26 Obvious, Obscure, and Oddball Lessons from a Health Journey

I started trying to “lose weight” in 2012. Over the years I had varying degrees of success with my efforts, but it always ended in burnout and regaining what I lost (and sometimes even more).

Starting in 2021 I decided I was going to stop aiming for a generic “lose weight” goal, but instead to keep at it by trial and error until I was in optimal health. I’m not there and probably won’t be for some time, but I’ve come a long way and am not looking back.

Here are 26 lessons I’ve learned along the way – some by experience, most by good advice gleaned from countless sources.

Some might help you, some might seem totally stupid, and some might not work for you at all. If any one of them helps a single person, then I’ll consider this post worth writing.


1. Resistance training

I believe no matter who you are and almost at every age, resistance training is great for you. Obviously for the young and the elderly some modifications have to be made, but don’t let that stop you from gaining the benefits of increased musculature. Especially for men, it’s good for us to use the strength God built us to achieve. 

Be smart, be reasonable, but don’t forget to push yourself. You’re not just pushing up a weight, you’re pushing up the ceiling on your limitations. The physical and mental health benefits of that are enormous. (If you want to get serious about it, I recommend a $5 subscription BowTiedOx’s blog to give you all the info you need from beginner to expert.)

2. Cardio matters, but don’t kill yourself with it

Every so often it’s good to burn yourself out. I end every week with some hill sprints that leave me barely able to stand up. But overall, you need very little of that level of intensity in your cardio. I hate running, so other than that one short workout, I don’t. Most of the time your cardio can be little more than an uphill walk at a decent pace. Google “Zone 2” if you’re not familiar, and put in the time.

3. Mouth tape

Sounds weird, works great. If your nasal passages are clear, put a strip of tape over your mouth before bed to ensure nose breathing. You’ll have deeper, more restful sleep. 

4. Actually go to sleep

You don’t need me to tell you the importance of getting enough sleep, especially before midnight. You just need to do it. Set a timer for 10 or 10:30 and when it goes off, your night is over. Put the phone away and go to bed. (I still struggle with this one the most.)

5. Put your phone in another room

Speaking of phones, don’t put it anywhere near your bed. You’ll fall asleep better and wake up better if you don’t have it within reach while lying down and getting up. Get a cheap alarm to put by your bed instead.

6. The snooze button no longer exists

As alluring as it is, that extra 10 minutes only makes you more tired. What’s more, consider the psychological effects. Getting out of bed is your first task of the day – do you really want to procrastinate on the very first thing you have to do every day? What kind of precedent does that set? It’s not worth it.

7. Get a first 10 minute morning routine

How do you avoid the snooze? Remove decision making from the first 10 minutes of your day. Know exactly what comes next after the alarm. For me it’s bathroom->weigh->get dressed->drink water. By that time I’m too alert to crawl back in bed and I’m all set to leave for a workout. (And, again – don’t touch your phone at this time of day.)

8. Sun is great for you – just be smart with it

As a fair-skinned redhead I spent years hiding from the sun. But the sun is a vital factor in good health, and being out in it feels incredible. You just need to build up to longer and longer exposure, and be careful to not overdo it.

Getting into the less harsh morning and evening sunlight for 15-30 minutes should be a goal, especially now that the weather is improving. (Don’t be in it long enough or exposed enough to need sunscreen.)

9. Count your steps – to be active, not to hit a number

7,000 steps a day should be your baseline target. Every phone has a step counter now so you don’t even need to spend any money to start here.

However, while there are great benefits to going on a long walk, it’s not ideal to do 6500 steps at once and then 500 the rest of the day. Try to get regular breaks to move around for 5-10 minutes, especially if you have a desk job.


10. Calorie counting – just do it

Again, apps are cheap or free. Calculate your TDEE online (google it), figure out if you need deficit (~500 under TDEE), surplus (a few hundred over), or maintenance (equal), and start counting.

Get a food scale, measure your portions, and count everything that goes in your body. Not just foods, but drinks, sweeteners, cooking oils, sauces, handfuls of snacks – all of it. 

Maybe you won’t need this step forever, but you won’t believe how illuminating it is when you get a feel for the caloric content of different foods. You don’t know what you don’t know, and there’s only one way to learn.

11. Raw milk, raw egg yolks, raw honey

Yeah, yeah, it sounds weird. But grab a pint of vanilla Haagen Dazs, look at the ingredients, and see if it still sounds gross.

I’m throwing it in here because it’s my favorite treat on this journey. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense things you can have, and it’s downright delicious. Drinking 16-20 oz of this melted ice cream mix has had noticeable helpful effects on my weight loss.

