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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Garrison, Abplanalp, Maddux and Meese

There's Much to Gain by Losing

Four leaders at the Assemblies of God National Offices in Springfield, Mo., recently set personal weight-loss goals, with dramatic results. James Meredith, technical editor for the Pentecostal Evangel, spoke with them about their accomplishments.

Alton Garrison is assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. He lost 55 pounds in eight months.

Marilyn Abplanalp is vice president for faculty and student relations with the Alliance for Assemblies of God Higher Education. She lost 107 pounds in 11 months.

Ron Maddux is regional director for the Northern Asia region of Assemblies of God World Missions. He lost 80 pounds in seven months.

Jan Meese is employee benefits coordinator for Human Resources. She lost 70 pounds in 14 months.

evangel: Why did you decide to set a weight loss goal?

GARRISON: After Christmas in 2010, I finally said, “This is not good for me, not good for my family.” I’d just learned I was going to be a grandfather, and I began thinking, I owe it to my family to get these pounds off.

ABPLANALP: I carried the weight for 37 years. During that time I would lose some weight, then gain it all back. My father died at 58, and when I turned 58, I decided, “This is crazy.” I was tired of being fat.

I also kept in mind that our bodies are temples. I was always the funny one in the crowd, making fun about my weight. That was my way of protecting myself. So I had to decide I was doing this for myself, not for other people.

MEESE: In January 2011, the National Leadership and Resource Center (NLRC) wellness program became more prominently featured here. With me having a role in running the program, I had to get up in front of people and talk to them about wellness. How do you expect people to buy into something when the messenger isn’t buying into it? Even worse, I was standing in the chapel talking about it. So I committed to doing something about it.

MADDUX: Most of my adult life I’ve carried a lot of extra weight. I didn’t like the way I looked or felt, and my cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar were all up.

In December 2010, Alton Garrison challenged me to get involved in a weight loss program he was doing. Two weeks earlier my doctor had told me that if I didn’t make some changes, he was going to place me on medication for blood sugar. Then he added, “If you do well, I think I can get you to about 75 years old.” At that point I was approaching my 60th birthday, and I thought, That’s only 15 years! If that’s the best he can do, I’d better do what I can.

evangel: What kinds of lifestyle changes did you make, such as diet and exercise?

GARRISON: First and foremost I had to quit making excuses for what was causing me to struggle with losing weight.

I also established a “buddy system” with Ron Maddux. This program builds in accountability and measures your progress so you can incrementally celebrate your successes — which is important. I also kept a journal that was inspected by the program, so I had to be honest about what I put into my mouth.

In addition, I think it is important to have a healthy perspective of your own reality. You’re not like everyone else. You’re uniquely you, and you’re going to have to deal with it.

For example, because of my background as an evangelist, my highest energy expenditure would be late in the day. So I’d frequently skip breakfast, then eat at night. The biggest change I made was to quit eating at night. My smallest meal is now my evening meal.

Also, I like social events, and food is an opportunity for socialization. I would get my family or my friends together, and food would be involved. Today I will never eat alone. That’s my personality, and it was important for me to figure that out.

ABPLANALP: Dieting isn’t just about the eating. It’s a combination of things: portions, food choices and exercise. Many factors come into play.

MEESE: I was basically a carb addict. So for the first two weeks of my program I thought, I can’t do this. No pasta? No pizza? But once I got used to it, the carb cravings went away.

Exercise was also part of the program. I began by walking, something easy for me to do at that weight. At first I did things like parking as far from the building as possible for work. Some days I would be out of breath by the time I arrived, but slowly I built up to about a mile per day. Then I began getting up early to walk two or three miles at a time.

One dynamic the exercise added was that when I was working hard, I didn’t want to blow it by eating something I shouldn’t. A treat once in a while was OK, but not on a regular basis.

MADDUX: The program I’m on utilizes all the factors needed to be successful: 1. I eat real food, making right choices and utilizing portion control; 2. I record everything I eat every day, which adds discipline; 3. I have accountability, both to Alton Garrison and to the program. Accountability is key.

evangel: What was the hardest part about losing the weight?

ABPLANALP: The hardest part for me was not losing the weight but keeping it off. During the process, you’re working out, eating the right things, and seeing progress. You’re motivated all the time.

