How to Reach Your Goal of Losing Weight

I got to share my story over the weekend at a health seminar. It was awesome to see the amount of people putting in the time and effort to live a healthy lifestyle.

If you don’t know my story, I used to weight almost 300 pounds and have a 42 inch waist. Over the course of 18 months, I lose 130 pounds and have kept it off for the last 5 years. It feels incredible. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about what does work and what doesn’t work to lose weight, keep it off, pass on healthy habits to your kids and enjoy life.

So, I put together all the blog posts I’ve ever written on the topic.

Being free from bad eating habits, a food addiction (and other addictions that lead to an unhealthy lifestyle) and poor body image:

  1. What to do on “Fat Days”
  2. Food, Weight, and Stop Being the Victim
  3. How to Examine Your Heart/Motives
  4. When Eating Becomes a Sin
  5. Why We Aren’t Healthy
  6. Women and the Cycle of Defeat
  7. Two Ideas that Should Change how We Think about our Bodies, Weight Loss & Food
  8. Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

How to lose weight:

  1. My Journey of Losing Weight
  2. How I got to where I am 
  3. The idol of food (the spiritual side of weight loss)
  4. Have a plan
  5. It’s for the rest of your life
  6. The effects
  7. Do your homework
  8. The idol of exercise & staying in shape

Staying healthy (eating well, avoiding burnout, etc.):

  1. Every Time You Say Yes to Something You Say No to Something Else
  2. What I Wish I’d Known About Energy, Family & Mistakes
  3. Making Room for What Matters
  4. How I Structure my Week
  5. How to Know You’re Too Busy
  6. How to do Crossfit on Your Own
  7. 6 Ways to Stay Motivated to be Healthy
  8. Thoughts on Burnout, Sleep, Adrenaline, Stress, and Eating
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When Eating Becomes a Sin

Little boy choosing between a cupcake and apple

I get asked a lot about losing the weight I have and keeping it off. Losing 130 pounds was really hard, but keeping it off and is incredibly difficult. I’ll often get asked about eating habits as that is where most people get hung up.

One of the things that rarely gets talked about is that eating can be a sin, an idol. The reality is, we are told our bodies are the temple of the holy spirit and we are to take care of them (1 Corinthians 6:19). Most Christians use this verse to say drinking and smoking are wrong while eating their next 2,000 calorie church potluck meal.

The reality is that eating is a sin when:

  • We do it mindlessly.
  • We do it when life feels out of control.
  • We do it to feel better or find comfort (ever hear someone talk about comfort food?).
  • Or, when we eat too little to be prettier or skinnier.

So what do you do?

The first thing you must do is understand why you eat. What drives you to food. It is not that you are hungry, we often eat when we aren’t hungry or continuing eating when we are full, so there is more to it than that. If you never uncover why you eat, you will continue to eat in a sinful way by finding your god in food.

Because overeating or not eating enough is a sin and can be an addiction, you have to approach the way you would someone who is addicted to porn, shopping, drugs or working too much.

When you approach those sins, you make a plan, create some accountability around them to keep you from falling into those patterns. It is the same with food.

Here are some ideas:

  • Get an accountability partner for exercising or eating.
  • Don’t buy the snacks that are bad for you. If it isn’t there, you can’t eat it.
  • Make a meal plan so you eat well. If you make a last minute meal it is rarely good for you. If you go out to eat, always know what you will eat before you arrive. Looking at the menu causes you to eat more than you should or food you shouldn’t.
  • Drink at least 100 ounces of water a day. Water fills you up and helps to clean out your system which helps to move things through better. Also, if you drink that much you eat less. If you drink this much water, you are less likely to drink soda. I’ve read cutting soda out of your diet can drop 10 pounds in less than 2 weeks.
  • Eat higher protein meals which will lead to less hunger in between meals. I eat 5 eggs every morning and am rarely hungry before lunch. Not snacking makes a huge difference.
  • Start slow. The big mistake most people make is to jump from what they are doing to eating like Bob Harper tells you to eat on the biggest loser. While that’s great if you can do that, it is often unrealistic. Take small steps and then add to it. It took me 18 months to lose 130 pounds but I went slow and have kept it off for almost 4 years now.

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Eat Move Sleep

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Eat Move Sleep: Why Small Choices Make a Big Difference (kindle version) by Tom Rath. I actually read this book back in June, but it releases today, hence the review.

