Learning NOT to love chicken-fried steak
WACO, Texas — When Jordan and Debbie Hubbard married nearly 13…
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “This is the most preachers you’ll ever get together without fried chicken involved.”
Craig Evans’ joke draws chuckles as a handful of Tennessee church leaders — each familiar with the 300-pound mark on the scales — gather to discuss their leaner, healthier bodies.
For years, self-deprecating humor came in handy in the pulpit as Evans made light of his own obesity. But after losing 105 pounds of fat, he’s forced to come up with new material.
“The one group of people you can still make fun of in America is fat people,” said Evans, minister for the Spring Hill Church of Christ. “Part of me, I’m like, what do I do when I don’t have that?”
After losing 120 pounds of fat, Tim Parish can identify: “Learning to not think of myself as the fat guy, you’re right, it takes a lot of good material away,” said Parish, minister for the Maple Hill Church of Christ in Lebanon.
Preaching minister, Maple Hill Church of Christ, Lebanon, Tenn.
“Losing my dad was a real wake-up call for me. I saw my future as I looked at his health issues and knew something had to change if I was going to be around for my wife and kids. I feel so much better now and am able to be a better husband, daddy and preacher. I can’t describe the feeling of being hugged by my young daughter and hearing her say it was the first time she had ever reached all the way around me.”
Others in the group nod understandingly.
There’s Scott Ballard, minister for the Birdwell’s Chapel Church of Christ in Cottontown. He’s lost 112 pounds of fat.
And there’s Jamie Gilliam, assistant athletic director for communications and broadcasting at Nashville’s Lipscomb University, which is associated with Churches of Christ. He’s lost 182 pounds of fat.
JAMIE GILLIAM (WITH WIFE BETH)
Assistant athletic director for communications and broadcasting, Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tenn.
“I was battling hypertension and acid reflux. I was needing to be on high cholesterol medication, but I struggled with it because it made my muscles so sore, every one I’d ever taken. I was avoiding it like the plague, but I really needed to be back on it. All my numbers have turned around on that. I’m off of all those medications. Not only that, I was on two prescription allergy medications and have been able to come off.”
Each of these five knows what it feels like to be the butt of his own fat joke. And each knows what it feels like to lose 50 pounds or more — only to gain it right back.
Except that this time is different, insist these Christian brothers who have lost a combined 570 pounds of fat — about the weight of the pig in the 1995 movie “Babe.”
This time, these ministers say, they’ve found an approach that can work long term.
Those old, gigantic suit jackets that they used to stash in their closets just in case? This time, they’re throwing them away.
The secret this time? They point to Life Transformation 360, a for-profit cellular health and weight-loss program.
The get-fit guru who inspired all of them? Brent High, who spent eight years as an associate athletic director at Lipscomb — the last three in charge of spiritual formation and missions for the university’s athletic teams.
Between October 2014 and April 2015, High used LT360 to shed 124 pounds of fat.
A year and a half ago, he made a video about his experience that went viral. The video received more than 4,000 views in the first 48 hours.
Hundreds signed up for the program, which involves exercise, nutrition, supplements and hydration.
“They started having the same kind of results I did,” said High, a member of the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville. “They were losing weight, getting off medications and finding their way out of the same prison I had lived in for 20 years.”
Although specifics of the program are confidential until one buys into it, “hydration” means drinking a lot of water. That was evidenced by the record number of bathroom breaks during this interview.
Inspired by the changed lives, High resigned from Lipscomb and went to work for LT360, where he serves as chief operating officer.
“He’s not just some guy that’s trying to make a dollar off of it,” Gilliam said. “He’s a guy that built this from the ground up because he needed the change in his life and needed something that worked. And it does.”
Preaching minister, Rural Hill Church of Christ, Antioch, Tenn., and development officer, World Christian Broadcasting, Franklin, Tenn.
“Because you are hydrating so much better, you actually gain weight in hydration. That’s because your body will get to the point where it will actually hold that water, which is good. But with the proper kind of exercise — and we’re not talking about crazy exercise — you gain weight in muscle mass. So you’re actually gaining weight in hydration and muscle, but that doesn’t really reflect on the scales.”
According to High, 27 Lipscomb employees have lost a combined 1,278 pounds of fat through the program. A half-dozen Churches of Christ have started LT360 groups.
AnnaRose RobertsonLT360 — which Lipscomb officials stress is not affiliated with the university — coincides with an overall healthy living movement on the Christian university campus.
More than half the university’s 900 employees participate in Lipscomb’s Healthy U employee wellness program, which offers cash incentives for healthy behavior and practices.
“It is a direct tool that says, ‘We care about you beyond the eight-hours-a-day-plus that you put into this job,’” said AnnaRose Robertson, Lipscomb’s employee wellness director and an assistant professor of nutrition and kinesiology.
“We want you to be healthy so that you can be all God has called you to be and given you the skills, the talent and the passion to be,” Robertson said of the message HealthyU sends employees.
Minister, Birdwell’s Chapel Church of Christ, Cottontown, Tenn.
“My family health history is just really bad. I’ve got three young children. My oldest just turned 12. I could see somebody else raising my kids, and I didn’t like that picture. It became more about getting healthy than it was losing weight. Before, it always was about how I look and how I look in my clothes. But then it got to be about being around for my kids and my wife, and that’s kind of what motivated me.”
LT360 also focuses on the spiritual component of healthy living. The ministers said they enjoy the accountability and support they receive from fellow participants.
“It’s a prayer-centered organization,” Evans said. “You get a message once a week that they are praying for you, and you realize they are. It’s been a really good process for me and powerful for me and my ministry.”
Evans said he loves leading people to the Lord but now feels compelled to tout physical health, too.
“Spiritual health is more important, but I’m as evangelistic about this,” he said. “I’m telling people about it, especially my preacher friends. I say, ‘Guys, you don’t know how much better you can be.’”
Dozier said he, too, has a new outlook on sharing his faith.
“As preachers,” he said, “we lose a lot of credibility when we stand in front of a congregation being that out of shape and that overweight and try to talk about discipline and self-control.”
Ballard’s congregation has noticed a change when he preaches — and not just in the decreased amount of space he takes up.
“The people will say, ‘Man, we can tell a big difference just in the energy level you have,’” he said. “I don’t struggle with my voice and all that. It’s made that kind of difference.”
These Nashville, Tenn.-area church leaders have lost hundreds of pounds among them and say they feel better than ever. Posing near the fountain on the Lipscomb University campus are, from left, Jamie Gilliam, Scott Ballard, Dan Dozier, Craig Evans and Tim Parish. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)
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