Pastoring was killing me.
The stress of leading a large church. The pain of budget cuts. Managing the relationships between staff and peers in ministry.
Even though I grew up in a ministry family and understand the inherent pressures, it got to me. Early. (I started going gray when I was 18). Ministry was—and is—frequently listed as one of the most stressful jobs in America.
In my tenure is a pastor I have put on and lost enough weight for an entire family. At my heaviest–despite training for a marathon–I was 265lbs. I’m 5’10”.
I have suffered panic attacks, problems sleeping, and so much difficulty separating my personal life from my professional life that church problems typically overshadow (and often over-prioritize) any problems with my own wife, children, extended family and friends.
Everywhere I go I’m recognized. Everywhere I go I’m judged. In a small town like Jackson it’s nearly impossible for me to go anywhere without meeting someone who has left Westwinds during my tenure. I live a very public and scrutinized life.
That kind of life is dangerous. It was, as I said, killing me.
Here’s I got my sexy back.
First, a diet.
I know this might seem really simple, but in actual fact the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. An adult male in his 30s (about 6 feet tall) should consume about 2000 calories every day.
Since most pastoring stuff centers around food, I had to realize just how much damage I was doing to myself through a combination of frugality, politeness, and dietary thoughtlessness. I was consuming 4000 to 6000 cal a day, with heavy days being upwards of 10,000 or 12,000 cal. I never realized how unhealthily I ate. I now try and limit my net calorie consumption to 1500 net calories per day.
Beyond calories, I also had to learn how to keep track of protein consumption, since protein accounts for how much actual energy you have for living. On average I want about 100 g of protein every day. This intake has helped me lose 76 pounds over the last 18 months and I feel fantastic. I have more energy. I’m less sleepy. My skin looks better. I have less problems with my thoughts. I’m happier and—because I know what to look for—I also eat less.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy unhealthy foods from time to time (I had chocolate cake for breakfast), but I just don’t do it as often or to the same extent.
The second thing I started managing was exercise. The single best exercise in the world is running. It burns more calories for the least relative effort, does more for your heart, and uses more major muscle groups than anything else.
If you want to lose weight, run. If you can’t run, then start by walking and then jogging a little, alternating back and forth.
I suggest starting with one mile per day, then adding 1/4th of a mile every subsequent week. Currently I run between 3 and 5 miles, 3-4 times each week.
But let’s be clear: I hate running. However, I compensate by listening to audiobooks, watching Netflix (if I’m on the treadmill) and listening to music. Thus I offset the misery of running with the pleasure of entertainment.
I run (which I hate) so that I can better perform in races like the Tough Mudder (which I love). That’s key: leveraging your pleasures as motivation for your health and wellbeing. You have to find something physical that you enjoy, which–for me–happened to be adventure races like the Mudder, but also–and more significantly–CrossFit.
CrossFit is competitive high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.). The important word for me is “competitive.” Now, I’ve worked very hard to subdue the Dave-McDonald-angry-rugby-monster, so I avoid most “competitive” sports for fear of letting the devil out of his cage. But CrossFit is primarily a competition with myself. I take all my unrequited aggression from work and bang it out in the gym.
If I’m honest, there’s a lot that drive me nuts about church, church people, and the business of leading a church. But because I’m a follower of Jesus, I want to handle those frustrations in healthy ways–turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, forgiving 70×7.
But it’s hard.
So I take that aggression and throw it all on the weights in my garage. As kooky as it sounds, that becomes a kind of prayer during which I can confess and move on, asking God for patience via Grace.
(Yes, fellow CrossFitters, the pun was intended).
To manage my energy, I have sampled a number of different vitamin supplements, but Synedrex is the only one that’s really made a difference. It’s a fat burning energy pill that has the equivalent caffeine content of about 65 cups of coffee, so…yeah…it’ll pick you up. I do drink protein shakes, though, as they are a tasty, low-calorie means of ingesting plenty of energy. A 10-oz Whey Protein shake with orange juice gives 60g of protein for only about 350 calories, which is a great trade.
In addition to CrossFit and running, I also have begun playing a lot of golf and doing a lot of scuba diving. My lifestyle overall has become very, very active and that’s what’s keeping me breathing. I spend more time with my children, and have more fun with my wife, now than ever before.
I know it’s crazy, but if ever you want to get healthy as a pastor you should consider the revolutionary combination of diet and exercise.
It just might save your life.
Or—at least—make you hate pastoring less.