“Why do you want to lose weight?” someone asked Pastor Don Bartemus recently. Why? Lots of reasons, Don thought, some hard to verbalize. In the recesses of his mind flashed images of his father, once an athlete, dying at three hundred and fifty pounds; how he himself could, in one sitting, finish off a bag of chips, a box of cookies, or a quart of ice cream.
He recalled learning he was on the path to being borderline diabetic. He thought about his clothes feeling tight, his knees hurting, and how he needed six cups of coffee to get through the day. So many motivating factors.
Why Do You Want to Lose Weight?
As Don shared some of those reasons, his friend kept asking, “Why change that? Why? Why?” The probing forced Don to look beyond the physical benefits to the spiritual. “I was aware of a sense of guilt, that overeating revealed that some things were out of order between myself and the Lord.” Eventually, he found the words: “I want to glorify God to the best of my ability with the body he’s given me.”
And with that revelation, Don began a journey that is transforming him, body and soul. “This experience is showing me that weight loss is a by-product of something more important. God has given me one of these bodies. He could take it out tomorrow—in a plane, a car, cancer. All that’s up to him. But what part is up to me? What is my responsibility? It’s what I take into it. It’s how I care for it. I’m going to do my best with what he’s given me.”
The Body Is a Gift
Surprising himself, Don decided that day to try a commercial weight loss program with the desire to approach it as a spiritual journey.
“I want to think about my body as a gift God has given me. Just like my wife is a gift, and my kids and grandkids are gifts. I would sooner die than to physically hurt one of my grandsons. I’d rather die. If I can put this on the same kind of level, it should mean that much to me to not be killing myself with sugar.”
What does that look like when calorically-dense food is so prevalent in the world around him?
Don has seen that food options are everywhere, and fixating on ones that are less nutritionally dense is an ever-present temptation. “[gluttony] an idol. There are times I look forward to sweets more than I look forward to my walk with God, my Bible reading, and my prayer. Why do I love sweets so much? I’m addicted. They make me feel good and provide instant gratification.”
So what helps when we are tempted to give in to gluttony? Looking to the long-term. Don credits this perspective as a helpful way to combat the temptations Why? Because doing so ignores the long-term responsibility we have and those actions have consequences.
“I used to say, ‘I don’t care about the consequences. I’m going to eat this cake,’” Don remembers. “But now, the yank isn’t there. Instead, I remember my prime reason—to glorify God—and that gives me an answer for why I’m not going to do that. And, here’s what I am going to do: go get some celery, or a pickle, or a carrot. I do that instead, and there’s joy.”
What Has Changed in Don’s Life?
“Why do you want to lose weight?” It is a multi-layered answer because Don sees the process as more than just a physical transformation
Now, three months later and thirty pounds lighter, hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t comment on Don’s dramatic weight loss. Some ask for details. “When they ask me how, I say, ‘If you’re really interested, I’d be happy to sit down and tell you about it.’ I see it as a responsibility. There’s a pastoral need and I don’t want to waste it.”