Inspired at 72 to Start a New Venture
In the Introduction, I wrote of the unexpected vision for returning to work on a full time basis in January of 2012. I had been forced to retire from full time ministry due to getting stints for clogged arteries in January 2007. I had no energy to do any work of ministry because of constant lethargy. On March 6, 2009 a retirement party was held for my benefit. I reluctantly accepted my fate.
I suspected all along that the reason for the extreme lethargy was the 30 – 60 extra pounds on my body. Suffice it to say here that I was very unhappy after a lifetime of busy activity to find myself unable to put one foot in front of the other to do much of anything. In 2010 and 2011 I began to have success with weight loss and feeling energy to return to work. I made several attempts to restart my professional career.
These efforts to return to work did not seem to be productive or fulfilling so I had finally accepted that retirement was my lot in life and I was content. I clung closely, however, to my part time volunteer position as Fire Chaplain and the hope that the Lord might call me to do more specific additional work for Him. Accepting retirement as my lot in life was made easier by my active participation as
Chaplain. The experiences in the Fire House as Chaplain were the greatest satisfaction of my life and that was the background leading to the dramatic vision to start a web site in January 2012. I believe the inspiration to establish the website came to me from God. It was very dramatic how a clear vision came to me in a short span of 2 1/2 hours while driving to St. Augustine Florida for a weekend. It is very important for me to be straight with you and to tell you why I started to work
again full time at 72 on a website directed to firefighters who have issues with weight. To start with, I think that my deepest motive for moving forward with the vision and making the commitment to return to work on a full time schedule was the opportunity to support firefighters.
At the same time, I was motivated to keep my own commitment to finally do whatever was necessary with food in my own life and to maintain my weight and health. When you read the next chapter of this booklet you you will understand that Chappy has a long history of struggles with weight and obesity. Even today, while I am enjoying a wonderful vacation in New Hampshire and typing the first draft for this booklet, I am still struggling with my food choices. Essentially, I admit that I have made the decision to suspend all of my normal discipline with diet and food choices and to give myself a food plan vacation. I am sure that there will be consequences for those choices and that there will be weight gain when I get on the scale upon my return home in just a few days. So, there it is! I have put my finger on an important motive for establishing Supporting Fire Fighters Inc. I believe that, if I will commit myself to encouraging firefighters to fight the fight with weight issues, I will have a better chance to maintain a reasonable weight. And so, much of my motive is selfish. But, on the other hand, I believe that there is no more noble task that I could commit myself to than supporting my brothers and sisters in the Fire Service. Just think about this for a minute. Every time we firefighters agree to serve the general public we agree to risk our lives for others. We unselfishly say that we are willing to risk our lives to save life and property. I have come to believe passionately that the finest men and women in our land are accepting this call to duty.
However, I also know that many of us struggle mightily with weight issues. In my own life I am constantly confronted with my struggle to maintain a good weight as I am now here on vacation. So, it is my strongest hope that God has called me to this expansion of my Chaplain’s ministry to a new mission field: to encourage firefighters with weight issues. Being very realistic, it is almost impossible for us to overcome this problem by ourselves. However, I believe that we can together make progress toward a reasonable weight and fitness status and thereby be better equipped to do our work. It has been three years since the initial vision to initiate a web site. During that time I have been sharing my desire to support firefighters with weight and obesity with 20 or more Chiefs and Command Officers in six states and the District of Columbia. The investigation has led to the formation of a non profit corporation, the completion of a web site and Facebook page and the initiation of “In Station” training in support of the objective. Now, I would be remiss not to add one other important dimension to the issue of maintaining a healthy weight and fitness and that is the spiritual dimension. It is my job as Chaplain to come along side my brothers and sisters in the fire service. I am fully aware that, as a person with weight issues, it is impossible for me to help myself in my own strength. I have proven conclusively to myself that I do not have the will power. So, it is my personal hope that my decision to serve will open opportunity for me to grow spiritually and to grow as a Chaplain for the rest of my days
Fitness. Diet. Mental Wellness.
Firefighter health and wellness is one of those topics that immediately turns off most readers. It’s not a fun topic to read about and for most people its hard to acknowledge our weaknesses. Likewise, trying to get firefighters to admit their weaknesses is nearly impossible.
Responding to car accidents, trauma victims, fires, destruction, disasters, untimely and timely deaths, blood, screaming, dire situations, rescues, shootings, stabbings, domestic, violence, toxic chemical spills… we handle it all. Each call takes a little piece of us without us even realizing it.
The average citizen would take the action of breaking a window as being extreme or performing CPR for the layperson would be a life changing experience, where for us, it’s all part of daily life on the job. There is a necessary tendency where we have to remove the emotion of the situation in order to mitigate it. Repeating that action over a career has the ability to produce adverse mental health consequences. Sometimes I think we’re just here to bare witness to the worst humanity has to offer and somehow deal with it.
Mental illness in firefighters should be an expectation instead of a rare or embarrassing occurrence. Granted we are a unique breed of people where we can accept the tragedies of the days events and go back to normal life, however, when coupled with the mental challenges of running calls, add in a careers worth of sleep deprivation, poor diet, inadequate exercise, family stress, anxiety leading to depression…and you get the picture. Each one, individually, can deliver an entire host of problems. Together it’s almost a guaranteed recipe for struggle.
As firefighters, we tend to mask , hide, or deny there is anything wrong with us. Some of us are affected more than others, while few, seemingly, aren’t affected at all. Mental illness is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that we have souls, a heart, and a conscience. At times in our life we could all use a guide map or directions.
Station Pride is taking the initiative to promote firefighter health and wellness. A cornerstone of taking pride in the fire service is to take pride in ourselves and each other. We all need to remove the stigma of mental health and obesity, address suicide prevention, PTSD support, and addiction assistance, while promoting positive mental health, physical fitness, and practical healthy eating.
Our initiative involves pulling together existing and amazing resources for firefighters to seek guidance or receive the assistance they may need. We will post regular wellness articles and content provided by FireStrong.org, Firefightersweightloss.com, and Tongs and Turnouts.
Please stay tuned and help Station Pride end the stigma of mental health while assisting brothers and sisters with weight-loss and diet change by making these topics a part of everyday firehouse conversation. It’s time we take the lead on changing the culture of our profession. It’s past time
Firestrong.org is an independently operated online resource for members of the Fire Service and their families. The mission of Firestrong is to offer mental, emotional, and physical support to each member of the fire department and their families by providing educational tools, resources, crisis intervention assistance (crisis line) and peer support services.
Most who participate in the profession start off fit and at least close to reasonable weight standards. Unfortunately, many gain weight and find it difficult or impossible to lose weight. They struggle to maintain enough fitness to pass whatever testing may be required for continued service. The emphasis for many is to “protect their right” to continue in the service.
Many give up hope that they can lose weight and place themselves at great risk because they are over weight or obese. Here at “FireFightersWeightLoss.com” we understand and have experienced the problem.
Tongs and Turnouts is an Facebook page operated by a firefighter/brother in Australia. They provide amazing meal ideas for the fire station. Give them a follow and try to incorporate some of their practical and healthy meals with your shift. Every fireman loves a good feed! This page is to help share ‘Firies’ love of good food, and recipes for/from station cook ups.