Pastor Portis on Weight Loss St. Louis Post Dispatch Article

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Six years later, minister has kept the weight off

•  By Harry Jackson Jr. 314-340-8234

The Rev. Cedric Portis Sr. is feeling reassured these days that the rules he set seven years ago to help him lose 80 pounds work for the long term.

He’s still under 220 pounds, down from nearly 300 pounds. And the rules worked even after he slipped a bit a few years ago.

Portis was featured in the Post-Dispatch in March 2007, having lost the weight he’d gained after confronting his compulsion with junk food and overeating.

He sees no difference in the long or short term when it comes to his health, he says. Start with preparing the spirit rather than running to the gym, he says. That’s the big mistake many people make and why they fail, he says.

“It’s more of a spiritual journey,” says Portis, pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in north St. Louis County. “I have dominion over my life. That’s the final frontier for most people.”

Overeating is a sign his body rules him rather than the reverse. “I don’t let my body dictate my life. That’s the tail wagging the dog,” he says. “I dictate to my body; that discipline is from spiritual maturity.”

Just because it works, doesn’t mean it’s easy, he says.

Nearly three years ago, his father died at the same time he was finishing his master’s degree in divinity. As a Presbyterian minister, for his ordination, he needed to learn enough Hebrew and Greek to navigate some original texts of the Bible. “You don’t just wake up one morning and declare yourself a preacher of the Gospel,” he says .

He gained about 30 pounds. “With the stress of all that, I started to eat like crazy,” he says. “I got up to 248-250 pounds.

“Food is a comfort at times, eating at all hours, up all night.”

Those challenges played into his belief that staying around like-minded people is another key to staying healthy. They keep him accountable.

“A couple of members mentioned I was picking up weight,” he says. “They did it in love, and I appreciate that. I don’t work well on, ‘C’mon baby, it’s going to be all right.’

“I say love me enough to tell me when I’m tripping, and I need to get myself together; ‘Pastor, your suits are getting a little tight.’ Everyone can’t take that kind of directness. I trust my congregation to hold me accountable.”

He says he was able to get back on track and lost that 30 pounds over the next year.

“The Bible says tomorrow isn’t promised,” he says. “But the Bible says your body is a temple of the Lord, and you need to take care of that temple; honor it.”

He says he still has a sweet tooth, which requires some vigilance. “So I try to make sure that I’ve done something to earn a sweet and not just go crazy,” he says.

His reading about healthful living has brought about other adjustments. “A few years ago, I stopped eating all red meats,” he says. “I haven’t eaten any beef in about four years; I don’t drink milk at all, not even skim milk.”

That means an increase in vegetables, fish and fowl. And no snacks after 8 p.m.

He started years ago working out and today still works out four to five times a week, switching aerobic exercises with lifting weights.

He hasn’t visited a buffet in years, even though buffets were his cornerstone when he reached 300 pounds.

In the midst of it all, he’s still a preacher. “People have given up on prayer,” he says. “It’s helped me to fight the battle of the bulge.”

He said he had a revelation that he was being hypocritical when he talked about addiction to drugs and alcohol, while he couldn’t stop eating.

At church meals, salads are now a mainstay, fish is the most frequent entree, and the kitchen accommodates vegetarians.

The church’s preschool is a certified Eat Smart center, meaning it emphasizes healthy nutrition to children while they’re young enough to get hooked on health.

“Its worth it because our children’s health is at stake,” he says. “Childhood obesity is running rampant, and if we can educate the kids on making smarter food choices as well as feeding them nutritious meals it is our hope that this will help to break this cycle.

“It comes back down to your willingness to live,” he says. “I see people who turn their nose up at the drug addict and the alcoholic, but they’re eating themselves to death.

“You have to say you want to live. And until that switch is flipped, you’re going to continue down the road of slow death.

“I made a decision to live for my family, for my son. … I don’t want to be the 47-year-old who dies of heart failure.”

And, he says, “I don’t want to be an enabler. If the pastor can be overweight, obviously it’s OK.”

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Harry Jackson Jr.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

900 North Tucker Boulevard

St. Louis, Mo. 63101-1099

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