Preamble: The Ol’ Doc series provides illustrations of lifestyle changes related to a particular love relationship, of which three are the most significant; Person-God (P-G), Husband-Wife (H-W) and Parent-Child (P-C).
JP comes from a closely knit family. As a child, religion was a major force in his life. While serving as an altar boy, he dreamed of becoming a priest.
Football captured most of his attention in high school. At age 17, his mother took him to a physician for the required sports physical. During grade school, asthma had been a health challenge. Now, at 17, he was having significant shortness of breath.
After completing the physical exam, the doctor told JP that everything was fine and then invited his mother back into the exam room. Almost immediately, the doctor exploded: "If you are trying to kill your son, you're doing a darn good job of it. He weighs 287 pounds, has asthma, and expects to play football!” At this his mother burst into tears. JP, still sitting speechless on the examination table, watched his sobbing mother. She inquired about what could be done to help and JP was referred to the dietitian.
During the first visit with the dietitian, JP received instructions on how to keep a food diary. This diary was to record every bit of everything that went into his mouth. A week later, when she reviewed JP’s diary, the dietitian told him that he was eating enough food for five to seven people! He needed to seriously decrease his intake to approximately 1800 calories per day. She explained how to do that by controlling portion size, omitting high calorie drinks and junk food, and drinking more water.
Overcome by a deep sense of shame, JP determined that “nobody would have a chance to hurt his mother in this way again.” JP desperately wanted to help her.
Approximately four months later, after losing fifty pounds, JP began running in place. At first he ran for ten minutes. Gradually, the time increased up to two hours each day, completely wearing out the carpet under his feet! He learned to put down his fork between bites, chew his food thoroughly, take time with meals, and many other simple things that most of us take for granted. JP kept losing weight until he was a glorious 145 pounds! Finally, he looked great and felt well. After his 140-pound weight loss, surgery was needed to remove the large amount of loose abdominal skin.
In his prayers, JP asked God to show him how to help his mother. Years earlier, he attended daily mass to pray for her nursing school challenges. Now, he wanted to continue a healthy lifestyle program for her. In his words, “I would do anything to prevent my mother from being humiliated like that again.” Today, JP is 34 years old and his weight is stable at 195 lbs.
Many people think of a parents love for their child as the primary motivator. But in JP’s case, the love of the child for the parent was the motivating factor. Even spiritually, JP’s motivation included his mother. In the past year, JP has become more acutely aware of his relationship with God. This connection has helped him maintain a healthy lifestyle despite massive employment trauma.
JP needed the information provided by the dietitian. However, this alone would have been useless. He also needed the motivation of the love relationship that centered on his mother and extended to God. By itself though, this too would have been inadequate. Sound scientific information about what and how to change, together with the powerful motivation of love produced a lifestyle change even this drastic! JP’s story demonstrates that successful, long term, lifestyle changes happen when both excellent technique and the dynamic strength of a love relationship are combined.
Remember, there are three powerful loves in life. Most of us have the occasion to experience some or all of these. Everyone can develop a love relationship with God. The second love is a man-woman relationship that can grow into a strong marriage. For some, the third, parenting, becomes a part of their “higher education.” Our three boys are still educating us, 50 years down the road!
Many people have grown up with no connection to a personal God. Perceptions of a vengeful god, a detached god, or a god you turn to only during dire emergency are widespread. Fortunately, with even the most ordinary abilities anyone can discover the God of the Bible. When you study for yourself and realize that the King of the Universe just happens to be personally invested in you, it changes everything! His love is profound!!
Postscript: Lifestyle diseases are increasingly important worldwide. Lifestyle treatments are profoundly effective. Techniques for lifestyle change are well known. These changes are sporadically promoted, and even more rarely adopted.
Motivation for lifestyle change is most effective when it is the result of a love relationship. The person-God relationship is by far the most powerful motivation known. God's goal is to bring the best of health to us, beginning now. The power is continuous as long as we prize this precious relationship. Love motivation is essential for treating lifestyle diseases.
- · Love motivation + best technique = change
- · Usual motivation+ best technique = very little
Fear, bribery, social pressure, curiosity, guilt, longevity are brief and poor motivators.