Scared into shape

Jarrod Stackelroth is getting ready to tackle the Kokoda Track. His weight-loss journey, though, is about so much more than a one-time event.

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As I write this, I’m sweating at my desk. No, it’s not the heat of deadlines bearing down (although they are) or that the air conditioner in my office is broken (it isn’t). It’s not even an unseasonal heat wave.

It’s because I’ve just got back from a lunch time run.

Sitting at a computer most days (for most of the day), I relish the chance to get the blood pumping through my veins. It keeps me healthy and keeps me sane. After all, they say “sitting is the new smoking”. If I can’t exercise at lunch, I try to get another session in sometime during the day.

But for weight loss and overall wellbeing, exercise can’t do everything by itself. Since the beginning of the year, my wife and I have also switched completely to a plant-based diet, each for our own reasons. We’ve noticed the upsurge in interest in veganism and more vegan-friendly products in mainstream supermarkets.

Many newspaper articles have explored this recent upsurge, calling 2019 “The Year of the Vegan”. Veganism is going mainstream. It’s taking over.

Yet, as more people embrace health and lifestyle choices that the Adventist Church has traditionally championed, we are walking away. It’s a shame that we are starting to abandon an area we pioneered.

Perhaps as a reaction to the legalism of previous generations, we’ve become lax. We argue that it is not a salvation issue but forget that not everything that is permissible is good. Before you get defensive, I’m preaching to myself here.

It has always been easy for me to judge those who have smoking or alcohol addictions, having steered well clear of those habits throughout my life. Yet, like many in the Church, food was my socially acceptable vice in plain sight.

Sugar, cream, rich desserts, cheesy oily food or salty snacks—these were my stumbling blocks (still have the potential to be, if I’m really honest).

It can become a cycle of self-destruction. I got busy, got stressed and started comfort eating. Exercising got harder (mentally and physically), eating needed to be simple, quick, convenient and it didn’t matter if it was healthy or not. Before I knew it I’d stacked on 20 kgs.

"Like many in the Church, food was my socially acceptable vice in plain sight. Sugar, cream, rich desserts, cheesy oily food or salty snacks—these were my stumbling blocks . . ."

Yet the changes I have made this year have made me feel better—physically, mentally (most days), and even spiritually.

Throughout the Pacific people are struggling with lifestyle diseases and how to live healthy lifestyles. As a Church we have answers and with initiatives like the 10,000 Toes Campaign, the problem is starting to be addressed, through work with governments, early detection kits and education.

I’m tackling the Kokoda Track in July, with 10,000 Toes and ADRA. I’ve lost 20 kgs to date and, while I know that will help, I’m not under any illusions that I’m ready. I’m scared. It has literally been scaring me into shape. But I’m so thankful for something that helped kick me into gear.

I’m trying to raise $A3000 (you can donate here). If that happens, not only will I walk Kokoda, knowing that I’ve contributed 30 early diabetes detection kits for remote Pacific communities, but I’ve also promised to shave off my beard (which is currently quite large). The deadline is this coming week.

Shaving the beard is not something I want to do. My wife likes it and that’s all the excuse I’ve needed to keep it. For years, it has covered my face, protecting me from the outside world. Last time I went clean shaven, I hated what I saw. I didn’t like my face—naked and ashamed. As they say, a good beard can hide a multitude of chins.

So, with my healthy outlook and my weight already lost, I’m hoping I can learn to love and forgive myself and my body. I’m hoping that when I lose the beard, I won’t be ashamed of the face I see underneath it.

I want to encourage you today. If you’re reading this and struggling with your health, only you have the will to change it. Make that change today. Take one step. Add an exercise day to your routine, give up an unhealthy food, drink more water. Make today the day you start moving up the spectrum of good health. I have, and I don’t want to go back.