It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and her book:
Regal Books (June 15, 2008)
Carole Lewis is the national director of First Place 4 Health, the Christ centered health and weight loss program. A warm, transparent and humorous communicator, Carole is a popular speaker at workshops, seminars and conferences around the country. She and her husband, Johnny, have three adult children (one deceased), eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Visit the author's blog.
List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Regal Books (June 15, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
One of my favorite authors and speakers, Patsy Clairmont, tells the story of when her son was about six years old. Because they lived out in the country, she walked her son to the bus stop every morning. One day, early in the school year, before she got back to the house, she heard the footsteps of her son running up behind her.
“What in the world are you doing?” she said to him. “The school bus will be here any minute.”
“I’m quitting school,” he said, looking her straight in the eye.
“You can’t quit school,” she replied. “You’re only in first grade. Why do you want to quit?”
“Well, it’s too long, too hard and too boring,” he said.
“Son, that’s life,” said Patsy. “Get on the bus.”
* * *
Have you ever wanted to give up?
There’s a worthy goal ahead, but to reach the goal takes time, effort and focus. When you run into obstacles, your first inclination might be to quit. That’s when the best thing you can do is square your shoulders, set your lunch kit firmly under your arm and get on the bus—in other words, take one simple step toward your goal.
If you’re reading this book, chances are good that you have a worthy goal in mind—you want your life and health to change for the better. Maybe you haven’t fully articulated the goal, but you know that you can’t stay the same. You know that something has to change in your life because parts of your life—perhaps all parts—aren’t what they could be right now.
What’s the most obvious part of your life that needs to change—is it your weight?
Being overweight is an obvious catalyst that invites you to open the door to positive change. It’s easy to admit to a struggle with weight when the mirrors, the scale and the clothes closets in your house don’t lie. Being overweight is noticeable—to you and to others. You can’t ignore it. It never lets you forget its presence.
• Maybe you feel the extra weight in your heart and lungs. It’s difficult to climb stairs. It’s difficult or impossible to play with your kids or grandchildren. You dread your annual physical checkup because you already know what the doctor is going to tell you.
• Perhaps buying clothes is distressing and embarrassing for you. You see the clothes you’d like to wear, but nothing fits or feels right. You dread wearing shorts. You detest wearing a swimsuit, and you might even refuse to participate in any activity that requires your wearing a swimsuit.
• Maybe you sense a subtle discrimination at work. You are passed over for a promotion and wonder if it has anything to do with your weight. Maybe your sales would be higher if you looked fit. Maybe you’d get more respect if you weren’t packing on the pounds.
• You dread social events, such as a class reunion, where you’re with people who haven’t seen you for a while. You hear people say good things to others, but no positive comments come your way. Maybe people give you pointed stares. Maybe they even joke that your spouse’s cooking must be really good.
• Weight affects your pocketbook. Your grocery bill is higher. Your life insurance premiums are elevated. You spend more on medical deductibles. Maybe you have paid a lot of money for weight-loss programs and related books.
• You fear the severe repercussions of being overweight. One of your grandmothers suffers from diabetes. An uncle died of heart disease. Another had a stroke. You’re about the same age and condition as they were when their bodies became diseased. What will be your fate?
The reasons why you are overweight are numerous. You may have struggled with weight forever. You’ve always been the “fat kid,” the one picked last in gym class, the girl without a date at prom or the tubby guy who’s always good for a joke. You blame the weight on your genes, the way you were raised or the fact that your mother always cooked with butter. But it doesn’t matter—in the end you’re overweight because you’ve always been that way.
Some people struggle with weight only after a major life change—the pounds came on after marriage, after reaching a certain age, during pregnancy. You remember what it was like to be fit, but that was definitely yesterday’s body. You see pictures of yourself taken a few years ago, before you gained weight, and wonder if you’ll ever look like that again.
Some of us wrestle with weight because, in our most honest moments, we know it acts as a cocoon. If this is your reason, perhaps you gained weight because something terrible happened years ago. Maybe your father died when you were young and you’re still grieving his loss; you were date raped as a teenager and it has taken years to overcome the tragedy; you went through an ugly divorce and are still scarred and wounded. The extra pounds feel like a protection. You believe your weight hides you from a hurtful world. Food is a refuge that always seems to make you feel better.
Some people struggle with weight because age or other health conditions hinder ease of movement. If this is your story, you long to be fit and healthy, but most mornings when you wake up you simply feel miserable. It’s hard to get off the couch, much less walk around the block.
Others struggle with weight because life moves too fast. You’ve got to work all day and pick up the kids after soccer practice and get dinner on the table and make phone calls for the committee after dinner and on and on and on—how can you possibly take time to focus on your health?
