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Revamped Weight Loss Guide Takes First Place

Share This article - For many who struggle with weight and healthful living issues, changingunhealthy habits and eating patterns has often been a defeating battle.  Now, there is a way, call it a miracle if you will, that success can finally be in the grasp of everyone who desires to bring all areas of their life—physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental—into a more healthy balance.

For the past 27 years, hundreds of thousands of Christians have achieved lasting weight loss through First Place, a grace-filled, Bible-based weight-management program with groups in more than 12,000 churches.  This revolutionary program uses everyday foods, includes a support and accountability component, and focuses on biblical health and disease prevention. 

Recently, the program has been completely revamped.  The brand new version, renamed First Place 4 Health, is written by Carole Lewis, the organization’s national director.  First Place 4 Health takes the program to the next level, shifting the focus from weight management to complete wellness.  Members of First Place 4 Health learn that pursuing holistic health is not optional for followers of Christ; it is a necessary component to Christian living.

The following is a Q&A wth the program’s director, Carole Lewis.

How did the First Place program begin?

Early in 1980, twelve men and women began to pray.  Knowing that God is interested in everything that concerns his children, they prayed that God would help them create a program that would help them lose weight and find balance in every area of life—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  God answered that prayer, and in 1981 they held the first meeting of First Place, the Christian weight-management program they had created, in their home church, First Baptist Church of Houston, TX. 

Although it was not created to be a worldwide program, First Place has grown to several hundred thousand members in more than 12,000 churches of many denominations in all fifty states and in foreign countries.  In 1992 First Place entered a partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention and worked closely with them for eight years to develop the program.  Since 2000 First Place has partnered with Gospel Light, who designed and published the revised First Place program materials, including the exciting new First Place 4 Health curriculum.

How is First Place different from other weight-management programs?

The Bible teaches that we are four-sided people.  In Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  First Place is unique because it aims to foster growth in all four areas of life—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  First Place is not just about dropping pounds.  It’s about achieving balance. And we are convinced that this is only possible when we put our relationship with Christ first, not just in theory but also in purposeful action that leads to positive transformation.  By applying disciplines that affect the whole person, you will not only experience physical health, but will also experience total health—health for life.

The program has now been renamed First Place 4 Health.  What changes are included in the new materials?

The principles of Christ-centered priorities, choices for total health, and community are still our core message.  We have simplified the program with new materials that have been reorganized for easy access.  The original First Place Bible studies have been rewritten to give fresh meaning and application to the program’s core memory verses.  First Place has always taught—and will continue to teach—the basic disciplines named in the original nine commitments, but now the language and delivery of the message is different. 

The emphasis now is on acknowledging the preeminence of God in all of life, learning what the Scripture says about how we are to live, and making healthy choices for positive change to balance the four areas of life, mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. 

Also, we have a completely revamped food plan that is easier than ever to implement.  There are no more diabetic exchanges—just adherence to the USDA food pyramid guidance system and easily measureable serving sizes (i.e. cups, tablespoons).  Even the exercise portion of the program has been revamped to reflect the current research.

Why the shift away from “commitment” language?

First Place 4 Health is not about rigid rules; it’s about helpful invitations.  We used to stress commitments—which is a good concept.  We wanted people to be dedicated to pursuing health.  But we have found that people sometimes looked at commitments as laws, and if laws were broken, then guilt and rigidity set in.  Instead, we are inviting people to make a number of positive changes in their lives.  No one does them all perfectly, and there are many ways to live a healthy life.  This new approach helps our members develop the plan that works best for them while giving themselves grace to make mistakes and adjustments along the way.

Why do you ask First Place 4 Health participants to commit to the program for an entire year?

Learning to give Christ first place in your life includes learning new ways to think, new ways to feel, and new ways to act.  These kinds of changes are what will make permanent lifestyle changes possible.  This kind of transformation rarely happens quickly, but it will happen if you don’t give up.

Think of it this way.  For several years now, the number of gastric bypass surgeries has grown astronomically throughout North America.  Practitioners promise that you will lose 100 pounds in a year.  I have a friend who had gastric bypass surgery.  She did lose 130 pounds that first year, but she has gained back fifty pounds since then.  Here’s the problem: surgery does nothing to change the issues that brought about the weight gain in the first place.  Surgery addresses only the physical.  It’s an unbalanced solution.  Lasting change is hardly ever accomplished via a quick fix, anyway.  Following the First Place 4 Health program, if you lose just two pounds a week, you’ll lose 104 pounds in a year.  You will have lost the same amount of weight you would have lost with gastric bypass surgery, but your life will be totally different from the way it would have been with surgery.  Over the course of a year, you can make true changes in your lifestyle—changes that will stand the test of time.

Who should join a First Place 4 Health program?

This program is for men and women of all ages who want to lose excess weight, lower cholesterol, learn better eating habits, or become more disciplined in the areas of prayer, Bible study, and exercise.  The reasons why people are overweight are numerous.  Some have always been “the fat kid.”  Others were once fit, but they gained weight after a major life change (i.e. pregnancy) or because of a health condition that hinders movement.  For some, the extra pounds feel like protection for a deep emotional wound.  Many people struggle with weight simply because life moves too fast and doesn’t accommodate a healthy lifestyle. 

Whether you need to lose 100 pounds or you just can’t seem to get rid of those last ten, First Place 4 Health is for you.  However, if all you’re looking for is a diet or a quick fix to lose weight, then this program will disappoint you.  But consider this: statistics tell us that ninety-five percent of people who lose weight gain it back again. 

The foundation for this comprehensive program is the book First Place 4 Health: Discover a New Way to Healthy Living, which provides a framework for addressing wellness in each of the four areas of life. (It is available for purchase by itself or as a part of the member’s kit.) A key component of the member’s kit, the member’s guide delivers detailed instructions and helpful hints for everything from determining correct serving sizes to starting an exercise routine to memorizing Scripture. This updated version includes a simple, sensible new food plan based on the USDA food pyramid and new exercise guidelines as well.

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