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No. 2

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by Rodger Sayre
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Weighing in on a Heavy Subject

For 20 years, she dreamed of the day when she would walk down the aisle with her dad, who would hand her to her beaming beau. But now, perched on my exam table, this 34-year-old bride-to-be (whom I shall arbitrarily name Maggie) wrung her hands with anxiety. “I feel so fat! I want to lose weight in the worst way, but nothing is working! I’m going to be married in three months, and honestly … I’m desperate! Please help me!”

Istockphoto/Gustavo Andrade


Maggie’s weight struggles started in her first year of college, where she gained the infamous “freshman 15.” From that point, her weight graph resembled an ECG tracing—a series of sharp ups and downs—but with a general trend upward at a rate of two pounds per year. Actually, her sense of urgency was understandable. Maggie had purchased her wedding gown 10 pounds ago, and her honeymoon plans included a cruise to the Virgin Islands with snorkeling in the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

This young lady’s predicament is really nothing unusual. Food is plentiful in the United States, and despite all the hoopla to the contrary, not too many folks are going hungry. All that good food coupled with a life of leisure has resulted in a virtual epidemic of obesity.

What’s a pudgy American adult to do? For Maggie, I listed four quick principles.

1. Find an Accountability Partner.

It is really hard to be consistent and disciplined in a diet and exercise program without someone looking over your shoulder and working toward the same goal. Maggie’s younger sister was the perfect match.

2. Use a Combination of Diet and Exercise.

A person who diets but does not exercise will find his or her metabolism merely slowing down to compensate for the decreased caloric intake, thwarting attempts at weight loss. I recall Maggie grumbling, “I can’t understand it. The only thing I eat is salad and I’m not losing weight!” (I bet I’ve heard that a hundred times!) With regular exercise, a person’s metabolic engine is forced to run faster, even during periods of caloric deprivation.

3. To Achieve Long-term Results, Weight Loss Endeavors Require Permanent Lifestyle Changes.

Maggie was willing, even eager, to embrace the idea of permanent changes in her diet, but to adhere to a daily exercise program? That was a different story! She told me exercise was on par with visits to the dentist on her list of “things I hate.”

I explained that, contrary to popular belief, “enjoyable exercise” is not an oxymoron! I shared with Maggie some personal experience. I have a TV in front of my elliptical trainer, and I play Gaither Homecoming videos while I work out. Sometimes I run around the fields next to my house with my iPod and Casting Crowns as my companions. Often, my wife and I will go for a brisk two- or three-mile walk after I get home from work. These are just a few examples of how I’ve made working out more akin to “raindrops on roses” and less like a root canal.

4. Set a Realistic Weight Loss Goal.

I recommended that Maggie target one-half to one pound per week. A person who loses weight at that rate is more likely to be involved in a sustainable weight loss program, and more likely to be losing fat instead of breaking down muscle mass to fuel metabolic needs. In my next article I’ll give you an update on whether Maggie was successful, and I will also explore another epidemic in our culture: eating disorders.

Until then, why not join Maggie in her endeavor? This is, after all, not just about fitting into a wedding gown or looking good in a swimsuit. The apostle Paul admonished, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19 NASB)

Why don’t we all take seriously the stewardship of our earthly bodies, as if we were custodians charged by the Almighty God with caring for an earthly temple? For so we are.

About the author

Rodger Sayre, MD, FAAFP, has been an HSLDA board member since 1997. He and his wife, Mary, have graduated 6 of their 11 children and continue to teach the rest at home in Pennsylvania. Dr. Sayre is certified as a Diplomat of the American Board of Family Medicine and is a Geisinger Medical Group associate in Tunkhannock.