This Is Not A Before And After Picture. This Is A Journey Worth Taking.

There was a reason for the photo I took on January 7th, 2016. But maybe there were two reasons, and the other reason would begin showing itself later as the calling collided with action.

I asked my roommate at the time to take the picture in 2016 because I was updating my LinkedIn profile and wanted something more professional looking. I never took pictures of myself back then.

I thought the 2016 photo and several others I took that evening looked great. And they did. They were some of the better intentional photos I took of myself in recent times back then. I had a fresh haircut earlier that evening. I had a nice pull over on. I was forcing a smile.

Not at all during that night did I consider this a before picture. It wasn’t just a poorly lit attempt at a more professional looking picture of myself. It would in fact take on the role of a before picture.

In the weeks following I began shedding my first few pounds as I was hitting the gym every day during the week. It was a lot of weight lost at first actually. That may have been all I needed for momentum, because I was addicted at that point. I was finally putting in the work in gaining energy. It’s all I wanted to do as a goal really. Workout, get the workout high with the oxygen flowing and the heart pumping. I certainly was putting in work to back up what I knew needed to happen for a long time.

But the ‘work’ to change happened a long time prior to this early 2016 picture. That’s kinda why it’s not really a before picture to me in some ways. It is an in the middle of picture.

The ‘work’ prior to what was about to unfold physically was ‘work’ instilling a sense of value, a sense of purpose, a sense of beloved-ness back into me. It was a small community of men going through life together, becoming vulnerable with each other, and coming alongside each other where my predicament was given a space to be voiced out loud, as funny as it sounded out loud to me.

In this group of guys they steadfastly, with immense compassion, allowed me to not only voice how I was aware I had gained a ton of weight (because its physical anyway, we can all see), but begin for the first time figuring out why. But more important than the why, more important and vital than the forensic analysis of figuring out and tracing and decoding the faults, shame, and lack of personal disciple was the compassionate message voiced out loud every time we would meet.

You are greatly loved by Jesus.

Of course I knew that growing up Christian. Of course that was a matter of fact. But little did I know how much I needed to hear it from friends out loud. Not just read it or ponder it or even hear it verbally from someone standing on a stage. I had no idea how much I needed to hear from people who I call friends say out loud in the same room to me ‘Father, Papa, Abba, Daddy, He loves you. He really does.’

The strength in this consistent message is profound when it comes from those you call friends. It is nothing to read about anymore. It isn’t a sermon to study notes from. It isn’t a study bible highlighted over and over. It was verbally communicated across a room from friends getting real with each other. And profoundly, getting real with their rescuing God, Who, lovingly wants us to know our value with our hearts and not just our heads.

That was the ‘work’ setting itself up for what follows. What follows is only a physical manifestation as well, like how you could see I was out of shape from the outside previously. The physicality changes dramatically and that’s what we get to see and celebrate in our culture and that’s it. Or so I thought.

I didn’t get back to where I was physically once before. I blew past it. The shirt I am wearing on the right in the January 2018 picture today, two years to the exact day from the before picture, is a shirt I bought ten years ago. And it sort of barely fit back then. It’s thermal wear, but it didn’t matter, it was going to be worn underneath anyways. Today though, it fits like a glove.

I also didn’t get back to where I was ten years ago mentally. I feel like I am 20 years younger actually. My mind is sharper than it’s ever been. It’s kinda scary how mentally focused I am now a days. Like good scary.

There is much ‘work’ still to be done. That is what life is for in the here and now. I don’t want to kid anyone in thinking everything is fine right now as I type this out. I don’t want to say hey, workout and that leads to healing. That was my story. It is my story. But even that is only a sliver of my story and merely a physical manifestation of my story.

But I know the following now more than ever. As Viktor Frankl maintains in his book Man’s Search For Meaning, there is profound meaning inside the suffering of life. There is redemption available from the suffering. And there is the opportunity to help guide others because of the sufferings we face.

Jesus offers a Love so strong it will go to the most amazing lengths and depths and heights to reach where you are.

I never knew it was going to be a before picture. That wasn’t it’s reason. Maybe it will serve many other symbolic ‘befores’ in my life.

TwoYearChange

Bridges Of Scars

My math was off. By four.

I posted a couple weeks ago how I felt like I was 21 again. But as of today I am back to 17 year old me in high school. Back when weighing in the 180’s was the norm. For the first time since high school, I dropped back into the 180’s!

Measuring weight is one thing, and I am floored I accomplished this.

But the change in my energy and emotional well-being is the highlight. My energy level is off the charts right now. My ability to focus. My creative energy. It’s all here again.

Maybe it’s here again. I mean, it’s been so long I may have forgot what it was like to feel healthy. Or maybe the feeling is more of a rewarding sense because there was much to overcome, in contrast to 17 year old Dave just living off being young and athletic and indestructible.

See me in the before shot from 2013? I can’t see me. I provide this not as a before picture but as an in-the-middle-of picture.

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2013

Back then I was very aware I was not myself. I know a statement like that would be totally different if I had been heavy my whole life, but I hadn’t been. I had a past version of me to reflect on, a goal to get back to. My prior youthful athletic self was enough of a sample size to know I wasn’t myself.

I am closer to me right now. I want to live fully into the person Jesus wants me to be, the person He made regardless of my situation. He redeems everything. He leaves nothing to waste. He’ll even take dark seasons and turn them into the very best light.

I’m convinced telling my story so others can realize they are not alone in their pain is exactly how Jesus will be using my out of control weight years.

