I was always a big kid. Not fat; but I do remember that when my mother would buy me dungarees (that’s what we called them in those days), my size always included the word, “husky.”
When I became a High School football player, I was only in the eighth grade. Most kids didn’t play high school football until the tenth grade. I guess I showed promise. From day one, my coaches preached, “Get stronger; get bigger,” and I did. I became massively strong for a kid in the seventies, bench-pressing as much as 400 pounds. I did get bigger, but not huge and never extremely overweight. My body was comprised of a lot of muscle.
My ideal weight with all of that muscle was about 220 pounds. By the end of my senior year, I was about 230 pounds; just a bit pudgy in my stomach area. At nineteen, I married my first real girlfriend. We were young and hungry. With no children yet, we ate good. Pizza, cookies, ice cream and ice crème with cookies in it became staples in our diet and I began gaining weight, at times as heavy as 250 pounds.
At twenty-three I entered college to prepare for the ministry. When our first child was about two, we became heavily involved in a little country church. In addition to going to school full-time, I worked a labor-intensive morning job at UPS. With Felicia, at her job at J.C. Penny and our young son, Adam, at the daycare center, I worked a morning job so my afternoons were usually free. My college buddy and I spent a lot of those afternoons walking a golf course that allowed college students to play for two dollars. We also played handball and tennis in the evenings. With all of that activity, I got really fit and was back down to 220 pounds.
Following college, I entered full-time ministry at a small church in a small town. It was a shock to my system. No mornings at UPS. No handball. No golf buddy. No classes to attend. Long story short, I went from being extremely active to living a sedentary lifestyle. In the first year of full-time ministry, I gained eighty pounds. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I went from 220 to 300 pounds.
The years rocked on and my weight fluctuated with every new resolve that I was going to get healthier. I would lose a few pounds and then I would gain a few. Over and over, I went through the lose and gain cycle; and with every gain, I added on even more weight.
Years later, we moved to a small, sleepy community to serve a church as the pastor. By then, we had three kids and I weighed about 330 pounds. The church fed us well, as small, southern churches do. It wasn’t unusual for someone to bring us a bag of groceries or a pan of biscuits. Within four years of moving into that community, I had gained an even more substantial amount of weight. No longer could I weigh at the doctor’s office because the scale’s limit was 350 pounds. I didn’t know how much I weighed, but I knew it was more than 350 pounds.
One morning, I was visiting a rehabilitation center because I was considering their gym membership offer. I noticed they had an electronic scale and it was a big one. I decided to step on. I received the shock of my life. I weight 394 pounds. This couldn’t be! I had gone from being a specimen of health and activity to being a balding, 394-pound man. I was so big, that friends from my past who had not seen me in a while didn’t recognize me.
I’d love to tell you that I took immediate control of the situation, but I didn’t. It looked like a mountain that I could never climb. I felt hopeless. Sometime later, I found out that I had type 2 diabetes. My doctor explained to me that my diabetes was most likely onset because of obesity. I had been obese for years by that time, but I had never heard a doctor use that horrible word when talking about me. I later found out that not only was I obese, but I was morbidly obese. That means that death could be imminent due to the amount of weight I was carrying. In addition to all of that ’wonderful’ news, the doctor told me that within five years, I would most likely lose my legs. I thought he was just trying to scare me into doing something. His tactics worked well enough that I began a low carbohydrate lifestyle called, ”The Atkins Diet.” This was my kind of diet because I could eat all of the meat I wanted. I am a carnivore. I love meat. I started losing some weight. It took me about twenty years, and I managed to lose about seventy pounds. The only problem was that it took twenty years.. I was seventy pounds lighter at about 330 pounds; but by this time, I was in my mid-fifties. I still battled diabetes, which was never under control during those years. I was on medication for high blood pressure and with twenty more years on my body, I was not any healthier.The cycle continued. About four years ago, I lost about thirty pounds. For the first time in years, I was less than 300 pounds. I gained, I lost and I gained. According to my doctor’s records, in February of 2017, I weighed 298 pounds; but by that time, I was fifty-seven. My diabetes was still not under control. I was still on medication for high blood pressure and I still felt horrible and horribly unhealthy.
