Losing weight was not part of my 2011 plans. Unless of course it happened automatically. I had no real plans to make it happen, but then in July I had heart bypass. And in the last 5 months, my life habits have drastically changed.

I wish I could say that all it took was a change of desires and the weight just poured off. Instead, it was a change of mind and a change of behavior. On July 29th, 2011 I weighed in at 215 pounds. This morning I stood on the scale and it read 167. I’m thankful and I thought I would share some things that have worked for me.

After months of cardiac rehab and nutrition classes, I have found that there are only 4 numbers I really need to keep track of to help me stay on the path of health and maintaining a healthy weight (it even worked through the holidays). Now, a couple of these numbers are specifically for heart patients, but they also help you choose healthier foods. And that is essential for each of us.

1.  2000 mg of salt a day. For me, the number is 1500. But sodium raises blood pressure. It makes us retain fluids, which in turn make the heart work harder. But it is also prevalent in processed foods. If you are watching your salt intake, you will be eating healthier, fresher foods. FYI: one teaspoon of salt has 2400 mg of sodium.

2.  55 grams of fat a day (16 of which are saturated fat). Fat doesn’t always produce fat, but it does raise your cholesterol numbers. For me, this means I eat lean red meat (90-95% lean), no more than 1 meal per week. I eat more fish, more chicken and turkey. This is from a guy who ate beef almost daily, because I was convinced that chicken was a vegetable.

3. 1500-1800 calories per day. This one is important because after all, to lose weight we have to take in fewer calories than we use up. Otherwise they get stored as fat. The number for women is a little lower. But watching calories helps because it will help you manage things like sugar.

4. 30+ minutes of exercise each day. This is just as important as any other number. Exercise is a brisk walk, or time on an elliptical. You do have to get your heart rate up a bit. If you can’t talk while your exercising, then it is probably too hard for now. Also, I found out that endurance is a more important goal than quick, hard bursts of exertion.

You wonder, how this has helped me spiritually? In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul wrote, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self- discipline.” This self discipline has enriched my prayer life. It has helped me remember that I am here for greater purposes than my own pleasure.  It has motivated me to discipline other areas of my life.

Also, God has truly changed many of my desires. After 5 months, we had gotten a little busy one evening and I decided I could eat Jr Whopper without cheese and mayo. I ate the burger and it was a huge disappointment. God has changed my tastebuds and continues to do so.

I pray you find the direction, hope and encouragement to discover the healthier life God has for you.

Question: What has worked for you? How did you maintain it?