I still remember where I was sitting when I was confronted about my poor physical health. I had packed on extra pounds, as I did not exercise, sat in a lot of meetings, and ate a lot of carbs late into the night (my excuse was I needed them to power through writing a book). Every Tuesday, Rick, whom I served alongside in Miami, and I met and planned over lunch. We were in our favorite French bistro and he sheepishly told me, as I ate a bunch of fries, about a new couple who were visiting our church who called me the “skinny fat guy preacher.” It was Rick’s loving way of telling me, “Dude you gotta get a handle on this.”
That day, eight years ago, marked me. I decided things were going to change. Over the next six months, I lost 30 pounds and have been able to keep it off through better eating (not at all perfect) and regular exercise. I am far from a personal trainer or nutritionist, but here are 8 things I have learned in 8 years.
1. With health, keep yourself from neglect and idolatry.
When I neglected my heath, I prided myself that ministry and other things were more important—that I was not going to make something like health my main thing. Though I still want to stay clear of making exercise and fitness my idol, I also want to avoid neglecting health as our bodies are temples of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
2. An exercise schedule is an absolute must.
The pull not to exercise can be strong, so scheduling helps make it happen. When I have not had a written schedule, exercise quickly dissipates. A 60-day or 90-day program helps tremendously.
3. So is finding something you enjoy.
I love to play basketball and have done so multiple days a week for the last eight years. So even when I fall off the wagon in an exercise program, having something I enjoy with friends keeps me active.
4. Exercise is profitable.
From fighting stress to better sleep and improved energy, all the positive things doctors say about exercise are true. When challenging believers to discipline themselves for godliness, Paul pointed out that physical training has some value—though far less and much more limited than training in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
5. Eating healthy is more important.
While exercise is important, eating healthy is more so. The maxim that fitness is 70% diet and 30% exercise is true. I don’t always eat “clean” but have developed a taste for things I never thought I would—from kale salads to tuna and salmon. It takes some experimenting to find dishes you like.
6. Eating healthy is really difficult.
It is just so easy to eat unhealthy. Snacks are always around. Restaurants are rarely healthy. It takes planning and even greater investment to eat healthy. Travel and eating out adds another layer of complexity and requires planning—such as scoping out restaurants and menus that offer healthy options before the trip/meal.
7. It is challenging to get in a rhythm and much easier to fall out.
It is much harder to start a new exercise routine than it is to stop one. It is much more challenging to change a few eating habits than it is to start eating poorly.
8. It is OK (even necessary) to start again.
Because it is so easy to fall out of good patterns, many times in eight years I have needed to start again.