured my girls. I decided to run toward them.

The joy.

The love.

The grace of God washed over me, and I thought to myself, “Finish this for them.” I turned the pace up on the treadmill a little faster, and I finished it in 35:40.

My friend John quite possibly saved my life. He got me going. He helped shake me up, and gave me something on which to focus. I don’t really care if I win The Challenge, because no matter where I am at Thanksgiving, I know that I won’t be finished. I stopped believing in “Before” and “After” a long time ago. There is only “Now,” and a future with me in it.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.” (Frost)

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I’ve gained 10 pounds, and I’m okay with it.

20140203-095440.jpgAfter spending a year losing 80 pounds, I have spent the last year putting back on 10.  And I’m okay with that.  I was extremely proud of the transformation I experienced in 2012.  From seeing the scale tip 329 to weighing in at 249, I changed more than my body.  In fact, the transformation I experienced was never about my body alone.  It was about how I felt and how I lived.

My joy came from more than a before and after photo.  It came from knowing that my life span had probably been significantly extended.  It came from the energy with which I woke every morning.  It came from being able to run a 5K in under 27 minutes, and dreams of finishing a marathon that suddenly seemed within reach.  It came from living a more disciplined life, one that was full of more healthy choices, and habits that were life-giving. Above all, my joy came from my daughters, one of whom told me, “I’m glad you are healthier and your belly is smaller, but don’t make it go away completely, I like a little softness to snuggle.”

before between after stillMy fitness journey has been well chronicled on this site.  I started this blog in October 2008, when I tipped the scale at 301 pounds.  I said from day one that the journey was about more than weight, but it was that moment staring at a milestone I never wanted to cross that pushed me to start – and name – this blog.

Since losing 80 pounds, I decided to keep calling myself the “Fat Pastor,” because I knew that fitness wasn’t a destination to reach.  It is a life.  The name of this blog reminds me every day to make fit choices.  And that’s why I’m okay with having gained back 10-15 pounds over the last year.  In my mind fitness is not linked directly to my weight.

Some might think I’m just making excuses, but at some point over the last year, I made a conscious decision – not to gain weight back – but to spend less time at the gym, and more time with my youngest daughter.

Without going into too many details, my wife went back to work part-time this September, and I was left with a choice.  I could work out while my daughter was at preschool two times a week, or I could bring her to the gym with me two days a week, and allow the nursery care there to take her.

Another way of putting it, I could have:

  • Two days a week at the gym, two mornings with my daughter.
  • Three days a week at the gym, and zero mornings with my daughter.

It was an easy choice.  For the last year, I’ve spent two mornings a week with my three-year-old.  Sometimes she goes with me to visit shut-ins.  Sometimes she comes with me to the office.  Most of the time, she sits in my lap, on my chair.  She watches cartoons. I read.  She rubs my cheek.  I smell her hair.  At random times we are interrupted by spontaneous tickle fights, or overwhelmed by a sudden need for a bear hug.  We play Uno, or Memory. We put together puzzles or read books.

So yeah, I have put on a few pounds.  My 5K time has gotten a couple minutes slower.  The size 36 pants I got last spring have stayed in the closet.  But every Sunday night I would kiss her goodnight and ask her, “Do you know what tomorrow is?”  And she would smile and shout, “Daddy-Daughter morning!”

I wouldn’t trade those 10 pounds for anything in the world.  I can get back to running more often.  I intend to get refocused this summer, and I hope to run a marathon in September.

Pretty soon she is going to go to school all day, and we won’t have Daddy-Daughter mornings any more.  We’ll have Saturdays, but Saturdays are family days.  For Daddy-Daughter mornings, this was it.  This was the only year I could spend this kind of time with her – probably forever.

For me, fitness is about choices.  It is about making healthy, life-giving choices.  My body has a little more fat on it this April than it did last year, but I’m pretty certain that I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.  

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This is not a treadmill. This is my time machine…

Image“This is not a treadmill.  This is my time machine.  When I’m on it, I see the future.  And I see me in it.”  I started to say that to myself yesterday as I ran.  It has become my mantra.  Yesterday I ran farther than I have ever run before.  Three miles in under thirty minutes has become my standard run.  Yesterday I decided to do it twice.  I ran 3.06 miles in thirty minutes, then took about a two minute break to stretch and get some water.  I ran another 3.07 miles in thirty minutes.