I’ll build bridges made of my scars to you.

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2017

But until then all of our scars will still remain, but we’ve learned that if we’ll
Open the wounds and share them then soon they start to heal,
And as long as we live, every scar is a bridge to someone’s broken heart
And there’s no greater love, than that one shed his blood for his friends.” – Thrice, For Miles

 

Finally, Three Years Later

Late May 2014, I intended the picture on the left to be a before picture. I definitely was reaching my fed-up moment and wanted to add some accountability, so I shared it with some friends. And I told them in 4 months, on my birthday, I’ll take an after picture of my progress. Well, 4 months later, I hadn’t lost any weight.

Today, 3 years later, I decided to follow up on that May 2014 commitment by taking the after picture I always intended. It’s not a ‘finished’ picture. It represents what I have accomplished in only a year and a half of actually following through with my commitment. It portrays a lasting change in lifestyle.

Even if it takes 3 years instead of 4 months, keep going.
If it takes another year and a half to get started, get started.

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May 2014
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May 2017

Below 200 – Press On

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Wash away what they thought of you, and press on, press on” – Underoath

I did it. But ‘it’ wasn’t even a goal. Just this past weekend I dropped below 200lbs for the first time since I was a freshman in college. And it wasn’t a goal. Let me explain.

When I finally said enough is enough and began to choose life, began to choose health, began to choose freedom, I set an incredibly fantastic goal. Last January I was inspired to clearly define my goals for the year and put something measurable to them as a way to keep track. I laughed to (perhaps at?) myself when I wrote down for my commitment to working out “Get to 215lbs.” That was outrageous. It was early January and I was 265, and I was saying lose 50lbs. Really, 215 just sounded nice at the time. It sounded manageable, something I could live with being at.

17240075_10154898191255428_233334846132695010_oThe picture of me at the end of February last year is someone who had something to smile about. I had already lost 25lbs since writing down my goal! A major confidence boost for sure. Those were new jeans and a new shirt because baggy jeans are not a thing anymore I guess. I was about to head to Florida and be the best man in my friend’s wedding. Things were looking good.

But here is the thing. When I got to 215 later on in the year, it was hitting a goal, but it was now cemented as a lifestyle. I found myself pressing on further. I found myself pressing on when things were going wrong all around me. I pressed on when a lot of other things have changed in my life. I kept going.

17192360_10154898191635428_8688502642195661125_oI was pretty happy last February. I realized I could change and start moving towards being unstuck. But the lesson is clear: keep moving, and keep moving after that. Goals are not only meant to be broken but smashed. You have to take your small victories and celebrate them when they happen and then wake up the next morning onward towards the next challenge.

I really never thought I would see a “1” in the hundreds column again on the scale. I actually panicked a second because I saw the “99” and thought I was at 299 somehow.

 

I’m pressing on, “‘cause my feet have the scars to show.

This Is Not A Weight Loss Post – You Are Loved

 

I’m so glad I am wearing that orange and blue shirt again. For the past five years, I’ve tried to get back into it. It even became the shirt you have hanging outside the closet to remind you every day ‘this is why you need to drop some pounds, to get back into this shirt!’ It’s size large and represents one of the last large shirts I purchased.

As of yesterday, I just dropped below 210 for the first time in over seven years. 2016 was the year I was fed up. I’m down over 65lbs since November 2015! I want this to encourage anyone out there looking to take on a new year’s challenge. You really can do it. Whatever it is, if you dedicate yourself you can get there.


And this is where I don’t tell you how I did it, but more how I was capable of doing it at all. The guy in the picture on the left would have told you I knew God loved me, I knew I had value etc. etc. Of course I know that, the bible tells me so! Growing up Christian and as analytical as I am by default it was a fact. If I were taking a test and had to answer “Does God Love You?” I’d circle in the yes answer. It’s something we’re pretty good at in Christianity, stating values and facts and outlines and creeds. But do we believe it in our core how God loves us? In the middle of an argument with our spouse? Do we believe it when we are seeking revenge against someone who has done us wrong? Do we believe it when we have nothing (or too much of something)?

If you had gazed into my eyes three years ago and said “Jesus loves you, you know that right?” I think I’d start looking down, away from you and off into the distance.

It was inside a very close community of men doing an unusual take on the classic church men’s group where I first started to share how I’d hit fast food lines on the commute from work 4-5 times a week (in case you were wondering, there are generally five days in a workweek). As other guys would share ‘real’ struggles out loud, I always thought I was making something up, like it didn’t sound like that big of a deal. But what I know now is back then I was wounded and had no idea.

It was the consistent message in these groups about God’s view of all of us that turned the corner for me:

You are loved.
You just are.
Right now, as overweight as you are,
As drugged up as you are,
As depressed as you are,
As stressed out as you are,
As broken and wounded as you are, YOU’RE LOVED RIGHT NOW.
He actually loves you, not theoretically.

Then I changed. Then I picked up the pieces. Safe community helps flush out things you either have a perfected way of covering up or had no idea you were concealing in the first place. And your launching point, mine at least, is understanding change only happens once you know you are simply loved as you are. Knowing Christ loves me and it’s day five in the gym sustains me to day 15. It’s a great paradox: ‘you are valued the way you are, now you are free to change!


Not exactly a seven step diet and exercise plan, but it’s the only thing I know that’s true. Whatever it is you are maturing towards, whatever it is you need to breakthrough this year or this month or the rest of this weekend, just know you are valued. Burst into the new year knowing this. You are loved. You actually are.