Reviewed by Carol Kurtz
First Place 4 Health by Carole Lewis
"The core of First Place 4 Health is spending time with God every day, reading the Bible, praying, and studying and memorizing. It’s when we strive to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives that we find that life is about so much more than food."
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight it probably went something like this: You made up your mind to find the newest fad diet out there and signed up. You drastically reduced your calorie intake, threw out all the food in your pantry and fridge (because it was “bad”). Maybe you even signed up to buy pre-packaged meals. You know you’re supposed to exercise, so you picked the hardest exercise you could think of, even though you hate it. You forced yourself to workout for hours, leaving you sore and miserable. You actually lost a few pounds, which was great, so you celebrate at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Somehow within a short time it was business as usual, and you gained all the weight back in a few weeks.
Sound familiar? This is the pattern most people follow every year or so. First Place 4 Health shows us that God has a better way - “If you want to lose weight, start on your knees.” Carole Lewis writes with love for her readers because she’s been there, too. She joined a First Place group in 1981. The program is built on the foundation that we “seek Him first and His righteousness and all these things will be added to us as well.” The real answer to our weight problem is that we need to live a balanced life - spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. This kind of multi-faceted change takes time, so they ask us to “give God and First Place 4 Health one year... and your life will change forever.”And it can take that long for us to finally uncover the emotions that can lead us to food and overeating.
Three quarters of this book is not about calories, fat grams, or maximum heart rates. It’s about seeking balance in every area of our lives. It’s about developing a vibrant prayer life and reading the Bible every day to center us. It’s even about memorizing Scriptures every week. It’s full of testimonies by people who had been overweight all their lives. Many came to their local First Place meeting looking for a quick fix. What they discovered was that by focusing on the Master’s Plan for them, their sedentary lifestyle and old eating habits gradually transformed.
Early on Lewis addresses a hurdle for many: understanding that God is good, and that HE wants to help us with our weight and our health. She explains the First Place program, which can be found in thousands of churches across the country, and she makes it clear that it’s a group of imperfect people supporting each other and supplying some accountability. There are weekly meetings, and a “Live It Tracker” to keep a journal of your progress. But the group also provides knowledge about diet and exercise (though she tells us it’s not a “die - it” but a “live-it”!) “The body wants to do what the body wants to do”, and by knowing that we are able to better understand our weaknesses. We realize that we are not our body; we have a body that we can control with God’s help.
Each chapter has some workbook type spaces where we can write in answers to questions like: “Because God is sympathetic to me, that means I don’t need to fear.....”. There are Scripture verses that take on a whole new meaning, providing a healthy perspective for losing weight. “Checklist for Success” is a summary of the key points presented after each chapter.
Rather than asking
for commitments to work out regularly, the program offers invitations
to exercise as
a positive part of our day, not a punishment
for bad eating. The book is loaded with personal stories from formerly
obese and discouraged people, complete with amazing “Before and After” photos.
Their stories are not about a quick fix. Some of them were in the program
for months or even years before they “got it”. But there doesn’t
seem to be any pressure to drop the weight quickly. It’s more about
encouraging and supporting each other to get closer to God and find the
wonderful balance in our lives between the spirit, the mind, and the flesh.
Life is about more than Me now. It’s about Him and about helping
Finally as the number of remaining pages dwindles, Lewis gets around to the nutrition and exercise plan. (It’s no accident where the emphasis of this book lies.) It’s surprisingly simple and straight forward. No tricks here. No gimmicks. Even our eating has balance - every meal should have some fat, some protein, and some carbs. That’s it. No saying good bye to all your favorite foods. It’s about eating when you’re hungry (hmmm never thought of that) and only eating until you’re getting full (portion control). Foods fall under three categories: foods you eat often, sometimes, and rarely. There isn’t a “never” category! Moderation is the answer to staying on track for the rest of our lives. It’s the most refreshing plan you’ll ever find.
It’s possible to start this program with just this book alone. But since an integral part of it is friendship and support from others who share the same goals, finding a First Place group would be optimal. You can find one in your area on their website. I did, and I’m looking forward to attending a meeting. Whether you need to lose a lot of weight or you just want to find balance in this area of your life, it looks like a positive way to grow closer to God in all areas.
The core of First Place 4 Health is spending time with God every day, reading the Bible, praying, and studying and memorizing. It’s when we strive to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives that we find that life is about so much more than food. We find our joy fulfilling our calling and “doing the next right thing” over and over again. What a breath of fresh air.
Carol Kurtz Darlington is a certified personal trainer and a certified group fitness instructor who works with people who want to lose weight as well as those who just want to enjoy better health. She enjoys empowering and encouraging others to reach their health and fitness goals, feel better about themselves in the process, and enjoy more energy to stay active in all areas of their lives. She is the founder of Totally Fit With Carol, a Christian weight loss website featuring workout videos, health tips, exercise advice, and more. She loves her morning cappuccino and her beloved grand-dog. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and haunting Starbucks.