The longest I had ever gone before was five miles.  As I approached and then passed five miles, I was thrilled to know that each step I took was pushing my boundaries.  Every step I took was pushing me a little further than I thought possible.  At the same time though, I was getting tired.  I was keeping the same pace, but I wasn’t picking up my legs as high as I had been.  It was getting more and more difficult to control my breath.  I knew I wanted to reach six miles, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it.

And then I said it.  “This is not a treadmill,” I whispered to myself.  “This is my time machine.  When I’m on it, I see the future.  And I see me in it.”  I kept going.  I turned off the little TV monitor, and could see my face in the black screen.

“This is not a treadmill…” I said again in barely a whisper.  With every step I was redefining who I was.  With every step I was transforming.  With every step I was leaving behind a less healthy me.  “This is my time machine…”  I said again, this time a little louder.  Someone standing next to me might have heard, but I was alone.

I passed five and half miles, and knew that the end was getting closer.  I was getting stronger.  I felt energy surge through my body.  “When I’m on it, I see the future…”  I said out loud now.  And I saw it.

I saw first days of school.  I saw softball games and ballet recitals.  I saw slumber parties and Phillies hats at Wrigley Field.  I saw broken hearts and mean boys.  I saw high school basketball and halftime dances.  I saw first loves and Prom.  I saw piles of books, messy desks, and graduation gowns.  I kept running, and turned up the speed on the treadmill.

I saw silver streaks in the hair of my wife, and wisdom wrinkling her eyes.  I saw light in her eyes, felt the warmth of her smile, and was briefly taken back to the first time I saw her, the first time we kissed.

“And I see me in it,” I was almost shouting now. I felt the same flutter in my heart that I did 15 years ago, but now it has depth.  I saw her clutching my hand as we drive away from a dorm.  I saw her fixing the veil she wore on the head of our daughters.  I saw myself dancing with a beautiful woman in white to Isn’t She Lovely, and with another to Lucy in the Sky.  I saw babysitting and storytelling.  I saw ravioli cutting with another generation, crowded laps, and adventures I cannot even imagine.

Running as fast as my legs could take me, I passed six miles.  The time on the treadmill ran out, so I slowed.  I wiped off some sweat, maybe a couple of tears, and then I stepped off the treadmill.  Only it isn’t a treadmill.  It is a time  machine.  When I’m on it, I see the future.  And I see me in it.

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D’oh!

Today I had another “D’oh!” moment.  You know – those moments when something becomes to obviously clear that you know you should have seen it before.  How many times have I told people to spend time daily in prayer?  How many times have I preached about the power of daily devotion?

And how many times I have begun the discipline, but then allowed myself to slip?  How many times have I picked up a Bible, with full intention to just read, but then allow myself to be distracted by a game of Zuma Blitz or some article on espn.com?

Today I created a new page.  I called it #Fat2Fit and in it I described another effort to rededicate myself to healthier living.  I created a list of things I want to do to be more healthy.  Guess what I left off?  Daily Bible study and prayer.

A few minutes ago I got back to the office from a lunch with some guys from church.  I sat at my desk, and pulled out the Upper Room from my top desk drawer.  I read the scripture it suggested – the story of Daniel in the lion’s den, and read the little devotion about daily prayer.  I thought to myself, “Well, this is an appropriate topic for me to read today, when I’m trying to clean up my life.”

I spent a few minutes in prayer and asked God to help me in my journey from Fat to Fit.  I felt a surge of Holy Spirit power come over me.  I breathed in, and felt good deep inside my heart.  It was a little moment of worship at my desk that gave me so much peace.  Then I looked at the “Thought of the Day” part of the devotion.  1 Timothy 4:7 reads “Train yourself in godliness.”

D’oh!

Isn’t that what I’ve been talking about?  Isn’t this exactly what I need to hear at this exact moment?  After slapping myself on the forehead I literally laughed out loud.  I’m an idiot – an imperfect, fat, slow-witted, good hearted, trying to be better idiot.  I’m training.  Thank heavens God loves me anyway.  Thank God I’m not training alone.

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