First Place 4 Health has been a huge blessing in my life. I grew up with a number of overeaters in my family. By the age of 10, I was following in their footsteps. In my teen and early adult years, I decided I needed to make a change. I joined a number of weight-loss groups and experimented with several unhealthy ways to lose the weight. Motivated by an event or a beach vacation, the pounds came off, but they also came back. I just kept wishing I could get it right and be free of the weight struggle.
In 2006, I was a new believer living in VT, and on fire for Christ. I had three wonderful children and was carrying around about 30 lbs. of extra weight. God had already freed me from huge struggles with worry and fear. When I heard about the FP4H program from a friend at church, I imagined God must even have something to say about the struggle with my weight. I read the first few chapters of Carole’s book and still remember how the comment “A weight gain is often a symptom of a deeper issue.” both scared me and intrigued me. Before starting the group though, plans dramatically changed for our family.
Our son, who was then three years old, was diagnosed with a bone marrow disease and within three months, we needed to relocate our family in order to get the best medical care for him. We moved to MN and spent nearly all of 2006 living at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis. Our son underwent intense chemotherapy and radiation, two bone marrow transplants, numerous complications and several scares, which made us wonder if we would still have time with him here on earth. We are beyond grateful that this year we celebrated our son’s 9th birthday.
Although terrifying and challenging in so many ways, our son’s medical crisis was a blessing. God brought us all closer to Him during that time. I felt His peace in the middle of a storm and my faith grew, but so did my waistline. Instead of putting my efforts into the next diet or re-investigating His word on this subject, I did my best to be content with the body I had. I had work to do for Christ. I invested my time in Bible studies, ministries and local service organizations. I was almost convinced that my weight and physical health were not part of my faith journey. I didn’t believe God wanted me to waste time counting calories or sweating at the gym. I honestly saw exercising as something people did who were self-obsessed, and I was all about serving the Lord. I was blind to the fact that my 70 lbs. of extra weight, and the increasing number of medications I had to take, had anything to do with my relationship with Christ, but that was soon about to change.
After one year back in Vermont, we made the journey back to MN and became permanent residents. In the spring of 2010, I was serving as the director of women’s ministries at our church, when God presented me with the opportunity to start a FP4H group. I didn’t feel qualified, but I knew God would equip me. Blind to the depth of my own areas of sin, I mostly thought he would equip me to help others; what I didn’t realize was that He had a great plan in there for me too. Although I was the one to present the four-sided person concept and how living for Christ meant putting Him first in all four areas, I wasn’t completely sold on it myself. I boxed up each part and thought “I am doing okay spiritually, emotionally and mentally; I just need self-control and I will get the physical part in check too.”
Over the next two years, God blessed me with several FP4H groups, the ones I led and others in which I participated. He taught me new things about Him and myself through each study. He revealed to me that my overeating wasn’t just about my need for a shot of willpower; it was much deeper. I had always said I overate because I just loved food and didn’t want to obsess about measuring foods, while I pushed off the idea of looking for other reasons behind it. What I learned was that I had been relying on food instead of God for comfort, and was filling myself with calories instead of meaningful relationships. My trust was not in Him and the people He had placed in my life. God has helped me see food as fuel—as something wonderful He created to give us nutrition, and not something we use in response to emotions or to have a relationship with. He has shown me that our bodies were meant for exercise. and that it is part of our obedience to Him to care for our bodies in this way. He has shown me that skipping the high-calorie snack and turning to Him in prayer, diving into His word, or calling on a sister in Christ, who speaks His love language of obedience, brings immeasurable blessings.
I am grateful to say that He has blessed me with a 70 lb. weight loss over these past two years. I exercise and eat healthy most of the time. I have found myself saying that I don’t always get it right, but I “get it.” For example: I used to secretly purchase and consume a Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait, and simultaneously stuff aside whatever emotions I was trying to avoid, feeling disgusted and frustrated with myself. Now, there has still been the occasion when I have regrettably eaten the Peanut Buster Parfait, but I followed it up by recording the 710 calories on My Fitness Pal. I also journal and pray about what was really on my mind and show myself grace that only comes from knowing Him.
As far as exercise, I am not a marathon runner and may never be, but I move this body a whole lot more and enjoy the small milestones. When I started running earlier this year, someone once stopped me to ask if I needed help because I looked like I was desperately running away from something or someone. In order to prevent this awkward, yet considerate, gesture from happening again, I have learned to wear some obvious exercise gadgets. I have also kept up running and it has gotten somewhat easier. Last month, my husband and I ran a 5K without the look of desperation. It was comical though—when my husband and I passed a little girl on her front lawn, she said to her dad, “I don’t think they are going to win.” “He wants to keep us humble too, I guess. Well, I didn’t win the 5K, or even come close, but I have won in so many other ways. God has given me a relationship with Him that gives my life meaning, balance and confidence.
Just as it was hard to ever imagine calling our son’s illness a blessing, I find myself seeing my struggle with weight as a great blessing. Although it is hard to imagine not wanting to pass up buying clothes in five different sizes over the years, countless days of hating the mirror and scale, tears and immeasurable frustration with myself, I would choose those struggles in return for what I have gained. He has given me a love for healthy foods, an appreciation for exercise, relationships I cherish, and a new way to look at the grace, love and mercy He continues to show me.