First Place, First Step

Bible studies to feed body and spirit

by Vicki Heath

Have you ever found yourself daydreaming about how great life would be if you could just get in shape?

Until the fall of 1993 I had been able to stay in pretty good shape. Not perfect, but good enough. But in 1993 I became completely stuck. I would tell myself I already knew how to get in shape, and I would daydream about what my life would look like when I did. But if you don’t move, you don’t lose—and I wasn’t moving. I had a lot of knowledge, but knowing is not the same as doing. I needed help, but I was too proud to ask. So I just kept daydreaming.

On one particular day, three significant situations converged to help me begin an amazing journey.

First, my fourth child was almost one year old. While this child was a very pleasant surprise, he was still a surprise! I managed my eating and exercise pretty well at first, but eventually it was all I could do to get out of bed and care for my four children, much less exercise. That led to the second significant situation: I gained quite a bit of weight. Soon I weighed more then I had ever weighed in my entire life. I could no longer pretend to not care. I had to deal with the issue of weight and how to lose it. After my previous pregnancies, I had managed to eventually lose the extra pounds, but this time was different. I don’t know if it was my age or just a lack of time and motivation. Around that time, we bought our first Internet-ready computer, which was the third significant situation. Sitting at our new computer, I experienced a life-changing crisis.

As I sat at my computer the password came to me in the form of a prayer. ‘Lord, is there any hope for me to lose this weight?’

As I booted up the computer for the first time, it asked me to create a password. I needed something I would not forget; something that I thought about every day. The perfect password came way too quickly: I thought about my weight every day. Discouraged and feeling hopeless about the size of my body, I was becoming convinced that I would never lose the weight. As I sat at my computer the password came to me in the form of a prayer. “Lord, is there any hope for me to lose this weight? Can you help me? Can you help me help myself?” I knew in my mind all the things I needed to do to lose the weight, but the feeling of hopelessness was overwhelming—and thus came the password “hope4me.” It became my prayer every day. “Lord, is there any hope for me?”
About the same time, my sweet mother-in-law, Lou Heath, saw my struggle and mentioned a new weight loss group called First Place, which was meeting at her church in Nashville. “It’s like Weight Watchers for Christians,” she told me by way of encouragement. First Place was having a training meeting in Ocala, Florida, and a glimmer of hope was born in my heart.

I called a dear friend, who knew and understood my struggle, to ask if she was interested in taking a road trip with me to learn about this new Christian way of weight loss. Of course she was interested, since she was struggling too. When we arrived at the training, I immediately noticed that the other hundred or so attendees seemed to be in the same shape I was. I was encouraged immediately. Several people shared testimonies on how First Place had been a godsend in their lives. When I entered a classroom and climbed on the scale I said to myself, “I never have to weigh this again.” It’s now 20 years later, and I haven’t! I have learned at the feet of the Lord of God’s plan for my life and how to walk in God’s way, committed to a lifetime of wellness that is more than just a number on the scale. Wellness should incorporate every area of our lives. We should have healthy emotional relationships with others and with food. My spiritual health should be just as important as my physical health, so I keep a close watch on my spiritual temperature. Spending time with God daily is part of my mental health. Exposing my mind and thoughts to the truth of God’s Word keeps me from toxic thinking. Keeping my mind sharp and healthy helps me focus on all of the other areas of wellness too.

Over the years my quiet time with the Lord has encouraged me to persevere when I feel like quitting. When I pursue God, he blesses me with wisdom, knowledge and an understanding of the truth that keeps me on the road to wellness. God has led me to encourage others to press on with perseverance toward their goals. Much of it I have learned the hard way, but I have learned, nonetheless.

I began with meditating on and memorizing Scripture. Slowly God replaced my negative thinking with his words. A transformation process began in my mind and in my body as God’s words confronted the lies that had become such a deeply rooted part of me. I had heard the good news that God so loved the world that he gave his son, but I found it hard to believe that I was included in that. I no longer reject God’s love for me. I choose to believe the truth. God is in the business of mind control. When we allow God’s words to have priority in our lives, we develop the ability to take every thought captive. God’s Word has the power to replace negative thinking with the truth. And the truth is, with God’s help, we can do the hard work of getting healthy.

I started out primarily with a concern for myself. But my concern has now grown to the health and well-being of the church, the body of Christ today, a path that has led me to serve as national director of First Place 4 Health. If ever there was a time the church needs to be strong in its understanding of health, it is today. And God is the one to help us become strong in body and spirit. Over the past 20 years I have seen hundreds of pounds lost, diseases reversed, marriages healed, hurts forgiven, wounds healed, and people radically changed by the love of God. How do we tell the church a life of wellness does matter? We start with the truth clearly communicated to us in the Word of God.

It’s a matter of stewardship. The most current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control tell us obesity is now considered an epidemic. It is a conservative estimate that more than one-third of the population is obese. That’s inside the church and outside the church. More than one third of those who center their lives in Christianity are obese! Are we truly demonstrating an understanding of the lordship of Christ if we do not think of him as lord of our appetite and activity?

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” the apostle Paul tells us. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NIV). These verses speak directly about taking care of our bodies. The immediate context is specifically about watching over our sexual activities. I wonder why we don’t extend this verse to caring for all aspects of our bodies. We’ll sit with church friends and talk about the downfall of sexual mores while we enjoy our second helping of fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

God calls us to take care of our bodies in all areas of our life, inside and out. What I try to communicate when I speak with congregations and other groups is that embracing my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit means practicing good stewardship with the body God gave me. What we put into our bodies and how we stay in shape do matter. It is my responsibility to not contribute to disease and disability in my body. I have a responsibility to live as long and as strong as I can for Christ in this body.

We can communicate this truth in a loving and nonjudgmental way to the Christians around us. First Place 4 Health resolves to help solve the problems of obesity, diabetes and other such diseases with education, inspiration, conviction and most of all the grace of God. Simply hearing stories, such as I did when I went to that first meeting in Florida, and telling our stories, as I do now, is a first step in a journey we take not on our own but with others. First Place 4 Health provides Christ-centered Bible studies, a fad-free, healthy food plan, and a loving community of support and accountability. We are changing lives one pound at a time.

Tagged under:

Share on: