Faith in Action

My Fitness Journey

RichardSanchez_ins“Another day, another death.”

That was my mantra following morning workouts at the East Northport, N.Y., Corps.

In the corps gym, training of all sorts happens. The people of East Northport and the surrounding area are big on sports for kids and adults. One of the ministries at the corps was our fitness class. Following the workout, members would share Scripture and pray together.

In November 2011, my transformative fitness journey began. I remember taking a class in the morning with Ralph Rossetti, our recreational director, and his group. They were men and women. Some were older than me and some were younger.

That first session was the baseline; the frame of reference; the cold, harsh realization that I was no longer twenty-something and could just will my body to cooperate. No longer could I proclaim to myself that I was healthy because of my age or because I was free from chronic disease.

Actually, my health was waning. I had dismissed murmurings about it. My ears heard them, but my mind disbelieved them. To me, they were a figment of someone else’s imagination.

However, reality checked in one day during a visit to my doctor. Sonograms showed “all clear” on kidney scans, but peripherally, I heard the physician say, “Oh, while we were there, we saw—a Fatty Liver.” It was a term used to describe a condition caused, in my case, by hypertension. Physicals also showed “out of range” levels on my blood tests. To help deal with it as well as my weight, I was prescribed drugs of various kinds and in increasing milligrams. Something was also said about changing my diet.

On my first day at the gym, my lungs felt as if they were on fire. My heart seemed to beat out of my chest. My mouth was dry. I was dehydrated. I made multiple trips to the bathroom, for air, for water, and to make sure my soul hadn’t left my body. The workout was only 30 minutes, but it felt like 3 hours.

Unfortunately for me, I also launched my resolution in the middle of the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle fundraising season.

I talked privately with Ralph and asked if he could recommend an eating program I could follow while I did kettles. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Food is the Devil.”

I waited for him to burst out laughing. But there was no laugh, no smile, no qualifying statement. So I laughed and told him to “get serious” and give me a program, an outline, or some lifeline I could grab while in the stormy sea of Christmas.

He looked at me, and said, “You have to stop eating all sweets.”

‘Death’ to self

Practically, that meant no more visits to 7/11® in the summer to buy 64oz bottles of soda, diet or otherwise. No more visits to coffee shops to get the New York style “caw-fee lite n’sweet.” I wasn’t even allowed to have cream.

At first, this radical change seemed insane. But I soon learned that my cravings for sweets had to die before my body could truly live again. That December—historically the month when corps officers typically put on a few pounds—I lost 15.

In future articles, I’ll share more about what has helped and what has hindered me in my personal journey to better health. I hope you’ll grab something valuable to use in your journey. We share different stories, but our struggles are the same.

For now, stay away from processed sugar, “the white death.” I’ll talk about it, next time.

by Richard Sanchez

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