“Your weight puts you in the obese category,” my doctor said at my 2019 check in. I can’t be obese I thought. But there it was. With my 5 foot 10 inch height, and weight of 230 lbs, I saw that I was definitely over the line on the chart that said OBESE. How did this happen to me? I thought. After all, I was an athlete, playing football and baseball in high school and baseball in college with no or little body fat. I loved two-a-days football practices. I spent the summer outdoors.

I had tried to remain active, playing pick up basketball until COVID-19 put an end to that. And I am a presbyterian pastor. I teach a curriculum that helps people take charge of their calling, including mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. But there it was. I was obese.

How did it happen? Gradually. It began for me at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, the graduate school where I studied to be a pastor. The work load was so intense there that I started eating four meals a day just to have energy to make it through the course load. I put on a pound or two here and there, but hardly noticeable. My first pastorate was at Green Lake Presbyterian Church in Seattle. And while I coached baseball at Roosevelt High School and sometimes ran around Green Lake with kids in my youth group, life as a pastor was sedentary and stressful.

Stress is a great motivator for me to eat. I eat when I’m stress. It is a way to self-soothe, to feel better. I think a lot of pastors are like me in stress and food. By the time our family moved to Indianapolis, IN, in 2002, we had four children. I threw myself into pastoral work, which, again, does not require a lot of physical activity but is stressful. It was an exhilerating time spiritually, and I was growing emotionally, but physically I was in a rut. I coached baseball at an inner city high school, and played pick up basketball once a week, but that was about it. Pastoral ministry takes a toll, and I was eating and drinking to find some comfort, and gaining weight along the way.

In July 2014, I spent a month on Camano Island at my parents house for a month long writing sabbatical. I ran every day, went swimming at the beach, and was very careful in my calorie intake and dropped to about 200 pounds. I was in the best shape that I had been for the family art show in Indy. But, I gained the weight back. Did I say ministry is stressful?

By the time our family moved to Redmond in August 2015, I was locked in at about 210 to 2015 pounds. Here’s a picture of me and my friend Donteau the day we left in the moving truck.

I thought I might be a bit overweight, but figured I was OK. I did notice that I was breathing hard on our monthly church hikes in the Cascades, and even walking up and down the stairs in our townhome. But I shrugged it off. I was used to the “new me.” But when the doctor labeled me as “obese” and encouraged me to lose some weight, that got my attention. But not enough to really do anything about it. Plus, I was having a hard time making friends in Redmond. I was lonely. And did I say pastoral ministry can be stressful. I didn’t want to give up the comfort or food and drink. Then COVID happened and everything got dialed up with a little more stress and loneliness and a couple of more pounds.

I took this picture in 2017 and posted it on Facebook with the caption “What happened?” It’s embarrasing. But I’ve got to be real.

I did join some dear friends and family on a week long water fast. We did that for the first time in 2020. I dropped a few pounds. But then gained them back. I did lose weight to be presentable in my shorts when Jenny and I went to Hawaii in February 2021, dropping maybe to 2015 pounds. Wow, I thought I was looking great. But when I look at the pictures now cringe. I settled in at a comfortable 225. Though pastors may be good at counseling others in emotional, spiritual and physical health, we are not good at taking our own health seriously, at least not physical health, at least I wasn’t.

Then something significant happened. I shared in another article how two years ago, in November 2021, I discovered the sport of pickleball. I told how good that game has been for me in terms of making friends, finding community, and getting healthy. I shared how over the course of the last year, I’ve lost fourty pounds. You can read more of that story here.

I now play pickleball a couple of hours today, unapologetically. The game is super fun. I love to compete. The community and friends I’ve made are wonderful. God made me to be physically active. I chronicled the last year of my pickleball journey here.

I now weigh 185 pounds. I’m locked in at that weight. I feel great. I don’t breathe hard when I go hiking in the Cascades or climb the stairs at our home.

My goal is to be 175 pounds. That is my ideal weight. That is where I should be. But I’m stuck at 185! The hardest ten pounds to lose are the pounds that I haven’t been able to shed…yet.

Here’s what I’m doing to lose those last ten pounds.

First, I’m continuing to play pickleball, every day that I can. As a pastor, I have a pretty flexible schedule. I also wake early. I’m usually working in the 3:00am hour, so I get a lot of work done early. When there weather is nice, there are always courts near our home in Redmond where I can play for an hour or two. And when the weather is bad, I play at the Y.

Second, I’ve added to pickleball working out. This includes, (1) lifting weights, (2) doing the stairmaster, and (3) situps in the sauna. Building muscle, I’ve been told, burns fat.

Third, I’m practicing intermittent fasting. I basically try to keep all my eating within a 8 hour window, from 10am-6:00pm. This keeps me from snacking late at night. I’m also trying to not eat as much sugar, though I have a sweet tooth.

Still, with all of this, I’m having the hardest time dropping these last ten pounds. I know that I will. I committed to it, and I enjoy the challenge. But the hardest ten pounds to lose, are the ones I haven’t lost yet.

Does you have any good ideas?

One Comment

  1. Cheryl Strong Magnuson

    It sounds like you are doing so many things right. Be kind to yourself. Portion control is something to consider, especially during the holiday season and in potluck type settings which are a huge challenge for me.

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