I’ve been fascinated by health and fitness for some time, ever since losing 130 pounds and keeping it off. So, Rath’s book was right up my alley.

Two things that are obvious about this book from the title:

  1. Every choice we make matters. They all impact every part of our life. 
  2. Tom Rath looks at how to eat, move and sleep so that those choices make the most positive impact in our lives.

As Rath states,

What seem like small or inconsequential moments accumulate rapidly. When your good daily decisions outweigh your poor ones, you boost your chances of growing old in better health.

Now, if you’ve lived a relatively healthy life, watch what you eat, exercise and sleep well, most of what Rath says will simply be a reminder. While I’ve read a lot about weight loss and health, I still found good tidbits I have never heard before and was reminded of some things that are easy to forget.

Here are a few things that stuck out to me as helpful:

  • The types of foods you consume influence your health more than your total caloric intake.
  • The best performers sleep at least 8.6 hours a day, almost a full hour more than the national average.
  • The top performers in every field typically work/practice in focused sessions lasting no longer than 90 minutes.
  • Losing 90 minutes of sleep reduces daytime alertness by nearly one-third. If you consider all the things that demand your attention in a day, reducing alertness by one-third is consequential.
  • A study of over 80,000 people suggests total intake of fruits and vegetables is a robust predictor of overall happiness.
  • When food is served “family style” from large plates, bowls or platters placed in arms’ reach, people simply eat more.
  • Anytime someone is hungry and in a hurry, it results in a bad choice.
  • The first to order food at a restaurant is an anchor for the rest of the table and sets the tone for what others order.
  • We eat based on the size of our plates.
  • We are more likely to make a bad food choice when a healthy option is available compared with when no healthy options are available.
  • Couples in which one partner has a commute longer than 45 minutes are a whopping 40% more likely to get divorced. 
  • The dish you start with serves as an anchor food for your entire meal. Experiments show that people eat nearly 50% greater quantity of the food they eat first.
  • People consume 167 additional calories per hour while watching TV.

An overall helpful, quick read.

Food, Weight, The Gospel and Stop Being the Victim

If you are addicted to food, overweight or struggling with an eating disorder the good news is that you are not alone. While it may feel that way, in fact, if you attend church it can feel incredibly lonely. You wonder how many other people struggle with it. It has become the sin that we don’t talk about. Make not mistake, it is a sin because we hope to find wholeness, completeness, fulfillment and happiness in food, eating too much, eating too little or working out.

Who Temptations Hurt

We often think of ourselves as the victims when wrestling with temptations. We rationalize why we do what we do. I don’t trust people because my dad broke promises to me. I don’t take charge in my life because my mother always dominated my life so I’ve just learned to sit back and wait for it to be taken care of. I buy things so that I’ll feel like I belong with my neighbor or good friend. I eat like I do because it makes me feel better after a long day.

Our addictions and temptations often start as someone else’s fault. This is why it is so easy for us to live with the addictions and think, “This is just who I am. I can’t do anything about it.” I’m just the guy who gets angry. I’m just the girl who can’t keep her mouth shut. I just need to have the newest gadget.

You may believe that you are overweight because of something your parents did, how they raised you, or what someone said to you in high school. We play this record over and over in our heads. We use those words as reasons to keep us from dealing with what lies underneath.

When we sin, we hurt. We feel guilty, we feel distance from friends and family, but ultimately, we feel distance from God. Our scope when it comes to sin and temptation is almost exclusively bent towards us.

Do You Really Hate Sin?

One of the problems in our culture is that most of us don’t have a biblical view of sin. We talk about sin as guilty pleasures or vices. Many in our culture believe sin is something made up by Christians to make us feel guilty. Many of us approach sin as if it’s something we can live with, something that is true of everyone. So what’s the big deal?

While sin is true of everyone (Romans 3:23), we are told in Scripture that sin is death (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1) and sin is committing adultery against God (James 4:4).

When you sin, do you have that view? When you gossip, are stingy, look at porn, or eat too much, do you think, I am cheating on God?

Scripture teaches this because when we sin, we are living outside the way God designed life to be lived. We are choosing our way over God. In that moment, we believe that sin will be more gratifying and more fulfilling than God.

