My Secret Formula for Losing Weight

A reader asks:

I am what I guess you would call “jolly” and have over 150 pounds to lose until I reach what the medical community considers healthy, namely the figure of a Greek statue.

Just out of curiosity…how did you do it? Did you count the calories, do extra walking/exercise?

The sacrament of anointing was what freed me from the slavery to appetite. Beyond that it’s basically been “eat less, walk more”. 🙂 Dreary, but if you make it a chance to say the Rosary or think, or you give yourself a goal (library, bank, post office, adoration are popular with yours truly) then that makes it more enjoyable. Eating less and eating fewer carbs has also been helped by the spur of diabetes. I hope to lose another 60 pounds and perhaps have the diabetes go away, as it sometimes does.

Best wishes on your own struggle. Get anointed. It can really help if slavery to appetite is part of the issue. And given that obesity, diabetes and attending symptoms are *deadly* if neglected, I think its obviously a candidate for the sacrament. It certainly has helped me and I’m grateful to my priest for having suggested it.

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  • Fr. Bryan

    Wow. I minister to several people struggling with weight issues and it never occurred to me to anoint them. Perhaps it is because I’ve always associated it with the sin of gluttony. Obviously, though, there are many psychological reasons why people might overeat that could be considered sicknesses, so I’m a little ashamed I’ve never made the connection.

    Thanks for sharing that this helped you.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Not to mention, Padre, it could be an undiagnosed hormonal problem. And we all know how Docs like to to treat symptoms if the disease is just too intimidating.

      Obesity, menorrhea, its all the same in some ways, sadly.

  • SDG

    You mean your secret isn’t obeying one weird old trick discovered by a mom in [YourCity] that makes doctors angry?

    • Margaret

      Are you talking about the weight loss trick or the face lift trick?

      • Paulus

        No no, it’s the white teeth trick. Or maybe the building muscle trick.

  • Ellen

    I didn’t get anointed when I lost all my weight (and I’ve kept it off for 20 years), but the secret is simple. I ate what I wanted just a lot less of it and I walked more. I’d eat a junior sized burger, not a triple decker. I’d eat a 6 inch sub, not a foot-long and NEVER eat between meals.

    It worked. I ask your prayers for a co-worker who is morbidly obese and I truly fear for her life.

  • Fr. Christensen

    I find it disturbing that you are telling people to be anointed because they are overweight. The documents of the Church are clear that the anointing of the sick is only for those who have a physical illness that puts them in danger of death. Being overweight is not a physical disease or illness, unless ( and this may be the case with you – I’m not exactly sure ) the obesity is caused by a disease such as diabetes. If it is caused by an addiction to eating, I think it is clear that it is a mental disorder rather than a physical disease. In that case annointing would be an abuse since it is only for those suffering from physical sickness and not mental. I think that often times my brother priests put too much emphasis on the sacrament of the sick. Those who are not physically sick or who are, but not to a point where death is a real danger, should take advantage of the other healing sacrament: confession. It too is a healing and powerful sacrament. And let’s not forget that the Holy Eucharist is even more powerful. What could be more healing than having Jesus enter your body in Holy Communion? If his presence healed people when he walked The earth, why not now? Whenever someone approaches me and wants to be anointed but should not be, I encourage them to go to confession and receive Holy Communion. That is what is needed to find freedom from obesity, not the annointing of the sick. At least that is how I am losing weight.

    • ppeter

      You do know that morbid obesity can seriously kill you, don’t you, Father? It’s not all in one’s head. It’s also being physically dangerously fat.

    • godescalc

      Are there no liturgical forms for praying for the sick other than a sacrament for those in danger of death? It seems a bit of an omission.

      (And yeah, I know you can always do the aforementioned stuff, get everyone praying for you, &c. Still.)

    • Mark Shea

      All I know is I once was fat and now am thin(ner). I was in danger of death (heart attack, stroke, diabetes, blindness, gangrene) and the sacrament has helped me with all this. But the main thing is that it broke the power of addiction. I’m not arguing with God about it. I took it to confession and communion hundreds of times. The sacrament of anointing is what made the difference for me.

