We started on February 2, 2017 and by the time we finished on April 19th, our I Am S.T.R.O.N.G. Team had collectively lost a whole person—159 pounds. It was a life-changing experience for all 16 participants.

A Passion to Empower

It was an experiment born from a need. Our church wanted to do something “out of the box” for our midweek services, so we offered several small groups for members to move through in 12 weeks. Russ and I have a passion for health and fitness so we proposed a healthy lifestyles group to educate and empower a few willing victims volunteers to change physically, mentally, and spiritually.

We had no idea what kind of response we would get, but 10 seconds after the last “Amen” was spoken from the pulpit, 16 people had lined up at our sign-up table to be transformed. Before they left, we gathered them together for the team cheer, “We are STRONG!”

Mind, Body, and Spirit

What most people miss in their weight loss misadventures—and what Russ and I were determined to teach—is that weight loss is not just physical. It includes body, mind, and spirit. The reason most people are over (or under) weight is because of an unhealthy lifestyle.

We knew the first step was education since knowledge is power. We taught our I Am S.T.R.O.N.G. Team how their bodies metabolize food and the impact that different types of food have on fat loss or fat retention. Once they understood this and started applying the principals we explained, they found themselves able to say “No” to the Dunkin’ Donuts their co-workers left in the breakroom.

Second, we trained everyone to think differently about exercise. To view it not as an enemy or something else to squeeze into their busy schedules, but as an ally and a reward because they deserved to be healthy.

There’s also a spiritual component to weight loss we wanted to emphasize. We encouraged each person to get their strength not from themselves, but from God and from the rest of the team fighting right along side them. We used scriptures and prayer to call them to be good stewards of the bodies they had been gifted.

Do It Again

As a team, we did a lot together. We walked several miles, we meditated in the park, we prepared healthy meals, we did yoga, we sweat through a boot camp class, we prayed, we laughed (a lot), we ate (a lot), and we connected on SLACK.

In twelve weeks, we were 159 pounds lighter. But we did more than lose weight, we built family. We had been STRONG together. While three members of our team are moving on (literally) to new cities and new lives, we will stay connected because we accomplished something we weren’t able to do alone.

This Wednesday, May 3rd we launch the second I Am STRONG team and are looking forward to even more victories and more lives changed. Our team cheer with our new group will be the same—“We are STRONG!” But with our first team family, we now say, “Once STRONG, always STRONG” because no one can take away what we built together.

Russ & Kim
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