With God all things are possible, even weight-loss

Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida
Posted Sep 4, 2012

Losing weight isn’t just hard, it’s nearly impossible. That’s why discussing a friend’s weight can prove disastrous, even for an RN, like Edwin Hill. That’s especially true when that friend is the rector.

“Father Rob, you are helping shape my soul, but…”

“But you want to help shape my body.” He finished the thought. He wanted to lose, but nothing worked.

“I went to this weight loss meeting,” he said, “and the instructor asked what changes we had made to help lose weight. I raised my hand and said, ‘I stopped buttering my donuts.’ No one laughed. I need something for smart alecks.”

A biblically-based weight loss program for men was needed, but there wasn’t one. So, a nurse, a chef and a priest created Weight For GOD!TM. The program is designed around the way men think and (mis)behave; it’s filled with competitive spirit, blatant humor, and valuable information, and centered on God’s divine will for men to become healthier spiritually and physically. It’s centered around weekly meetings, with dinner, for twelve weeks, with monthly follow-up gatherings for the rest of the year… and it works!

Men respond to competition. So the men choose up teams: Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, and non-denominational. In our pilot program we fielded six teams from 5 local churches. Team support (and accountability) also helped. One guy took food off a team-mate’s dinner plate prior to weigh in! We weigh in before every meeting and unlike other programs, our weights broadcast on the big screen scoreboard.  The biggest loser is awarded a rubber duckie… and the biggest gainer gets a rubber chicken. And for the guy who keeps going up and down, there’s the yo-yo award.  We also peppered meetings with gift cards, (not from Dunkin Donuts). Two vestry members pledged $5.00 per pound to the Rector’s Discretionary Fund, and another member matched them. So far he’s earned $795.00!

Education is essential. Basics like “how to read a food label,” “counting calories,” “calculating sodium, fiber, and carbs,” and determining your BMI. Participants learned about health risks of obesity, how to grocery shop, even how to eat out at restaurants, (pray for divine choices when the menu is delivered, not after the food arrives). Resources are free thanks to our taxes at work. Websites like MyPlate.gov, National Institutes of Health, and Move.VA.gov. offer great material.  Information is presented in PowerPoint, and the discussions and success stories are always lively… and frequently hilarious. We also brought in guest speakers from local fitness centers to promote exercise, (especially if they were willing to give away free memberships).

Hands-on cooking works. Guys learn by doing, so Executive Chef John Clark teaches how to make healthy meals that taste great right in the kitchen. Johnny recently lost over 60 pounds by taking control of his eating and exercise habits. Each week a different team takes over the kitchen to learn, to serve, and to clean up. A couple of these guys had never cooked before! Johnny also lectures on nutrition and food safety.

In Mathew 19:26, Jesus says, “For God all things are possible” …even weight loss.  Each presentation is tied to Holy Scripture and the readings directly relate the educational material. Did you know that in the Book of Daniel, men of God opted for vegetables and water rather than indulging in the king’s rich food and wine? Perhaps the most important part of the entire program is making God the centerpiece and the source of power in this mission of health and wellness. Surrendering to God’s will, and giving up our human desires takes serious prayer.  Without God, this could never work. Father Rob stepped up to the plate (pun intended) and connected the mechanics of each lesson to biblical truths. And the meditations applied, not only to weight loss, but also to our spiritual well being. We want to be men, we want to be better husbands, fathers and grandfathers, we want to be disciples. We do this for all these reasons, but most of all, we do it for God. Matthew 19:26 is the cornerstone of this program. And we are all witnesses to that truth. “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible”.

We’ve seen astonishing results.  After just 12 weeks, 30 men lost a total of 650 pounds! Fr. Rob is 53 pounds lighter (that’s like a fifth grader), Chef Johnny weighs less than he did in high school, and Edwin will wear his dress uniform on Veterans Day for the first time in decades.  One guy is completely off his blood pressure and cholesterol medication, another man, a diabetic, reduced his medications by 60% (under his doctors orders).  Fr. Rob said, he used to pick stuff up with his toes when he dropped something. Now he bends easily. He can even fit into his sports car. Plus, the local clothing stores are thrilled with all this new business! About half of the men have reached their goal weight, but they still come and support the rest of the guys.

Now it’s your turn. We want to share this program with episcopal Churches everywhere. We’ll have everything you need to run a successful program in your parish: PowerPoint presentations, handouts, recipes, a kitchen manual with shopping lists, scripture readings and meditations. Why not start after the New Year. For more information, contact Fr. Rob Goodridge at fr.rob@stgabs.org. After all, what have you got to lose?