12. Stay off of vegetable oils

Start checking ingredients and you’ll see they’re in everything – typically as canola, sunflower, or soybean. Some of it literally began as engine lubricant, almost entirely unfit for human consumption. And obesity and heart disease are direct results of consumption. So toss out the margarine, Crisco, and Wesson and do your best to cook with butter, coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil instead. 

13. Make your own food

If portion size and quality of ingredients are not in your control, this all gets exponentially harder. Yeah, meals were more convenient when everything came out of a box or a wrapper, but carrying an excess weight the size of a middle schooler and being perpetually low-energy kinda tipped the inconvenience scales for me, you know? 

14. Hormones matter

All of this – excess fat, low quality foods, sleep, sunlight – affects your hormonal function. And you wouldn’t believe how many other ways disregulated testosterone and estrogen affect your life, even down to your personality. Being physically weak and lethargic changes you, and not in a good way. At least, it did for me. 

15. Sugar and carbs won’t kill you

The more I learn about all of this, the more anti-keto I become. Yes, there’s always a shocking initial weight loss, but long-term sustainability is hard and there are too many nutrient-dense foods left behind when you ditch carbs. Find a way to work them in moderately and use their energy boost to your advantage.

16. Fruit is good

Low calorie, lots of nutrients, tastes great. Don’t let anyone convince you it’s unhealthy. 

17. Eat what feels good

The cleaner you eat the more you realize how lousy processed food makes you feel. Once you get a better sense of how you’re supposed to feel, you can better tell what your body processes well and what it doesn’t. For instance, corn makes me feel bad for days, so I just avoid it. For you, it’s probably something entirely different. Pay attention to your body and adapt as needed.

18. Make room for treats

You’ll burn out if you eat nothing but health foods all the time. Every Saturday night my wife and I make a big junk food feast for the family (with clean ingredients, of course) – pizzas one week, burgers and fries the next, you name it. I still keep an eye on calories since they can sneak up in a hurry on the weekend, but if you don’t have any breaks to look forward to, the discouragement will take over. 

And don’t think of it as a “cheat day.” Think of it as a scheduled break that’s keeping you from giving up.

19. Deep Nutrition

If you want to do a really deep dive on food and healthy living, Dr. Cate Shanahan’s Deep Nutrition will blow your mind. What we eat does way more to affect us than I ever realized. (And if you don’t want to go 400 pages deep, she’s done plenty of podcasts and YouTube interviews that are much more accessible.)

20. Take supplements… for a reason

It’s easy to start taking supplements and end up with so many that you can’t even remember what they’re for. If you come across one that seems like it might help, give it a try and see what it does for you. Vitamin D and magnesium are good starting points (but watch for vegetable oil additives). 

21. Protein is good

Not all weight loss is created equal. Some of the rapid transformations you see come from losing more muscle than fat. Been there, done that. Keep your protein up (at least .6g/lb of body weight per day) to make sure you’re keeping muscle while losing fat. Chicken breasts and whey proteins are your friends. 

22. Eggs are very good for you… but not great for protein

One of my first mistakes on this journey was assuming that upping my protein meant eating more eggs. Eggs are incredibly nutrient dense (and delicious, too), but eating tons of eggs isn’t the best way to hit your protein numbers. 6 eggs a day, for example, comes to 420 calories but only 37g of protein. On the other hand, 420 calories of chicken breast gets you about 100g of protein. 


23. Weigh multiple times a week

It’s not always fun, but it keeps you on track. It’s way too easy to think “I’m probably doing fine” when you aren’t looking at numbers. 

Weighing multiple times a week keeps you disciplined because you want to see the numbers go down over the course of 3-4 weigh-ins. 

24. Use your instincts

I’d like to think almost everything here is common sense. And most things are. Eat what your great-grandparents and basically every other human before 1950 ate. Natural is almost always better. Sleep and sun are good. Keep it simple.

25. Know better, do better

You don’t have to know everything to start. Just do the best you can, and if you learn something new, adapts and change. One of the worst mistakes we make is getting paralyzed by indecision, waiting until we’ve figured everything out. Just start and learn as you go. As you know better, do better. 

26. Don’t have a goal, make a decision

It’s not about doing something for a while to reach a certain point – because then what happens? Instead, make it about becoming a certain kind of person. (I highly recommend James Clear’s Atomic Habits on this point.)

As I mentioned at the beginning, for years I’d set out to “lose weight,” and I would. Then I’d slowly gain it back. What finally worked was deciding to be as healthy and strong as I can be. I want to be in tip-top shape both for now and to help as I age. I want to set an example for my sons so they can get the head start I didn’t have.