    • It is quite possible that different printings of the ritual might contain varying information. The most recent edition of the rite of anointing in Canada (“Pastoral Care”) mentions the following:
      “Some types of mental sickness are now classified as serious. Those who are judged to have a serious mental illness and who would be strengthened by the sacrament may be anointed.” (#53, p. 27)

      In general, the language I have in my ritual is that the sacrament is for those whose health is “seriously impaired.” (It used to be “gravely” or “dangerously,” so that has changed in the past few decades. This is from #8 and the resulting footnote.) If the priest doesn’t know whether or not the situation is “serious,” it’s also prudent to consult a doctor (#8).

      Though I wouldn’t know the specifics of Mark’s situation I could see from this that morbid obesity that is a serious threat one’s health – even if it stems out of a mental disorder/addiction to overeating – could certainly qualify. And in any event the Holy Spirit seems to have really done something amazing in Mark’s case (in cooperation with what looks like a pile of work on Mark’s part)!

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Mark’s a diabetic, Padre.

      Mark’s weight bears very much on his health, and his mortality.

    • Obesity can bring on diabetes, which in turn is life threatening. I personally don’t see the issue here.

  • Mark, What’s with this annointing sacramental thing? Is it valid under Canon Law/Catechismal teachings? We need more info and clarification on the annointing process (Who, specific rubrics, matter of annointing, how to do it, etc.)

  • Hi Mark,

    My own secret (about 50 lbs loss so far, working on the next 50) was that my wife supported me and we started a “Body for life” program:

    My experience was that following an eating program that had me eating 6 times a day in true to my needs portions immediately improved my health and I lost 20lbs almost instantly (about 4 weeks). The hardest part in terms of eating was to deal with my body expecting larger portions and in not getting them, trying to tell me I was hungry for the first 3 or 4 days. After that my body no longer expected as much food and I didn’t feel hungry between meals anymore.

    The next difficult thing was to start an exercise program (weights and cardio) and keep it going. Again, having my wife’s support made the difference because I could tell that she was disappointed when I didn’t exercise and every time I made right choices about eating or exercise she very enthusiastically complimented me and otherwise showed her pride in my own improvements.

    Also, we saw using Body for Life as a lifestyle change to where we were planning our meals ahead at least one week at a time including our ‘off program’ days when we planned for the various goodies we were going to enjoy which we had forgone during the week. Sunday’s are invariably our ‘off program’ which I think is fitting since each Sunday is a feast day for the Church. If we have events or family gatherings at other points during the week/weekend we don’t stress about trying to eat on plan and just work a bit harder the next week.

    I hope that your continue to see success in your weight loss and I will continue to pray for you.

    peace and grace,

    Dan F.

  • jill e

    I also got anointed.

    I’d been attending a healing Mass every six months for two years because of injuries in a serious accident. Each time, my physical progress was amazing! Last May it occurred to me that my overweight condition was much more a spiritual issue than anything else. I am now 70 pounds lighter with about 9 pounds to go. More walking (while saying the Rosary), more activity as opposed to television watching, less mindless munching, MUCH more prayer…being a woman, I frequently ask for Mary’s intercession. When I felt hungry, I offered it for the mother of a colleague who was diagnosed with mouth cancer and was on a feeding tube.

    And I followed St. Francis de Sales advice: “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.” So when I have difficult days, I just start again. I don’t give up.

    Thanks be to God!

  • joye

    I would be cautious, Mark, about saying that anointing bore good fruit in your life, therefore it must have been a fully licit thing to do. As an example that I know you will appreciate, think of all the people who say “Well, my sister went to Medjugorje and now she’s stopped cohabitating and returned to the sacraments, so it must be a real apparition.” God is not limited by the sacraments, so the fact that you received benefit doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a licit use. That said, naturally I’m very happy that you are getting healthier. Pax. 🙂

    • Mark Shea

      All that is above my pay grade. I know perfectly competent pastors who are up to speed theologically who are on both sides of the matter. For myself, I’m perfectly content with whatever the Church decides. But the reality is, this question is sufficiently granular that the Church is patient of both schools of opinion and I highly doubt the magisterium will condemn such a use of the sacrament. Also, for myself, I simply can’t deny what my experience was: the sacrament made the difference.