Fr Stephan Alexander is on a health and weight-loss journey. He recently created buzz on social media when he debuted his impressive weight loss transformation after shedding 50 pounds. The parish priest of St Martin de Porres, Coryal spoke to Catholic News’ reporter Kaelanne Jordan about his recent weight loss and what inspired him to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This feature first appeared online.
CN: When did your weight or lifestyle become an issue?
Fr: Honestly, I never really saw weight or lifestyle as issues of concern. My weight has always fluctuated but because I’ve always been active and involved in sports, I simply thought of myself as “big bone”. In doing that, I apparently normalised being overweight and perhaps this blunted my awareness of continued weight gain.
However, in mid-2019, during preparations for my ordination to the priesthood, a routine ECG/EKG worried doctors sufficiently that they were concerned about heart disease. Thankfully, a coronary angiogram indicated that my heart was fine. Yet, this was enough to return my focus to adopting a healthier lifestyle.
I should add that the onset of the pandemic halted all progress made with regard to healthier living. The emotional and psychological effects of the pandemic as well as the reduction in physical activities meant much eating and minimum exercise.
CN: What was your light bulb moment that pushed you to lose weight/adopt a healthier lifestyle?
Fr: Around August 2020, the combination of a blood test and God’s invitation to holistic health (I had previously been focused on spiritual health only) set me on the course that I have since adopted.
CN: Were there previous diet/lifestyle change attempts? If yes, what did it involve?
Fr: Yes! Even though being overweight was normal for me, there were occasions where, either because of increased exercise or change in diet, I experienced dramatic weight loss.
Two occasions that quickly come to mind were in 2009 when I started the Romano foundation programme and lost 60+ lbs through diet and exercise. Likewise, in 2013 while at the seminary in the Dominican Republic, I lost 70+ lbs through adopting a vegetarian lifestyle and daily exercise for 90 minutes.
CN: What makes this time different?
Fr: This time, I’m responding to God’s personal invitation to holistic health. That wasn’t a feature of previous attempts. Also, awareness of my family history of diabetes, hypertension etc. and complications arising from these chronic conditions motivates me to maintain a lifestyle that will stave off these diseases.
CN: How much weight did you lose?
Fr: To date, I’ve lost more than 50 lbs.
I eventually hope to lose 80 lbs in total.
CN: How exactly did you go about this? (gym, diet, exercise, combination of all?)
Fr: It occurred as a result of changes in my understanding of health and the need for it to be holistic. This has encouraged me to properly nourish my body, mind, and spirit.
Firstly, I prioritised getting adequate sleep. Secondly, I adopted a vegan lifestyle, which also included coming off processed sugar, dairy, and starches. Thirdly, I added fasting and exercise to my daily routine. Fourthly, I ensured that I added time for daily reading and chats with friends.
CN: How challenging was it in maintaining a healthy lifestyle during a pandemic, a time where most persons experienced increased eating and unhealthy habits.
Fr: At first, it was supremely difficult because I experienced the same issues that many struggled with as a result of the pandemic, namely, “trauma” due to drastic changes in my normal routine. Stress eating was therefore a temptation.
I was also initially tempted by the many non-vegan meals prepared for/by the priests whom I live with. Gradually, things got easier the more I persisted. Now, I’m no longer tempted by other types of food and my awareness of the tendency to stress eat helps me to be mindful of how, when, what and why I eat.
CN: How do you feel
of this accomplishment?
Fr: I’m happy because physically I feel so much better now and have much more energy. I’m also proud of myself because I’ve managed this accomplishment during a pandemic when life’s difficulties could easily have overwhelmed me and derailed my efforts. I desire to live into my 90s. Unhealthy living won’t assist in achieving that goal.
CN: Any advice or tips for persons who would now want
to adopt a healthier lifestyle?
Fr: Firstly, try to find a programme that works for you. Then, if possible, journey with someone who will support you throughout. That support will motivate you and keep you accountable.