It is not and never has been my intention to lecture anyone on making changes in their lives, personal and physical changes are often an effort of immense self control and discipline, whilst spiritual or faith based changes are an effort of immense prayer and faith. Both are good and to be celebrated, especially the latter when we can give glory to God for new things and seasons.
Exactly a year ago I found myself in a position of having to make some serious physical changes based on my health, though the changes would also require a lot of faith and prayer.
I was out with my peeps for a meal and found myself in a position where I simply couldn't swallow any of my food and each time I tried to wash a mouthful down with a little water I would regurgitate it. I ended up leaving the restaurant and struggling back home on my own, and it took about 30 minutes for the bit of food that had lodged in my esophagus to finally clear. This was the climax of a problem that had started some 10+ years previously but which I had at best laughed off and at worst just ignored.
The problem was that with my first bite of carbohydrates (mainly white bread or chips), my esophagus would be blocked and I was unable to swallow (there was no significant impact on my breathing). Invariably a small sip of water would dislodge the blockage and I would be fine for the rest of the meal, and so I could afford to ignore it.
However, this issue was not on its own, my blood pressure had been creeping ever upwards over the last few years, each time I gave blood the nurses would comment. My cholesterol hit 6.3, my stress levels were off the scale and I had been living with acid reflux 24/7 for years which was extremely unpleasant.
All in all it was time for some significant changes, either that or do the easy thing and spend the rest of my life on medication which my GP was quite keen on.
After the above incident I gave some serious thought to what I needed to do to change my life and I knew it would be radical. Exercise had to be a big part of the change but I knew I wasn't going to go cycling again, it's too dangerous out here, but I also knew I wasn't going to go to a regular gym because I find it mind numbingly boring, so the day after the night before, I told Paula that I was going to give boxing a go (much to her and my boys' amusement). They're not laughing now and Joel regularly joins me at the boxing gym.
My diet also had to change radically... We were easily drinking 3/4 a bottle of wine each every night, plus a few beers with the football on Saturdays and a glass of whisky or two here and there. I was knocking back 6 or 7 Cokes a day and enjoying far too many chocolate bars, bags of crisps and all manner of junk. A medical friend told me she believed I was pre-diabetic (Type 2).
The changes were radical but do-able, especially as I refuse to live like a monk.
Firstly I went cold turkey on the Cokes, sugary snacks and crisps etc. Breakfast became a large (70+ grams) bowl of All Bran which I've grown to enjoy. I reduced my portion size at meal times and controlled my snacking between meals to fruit. I/we cut our alcohol consumption down to two glasses of wine twice a week. Beyond that I was either drinking my regular Rooibos tea or sparkling water with a splash of lime cordial.
Secondly, having built the courage to actually walk inside the boxing gym I began boxing twice a week and doing one Crossfit session, and early in the second week had to ask Paula to button my shirt for me because I was in so much pain. However I pushed on through and was soon boxing three times a week and then five times a week having ditched Crossfit for boxing.
All I can say about boxing, be it Boxercise or Boxfit or actually sparring with someone, is that it's a huge amount of fun and there really isn't anything that comes close in terms of building cardio fitness, losing weight and building muscle. I don't believe there's a better way to get fit.
So here I am a year on having lost 19kgs, smashed my cholesterol down to 3.1 with the blood pressure of a young man (according to the nurses when I give blood) and feeling on top of the world.
I can't remember the last time I had acid re-flux, my esophagus problem has disappeared and I can now run a 5km ParkRun in well under 30 minutes. My GP is blown away and has rarely seen anything quite like it. I love chatting to oversized guys who are struggling and try to be the encourager to any soul brave enough to walk through the door of the boxing gym.
I could easily have chosen the more common route of addressing my symptoms with medication, but I chose the harder path of addressing the causes, and I have to be honest it was a lot of hard work during which I would have happily given up on several occasions. Thankfully I had a ton of encouragement from Paula, from the gym guys (Abrie & Cris you are amazing!) and our Gathering family who have also been amazed at the transformation of their pastor.
So, if you've made it this far through my post, please be encouraged to step out and make the changes you need to for the sake of your health and family.
For me, I truly give thanks to God for giving me the strength to make the changes I needed to and for empowering me when I wanted to give up.
Below are some shots from my first (and quite possibly last) white collar boxing match with a great guy called Conrad.