by Rob Regal, Intentional Loser of 100 Pounds,a nd Senior Production Editor for Intentional Living
It’s one thing when you need a little course-correction from time-to-time. You normally stick to a budget and you’re not a chronic over-spender. But maybe you’ve allowed yourself a few too many trips to the store on your credit card or too many trips to the ATM machine. This is FAR DIFFERENT from being a shopaholic with a chronic need to buy things to feel good, deeply in debt and fast on your way to bankruptcy.
When you are on your way to a crisis like a snowball rolling down a mountain, course-correction is a lost cause. You’re stuck and in need of freedom. You need transformational change.
That was my story. It was my faith journey. It was my financial journey. And it was my health journey, which we will be talking about today.
Looking back on my experience, I have identified seven distinct phases or characteristics of the road from “being stuck” to “becoming free”. Understanding these phases and, more importantly, identifying your current status according to these phases may very well be the first step to intentional living in the essential area in which you are struggling.
As I share these seven phases of my health journey with you, I will compare each to their respective place in my faith journey. The reason for this is to show the transcendent nature of our struggle against the paralyzing nature of some of life’s biggest challenges.
Phase 1: I had to get right
Even before coming to a saving faith in Christ in July 1988, I had a gnawing sense of my need to “get right with God”. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. But, it was a sense that I couldn’t shake. The same was true of my battle with obesity and poor health. My struggle began shortly after college in 1993, and it wasn’t until early 2006 that I finally made the clear-cut decision to “get right with my health”. Yet, during those 13 years I was more than aware of my growing need to “get right”.
Phase 2: I knew the consequences of “not getting right”
Before I came to faith in Christ, I was very aware of the consequences for “not getting right with God” before death, namely “hell”. And, before making that life-changing decision to “get healthy” in 2006, I had an increasing awareness of the potential health crises for which I was headed, namely heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or even death.
Phase 3: I put off “getting right” for fear of losing my “freedom”
This part is so deceptive. I was afraid that “getting right with God” would kill all the freedom and fun I was having in life. So, I figured I’d wait until I was advanced in years before becoming devout (though I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly). It was similar with my health struggle. Visions of bean sprouts and water seemed restrictive, while my current reality of pizza and ice cream seemed like a freedom I could never sacrifice.
Phase 4: Putting off “getting right” didn’t preclude me from “token attempts”
The decision to put off “getting right with God” (again, in my mind, I wasn’t sure what this meant – at the time it was some concept of becoming more devout or committed) did not preclude me from throwing “token attempts” in the direction of my faith issue. From time to time I did go to church, tried reading the Bible (which made no sense), and even tried to stop sinning so much (and failed miserably). The same was true with my health issue. I tried a little exercise here and there, cutting snacks, attempting portion control, not eating after 7:30pm, drinking more water, etc., all to no avail.
Phases 1 – 4 give way to phases 5 – 7
Phases 1 – 4 are those in which we make excuses for our being stuck. While some excuses may be legitimate, the decision to “remain stuck” is just that- a personal decision we CHOOSE to make. It’s a choice! Phases 5 – 7 are the road to freedom and transformational change. They begin with the “180-degree turn”, the decision to turn wholly in the opposite direction with ABSOLUTELY NO MIDDLEGROUND!
Phase 5: The choice is “hot” or “cold” with no option for “luke-warm”
On the morning which I was saved, the preacher talked about the luke-warm Laodicean church. This is the chapter in the Bible in which Jesus says that one should be “hot” or “cold” for Him, and that “luke-warm” people are so repulsive to Him that He would “spit them” out of His mouth. As I heard those words that Sunday morning, I knew I couldn’t leave without making a decision for or against God, and I knew that a choice to be “luke-warm” was actually a choice against. That morning I chose Christ and never looked back!
