When I entered college in 1975, I never anticipated that I’d expand beyond my 6-foot-1, 149-pound body. But even as my jeans slid from my 29-inch waist, my family obesity genes were gaining traction.

Five years after college, I was hiding 40 additional pounds behind my first pulpit. From that same pulpit, I also hid my insecurity with humor, often joking that fat preachers were so common in my southern upbringing that we hyphenated the word fat-preacher.

After wearing my fat-suit for more than a year, I read a Reader’s Digest article, which suggested that if a person could alter their eating pattern by at least 10 percent, it would make a huge difference.
The article was so inspiring that I merged the idea with the biblical principle of tithing and called it my “Caloric Tithe Diet.” The diet was an effort to “give back” 10 percent of my calorie intake.

For instance, when I ate a cheeseburger, I’d discard the dressing-soaked top bun. Yes, I still slammed down pizza, but instead of eating five pieces, I ate 4½.

In addition to incremental reductions of bad habits, I increased my good habits by 10 percent. For instance, I stopped searching for the closest parking place. I increased my walking speed by 10 percent and I used elevators only when climbing more than three stories. I also ate 10 percent more fruits and vegetables.

The plan was easy enough, but the results lacked drama. So, whenever I became discouraged, I reminded myself that I didn’t gain the weight yesterday, so I wasn’t likely to lose it tomorrow.

Nine months after implementing the caloric tithe, I dropped 39 pounds. In fact, I lost too much weight and my doctor ordered me to regain 10 pounds. Ironically, my habits were so well established that it took me a year to regain the weight.

At this point, you may be saying, “Nice story, but I thought this was a spiritual column, not a fitness column.”

The truth is that spiritual fitness and physical fitness have a link. For some, overeating is about trying to fill their emptiness or to anesthetize their pain. For some overeating is a narcissistic notion that suggests everything exists to satisfy them.

For me, overeating is my futile attempt to consume my anxiety about things. Overeating is a sensual distraction of my soul that tempts me to believe I deserve more than others.
The Bible calls my spiritual issue, gluttony. Plain and simple, it’s my sin and it’s a humbling reminder that no mater how thin I appear outside, there is a “big boy” inside screaming to get out. That “big boy” constantly reminds me that I am a sojourner on the Faith Highway and no matter what my current weight, I need to rely on my spiritual guide.

In 2008, after 20 years of weight maintenance, my scales took an upward tip during my deployment to Iraq. Within a year of my return, I’d regained all my weight.

However, what the Air Force helped me gain in the deployed chow hall, they are helping me to lose again. After seven months of their new fitness program and my tithe diet, I achieved a 97.5 percent on my fitness test and placed in the top 25 percent of Air Force personnel. I’ve returned to below 180 pounds, and as most of my readers know, I’ve just finished my first half-marathon.

These days, I’m shopping for a new swimsuit because the old one keeps falling down. Wow, I know that’s not a picture you expected in a spiritual column.