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Monday, July 3, 2017

Weight Loss and Management Efforts

Weight Loss and Management Efforts

Weight loss and weight management are among the most difficult efforts to undertake in our middle-age years. Last year, I embarked on a lifestyle change to move closer to my personal weight loss and health goals.  

Not to overly spiritualize my activities, but I started my prayerful discernment on Holy Thursday and my program lasted until the Feast of the Guardian Angels – a six-month process. As I was previously unsuccessful in losing weight, I turned to the Lord for prayerful assistance. To my surprise, when I asked the Lord if He wanted to help me, I heard a resounding “yes.”

I did or could not accept that I was destined to be as overweight as I was, and I wanted to return to a healthier weight range -. The greatest motivator was my desire to reduce nagging pain from hip arthritis. The relief was measurable and I have postponed possible surgery for years. In those six months of my weight loss program, I lost 72 pounds. Over the next nine months, I put six of those pounds back on and I discovered that weight maintenance is much more difficult than a weight loss regime.

What have I learned?

·      We can lose weight. We do not have to accept ourselves as we are. We are not big-boned, we are overweight.

·      Weight discrimination exists. A slender person naturally gets taken more seriously than one who is overweight.

·      Most men think it is fine to be 60-100 pounds overweight. They think they are carrying only an extra 30 pounds, so what is missing is our self-awareness. We need greater awareness of our nutritional needs.

·      We make food a god and we become subservient to it. It is something we seek daily – the pleasure. However, we already have a God to worship.

·      We think going hungry is bad, while it is a natural to build an appetite and to wait for a meal. The continuous supply of surplus food tempts us to make poor decisions about what we eat.

·      We terrifically underestimate the number of calories we consume at each meal and an average portion size is triple the amount we need. We are unaware of the calories that exist in a particular food item.

·      Hiring a nutritionist is an investment in mission. It creates a healthy lifestyle that our doctors will endorse. My nutritional education has been an adventure in learning and discovery.

·      Know that it is not easy all the time; it is a lifetime change, and we resist change.

·      We are what we eat. I don’t want to be a person of gluttony or surplus; I want to use the gift of food rightly. We often have different values in place of good health.

·      We are controlled by so many messages and stimuli about food that pull us off track. We have to recognize the signals that are being communicated to us so we can choose prudently.

How is weight management being responsible to others?

·      We become more available for ministry when we are less drowsy, possess more energy (especially after the afternoon meal), and sleep better. We can work more clear-headed and longer if we are at our ideal weight. Our work is very important to us and we can assist others more greatly if we maintain appropriate levels of energy. Eating too much has a negative effect on our energy.

·      When we overeat on a regular basis, we sleep poorly. Being overweight affects sleep patterns and we wake up in the middle of the night because we are not sleeping well. Then, after a heavy meal, we need a nap.

·      Jesuits are trained to discern spiritual matters, but how are we able to discern spiritual matters if we cannot first discern earthly matters? We must become more aware of the factors that influence our choices.

·      Ignatius inserts his “Rules for Eating” into the Spiritual Exercises for a reason.

·      We have greater accountability to the Society of Jesus, or to family.

o   We are fiscally responsible when we take appropriate care of our health.
o   Health care costs are lowered.
o   There are unintended health benefits, like reduced pain for arthritis or joint ailments; skin ailments disappear, mood is brightened.
o   Pain is greatly reduced in places like one’s back, hips, and knees.
o   The list of prescribed medication drops.
o   Sleep is greatly enhanced and one sleeps more deeply and instantly.
o   If one requires a daily nap, nap time is reduced because we breathe better.

·      Eating simply and modestly is a way of identifying with our poverty. We do not need food in excess or with richness at every meal. Our poverty is not the same as being poor who are targets of harmful advertising campaigns and are tempted to buy food that fills them up cheaply. Fruits, vegetables, and meat are expensive.

A Disciplined Lifestyle

The process I used was to count calories, but that was only a vehicle for my better understanding of nutrition. I thought I knew the fundamentals of healthy eating, but I was just beginning to become enlightened.