When it comes to food, eating too much or seeing food as a crutch, the church is silent on whether this is a sin. This allows many to continue living without a worry. It is also why we don’t see food as a spiritual issue – only a health issue.

Lies we Believe 

Tim Keller said, “Every time we sin, we believe a lie.” In that moment of sin, we believe that it will be more gratifying, more enjoyable, more fulfilling than the life Jesus has promised us. When Jesus came to earth, he promised (John 10:10) that He came to give life – life to the fullest. This life is beyond what we can dream or imagine. A life many of us only hope is true. When we sin, we believe this life is not possible for us and that we can find life on our own.

If we’re honest, sin, in the moment we commit it, feels fulfilling. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t do it. When you eat, it feels good, it brings you comfort, and it is a friend in your loneliness. This is why many of us eat like we do. Then something happens after we eat. You know the feeling. The guilt and shame that quickly follow is a different story.

The lie many believe is that they can’t persevere. Often we give into temptation before it even comes. We are defeated people, broken down by life, hopeless to withstand any temptation or trial. We simply acquiesce that we will always be overweight. We shrug our shoulders and eat another scoop of ice cream. I’ll always be the overweight girl that is excluded. I’ll always be the last picked for the game.

Another lie we often believe is that our sin or temptation is not our fault. Maybe you are like me and blame your weight on your upbringing and how your parents didn’t teach you good eating habits. Maybe it is God’s fault that you can’t have the metabolism of a 14-year-old now that you are 35. I don’t know why God created people who could eat Taco Bell 4 times a day and lose a pound in the process when I feel like I gain a pound every time I smell McDonald’s. We rationalize that we aren’t the most sinful person we know. In fact, if you made a list of the 10 most sinful people you know, my guess is that you wouldn’t be on it.

This gets at the fundamental question that gets debated in our culture, “Are people basically good or bad?” According to Scripture, we are sinful and broken. We sin out of our desires. You might be thinking, “I sin because of what happened to me.” On the surface, this may be true, but underneath it is another level that maybe you sin out of protection, to not let people see your brokenness, or have to deal with the brokenness and hurt in your life.

God and our Bodies

When I was at my heaviest, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law that proved to be a life altering conversation. We were at Starbucks and he asked me, “How can you challenge people in sermons to have self-control when you don’t have any in the area of food?”

The reality of being overweight in the Christian community is that until you have a heart attack or some other health issue, no one will say anything to you. It isn’t seen as a sin, so what’s the point of saying anything? If you choose to be overweight, it’s your choice.

Back to Temptation

We’ve all had that conversation with someone we love who has been hurt by our addictions. We utter these hopeful words that often feel empty, “This is the last time.”

Why do they feel empty?

These words are brimming with the opportunity of freedom. But they are empty because they are overused. Men addicted to porn swear to their wives they will never do it again. They will get accountability and this time it will be different. After a mother screams at her children, she tells them she won’t do it again. On the verge of bankruptcy, we tell our loved ones that this is the last time we will spend more than we make. We will stop buying things. We will stop drinking. Stop gambling. Stop gossiping. Stop eating too much.

This is the year that I’ll lose weight. How many times have you uttered those fateful words? How many Januarys have you said or written down, “This is the year I will get healthy?”

The personal issue my brother-in-law pointed out is that pastors are unhealthy and many of them are overweight. Ouch. A 2001 Pulpit and Pew study of 2,500 clergy found that 76% were overweight or obese compared to 61% of the general population at the time of the study. For many, it has to do with a lack of controlling their schedules when it comes to their sleep and exercise habits along with making poor choices at their lunch meetings or laziness.

I think the larger issue for people who say they believe in God is that we compartmentalize the gospel to the point that it is strong enough to save us for eternity, but not transform our eating habits or body image issues.

It’s not just pastors who are overweight. The problem has moved into the pews. A 2006 Purdue study found that fundamental Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups led by the Baptists with a 30% obesity rate compared with Jews at 1%, and Buddhists and Hindus at 0.7%. This study prompted the lead researcher, Ken Ferraro, to say, “America is becoming a nation of gluttony and obesity and churches are a feeding ground for this problem.”

Similarly, a 2011 Northwestern University study tracking 3,433 men and women for 18 years found that young adults who attend church or a Bible study once a week are 50% more likely to be obese. The Pawtucket Heart Health Program found that people who attended church were more likely than non-church members to be 20 percent overweight and have higher cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.