Its been a long journey, and there’s still a long way to go. But the changes that have come about by being more health-conscious have been a huge benefit to my life, so I hope there’s something in here that might help you as well. If I can help in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

And, for the standard disclaimer, this does not constitute medical advice and I am not a doctor.

A Farewell to Texas

Lately I’ve been preaching through some Genesis narratives, and as I’ve studied I keep coming across those verses that say things like, “…and he sojourned at [such and such place] for [x amount of time] and begat sons and daughters,” etc.

As my 9 years in Texas wind to a close, I feel like I’m at one of those narrative junctures in my life.

I came here a single young guy who thought he knew what he was doing and found out in a million ways he didn’t, but I hope I did some good along the way. In the meantime, I developed a deep love and admiration for this state, its culture, and its people.

And in my sojourn here God has blessed me with a wonderful wife (a Texan, though I had to rescue her from the land north of the Red River 🙂 ), two daughters, and two sons. My time here could not have been more blessed, and I leave having enjoyed even more great moments than I did baskets of chips and salsa (or hot sauce, to you East Texans).

Moments like:

Those special years at Pritchett, on my own for the first time and teaching the Word for countless hours – particularly the first two years with a loaded schedule. Almost dying from humidity upon arrival. Writing Failure deep into the nights in a lonely, lonely parsonage with Boog the Beagle.

Driving I-35 possibly 100+ times to visit (and marry) Allison and then subsequent visits with her family. The birth of all 4 of our children. Packing up and moving to Forney. Monday night fellowships. Buying our first house.

Writing Church Reset over lattes at Murray Street in Deep Ellum. Countless workdays and cookie trips with Gloria at Latham Bakery (shout out to both Melindas, Lisa, Avery, Alexa, Tyler, Gabe, Michael, and everybody else who won’t see this but served me on one of my hundreds of trips).

Finding all the great places to eat (ask me if you ever go to Dallas). Getting to take in football and basketball national championship games at AT&T Stadium, along with a Leo Messi appearance. Austin and San Antonio trips. Queuing up for 3 hours for Franklin BBQ (worth it). State Fair trips. Being there for Gilmer’s dominant run to a state title in HS FB. Picking up a mediocre city and night sky photography habit. (The stars at night are indeed big and bright down here.)

Sitting among 18,000 people at a Dallas Mavericks game and seeing the notification that the NBA was shutting down due to the coronavirus, knowing our world was about to change in a way no one alive could even begin to understand. Ministering through 2 years of Covid, preaching to a hot parking lot full of dedicated people and then an oddly spaced out auditorium half-full of those people. Weathering the great Texas freeze of 2021.

More than anything, though, the greatest memories of the last 9 years have been about the people. As many things as I can remember, in somewhat chronological order:

Andy’s Frozen Custard trips with Jack and Anna, and a year and a half of #DodgeballSelfies.

Visits from Joe and Rachel filled by eating junk food, watching movies, and checking out Dallas and Shreveport.

Fishing trips and subsequent fish fry dinners with James and Wanda Roberts.

Member visitation with Bruce Slaven, and church events with him and Pam.

Gilmer and Gladewater football games (including the absolutely legendary head to head game in 2014) with Bobby and Jennifer Sanders and Judy Latham.

Ministry brainstorming lunches with the Pace family.

Preacher chats with HL Shirey.

Visits with the Snows, including a wise, gentle, loving corrective that a young knuckleheaded minister badly needed and that I’ll never forget.

Monday nights around the table with Jeff, Betty, Bobby Rex, Shirley, Darrell, Kathy, Mickey, Doris, Clay and others.

A million and one questions from one of my favorite Bible students, Lois Brock.

Lunches and photography meetups, solving all the world’s problems with Michael Whitworth.

Elders meetings with James, Clarence, and Perry, and the way their different emphases on things like fellowship, evangelism, and study complement each other so well.

The overwhelming support from all the ladies who have come over and helped through Allison’s last pregnancy and our first few months of being a 4-kid household. I can count at least 11 who have spent time over here helping out, and though I won’t type all the names here we are blown away by your kindness.

Countless lunches with James and Janice Parsons, and their generosity toward us and our kids.

The incredible, repeated generosity of Mike and Jeanette Kirksey, and the friendship extended toward us that has wonderfully never had that weird line that often exists in minister-member relationships.

A very sickly Eddie Phillips insisting on mowing my lawn when I was swamped with family and work duties, along with all that Terry means to us.