Whatever the reasons, you know one thing for sure: The pounds are there, and you wish they weren’t. You long for a better life—a vibrant, healthy life. Deep down you long to be the kind of person whose life is characterized by balance and satisfaction.
You can glimpse the better goal of being fit and well, but to reach that goal, you know it will take time, effort and focus. Obstacles will come up—they’ve come up every other time you’ve tried to lose weight, and when this happens, the temptation is always to quit. You know that you need to take one simple step at a time toward your target. But how do you do that?
The Place to Begin
There is hope for your future weight loss, and it’s found in a place you may have never imagined. The easy thing would be for me to give you another diet to follow. But statistics tell us that 95 percent of people who lose weight gain it back again.1 The simple fact is that another diet is not the solution you’re looking for.
I repeat: If all you’re looking for is a quick way to lose weight, then this book will disappoint you. That’s not what First Place 4 Health is all about. Besides, I won’t give you a quick fix that will take the pounds off only to have them come back on a short time later.
I want to give you a lasting solution that addresses not only the number you see on a scale but also your whole person—spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s the plan that helps you lead the life you were meant to live—a good life filled with hope, purpose and health.
If that kind of life is something that interests you, I want to let you in on a little secret. The hope for your future weight loss begins with this simple fact:
God is good.
That’s where the First Place 4 Health program begins. Does that statement sound so simple that you feel like dismissing it? “God is good” is one of the most far-reaching principles of the Bible, and it affects your life in ways that you may never have imagined. Let’s take that one fact and unpack it a bit.
Imagine for a moment that you lived a few thousand years ago. You’re in a community of people loved by God, but you have all made mistakes over a long period of time, and you find yourself conquered, captured and carted off to Babylon by order of King Nebuchadnezzar.
In this new land, nothing feels the same and nothing looks the same. Obstacles are all around you. You’re a stranger in a strange land. But you get a letter from one of your “pastors”—the prophet Jeremiah—and the letter lays out the very words of God.
In the letter, God says that He knows everything there is to know about you, including the events of your life that have led you to this place of exile. God knows the mistakes you have made, but He offers you His grace. The Lord declares these simple yet profound words:
I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).
That’s the simple fact: God has good plans for you, plans to give you a hope and a future. In other words—God is good.
God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Even though He wrote those words through the prophet Jeremiah, to a specific group of people at a specific place and time, His righteous character is still the same toward us today. Whenever we turn to the Lord and ask for His help, He extends His hand of grace to us.
Nahum 1:7 repeats that thought:
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in Him.
That’s the real answer to your goal of losing weight and becoming healthy. Start with the fact that God is good. He cares for you. The answer you’re looking for encompasses not just taking off pounds, but also living the life of purpose and hope you were meant to live. This is the life God calls you to live. And that life is well within your grasp. This book will show you what it’s all about.
Do the Next Right Thing
To begin learning about this new, healthier lifestyle, you need to start right where you are. That means taking whatever positive step is right in front of you; or, in other words, “do the next right thing.”
I want to share with you part of a letter I received from one of our First Place 4 Health group leaders. She has chosen to show up to life every day. She takes small steps. She makes ordinary decisions for positive change. But she is walking the path of balance that leads to total health.
I have battled depression most of my life. When I became a Christian, that battle did not go away. In 1990, when I weighed 220 pounds, I prayed that God would deliver me from my addiction to food. One week later, I learned about First Place. (First Place has been a lifesaver for me. I have been a First Place leader off and on since 1991.)
When my mother came to live with us, and I became her full-time caregiver, I dropped out of First Place and my weight went up to 273 pounds. I am disabled and live with chronic pain on a daily basis. During this time there were days when I only got out of bed to take care of my mother’s most basic needs.
When she went home to be with the Lord in 2002, I chose to have gastric bypass surgery the next year instead of returning to First Place. I lost 90 pounds the first year and then stopped. I have since realized that there’s no magic cure for weight gain. Even with gastric bypass surgery, the answer is to eat less and exercise more.
I wanted so badly to start leading First Place again, but since I’d had weight-loss surgery, I felt that I couldn’t justify leading the class. I prayed and sought the Lord and called your office and was encouraged to share with the class and go forward. I have done that now for the last two years.
All of this leads up to why I am writing. I have battled depression since I was a very young girl. God has helped me so much since becoming a Christian, but it is a battle every day, and some days I lose the fight. One of my First Place assistants brought a copy of the April 2007 First Place Newsletter to class for each of our members. That newsletter has changed my life.