My health journey came to a climax on a Saturday evening late in February 2006. I slithered down out of my living room chair and onto the floor to watch television. Sitting upright, just to watch TV, was so uncomfortable that I had to lie down to relieve the pressure in my upper body, neck, and head. I remember vividly telling my wife that I felt like a “skeleton trapped in a water balloon”. That was really how I felt. Just bending over to tie my shoes made my head feel like it was going to explode! It was that night that I finally made a decision- the decision that I couldn’t take it anymore! That night I put myself on notice that, come Monday morning, there was no turning back! Notice that I was kind enough to give myself one more day- Sunday- to live in freedom (insert smiley face here). But, it was indeed a decision to make a “180-degree turn” from which I have never looked back.
Phase 6: Without the “truth to set me free”, I was still “stuck”
Choosing to finally “get right with God” was fruitless without the Gospel. When I told the pastor of my decision to finally follow Christ (whatever that meant), he told me how to pray and ask Jesus to become my savior. It wasn’t until I receive Christ’s gift of salvation that I actually became what the Bible calls “born again” and a “new creation in Christ”. At that moment, the Holy Spirit birthed me into the family of God through faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, and He (the Holy Spirit) came to indwell me as the Helper that Jesus had promised. As Jesus said in John chapter 8, I finally came to a saving knowledge of the “truth”, and that “truth set me free”.
The same was true in my health journey, though the “truth” didn’t come that quickly, and neither did the freedom. My decision to “get healthy” was followed by several months of up & down “yo-yo” dieting that yielded minimal weight loss and much fatigue and exhaustion. However, I had also begun reading voraciously to find the “truth” I was going to need. And, while there is more nutritional “truth”
that I could share here in this small space, suffice it to say that the truth I discovered about the rate of digestion did, indeed, finally set me free.
In those early days of trying to lose weight and become healthier, I was simply trying to cut calories and exercise. What I didn’t realize was that starving the body of calories (also known as the calorie-deficit method of weight loss) was incomplete truth. I learned that starving the body can negatively impact metabolism, and that I needed a good combination of good-quality calories at every meal in order to slow the rate of digestion. I actually discovered that a natural, low-calorie, low-fat meal or snack can actually make the body gain fat and slow its metabolism! Slowing the rate of digestion through a proper balance of protein, good fats, and quality carbohydrates would help me stay satisfied longer and increase metabolism. Once I realized this truth and began implementing it (around June of 2006) the weight loss became dramatic! More importantly, something unexpected happened- I began to feel so healthy and clean- like never before- that I had sort of an “epiphany”. When I realized how good “healthy” felt, and how good foods tasted once my body became “clean”, I began to wish I had made the change before!
Phase 7: So you wanna go back to Egypt?
Speaking of the ancient Israelites who had escaped slavery in Egypt for freedom in the land of Canaan, the late Keith Green once sang the lyric “So you wanna go back to Egypt?”. Looking back on Phase 3 in both my faith and health journeys, I realized that the freedom I thought I would have to give up in my “stuck-ness” was nothing compared to the freedom I found in the “truth that set me free”. Once I had tasted of the true goodness of God in Christ, it really was a no-brainer that I would have no desire to return to my former life. The only thing I would have changed, if possible, was to have made the decision to “get right with God” much earlier. And the same is true of my health journey. Before I became obese following college graduation, I was a fairly successful weight-lifter/bodybuilder throughout high school and college. During those days, I could eat whatever I wanted without getting fat. Yet, you couldn’t pay me to go back to those days because I feel so much better now, even in my mid-40s! My 21-year old self might have been able to bench press more, and he might have been able to eat all kinds of junk without growing his waistline. But this 40-something me feels so much cleaner and healthier. Not to mention, I am actually healthier- inside and out- than I was nearly a quarter of a century ago.
So you wanna stay stuck?
What’s your story? Maybe it’s something other than health. Are you stuck? Take a look at my story and these seven phases. Perhaps you will see yourself in one of them. If you do, remember that remaining stuck is a choice. Choose freedom and start living today!