Seeing Robert McMahan working away in the building as one of the only outside humans I interacted with for weeks through March and April 2020.

Mama’s Daughters Lunches with Mr. Larry.

Joe and Debbie White helping talk me through the toughest days of my life.

Will and Nakia Duncan having me over to watch sports on a couple of nights when I needed that more than I can explain.

Lisa Burton organizing a drive-by baby shower at the height of Covid quarantines, and Ernest driving me clear across DFW to pick up a car.

Marq Toombs taking time for a young minister despite being on a bit of a different path than his.

I know I’m forgetting a whole bunch of names here, and for that I apologize. Even if I tried, I could not count the number of people who have impacted my life here in Texas. I’m thankful for you all, and pray that even if I don’t have the chance to see you all again here, we’ll meet again in the home of the saved.

I’m thankful to God for making my sojourn in Texas so fruitful, and I’m thanking Him for the chance to know all of you.

How Covid revealed the blind guides of society and Christendom

During my college years my parents held two season tickets to Colorado Avalanche hockey games. I lost count of how many games I was lucky enough to attend in those years, but it had to be in the range of about 50.

On one particular occasion, after years of sitting in the exact same seats, a man came strolling down the stairs in the middle of the play and stopped at our row.

“You’re in my seat,” he said flatly.
“Um, I don’t think so,” I said as diplomatically as I could. “What seat number do you have?”
“Row 13, 1 and 2. That’s my seat.”
I produced my ticket and showed him where I, too, had one that showed row 13, seat 1.
“Are you sure that’s what yours says?”
We went back and forth a couple more times, me not moving and him insisting I was in the wrong place, seemingly at an impasse. The people around us grew annoyed as he stood in the aisle and blocked their view of the ongoing hockey game.

Eventually his wife sheepishly got his attention and pointed back to the signage at the top of the section. He was at the right row and seat number, alright, but he was in the wrong section. Problem solved.

It was at this point he turned to me and said, “You can stay there.”

Not “My bad, man, I had the wrong spot,” or “Oops, my mistake.” The assuredness with which he had told me I was in the wrong seat remained unwavering despite his mixup. In his mind, he somehow remained the authority in the situation and ever so graciously granted me the right to stay in my seat. The one that was mine all along.

It was such a weird interaction that I still vividly remember it, even though it was a decade ago. Who goes through life like that?

Then Covid came to town, and I realized that he’s not an anomaly. No, it’s how the majority of people operate.

After two years of nearly every single covid narrative being proven wrong – “lockdowns work,” “masks work,” “shots protect the people around you,” “if we act right we can make a coronavirus disappear,” “you’re a racist conspiracy theorist if you think it came from a lab,” “natural immunity must not be factored into response,” etc. etc. – the government and media carry on without a single mea culpa. People were banned from social media for saying things that were proven indisputably true, things that even government officials now acknowledge. No apologies are forthcoming.

Vaccine Passports are being retracted all over. Mask mandates are being repealed in some places and flaunted by the people who instituted them in others (hello, LA Super Bowl). Washington Post boldly floats a headline that “Mask mandates didn’t do much.” They have the gall to say the science changed. They have to, because to admit otherwise would be to admit it was all done in vain. It did not change, though.

With all the bravado of the man in the wrong section at a hockey game, they inform you you can take your mask off, aren’t required to get a shot to enter a building, can see people again, can go back to church, and so on. Stop trusting them. Stop letting them tell you what to care about, what to be afraid of, and who to hate.

Further, the religious leaders who lambasted their fellow Christians who have now been proven right in nearly every way have yet to acknowledge this. They called their brethren conspiracy theorists. Labeled us as unreasonable. Said they were embarrassed of those who kept going to church. Ironically, they threw around the accusation that we’re “anti-science.”

Now that the dust has settled, those who threw around such accusations are not acknowledging their missteps and taking those words back.

No, they will continue to carry themselves as authorities and lecture others. As my hockey-watching challenger said “You can stay in that seat,” they say “You can get back to the work of the church” and “You can take that mask off.”

I’m all for everybody getting on the side of truth together. But you don’t get to lead a horde of people in the wrong direction for 2 years, realize you’re wrong, and sprint back to be the head of the pack in the other direction. It’s time to take a step back and figure out what just happened and reflect on those mistakes so you don’t turn on the brethren again.

Book Review: “Fault Lines” by Voddie T. Baucham, Jr.

I recently got access to an early copy of “Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe” by Voddie T. Baucham, Jr. Since I’ve long found Dr. Baucham to be a compelling speaker and writer, and this issue is one that demands our attention, I put a pause on my reading list to see what he had to say.