There are a few reasons for this reality. One reason is that churches don’t talk about food as an addiction, the need for exercise, or body image issues. It can be awkward. I didn’t realize this until I lost all my weight. I remember standing on stage talking about this, weighing in at 170 pounds, and looking out at my church. I saw some people who were overweight; some were very obviously overweight, while others just slightly. Whenever you bring up weight, body image issues or food as an addiction, immediately everyone thinks you are talking about them. While you are speaking to them, it is beyond each individual, and leaders must see it as a larger issue as well. It isn’t that we as pastors want to shame anyone in our church or any leader wants to bring guilt on someone who works for them. But we know they will feel so much better about themselves and their life if they can gain the freedom that Jesus offers in this area. We want them to experience the life Jesus promised. Too often, we interpret the life described in John 10:10 is simply about heaven. This life, an abundant life, is also about the pace we keep, what we put into our bodies and how we think about our bodies.

A second reason this isn’t talked about has to do with the leaders of churches in America. You can’t preach about something you don’t believe or don’t live out. You can’t talk about believing in the life Jesus promises when it comes to weight and body image issues while eating the way we do at the church potluck. You can’t challenge your church to have self-control in areas you struggle to have self-control in.

The last reason this isn’t discussed in churches and why pastors and those who sit in our churches every week are unhealthier than the culture around them is we don’t believe that Jesus is better than food, work, and our pace in life. Since we don’t believe it there is no sense in living it. For many who attend church, the gospel is simply how one gets to heaven and how we spend eternity. Yet, the gospel, the truth of Jesus, is so much bigger and impacts the here and now of our lives. Until this changes, we won’t see how the gospel can free us from food as an idol or an addiction. In short, we won’t be able to see the glory of how God created us in his image and why this is an amazing truth.

Two Ideas that Should Change how We Think about our Bodies, Weight Loss & Food

book

For many of us, when we think of addictions we think of things like drugs and alcohol. In our culture, depending on your background, you may now toss pornography or sex into those categories. Yet, in most churches and among Christians, these aren’t the only addictions that plague us. And no, I’m not talking about debt and money, although those certainly are addictions that plague many people.

What I’m talking about has to do with weight loss, body image and food.

My name is Josh…and I’m addicted to food.

If you are like me, you love food. You might be one of those people who just love to snack. You always seem to have a bowl of candy on your desk, grab a bag of chips mindlessly. Sitting in front of the TV you find yourself eating something. It isn’t anything big, it isn’t a meal, but you are just always eating.

Maybe for you it is dessert. You can’t go to bed without eating dessert. It is a comfort when life seems out of control. A long day is made better with a bowl of ice cream, a piece of pie, or some chocolate.

For me, I was never much of a snacker. When my wife Katie and I would take road trips, I never really wanted snacks. But I couldn’t resist the stops we could make for a hearty meal.

There is something else we might have in common. For you, it might not be food that is a problem; it is how you feel about yourself. The constant comparison to magazine covers or TV ads, the inferiority complex you have as you compare yourself to that guy in your office, the one who can eat whatever he wants and lose a pound, the woman who always looks put together. Your sibling who always seems confident, looks great, and feels great. Kind of like an annoying commercial.

Across the board in America, there is a problem when it comes to food addiction, weight loss, stress, health and body image. Today, there are more people overweight and obese than ever before. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 35.7% of adults are overweight or obese, and 17% of children (or 12.5 million) are overweight or obese. And consider this: 44% of U.S. women are on a diet, 29% of U.S. men are on a diet, 80% of U.S. women do not like how they look, and $109 million is spent in the U.S. every day on diet and weight loss products. Among those who lose weight while on a diet, 95% will regain all of the weight they lost within the first 5 years. And as far as stress, 43 percent of U.S. adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) study.

Is This It?

Maybe you have gotten to the place where you’ve asked, “Is this it? Is this really how life was meant to be lived?” Envying the bodies of someone else, envying the pecs, six pack abs, butt or hips of someone else?

My change began 6 years ago. There wasn’t a magic pill of any kind, I didn’t have a surgery, but things in m heart began to change, which led to things in my life changing.