I used a free phone application called “Lose-It,” which meant that I had to record after each meal or snack the calories of the food I ate. The number of calories in some food really frightened me, so I cut out most white foods like breads, rice, and potatoes. The pleasure they brought is not worth the calories I want to take into my body.

A major breakthrough for me was in relating to numbers rather than to food. I began to see food as a collection of energy numbers rather than pleasurable food sources and I wanted to keep my numbers manageable. I still have much joy in eating.

Since my trick is to see food as calories, I will not eat certain foods because their pleasure is not worth the calories. For instance, I will not eat mashed potatoes, but if I choose to eat then, I simply have a spoonful of potatoes. Typically, we eat sizes of six or seven portions and then cover it with butter or gravy. They are tasty, but they cannot be part of a healthy lifestyle.

The application takes into account one’s age, height, current weight, and the pacing of one’s goals. For a man in his mid-fifties, a normal calorie intake is around 1,800 units.

Balance your calorie counting with exercise. Finding walking routines can be helpful.


As I observe a customary meal at a Jesuit community, the following patterns are established: 

The day begins with a full hearty breakfast. (600 calories)
An office mid-morning snack (400 calories)
An American sized lunch with dessert (800 calories)
A mid-afternoon snack, two cookies (600 calories)
Cheese and crackers before dinner with a glass of wine (600 calories)
Dinner with dessert and a glass of wine (800 calories)
Evening snack (300 calories)
2 sodas for the day (250 calories)
Total: 4,350

Dealing with Restaurants the society’s temptations.

Society gives us subtle and overt messages, like:
·      You deserve to treat yourself (each day)
·      Enjoy the pleasures of life by eating sumptuously
·      Get a great value, discount, or a coupon to your favorite restaurant
·      All-you-can-eat at a great price
·      Super-size me. Get the larger portion. It is a deal

Know that restaurants give you portion size that are triple what you require. Portions are difficult to control in restaurants, and we want to be polite with our dining partner. Meals are cooked to be flavorful, so they have lots of added ingredients, which adds calories and excessive amounts of sodium and sugars.

A low-end restaurant meal is 1600 calories; the average range is 2,200, which exceeds one’s daily limit; then we add a drink, appetizer, salad, entrée, wine or two, dessert, coffee or cordial. We double our daily intake at a single sitting and we have not cut back on the other meals during the day. Restaurants are skilled in tempting us with value, size, tastiness, mood setting, and excellent marketing.

An average meal ought to contain: 3 ounces of protein; 3 ounces of starch, and 6 ounces of vegetables.

Demand that restaurants prepare vegetables as skillfully as they prepare meats and other dishes. They can do it. In fact, they want to please you. For example, I ask for my vegetables to be prepared al dente without any butter or salt, just a slight drizzle of olive oil and some coarse pepper. Vegetables can be tasty when they are not overcooked. Welcome the vegetables to your plate.

How can we approach a healthy lifestyle?

·      Eat what makes you feel good, not what is pleasurable or pleasing. It means that you have to adjust your attitude.

·      Know that it is OK to feel hungry. We are not built to be continually satiated.

·      Ask specifically for what you want. Do not take just what the restaurant offers. You are the consumer and you might as well get what you want. Instruct them to cook your vegetables to your liking. Ask for a second vegetable instead of a starch, and if possible, ask them to steam your vegetables and to withhold the butter.  

·      Take care of the social traps of eating. Find other ways of spending time with people: walk, have/drink coffee;  sharing a meal does not have to center around food, though we are a Eucharistic people.

·      Eat anything you want, but keep it balanced. Look at your meal for the week: If you stumble today, put it in the context of a whole week. Make sure you get back on track, but do not beat yourself up over it.

·      Make sure you eat snacks. Do not deprive yourself, but the trick is to plate it. Take as much as you want, but do not go back for more. Put the snack items away in the cupboard or the refrigerator and enjoy what is on your plate. Be deliberate and take no more.