The short review: this is a desperately needed book, written by perhaps the best man for the job.

It’s no secret that race discussions of recent years have created a major “Fault Line” in both society at large and churches specifically. Writing as a black man who has the cultural experiences of South Central Los Angeles, white neighborhoods in Houston, and now Zambia, Africa, has an education in both sociology and theology, and has clout in the world of Christendom, Dr. Voddie Baucham may be better suited than anyone to offer the dissenting opinion on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in evangelicalism. The first few chapters explore Baucham’s personal background and his experiences navigating racism and racial division, affirming that he certainly has the experiential knowledge some consider a requirement for offering an opinion on race matters (something the author rejects and labels “ethnic gnosticism”).

Much of what Dr. Baucham says builds on the foundations others have set with regard to CRT, Intersectionality, and Social Justice, but his compilation of the arguments along with quotes directly from the sources (Kendi, DiAngelo, et. al.) makes for a good introduction to the current “antiracist” movement. It won’t break any ground for the reader who has spent time researching CRT, but for those who are new to the topic it’s a good primer, and for those who are somewhat familiar it will shore up their understanding of the ideas being promoted.

The truly controversial section, I suspect, is where “Fault Lines” begins to get into specific applications of the questions at hand. Police shootings and the narratives surrounding them are examined with penetrating questions that challenge the CRT framework. The book also explores some of the more popular responses to claims of racism, such as abortion in minority communities and black on black crime. Baucham does not merely parrot them as the “gotcha” talking points they are often used as, but digs in to the question of their validity in the discussion. 

For me, the greatest value is in the way the book examines the issue within the church world. I believe the case Dr. Baucham makes is a strong one, that CRT will continue to drive division because it is incompatible with core ideas like the Gospel and the sufficiency of Scripture. CRT is not just an analytical tool for helping us understand racism. It is both a worldview and a competing religion, as Baucham demonstrates, and the evangelical leaders who have jumped on board seem unaware of the Trojan horse they are wheeling in to their churches and to Christendom as a whole.

I pray this book reaches open hearts and minds and helps heal divisions before they grow any wider. But, I’m pessimistic. I think it’s far more likely to be read and championed by those who agree and ignored or spurned by those who don’t.

In any case, it offers a well-researched, well-argued alternate view to the prevailing narrative of the day. Even if you don’t end up agreeing with the conclusions, it provides valuable insights into the side of the argument that is often either under-represented, prevented from speaking, or argued poorly.

4 stars out of 5, highly recommended

To preorder Fault Lines on Amazon, or for more info, go here. The book release date is scheduled for April 6.

Key quotes

  • Those belonging to the social-justice crowd present themselves as the only ones pursuing justice, to the exclusion of all who disagree with their assessments—who, by that definition, are pursuing injustice. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the current struggle is that it mischaracterizes Christians that way too. On one side are “compassionate” Christians who are “concerned about justice.” On the other are “insensitive” Christians who are “not concerned about justice.” This is wrong. (page 5)
  • Families are at odds. Marriages are on the rocks. And I don’t believe the fracture in this fault line is yet even a fraction of what it will be.
    No, I am not writing this book to stop the divide. I am writing to clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely. (7)
  • In case you’re wondering about its soteriology, there isn’t one. Antiracism offers no salvation—only perpetual penance in an effort to battle an incurable disease. And all of it begins with pouring new meaning into well-known words. (67)
  • I have often said, “The Eleventh Commandment is, ‘Thou shalt be nice” . . . and we don’t believe the other ten.” One of the negative results of this is no longer being able to deal with ideas without attacking the people who hold them. (132-3)
  • The idea that we need a new canon to be able to decipher what the Bible says, or more specifically, what it means regarding race, is quite troubling. This attack on the sufficiency of Scripture should serve as a call to arms. (130)
  • This will not repair the fault lines. Nothing will. These divisions are both real and necessary. As I said at the outset, the goal here is to be on the right side of the fault line when the catastrophe comes. In the meantime, we must love. I do not mean that we must accept the world’s faulty, emasculated, unbiblical version of love—the version that sees any disagreement or confrontation as inherently unloving. No, we must love each other with a tenacious, biblical, Christlike love.
    Dear reader, I know it is hard. I don’t like losing friends, being called names, or being ousted from platforms any more than you do. However, you and I must love the truth more than we love our friends, our reputations, or our platforms. (224)

Note: I was given early access to my purchase – not a free copy – by the Fault Lines Launch Team in exchange for posting a review.