I wasn’t always overweight. In fact, in college I played soccer all 4 years but when college ended, I continued to eat like I played soccer year round and then my metabolism came to a screeching halt and well, you can guess the rest. I ballooned up to almost 300 pounds. Someone looked at our wedding pictures recently and asked how much weight I lost. When I told them I lost 130 pounds, they said, “You lost a jr. higher.”

Maybe you are reading this and think, “I don’t have an eating problem. I’m not overweight, but I can’t stop looking at the bodies that others have. I starve myself to look a certain way, to feel beautiful.”

Maybe you are like a guy I had lunch with recently. He eats like he doesn’t know fruit or vegetables exist, but he doesn’t gain any weight. For him, weight is an issue others deal with, but he doesn’t view his body the way God does.

Our Bodies and the Gospel

Often, when it comes to our bodies, the only time we bring the gospel into the conversation is if we are talking about sex. This is too small. If the gospel changes everything, if the gospel one day restores all things, then our bodies, health, body image and weight loss should fit into the discussion.

Two ideas have changed how I think about food, weight loss, health, pace in life, body image and how I talk about them. The first is found in the first chapter of the Bible in Genesis 1 where it tells us that we as humans are made in the image of God. Most Christians do not believe this. How do I know? We envy other people’s images instead of celebrating our own.

The second idea is a verse that gets quoted to encourage Christians to not smoke or drink, at least, that is how the pastor of the church I grew up in used it. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 it says, do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

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I Can’t Compete With Your Perfectly Coiffed Hair & other Perfections

Recently, I have been asked how I do all that I do. My response is that I probably do not do all that you think I do. At this writing I have clean laundry piled in the playroom and there is toothpaste spattered all over my kid’s bathroom mirror. (As a friend said, you really should wonder if your kid’s bathroom is not dirty, it means they are not using it.)

As a mom, wife – heck as a woman, I feel competition everyday. Are my kids as gifted, attractive, athletic and well-rounded as the kids in their class or down the street? Am I the best wife, with the best recipes, and the best hair that I can possibly be? Are my jeans fitting a little too tight today because of that extra brownie last night and was my mom right, does everyone one I meet actually like me?

I can drive myself crazy before my foot hits the floor in the morning, and this is all before coffee!

After reminding myself that my approval is already complete in Christ, and my identity is not derived from what others around me think about me, I drink my morning coffee.

And I am reminded about the beauty of the church and how diversity is good, but it usually feels like a competition.

How about we all agree to be good at what we are gifted at and leave the rest to someone else. Let’s celebrate the strengths in those around us and encourage each other in our weaknesses, instead of allowing it to be fodder for gossip.

You are not suppose to do all that I do. You are suppose to do all that YOU are wired to do.

Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like

Top Blog Posts for November 2012

In case you missed them, here are the top blog posts for the last month:

  1. Accountability
  2. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  3. My Journey of Losing Weight
  4. The Role of Men in the Family
  5. Why We Sin so Easily
  6. 10 Ways to Know if You’re Putting Your Kids Before Your Spouse
  7. Is Love a Choice or a Feeling (And Why it Matters)
  8. Losing Weight Part 2: The Idol of Food
  9. 10 Gospel Truths about Homosexuality
  10. Why a Pastor Should be in a Missional Community or Small Group

Top Posts of July 2012

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the last month:

  1. My Journey of Losing Weight
  2. Burnout Series Part 4: Finding Your Way out of Burnout
  3. Some Thoughts on Body Image & the Idol of Food
  4. Burnout Series Part 1: How to Burnout
  5. What “Be Still” Means
  6. Revolution Church is Moving
  7. Burnout Series Part 2: How You Know if you are Burned Out
  8. Meet Nehemiah James Andrew (Updated)
  9. Don’t Forget
  10. Today Ava is 7

Top Post of 2011 – #7: My Journey of Losing Weight

Over the last 11 days of 2011, I’ll be posting the top 11 posts of 2011. Here is #7: My Journey of Losing Weight. This one seems timely today as many Americans will eat way too much food.

Over the last week, I blogged about my journey of losing weight and keeping it off. It has been awesome getting messages from people about how this series has challenged and encouraged them. I hope it spurs you to being healthy.

You can read the posts here:

  1. How I got to where I am 
  2. The idol of food (the spiritual side of weight loss)
  3. Have a plan
  4. It’s for the rest of your life
  5. The effects
  6. Do your homework
  7. The idol of exercise & staying in shape