A heavy subject

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”
— 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I thought my heart was going to beat right out of my too-thick chest. Four laps ­— two freestyle and two breaststroke, both with passable but not-great form — that’s about all I could do without stopping, my tired arms holding me up as I rested at the edge of the pool. I’d catch my breath and swim a couple more laps, each with worse form than the one before. And by the end, I can only assume that the lifeguard on duty was eyeballing me as I made each winded, dead-armed stroke. My guess is she watched with a mixture of pity and fear, knowing I could go under at any minute, ready to save my poor, out-of-shape soul.

My body, a temple? Maybe, but it’s a temple that has been neglected for far too long.

I’ve sat down and written this all before, unfortunately. Eight years ago I was pushing 30 and Grant, my 9-year-old, my rotten one, was a baby. I knew I had to get healthy for him and for the rest of my growing family. I was 245 pounds when a group of four writers at the newspaper I worked for set out on a journey to lose weight. We called it “Weighty Matters” — clever, huh? We kept readers informed of our progress through blogs and weekly updates printed every Sunday. I sweated and dieted off 39 of those 245 pounds in four months. At 206 pounds, I felt better than I had at any point in my adult life.

But I had pushed myself for four pressure-filled months. I deserved a break as a reward for my hard work.

That weeklong break in early 2006 turned into a month, which turned into a year, which turned into four years. I went from 206 pounds to 270 pounds — 25 more than I weighed when the project started. But I again reached a point where I knew I needed to lose weight. I was 33 years old and Jacob, my 5-year-old, my rotten one, was a baby. I knew I had to get healthy for him and for the rest of my growing family.

All my life I’ve been motivated by one thing: competition. If I know somebody is out there trying to beat me, I will outwork them. Knowing several friends and family members who also needed to lose weight, early in 2010, I set up a contest. There were 10 of us who put in $50 and the person who could lose the biggest percentage of their body weight would win the whole $500.

I had lost a large amount of weight quickly before and I had no doubt I could do it again. As I saw it, there was only one real threat to victory: my cousin, Sean, who had always been an athlete and who was equally driven. Because I knew he was putting in the work, I pushed myself harder than I had in my life. I hit my diet hard and the gym even harder. In 3 ½ months, I lost 65 pounds. He lost close to 70, if I recall; but because his starting weight was more than mine, I beat him by a few percentage points. Not only was I 65 pounds lighter, I was $500 richer.

But I had pushed myself for nearly four pressure-filled months. I deserved a break as a reward for my hard work.

That weeklong break in the spring of 2010 turned, again, into a month, a year, four years. Since then, I’ve gained 80 pounds. I’m 37 years old and my wife is carrying my youngest baby. I need to get healthy for him (or her, but I’m pretty sure it’s a him) and for the rest of my growing family.

I’m ready to lose this weight. Again. But as competitive as I am, can admit this: I don’t know how to win. I only know how to put my foot on the throttle and keep it there until I run out of gas.

I’m the hare. My brother, Jeff, is the tortoise. While I’ve gained 80 pounds since taking his $50 four years ago, he’s lost 80 pounds, slowly, over the past two years. He doesn’t have a competitive bone in his body, but he’s clearly winning. And he’s inspired me more than he knows.

I thought about all of this as I struggled through more than half a mile in the pool last night — about Weighty Matters and Grant, about $500 and Jacob, about losing and gaining and losing and gaining. In the lane next to me, my beautiful, devout wife was swimming along — the baby inside her no doubt doing the same.

I say prayers nightly, asking God to heal the people in my life, to give them strength. As I’ve grown in faith over the last few years, I’ve also simply grown. And I realized that I’ve never once prayed for my own health, for my own strength. Please pray for me, and if you’re struggling with your weight and want to share your story or go on this journey with me, leave a comment below or send me an email at feedback@osv.com.

Let’s make our bodies the temples they were meant to be.

Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV
For more of Scott's Confessions of a Catholic Dad, click here.