·      We can be derailed if we let ourselves change our standards in mid-course. We are strong enough to say to ourselves, “Yes, I can have deviate from my plan, and I’ll get back on track,” but then it is difficult to do so because we find that we are addicted to sugar, which has us sneaking back for me. We sin because we are strong, not because we are weak.

·      Don’t eat because of a routine; eat a later breakfast; eat when you are hungry. Find your rhythms and adapt to them. Babies eat every three hours; so do we. We get hungry on our own schedules.

·      Use custody of the eyes – Tell yourself, “No,” but don’t feel guilty for making choices. You do not have to have the dessert because it is on the tray. You will be offered another slice of Boston Cream Pie at some point in your future. The world is not going to run out of your favorite sweets. Tell yourself, “I will have this again. It might be six months from now, but I will treat myself with my favorite dessert.”

·      Food is pleasurable, but constant over-indulging takes away the joy. Treats are not meant to be had every day. Splurge when you want but keep desserts for maybe once a week, a Sunday meal. It is supposed to be a treat, not an everyday staple.

·      Give yourself time to eat food: enjoy it; chew. Give your body time to digest the food and to get full.

·      Get excited about eating well and eating vegetables. Your changed attitude will keep you moving forward.

Food Choices

·      Limit juices and soda, and drink sparkling or tap water.

·      Desserts – two bites is enough; three feeds a sugar addiction. Be aware that sugar is addictive and we lose the battle if we indulge too much.

·      Carbohydrates: Oust them from your diet in a weight reduction mode: cheeses, rice, breads, pasta, white foods, potatoes, fried foods, skins. They have to go.

·      Watch for Sodium levels, fiber, sugars. Avoid condiments. Learn how to read labels.

·      Find low calorie snacks: pretzels, popsicles, hummus, rice cakes, sugar-free candies; vegetables – you cannot eat too many vegetables.

·      Avoid salad dressings and sauces: Be abstemious with them; dip your fork into the sauce. It will give you enough flavor for your salad or entrée.

·      There are plenty of good options at meals; actively choose and do so wisely.

Social Implications

The social implications were the hardest part of the whole program because I had to reprogram everyone to my needs. It was a challenge to stand up for myself.

I am an accommodator, which goes like this: I please you. I eat whatever you serve with the double portions even though you will not eat it when you made it personally for me because you are on a diet. I please you; If I reject what you offer, I reject you. It goes against my values of hospitality, especially my Italian heritage.

Accept that people will not like to see you at an average weight. They think you are too thin, even when you are still overweight. Tell them it is OK to ask you if you are well or sick.

Change your attitudes towards eating and hold fast to it. Also, know that many people will be hostile to the change you are making. They will not want you to lose weight and they will actually ask you to eat more so they can relate to you as the person you used to be or the person he/she is.

Communicate your needs to your friends before you go to a restaurant or home, especially if they insist on paying for the meal. They want to give you the best and they want you to indulge. Let them know what you eat and do not eat. Explain to them that you eat modestly and that you prepare a different portion size than they serve. Ask if you can prepare your own plate. Otherwise, they are going to feed you too much and make you overeat. It is about communicating and respecting boundaries and asking others to respect yours.

Be aware of food bullies, those people who push food with the message: Try it. I made it. Accept me.        

Community eating is difficult because the cook will prepare foods that the men want to eat. They want the men to like their cooking. Cooking healthy gets put on the back burner. Ask for the community to have healthy meals, and you can have an unhealthy option, rather than having it the other way around. Let the community help you.

Keep asking for help and do not overly pre-occupied with food. Consult a nutritionist, nurse, primary care physician; food support group. There is a lot of help for you when you decide to accept it, but it is a matter of your will.


Though I have shed weight to reach my desired goal, I know it is much easier to go through this with a community of support. Weight maintenance is harder than weight loss. I am happy to assist you with support in your weight loss and weight maintenance goals. I want to continue to be successful and I need encouragement along the way, and it is good to talk through our processes. I have learned a great deal and my primary care doctor said I have probably added another four years to my life by caring for my body. I’m more than happy to support your efforts. Do you want to give it a try? I’d like you to do so. Let’s do this together.

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