Exodus

When making any life-altering decisions, we’ve really got to question our motives. If our motivation for change isn’t really worthwhile then we are likely to fall off the wagon sooner rather than later.

Beginning about mid-February I had come upon another weight loss plateau. I didn’t have to look very far to see that this latest pause in progress was self-inflicted. I began to increase my carb intake ever so slightly. Going into this plateau I was about 20 lbs down from my starting weight. Two weeks later? I was still 20 lbs down. I began a struggle with my will power; it seemed as though I had lost my resolve to just stick to the program.

I began to realize that my weight loss “for my family” was a thinly-veiled disguise for my own vain ambitions of getting fit again. I didn’t just want to be healthier, I wanted to look good. I wanted to regain some semblance of self-confidence that I hadn’t felt in years. I’m not here to tell you that these are entirely bad motivations. In fact, they are quite reasonable for any man. Confidence is a good thing.

But I was doing it again; I was falling back into the same old mentality. I was living for myself.

In the latter part of last year, I had stumbled upon a blog post by Taylor Marshall, of the New Saint Thomas Institute, wherein he mentioned all of the benefits that had come from a ninety day program called Exodus 90. I remember thinking to myself, “I want that.”

So I slowly began to research the program and had come to the firm decision that I was to begin on March 1st. Ash Wednesday. This regimen which includes moderate ascetic practices, daily exercises, prayer and reflection, and weekly accountability meetings, was just what I needed. It was almost perfect timing that my decision to begin at the outset of Lent came on the heels of me slipping away from my new low-carb lifestyle.

Exodus 90 for me was not going to focus on how I looked in the mirror; it was going to be about who I am as a Husband, a Father, a Friend, and, most importantly, as a Catholic. Today (March 7th) is Day 7. Our fraternity, which includes me and three other guys, has already had our first meeting and we are off to a great start. The literature that accompanies this 90-day challenge warns us time and time again that while this program starts out “easy” that this Exodus will be anything but easy. I am not only part of a fraternity of four guys, but of a larger community of 1700+ men who have already gone through their own Exodus.

To give you a quick overview as to what my Exodus looks like, here’s a bulleted list of what I am giving up with brief explanations:

  • To combat my love of comfort: Cold/Lukewarm showers only, No snacks between meals, No sweetened beverages, No alcohol, Abstinence & Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, No desserts or sweets, regular and intense exercise
  • To combat my addictive tendencies: Computer/Mobile Devices for work/research purposes only (i.e. no social media, etc.), no television (this includes movies and Netflix), Only music that lifts the soul to God, no major material purchases (beyond toiletries)
  • For my wellbeing: Commitment to getting seven hours of sleep each night (harder than you might think), Weekly accountability meetings with your fraternity (small group), Make time for regular holy hour (aka the two hours I spend commuting each day, now without radio)

Why did I list everything?

Not to gloat. Not to prove anything, but to inspire.

Maybe someone will end up reading this who is also in need of a change, just like me. I wanted to disclose the Exodus 90 system in this way to show you that it is no joke, and there will be countless reasons to quit or to not take the challenge at all.

“I just can’t give up social media. I need it for…”

“No hot showers? Are you kidding me?”

“But I’m not even Catholic! So why would I…”

There are endless reasons why someone should NOT do Exodus 90.

I’m doing it for my freedom, because an unhealthy attachment to worldly goods limits my capacity to give of myself and live for others. I’m doing it to get my life back, and to give God control over everything. I’m doing it for happiness and health. I’m doing it for my own salvation.

If these types of improvements don’t sound desirable, then Exodus is not for you.

I do, however, ask that you remember me in your prayers.

Progress Report: As of 3/7/2017, I have lost 24 lbs.

On Not Giving Up

Week one down, a lifetime to go.

This week has been a test of my will; the daily struggle caused me to constantly evaluate the changes I was seeking to make in my life. Daily. Literally daily, I entertained the idea of quitting. To give you a better point of reference: I’ve cut all carbs and sugary junk food out of my life. Complimenting this abstinence has been my intention to pray more often and incorporate more physical activity as I am able. Fast and pray, right?

Well, you never really learn just how addicted you are to something until you decide to give it up. Looking back, I lived from one sugar high to the next; between seven dollar latte drinks, instant-microwavable food, and a steady attachment to desserts, I was killing myself. Leaving all of this behind was hell. Most of last week I was nauseated, unable to think straight, unable to stay awake during the day, and unable to go to sleep at night. I would actually take time to plot ways of finding a dessert that could pass as healthy or ‘low carb’ enough for me to be able to fit it into my regimen.

Throughout last week, throughout my sacrifices, I was steadily looking for the loopholes. I was looking for ways to feed the desires of my flesh while keeping the bear-minimum of my new healthy lifestyle. And this behavior of trying to see how I could continue to get by with doing less, at this point, could be the tagline for my autobiography. I’ve always done this. I’m lazy.

More than being lazy, I lack faith. By not ever going ‘all in’ or by seeking comfort in material things I have precluded myself from trusting God fully. Padre Pio once described the Christian life as a “perpetual struggle against self.” Among the innate tendencies we struggle against, I think comfort and safety are among them. We have little faith that God will solve our problems so we frantically try to solve them all ourselves. We do what we don’t think God will. The result is, more often than not, misery. When we try to take on in our lives the role that belongs properly to God, we quickly realize that we are not God. It is our lack of faith that prevents us from surrendering, and we pick ourselves up from disappointment and go racing towards our next disappointment.

Last week I had to face hunger, boredom, anger, and hopelessness with no other resolve, but prayer. All of the feelings and sensations that I could typically numb with unhealthy distractions were now left bare. I had no other recourse but God. It was uncomfortable. Taking control was well within reach, but I could not reach. I had to be vulnerable before God, and my family. Last week was hell. Enduring such an immense amount of discomfort, for me at least, was the beginning of healing. It was the beginning of being whole again.

On Saturday I was able to grab coffee (regular black coffee, with just a bit of half-and-half) with two of my best friends, Josh and Braylin. I’ve been friends with Josh for 10.5 years now, and Braylin for 9. These are friendships that began in high school and have managed to last throughout college and into early adulthood. As I departed from the few hours we had spent together, I reflected on the longevity of these friendships. Many opportunities have presented themselves for each of these friendships to cease; to continue no more. Josh, Braylin, and I have grown into three seemingly different directions in our lives. The only reason our fraternal bond has withstood these changes was the fervent intentionality with which we approached it. With all the disagreements and differences, the three of us have decided not to give up.

Not giving up. Not giving up in the face of an insurmountable struggle. That is what this first week has been about.

The degree to which I have spent years giving myself over to the base desires of my flesh has, in many ways, rendered me unrecognizable. Like an addict going through rehabilitation, there will be a period of withdrawal. There will be moments when I struggle in my relationship with God, with my vocation to my wife and children, to my family and friends, and in my commitment to good health. The point is that I cannot give up. I most keep moving forward. Most importantly, I must trust that God is my portion, my fulfillment, and that nowhere else can I find the satisfaction found in Him alone.

Jesus, I trust in you.

Progress Report: As of 1/8/2017, I have lost 9.5 lbs.