In March of 2017, I prayed, “Father, if you will show me how to get healthier, I will do it.” I meant it! It’s easy to answer that question if you’re not in my shoes. I would get all kinds of advice. The advice that I loved to hate was, “Just push away from the table!” That’s much easier said than done. In April of 2017, I saw a Facebook post by another minister. In his post, he said that he had lost seventy pounds. Pat is a smaller framed guy than I and honestly, I had never noticed that he needed to lose weight, much less seventy pounds. I posted a comment on his post that was something like this: “Pat, I’d love to know how you lost seventy pounds.” Almost immediately Pat responded: “Jeff, if it’s okay, I’d love to get on the phone with you sometime tomorrow and share my story.” The next day, we were on the phone together. After about ten minutes, I was feeling a tinge of excitement. I was thinking that this health plan might be the answer to my prayer.
I shared what I had learned with Felicia. She wasn’t impressed. She didn’t say anything negative, but after thirty-seven years of marriage, you know. I wanted her to be excited. I wanted her to encourage me to go for it. The only problem was that there was a cost. I was going to have to spend some money. She has been with me through my whole weight journey. She has seen me try many weight loss programs and fail. She wasn’t sure she wanted me to spend money just to fail again and the money be wasted. I understood that. The more I discussed it with her the tenser she became. She would tell me to do it, but I could tell she was frustrated with me. I was hesitant. She was then and still is my number one supporter. I wanted her to be on board.
After a few days of discussion and thinking, I decided I would go for it, with or without her approval. Please understand. I’m not trying to make Felicia sound like a mean, unsupportive wife. She is just the opposite and that’s why it bothered me so much when I did not have her approval.
A few days later, I started this program. The first week I lost six pounds. The second week I lost seven pounds. The third week I lost four pounds. The fourth week I lost another four pounds. In one month I was twenty-one pounds lighter. People started noticing that I had lost a few pounds. The greatest thing to me was that Felicia was now noticing and bragging about my results. A couple of weeks later, she became so impressed with my results that she started the program, too.
By October of 2017, I had lost eighty pounds. In five months I was eighty pounds lighter. Not only had I lost a substantial amount of weight, Felicia had also lost forty pounds, which, for her, was a substantial amount of weight as well. In addition to our weight loss, we had become what our company calls, “health coaches” and we were leading others to lose weight and get healthier. That part was then and still is extremely rewarding.
During those five months, I didn’t visit my doctor. I didn’t have any reason to see him. I was feeling great. In October, I finally did see him but only because I was dealing with a shoulder injury. When he walked into the examination room, the first words out of his mouth were, “Congratulations! How did you do it?” It had been a while since I had seen him, so lab work was ordered. Blood was drawn and urine samples were taken. As a result of having my blood pressure checked and blood and urine tested, I found out that my blood pressure was completely normal and my A1C was 5.2. The understory to the story is that I had already stopped taking any diabetic or blood pressure medication and still I had those great numbers. Please understand, it was my decision to stop my medication on my on but I DO NOT recommend that you do the same. My doctor’s words to me were, “Keep doing what you’re doing and you won’t need any medication for blood pressure or diabetes.”
In October, I entered the maintenance phase of our health plan. During this time, the goal was to maintain the weight loss, which I have done.
Now it’s January 2018. I gained a few pounds during the Christmas holiday season but have already lost those extra pounds and am now back on the weight loss program. My plan is to lose another thirty pounds. When I do, I will weigh 190 pounds. I haven’t weighed 190 pounds since I was in the tenth grade. When I reach that goal, I will be over 200 pounds lighter than I was at my heaviest.
Why am I doing this? I’m doing it because I want my days ahead to be greater than those behind me. Because I want to be a better husband, father, papa, pastor, and friend. At fifty-seven years of age, I’m healthier than I was at thirty-seven. That’s why I do it. Why do I offer to help other people do it? Because I know what it’s like to have no hope and I want to help others have hope. I want to help others be healthier, if I make a few extra dollars in the process, that’s good too.
What is your “Why?” Is your ‘why’ large enough for you to make a commitment? Is your ‘why’ large enough that you’re ready to re-align your priorities?
Felicia and I would love to help you. For more infomation please email me at email@example.com or via facebook messenger.