I still remember my very first day at Franciscan University of Steubenville. All of the new students were placed in small groups and assigned to a senior student orientation leader. He spoke to the freshmen about our new temporary vocation as Catholic college students and how, one day, we would all be called by God to fulfill greater vocations. His main point was that we are all called to listen to God’s voice in our hearts, discover our vocation, and then do our very best to fulfill that vocation. Steubenville is ultimately where I met my wife and where I heard God’s call to the vocation of being a husband and father. It is also where I came face to face with one the biggest struggles of my life… my weight.
I entered college around 265 lbs (and only 5’10” on good day) and was, as you might guess, immediately recruited by intramural football teams to knock some guys over. I was always heavy and, being of Polynesian ancestry, I thought it was just part of my genetic make-up. I really believed that there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I embraced the “big” lifestyle and packed on the pounds. During my fours years of college, I added almost 100 lbs to my already-large frame. By the time I graduated, I weighed in at an astonishing 360 lbs. Even then, it didn’t bother me. There were more than a few folks in my family who were as big as me, and, rather than admit my lack of temperance and lack of prudence in lifestyle choices, I continued to surrender to the fallacy that I was genetically pre-disposed to weight gain and that it was out of my hands.
After college, my weight problem just got worse. I married the love of my life, and she loved me for who I was, but I found myself sneaking food and lying to her about it. It was like I was cheating on my wife with food. I was gaining more and more weight. It got to the point where I couldn’t sleep lying down. My weight made it too difficult to breathe, and I had to sleep sitting up.
The “aha” moment for me was when my daughter was born. I would try my best to hold my baby close to my body, but she felt like she was so far away. My stomach was so large that it was literally getting between my child and I. As a husband and father, I realized that I had to take control of my health so that I could be an active participant in the lives of my wife, daughter, and other future children. I didn’t want to die and leave them alone, without a husband or father, as had happened with other men in my family. I had a desire to properly fulfill my vocational obligation as a husband and father. I had listened to God’s vocational call for my life but, by not taking care of my health, I realized that I was failing to properly fulfill it.
I started by eating healthier. I limited my consumption of “white” carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes, breads, and rice and focused on eating lean meats and veggies. I also practiced intermittent fasting. (My favorite method is to simply fast for a period of 24 hours once or twice a week. It doesn’t only have great health benefits, but many spiritual benefits as well.) A friend gave me a workout video series, and, at first, I couldn’t even do the warm-up, but I persisted every day, and that persistence paid off. With my new diet and exercise regimen, I lost nearly 200 pounds over a period of two years! The process of losing the weight and being healthy wasn’t an easy one, nor was I perfect in my discipline to my regimen, but with consistent effort and resolve to continue forward with my regimen, even when I sometimes fell off the wagon, I was able to achieve my goal and create a healthy and active lifestyle.
Nine years removed from my initial weight loss, I have maintained my weight within 15 pounds and am active in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, hiking, mountain climbing, canoe paddling, and many other fun and awesome things that I never could have enjoyed at my previous weight.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not one of those health purists that just eats a salad and a handful of almonds every day. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Bacon, beer, burgers, whiskey, and the occasional cigar are definitely still a part of my life. I believe my good physical health is all about seeking temperance in my caloric intake, prudence in my lifestyle choices, and fortitude in staving off old unhealthy habits. I pray each day that I can continue on this active and healthy path so that when I hold my kids, my body is not in the way and so that I can give due justice to them and my wife by doing my very best to fulfill my fatherly vocation.