Just over a year ago, I made a conscious decision to change my health. The results are that I am now 120 pounds lighter and am off all medications! I took this step for several reasons. One reason was theological. Physical health is only one aspect of our humanity, a part of us that is passing away in this present age whether our lunch box is filled with kale or Big Macs. However, as a Christian, I believe that a new age has dawned in King Jesus and that this new day will include the redemption of our bodies. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, all those who belong to him will be raised bodily when he appears again from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). At that point, all sickness and suffering, disease and death will be subjected to the dust beneath the feet of the King (1 Cor. 15:25). Paul, who explains these truths to us, concludes from this that what we do in the body and with the body while on this earth matters tremendously. As he puts it, “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). From this, I’ve determined that taking care of my body now, though it is perishing, is a pointer to the day of the Lord Jesus when it will be raised and clothed with immortality. Pursuing physical health is not nearly as important to me as loving my wife as Christ loves the church, demonstrating the Father’s love to my children, or being an example of self-giving love to the broken in my community, but it is important nonetheless.*
When I decided to live out these theological principles in terms of weight loss, I knew that three factors would be important for my initial and long-term success. First, I would have to undergo a lifestyle change rather than merely go on a diet. Lifestyle changes are permanent whereas diets are temporary. A diet may indeed result in weight loss, but if you return to your old habits after the diet rather than change your lifestyle, the pounds will eventually return (usually bringing a few unwelcome friends along for the ride). Second, my lifestyle change would have to be enjoyable. The best advice that I’ve read about losing weight and keeping it off is that if you enjoy how you lose the weight, then you’ll be much more likely to maintain your weight loss once you’ve reached your goal. Third, my lifestyle change would have to make since within my rural lifestyle. In other words, it wouldn’t make sense for me to follow Jared’s approach and go on a Subway diet when I live in the sticks! It also wouldn’t make sense for me to go the low-carb route when I raise a garden and enjoy fresh vegetables. Likewise, it wouldn’t make sense to eat a strict planted-based diet when I enjoy hunting and have a freezer full of wild game. For this reason, I chose to focus mainly on how best to prepare, cook, and enjoy the lean, protein-packed wild game that was already available to me and the vegetables that I already grew or could easily get at the local farmer’s market. This made sense in my rural setting and involved minimal changes. The changes came when I stopped filling my duck breasts with cream cheese and wrapping them in bacon and when I learned to enjoy my fresh okra roasted and my squash grilled rather than battered and deep-fried. Again, the trick was to make a permanent lifestyle change rather than go on a temporary diet, to learn to enjoy the changes, and to develop those changes in a way that made sense in my rural setting.
This brings me, at last, to the picture above: grilled venison tenderloin cooked medium rare with diced eggplant, sautéed cabbage, roasted cauliflower, and black-eyed peas. Are you hungry yet? It makes me want to climb up in a tree-stand and begin the process all over again. Next week, I will share a post about how I prepare and cook venison steaks from the field to the grill. In the meantime, if you are considering a lifestyle change to better your health, then I encourage you to go for it. Just remember, lifestyle change is permanent; diets are temporary. As my father-in-law always says (even when it’s frustratingly inappropriate for him to do so!), “Enjoy the ride.” Enjoy the changes that you make, and you’ll be much more likely to sustain those changes. Finally, implement changes that make sense in your life. A little change will go a long way toward your success.
If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.
*For an excellent book on our future hope as Christians, see N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008). If you are planning to read a book to coincide with Easter, I would also recommend Surprised by Hope.