Then you reach your goal, and you have to stay motivated. So you need to continue with portion control and right choices. I haven’t gone back to eating junk food.

On that note, I used to drink a lot of diet cola — eight or nine cans a day. Then I went without it for months, as part of my program. Now my biggest splurge isn’t candy, cake or pie. It’s diet cola.

MEESE: The last 10 pounds have been challenging. When you’re almost there, it can be harder to lose the weight — and harder to stay on track. The exercise has to increase at that point.

MADDUX: I fly 200,000 miles per year, and much of what I do at meetings, services and conferences involves meals. It’s a unique challenge because, for example, if a person is tempted by alcohol, he or she can abstain. But you cannot abstain from eating. So even though I’ve reached my goal, I still practice the disciplines I used in originally losing the weight.

evangel: What principles can a person learn from the journey of weight loss?

GARRISON: It’s important for us to be disciplined spiritually as well as physically. I have many disciplines in my life, and it might be easy for me to excuse myself and say, “I’m disciplined.” But I still had issues in the area of diet and weight. So, I learned that I can discipline myself in this part of my life, too.

People sometimes say, “I’m going to pray the pounds off.” My response is, “I didn’t pray the pounds on, so I don’t know that I can pray them off.” My prayer is that God will give me the will to make the right choices — not that God will make the right choices for me.

We preach against a lot of things: smoking, drinking and other things damaging to the body. And yet we indulge in food without thought of the consequences. It’s been said that you can do more damage with a fork than you can ever undo with exercise.

ABPLANALP: Food is an addiction, and in the church eating is often a big part of our fellowship and socialization. I love sitting down to a big meal. Everyone gets together, bringing their wonderful recipes, and I was right in there, eating away. I wasn’t disciplined, and I also struggled with being an emotional eater. These were some issues I had to fight.

Physically, I’m healthy now. I was on several medications for triglycerides and cholesterol. Now I’ve reversed that. My energy level is unbelievable. And I’ve had to buy a whole new wardrobe, including shoes. Each size I went down, I gave the old clothes away.

Also, I now feel like I’m under control as opposed to doing my own thing. In the past, I lost weight for all the wrong reasons. And the Lord helped me see that discipline was missing.

MEESE: God is the One we must turn to — not just for the big things in life, but everything. Prayer has gotten me as far as the walking and dieting. I cannot do it on my own. God is faithful, and He wants us to be ready for whatever He has for us. How can we be ready for anything if we’re 70 pounds overweight?

For example, I’ve always wanted to do a missions trip or take a tour of the Holy Land. But I’d have to think, If the weather is hot and I have to walk a mile, can I do it. Now I know I can. On the more everyday side, I can also get on the floor and actively play with my grandchildren.

MADDUX: I always struggled with the spiritual component regarding weight, feeling that this was not a good testimony for me as a Christian leader. I want those I lead to see me as a person of discipline. It isn’t just a physical issue and a health issue. It’s a spiritual issue.

evangel: What advice would you give to someone thinking about setting his or her own weight loss goal?

ABPLANALP: Take it a day at a time. It’s important to set goals, but don’t set such huge goals that there’s no way you can meet them. There may be failure along the way, but you just pick yourself up and keep going.

Also, remember why you’re doing this. My goal was to be healthy. There were lots of extras — looking and feeling better. But you have to make up your mind why you’re losing the weight, keeping in mind it’s a lifelong commitment. For me, that meant having no candy in the house and avoiding certain foods completely. But those are the decisions each person has to make. If you don’t make the lifestyle changes, the weight will come back.

MEESE: Just put one foot in front of the other. Approach it in small increments — such as 5-pound goals — and it becomes much easier. Also keep in mind that you’ll occasionally have a week that doesn’t go as well. Keep the big picture in view.

MADDUX: You must purpose in your heart to lose weight, saying, “I am going to start right now.” Everyone intends to lose weight — starting next week or next month. You have to be intentional about it.

Also, the hardest part of weight loss is mental and spiritual. So there needs to be a change of mindset, a determination of spirit. Ask your family to help you and your friends to help you. And, above all, ask the Lord to help you.


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