One of the ongoing struggles I face as a Christian is practicing temperance.
The Bible says our bodies are God’s Temple and should be treated as such physically, mentally and spiritually. We should maintain them to maximum capability so as to allow God to work within us.
Unfortunately, my struggle with temperance begins with my, possibly, abnormal passion for food. I am a passionate person in most everything I do and food is no exception. I love food and am not very particular to what type. I love them all; Cuban, Mexican, French, Italian, Chinese, American, Creole, Contemporary, Eclectic, Thai, etc., etc. (you get the point).
God the creator of all things obviously blessed us with delicious food and gave some the skills and ability to prepare delectable and mouth watering dishes, of which just thinking about, makes me hungry.
The problem occurs when I take my passion for food to an extreme. It’s not just about being satisfied, as most people do. For me, it’s about to eating to the point of being full and, at times, to the point of nearly exploding. I can’t see food left on my plate (for that matter, I can’t see food on my kids’ plates either!). I am known to my family as the human vacuum cleaner (not something to be proud about).
I remember attending a St. Ignatius silent retreat two years ago. During meals, we would eat in silence while one of the men would read to the group for contemplation. Most of the participants were older gentlemen in their late 50’s and older, who attend the retreat yearly. I was among a smaller group of younger retreatants in our 30’s and 40’s.
While everyone sat very peacefully, I noticed my friend Ernie, who invited me to the retreat, get up for seconds during our first meal, Saturday morning. That was all the prompting and example I needed. From that point onward, I got up for seconds at every meal. Hey, since I wasn’t talking, I had more time for eating!
On the last day of the retreat, when the silence was broken and everyone got to share in conversation during our last meal together, the first thing one of the older men said to me was, “tienes buen apetito” (“you have a good appetite”). Yep, that’s me, the one with the good appetite.
Not exactly the self-control, measure, and temperance that Jesus Christ exemplified and expects from His Disciples.
Towards the end of last year, my friend and fellow blogger, Jorge Costales (check out his page), and I agreed to start the New Year by dieting and getting in good shape (as good as two fast-approaching-50-yrs-olds can get) in time for the summer bikini season and my annual family trip to Sanibel Island in late July.
Knowing that we were going to start dieting, I decided to beef up during the Christmas Holiday Season and weighed in at a robust 250 lbs (my heaviest weight ever) by the time we started. Fortunately, I’m 6-feet-tall, but still, not pretty.
I set a goal to drop about 35-40 lbs (when I met my wife 13 years ago, I was at my single playing weight of 185 lbs) and Jorge resolved to lose somewhere in the same range. It was not about dieting, we told ourselves, mutual friends and our wives; it was about changing our “lifestyles” (not as in alternative but as in healthy).
As an added incentive, we decided to keep track of our calories and email each other what we ate, workout routine and calorie-count in hopes of embarrassing each other into controlling ourselves. It worked!
Each day, at some point, I emailed Jorge my previous day’s meals, a calculation of the calorie consumption for each food item and workout routine (sounds a bit dorky, no?). Jorge would respond with his list and sometimes we would exchange comments like, “Hey it got a little ugly at about midnight, didn't it?” or “Bud, you gotta cut down on those oreo cookies!" or "It was a tiny piece!"
I started making progress, losing 17 pounds by April. I was running or working out with weights 3 to 5 times per week as well. I dropped 2 pants sizes. Jorge was also doing well and had dropped close to 20 lbs. We were gaining confidence. We could do this! It’s not that bad.
Then, when everything was going good… I slipped.
It’s not like we were extremely disciplined every single day during those months but we were, at least, pretty good during the week and would give ourselves some leeway during the weekends. Some weeks were better than others but consciously keeping track of every single piece of food we ingested gave us an effective means for losing weight.
When I stated that I slipped, it was by taking a week off from "reporting" to Jorge during a vacation I took with my family. That week dragged into two weeks and shortly thereafter, we stopped sending each other our lists altogether.
But, hey, I had this under control. I could do this on my own.
It wasn’t long before I reverted to previous habits of eating until it hurt, without keeping track of calories. I kept exercising and mentally would make deals with myself to allow me to eat certain foods by exercising more. It never worked that way. I also started slacking in my running. The change in routine led to a slow escalation in poundage. Weights without diet and sufficient cardiovascular exercise lead to bulkiness.
By the time the summer bikini season came and went, I had regained most of the weight I had lost. I was forced to wear my fat shorts in Sanibel.
Last week, I weighed in at 245 lbs.
Like overindulgence, vanity is also a cross to bear for Christians, since it comes from pride, considered the most serious of the Seven Deadly Sins.
But, wanting to stay healthy for the sake of God’s Temple and, at 46, wanting to be there for my children as they grow up is something I can aim for. My wife’s father died at 53 from a heart attack, as did a good friend and high school baseball teammate on Fathers’ Day of this year. Both were overweight.
Take two. My name is Carlos Espinosa and I am a foodaholic.
I am starting to keep track AGAIN of my calories and logging my exercise routine this week.
Lord, help me!