My expectation when I started First Place 4 Health was to lose weight, and getting closer to God was the bonus.
I was a new Christian (two years old) when I received a catalog in the mail with an article about First Place 4 Health. I thought it was simply a weight-loss program, but if it was from God, then it couldn’t be bad. This time I had God helping me to lose weight. There were no groups in my area at that time, so I thought that if I wanted First Place 4 Health in my church, I would have to start a group. I looked online to get more information and really liked the program. As more time went by, I felt eager to get started and was looking forward to helping others, plus finally losing weight myself.
I started First Place 4 Health in January 2008. At that time, I weighed in at 183, my highest weight, which consisted of pounds gained after being on so many different diets. I knew how to lose weight—I was really good at it. I lost the weight over and over again, only to gain it back and then some. With First Place 4 Health came the tools I needed to succeed. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Food was my idol—it was an addiction! The only person who could help me break the addiction was God. He had to guide me on that journey. I learned in some of our Bible studies to insert my name whenever there was a verse referring to love or caring, anything that referred to my relationship with Jesus. For example: Jesus loves “Monique,” or “Never will I leave you, Monique!” It added a personal touch to His promises. They were directed at me. It also helped me form a relationship with God and get closer to Him. In my journey to a balanced, healthy lifestyle, I found the Bible studies to be my hope; the Word of God encouraged me to keep going when the going got tough. I found time in my day to memorize the weekly Scripture verses. It was then easier to eat healthy, because I had a verse in my mind that I could use to overcome the temptations. After losing about 20 pounds, I was at a standstill.
When someone would ask me how much weight I had lost or how long it took me, I would answer, “This is the first time I have been able to keep the weight off and not smoke.” Although that was true, it was still an excuse not to go to the next level. Sometimes we’re afraid of success because people are going to look at us differently. I was getting compliments and attention that I was not sure how to handle. One thing I had to learn to accept was that every day I have the same choices as that healthy person running/walking down the street. To get to the next level, I chose to be accountable to the women in my class. I started writing my weight on the whiteboard in our room. If I gained, I had to write the weight in red, even if it was two-tenths of a pound. I did not do that to be extra hard on myself. I did it to show how a number so small will make a huge difference over time. There were many times when I knew the number was going to be red, and many times I almost did not go to the meeting. It would have been so easy to call someone to take over the class for me. I figured, If I don’t go this week, I will lose the weight next week, and then I can write it in black. We all know what happens when we think that way. The longer you stay away, the harder it is to get back on track. My weight loss is 36 pounds—only 14 more and I will be at goal. However, my bigger goal is to be the person God wants me to be on the inside.
My expectation when I started First Place 4 Health was to lose weight, and getting closer to God was the bonus. As it turned out, getting closer to God was the prize, and the weight loss was the bonus. God has taken me so far from where I began. The unpleasant places where I have been have become a small part of my life. God has used those instances to shape me into what I am and what I have yet to become. I used to be unable to enjoy the present because I did not have peace in my heart. With God’s help, I am able to trust Him to take care of the things I have no control over. I still have a long way to go, and I have to work on balance every day. Because this is a journey, it’s not something to do “just for now.”
There are some areas in my life that I am still working on. I ask God to help me overcome them. God knew we would get confused in the process, so He gave us a book full of instructions, the Bible, and He gave us the grace to start over every day. In my life of changes there is one constant, and that is God. God will always be there; He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. God knows everything we have ever done. He sent His Son to the cross so we could have freedom. Our salvation is a gift; we cannot earn it, because our debt has already been paid. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Every day I pray to keep my focus on God. I pray for Him to reveal to me what I need to do for Him, and I ask Him to help me be responsible for my own actions.