We all have Aha! moments in life when one word or one Scripture reaches us and the light bulb turns on. For me it was one line from that newsletter. “When there are times when all I can do is the next right thing, then I do the next right thing.” Wow! I thought. Maybe I can do that. So I typed up this saying and placed it on my bathroom mirror. The very next day I woke up in great pain, not knowing how to begin doing all the things
I needed to do, and with no energy and no desire to do anything. Then I remembered the saying—Do the next right thing. I read it out loud, and I read it again. And then, I did the next right thing. All day that day, if I got confused or overwhelmed or sad, I went back to the bathroom and read that statement and then did the next right thing.
My husband can’t believe the things I have gotten accomplished. My house is cleaner; my laundry is done (folded and put away); I go to bed earlier and get up earlier. I have started swimming at the YWCA. I have become interested in reading and doing crafts again. Previously, I just wanted to stay in bed until noon; but now I tell myself to just get up and do the next right thing.
The words “Do the next right thing” have completely changed my life. Do I still battle depression? Yes. Maybe I will for the rest of my life unless the Lord chooses to heal me. Am I still in constant pain? Oh, yes. I need surgery, and maybe now I will find the courage to go ahead with that. But I don’t have to worry about that—I just have to do the next right thing.
In the pages ahead, you will see more specifically what taking positive steps looks like. Together we will examine the model of the foursided person and explore what it means to live a balanced life mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. You are invited to make foundational shifts toward positive habits that will help you along your new journey. Through the power of God, you can decide to live a healthier life, and you can experience lasting positive change.
When I think of a person who has succeeded in this area, I think of my friend Deborah, a woman in my First Place 4 Health group.
Deborah had a number of strikes against her. At 5'8", she weighed more than 200 pounds. She had been in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage and was in the process of getting a divorce. She had custody of her two preteen girls and was tired a lot. After suffering from chronic depression for years, Deborah was on several medications.
When Deborah came to her first meeting, all she did was sit. She sat through an entire 12-week session and didn’t lose a pound. She signed up for another 12-week session. She came and sat, and didn’t lose a pound.
So she signed up for a third 12-week session. On the day the session was to start, she sent me this email: “Carole, please take my name off the roll. I’m just dragging the group down.”
I knew that Deborah wasn’t doing her Bible study. I knew that she had not learned the food plan. I knew that she was convinced that all she was able to do was sit. And I knew that she had reached the point where the pain of not changing was forcing her to move beyond the lies and make a choice. Her choice was that she needed to make a choice.
I replied to her email message with one line: Deborah—just come today.
That day, when Deborah arrived, I hugged her, and she started crying.
That was her moment of choice. From that moment on, she started responding to the program. She began doing her Bible study and memorizing verses. She started walking around her neighborhood with her girls. She started eating according to the Live It plan.
Soon, she had lost 60 pounds.
Previously hidden aspects of Deborah’s personality began to shine through. She was fun! We learned that she was a talented photographer. In fact, in March 2006, she went to Israel with a tour group arranged by First Place 4 Health. She took pictures for the group and walked up and down the rocky terrain. I had never seen her like that—so vibrant and full of action. She had just been so squashed down all of her life.
“Deborah,” I said, a while ago, “tell me what finally happened for you to make a choice.”
“Carole,” she said, “you believed in me. You believed that I could do it. Nobody ever believed in me before.”
What she said is true. I believed in her. And I believe in you. I believe that you can do it. Even if no one has ever believed in you before, know that someone believes in you now. With God’s help, you can change. It’s your choice. And you have the power to do it.
As you take your next steps toward positive change, keep in mind that you must choose to change before change will begin.
First Place 4 Health is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle shift.
People often believe that if they can just get on the right diet, all their weight problems will be solved. That’s an easy mistake to make, because the latest, greatest diets are always marketed as the solution we need. Yet First Place 4 Health is much more than a diet; it’s a change in how to approach life. The good thing about the First Place 4 Health food plan is that it’s not restrictive like a diet would be. We invite you to explore all the wonderful world of food choices the Lord has provided.
• First Place 4 Health is not about rigid rules; it’s about helpful invitations. We used to stress commitments—which is a good concept. We wanted people to be dedicated to pursuing health. But we have found that people sometimes looked at commitments as laws, and if laws were broken, then guilt and rigidity set in. Instead, we are inviting you to make a number of positive changes in your life. No one does them all perfectly, all of the time. So relax. There isn’t just one way to live a healthy life. Develop the plan that works best for you, and give yourself grace to make mistakes and adjustments along the way.
• Get involved at your own pace. When it comes to living a healthy, balanced life, success will look different for different people. Some people lose 100 pounds the first year they’re involved in First Place 4 Health. Other people lose 20 pounds and keep it off for 20 years. For others, success is found in not gaining any more weight. You are welcome in First Place 4 Health regardless of where you are with your current level of health. We encourage you to do no more than what you are ready for. Yet we do encourage you to take a first positive step as soon as possible.
