Bowl of candy

Healthy choices

Transformed life

Every day I look into the eyes of men and women who are struggling to overcome addictions. As an officer in The Salvation Army, I have the responsibility to oversee an Adult Rehabilitation Program where individuals work at applying the Lord’s life-changing principles in their lives. It is, for them, a life-and-death struggle. Over the last 10 years, we know 55 individuals who have died from this disease.

In reality, being excessively overweight can be just as dangerous. Last year my 81-year-old father lost 50 pounds, and his doctor said he probably added seven years to his life. Two of my brothers lost 20 to 30 pounds, and their accomplishment gave me hope and motivation.

As my responsibilities grew over the years in The Salvation Army, my job became a desk job. Yet, I also used food to deal with stress, and it affected my health and my life.

A couple of years ago, when the scale read over 250 pounds, I had a moment of crisis. By offering up a prayer, “I don’t want to live this way; show me how to change this area of my life,” I began a journey to win another victory. But as it is in many areas of life, situations didn’t just get better. After three surgeries, three attempts of dieting with another overweight friend, a torn shoulder muscle and a lot of contemplation of what issues needed to be addressed, I was forced to think through my commitment and what was really important.

Then I discovered the Gold’s Gym 12-Week Challenge and joined as part of the Officer Wellness Program of The Salvation Army. This program, started in 2005, provides funding to officers for things like gym memberships to promote health and fitness under the supervision of a medical professional. Just over 200 officers are currently enrolled in the Western Territory.

I ate lean meats and vegetables as my core menu, and did cardio workouts while watching full movies, and worked out on weight machines and in the pool. When I got in shape and below 225 pounds I also wanted to play basketball again.

For over two weeks of the 12-Week Challenge I was away but still found ways to exercise. I work late many evenings, so I had to work out even later and on Saturdays. I also found ways to eat healthy while eating out—for example, asking to substitute vegetables for some of the carbs.

That challenge caused life-altering transformations in my life and helped me to develop habits that are now a new lifestyle. I have decided to never go back to where I was before. I choose to trade media at home for exercising at the gym. I choose what exercises to do on my way to the gym, and what healthy foods to buy at the store before shopping. I choose to eat healthy and plan meals before meal time. I choose to eat six popcorn-flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans instead of popcorn, and to put snacks away from easy reach. I choose to never give up.

I’m grateful that Eric at the Grand Junction Gold’s Gym front desk always told me, “You can do it,” on my way in. And to my trainer Zach who encouraged me to go beyond my goal of losing 40 pounds and lose 50. I started at 238 pounds and am down to 181 pounds—a loss of 57 pounds. I received recognition as the gym challenge winner in my age category, and as the overall winner for all five men’s age categories at the local gyms.

Now, when someone asks how I did it I share that with God all things are possible. I love to see others motivated to make positive changes in their lives as well.

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Dan Wilson

Major Dan Wilson is the corps officer of The Salvation Army in Grand Junction, Colo., and administrator of the local Adult Rehabilitation Program.

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 Grand Junction Salvation Army