PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Harold Chandler ain’t half the preacher he once was.
Last year, at 349 pounds, he was two cheeseburgers short of 350. Today he is less than 190 pounds, well on his way to his goal of 170.
Chandler, 58, pastor of Shepherd Hill Baptist Church of Pine Bluff, Ark., had not seen 200 pounds or less since he was 16 years old.
His granddaughter Jessica finally got to him. Last summer when Chandler and his wife were in San Antonio for the Southern Baptist Convention, they took Jessica for a day at Sea World.
Chandler became winded and couldn’t keep up the pace. He kept getting tired and had to rest while his wife and granddaughter were enjoying themselves.
That evening, his granddaughter said, “Papaw, I’m worried about you. You were having trouble breathing today. I think you are too fat.”
He went to a new doctor. With blood sugar between 350-400 and blood pressure running 190/100, he was on three medications.
Chandler opted to try a diet of 700 calories a day and kept records of everything he ate or drank.
He lost 41 pounds the first 30 days, and then upped the calorie count to 800-850 a day.
“Those first three months were tough,” he said. “I was weak. I didn’t have a lot of energy to do anything. Your whole system is changing. Everything in your body has to readjust.”
His wife started buying healthy food and even started eating what he was eating.
Members of his church, where he has been pastor for two years, encouraged him, and he also was motivated spiritually.
“It was something I needed to do to fulfill the calling God gave me,” he said. “You are supposed to give God the best you can, and when you allow yourself to get in the shape I was in, I couldn’t give God the best. I gave Him everything I had, but it wasn’t near what I should have been doing.
“God does not want us to be in a situation where we can’t do our job because of our physical condition. I couldn’t get around well,” he said. “I was tired all the time. It was hard to get up in the morning and go do things, because I just didn’t feel like I had the energy to do it.”
His weight loss was not without some difficult days.
At the end of the first week, he finished preaching his Sunday morning sermon, but when the invitation was over, he almost didn’t make it to the back of the church.
“Everything was swimming, and I couldn’t see well,” he said.
At home his blood pressure was 88/52 and his blood sugar was 47. His doctor explained he was taking all the sugar out of his system, which enabled his medications to work more efficiently. He cut the dosages in half.
The next Sunday the same thing happened. Monday, he cut grass and after two strips, could hardly crawl back to the house.
So the doctor took him totally off medications.
His energy level is higher than he ever remembers.
He has some words of wisdom for others who want to lose weight.
“Don’t try to quit eating. Just keep a record for about a week of everything that goes in your mouth,” Chandler said. “Don’t try to decide what’s good or bad, just keep a record. You will be surprised. Most people take in 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day. I was taking in at least that many or more because I love to eat.”
He said once you become conscious of what you are eating and the calories and fat grams, you can decide how to change your eating habits.
“There are things you like that satisfy your hunger and give you energy, without having the calories and fats,” he said. “That’s really the key to it. We need to learn we are what we eat.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Warren is editor of the Arkansas Baptist.)