• Your invitation starts right now. Any change requires some sort of adjustment. Your invitation is to jump in to this new life today. Just begin. Get on the bus. Make the choice to give yourself wholeheartedly to this new season in your life—a season that will hopefully stretch into a lifetime of healthy living. Have fun exploring new ways to grow in your faith and in your understanding of health. Develop new friendships by getting involved in something good for you. Don’t be satisfied with standing on the outside—come on in! Be courageous and take the next step in living a balanced life.
What Keeps You Going?
The formula for lasting change:
A worthy goal reached through time + effort + focus
When obstacles to meeting your goal come up, your first inclination may be to quit. That’s when you take the next step toward your goal— just one simple step at a time.
It helps to have a clear idea of what a worthy goal looks like. You may not have articulated more than the words “to lose weight.” While this is a worthy goal, it usually breaks down when obstacles come up, because you need a greater understanding of the motivation behind your goal. When you remember why it is that you wanted to lose weight in the first place, that knowledge keeps you heading toward your goal.
People lose weight for all sorts of reasons. The Bible provides the foundational motivation, and it’s as simple as this: God is interested in your health. The motivations are shown in two passages of Scripture.
Check out Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In other words, you are urged to present your body—your actual flesh and blood and bone and skin—to God as an act of worship. How you take care of your body is a reflection of what you think about God. It’s honoring to the Lord to take care of the body He has given you.
When your body is presented to God, He invites you to use your life in service to Him.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
The benefit here is yours. To live for the Lord God of All is an incredible privilege. God’s invitation is to an abundant life full of purpose and hope. A foundational motivation for weight loss and total lifestyle change is to give your body to God.
It seems strange to think about it, but if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, then you have the actual Spirit of God living inside your body. It doesn’t make you a god. It means that your body houses the spirit of God, and that He works in your life by faith.
So what are the foundational motivations for losing weight and living a life of balance?
First, God wants you to. God is interested in your health.
Second, when your life is in balance, it’s much easier to be a leader in your family and a role model for your children and spouse. It’s difficult to lead people where you have never been yourself. Many children are overweight and need encouragement from their parents. Many of the weight problems of our children would evaporate if we led by example.
I’ve experienced this truth in my own life. When I first started to exercise, my oldest granddaughter, Cara, loved to walk or jog with me. Would she have done it on her own? No way! Yet in a heartbeat, she came with me at my invitation. Children love being with their family members.
Third, weight loss can also expose the true needs in our hearts. I’m talking specifically to those of you who need emotional healing. A weight gain is often a symptom of a deeper issue. For instance, women and men who have been emotionally or sexually abused often attempt to hide their pain by eating.
But whatever motivation is speaking to your heart, just take a moment now to get on the bus.
In the space on the following pages, jot down some ideas about the reasons you want to lose weight. It can be very beneficial to see your goals on paper. When obstacles come (and they will), you can refer back to this to gain encouragement.
Sometimes it helps to record a positive goal as well as its negative extrapolation of what might happen if you don’t do anything. Sometimes it can help to imagine your life in 5, 10 or 15 years. What will happen if something changes? What will happen if nothing changes?
Take some time to think through the following declarations.
I want to lose weight because . . .
I want to lose weight so that I can . . .
and be a good example to . . .
If I lose weight, then in the future I can see myself . . .
If I don’t lose weight, then in the future I can see myself . . .
There is no correct way to word your goal. What matters is that you know your goal, remind yourself of it often and keep in mind that your goal is reachable. With God’s help, you can do it.
Congratulations! You’re on Your Way
God never promised us that life would be rosy and without difficulty. Instead, the Lord promises to carry us through any situation and trial. God already knows your goals. He knows that you desire a better life filled with purpose, health and hope. And He knows the obstacles you will encounter that tempt you to quit the journey. Don’t give up! You can make it!
Remember, you have already taken the first step by reading this chapter. And it wasn’t that hard. Now you’re on the bus! You’re on your way to a whole new you.
Checklist for Success
• Acknowledge the truth that God is good and that He offers you a hope-filled plan for your life and future. Your success begins with this simple fact.
• Run from quick fixes—they never provide you with the lasting change you need. First Place 4 Health is a lifestyle change that affects your whole person—mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically. It will take time, but it’s worth it.
• Accept the invitation to give your life to God. He is interested in everything about you—including your physical health.
• Write down the specific reasons why you want to become healthy. Refer back to your declarations often for motivation. Remind yourself why not doing anything isn’t an option.
• Start today. Obstacles and excuses will come up, but quitting isn’t the answer. Do the next right thing!
1. This statistic is frequently cited in weight-loss journals and health-related articles, for example: http://preventdisease.com/fitness/weightloss/articles/carbs.html (accessed January 23, 2007).