The answer: hard work!
Now, before you exit out of this page and get back to real life hoping that there was a quick answer to this let me give you my story and hopefully it will encourage you to do the same. Also, this process works if you need to lose 10 pounds or 100 pounds. However, this is not medical advice and before beginning any of the following please consult your doctor if you are concerned about anything mentioned below. This is my true story.
I’m Micah and the year is 2008. I am diagnosed with sleep apnea at the age of twenty-three and told that I quit breathing sixty-five times per hour while I sleep. Twenty-four of those being to the point where I completely quit breathing, in some cases, up to one minute in duration. I am 242 pounds. I spend most of my days fighting depression and anxiety. I’d like to work out but it seems utterly impossible.
I remember the doctor visit as if it was yesterday and asking the question to him: “If I lose the weight can I get off of the breathing machine for the rest of my life?” The doctor distinctly says that my airways are too small and even in losing the weight I will not be able to get off the machine. Declaring this to someone who is both depressed and anxious only made the gravity of the news worse.
What I say to people now and what I think I knew then was that God does not intend us to be on breathing machines unless it is absolutely necessary. The term diagnosis really should mean the doctor’s best guess. A diagnosis is about the law of averages and based on longitudinal studies. A diagnosis will not always be one hundred percent accurate as medicine is a practice, not a perfect science.
In the following days I began thinking about what it might mean to lose weight. You see, even in my worst state of depression at my core I am still a driven little fellow. It might be because I am the firstborn son of two firstborn parents or it may just be who I am. You may not have a driven personality in everything but you are most likely driven in certain areas of your life.
I learned quickly the basics of weight loss. Here it is in a nutshell: you have to burn more calories than you take in. While the science of that statement is more complex, the opportunity of that statement is clear. In order to lose weight, you have to make a sacrifice.
Like I said earlier, I did not know how to exercise. My favorite forms of exercise included baseball, basketball, racquetball and other team or competitive sports. While those are excellent forms of exercise they are hard to incorporate into daily life.
I began my weight loss journey using these three components. Daily exercise, eating new foods and a few supplements to make up the difference. For me, these three are in order of priority.
Daily Exercise: Emphasis on “Daily”
When I began exercising daily, I did not think I could do it. Every time I had tried in the past I failed because I began too hard and it fizzled quickly. I would try a thirty-minute run or twenty minutes on an elliptical machine. While I got the emotional high that came from those exercises for that day, it was too much too fast and not sustainable.
Therefore, I knew the principle that if you do the same things you get the same results so to do something different you have to be willing to try something else. I began by simply walking five minutes on the treadmill and calling it a day. I committed to doing six minutes the next day. What I found was that by adding small and incremental new goals each day I learned how to push myself. Instead of adding five or ten minutes, by increasing by only one minute I was able to accomplish my goal. I was in this for the long haul and wanted life change.
I made a nonnegotiable pact with myself that I was going to work out six days a week and then rest on the seventh. It sounds a bit familiar to the beginning of the book of Genesis. Perhaps God knows something about how our bodies perform best. We need rest.
In committing to the six on, one off regiment I was able to see results. The incremental additions each day were helping me to make progress as well. Soon fifteen minutes of walking turned into a new goal of five minutes of running. Today I can happily say that I have run a half marathon and consistently run three to four miles each day as part of my daily exercise routine. I promise you that I could not see this type of success as attainable when I first started. It seemed like something meant for, and only for, those training for some sort of competition.
Trying New Foods
Typically in a post like this, you would expect to hear that I dieted or cut calories or whatever else would typically make sense for someone trying to lose weight and get healthier. While that was certainly true, I didn’t start there, sadly. At that time, my food choices only consisted of high-fat foods. I ate only pizza, burgers, fries, and nachos. I did not eat anything green. To everyone’s amazement, up to that point, I didn’t even eat chicken. No joke. If it was red meat, it was for me.
You can see how I was overweight, depressed and had great trouble sleeping soundly. All of the unhealthy eating changed when I met the person who would soon be my wife. She helped me take similar steps to the ones I did for exercise, but for eating. We introduced foods like grilled chicken and I ate broccoli and green beans for the first time.
Initially, I had absolutely no taste for those healthier alternatives. My body craved the unhealthy foods. It took several weeks of detox to get to the point where I could enjoy eating even one broccoli floret. Making incremental choices afforded my body the opportunity to recognize the need for something different. I didn’t have to shock my system.
My aunt is a doctor in Kentucky. She purchased three months worth of nutritional supplements that she sent to my home in Tennessee. The box of pills was so big I couldn’t fathom getting all of those down. She taught me that our bodies are made to thrive. We need vitamins and minerals to help us function at full capacity. Without them, we operate inefficiently. I took those supplements routinely during that time.
I also added filtered water to the mix. Our bodies are made of mostly water. When we drink soft drinks, sweet tea, and processed drinks more than water we are imbalanced. We essentially load our bodies with more salt than water.
Adding in pure water allowed my body to filter out the impurities that had taken root. It helped to kick start my weight loss. Being hydrated also helped alleviate some of the depression and anxiety. When dehydrated our bodies operate in a type of mini-survival mode. Making sure to include lots of water in my day added great momentum to my weight loss journey.
It took more than a year to lose 72 pounds. It was a slow and steady process intended to become a healthier person. I can testify that without that discipline I would not be in the place I am today. Living a depressed life is not what God intends. Depression diminishes your life, God expands the potential of your life.
Conclusion and Your Plan
Honestly, sincerely and with a whole heart, I believe that if you need to, you can do this too. I have been able to keep the weight off (for the most part) for more than seven years. Something that worked for me in maintaining my goals is to weigh in every morning and evening. Yes, I like to weigh in both times of the day. For some people that is too much, but for me, it is the motivator that keeps me on track. If you know that you are going to be accountable at the beginning AND end of the day then you realize that you can’t just leave your discipline for the next day. Each day counts.
If you struggle here, you are not alone. Even if you have struggled for years and years, small and incremental steps will make all the difference. You must begin with good intentions, but understand that results take time. If you hold that understanding you can succeed. You need to succeed. It will enliven your ministry-potential under the sun. Invite God to help. He will.