HFR believes that spirituality is a fundamental part of health. With this being said, we will be interviewing spiritual leaders across the world in order to present you with the facts necessary to find yourself, your calling, and your own spirituality.
Today, we sat down with the senior pastor of LifePointe Church in Crowley, TX Pastor Chuck Bernal to discuss his amazing weight loss journey, healthy lifestyle, and how he hopes to inspire others through his actions.
We truly commend Pastor Chuck Bernal, who previously made our Top 10 Fittest Christian Leaders in America due to his phenomenal fitness transformation!
HFR: Please tell us about your weight loss journey and what inspired you to start.
Pastor Chuck Bernal: Growing up in south Florida, in my younger years I was always fit and active enjoying activities such as running, tennis, racquetball and golf. Due to a progressive spinal cord condition that started in 1998, I ended up with severe mobility problems. These problems culminated with me ending up in a wheelchair in 2000 unable to walk at all. In 2003 I began an intensive therapy program, which slowly enabled me to regain partial mobility. In 2010, I was able to walk again (with a cane) but the past 10 years had taken its toll both physically and emotionally. My weight spiraled to 368 pounds and I was struggling with depression. I knew I could not continue to live like this and something had to change. On June 1, 2010, I made the decision to change my life and regain the health and vitality I had lost. With God’s help, I started a journey of fitness that included a personal commitment to work out every single day for an entire year, to change my eating habits and to move past the negative thoughts that were keeping me “stuck”. On June 1, 2011 (one year later), I had lost a total of 146 pounds and regained my health both physically and emotionally. In the ensuing 4½years, I have continued my fitness journey and lost 20 more pounds and have continued working to get even stronger and healthier.
HFR: How important is health and fitness in your life?
Pastor Chuck Bernal: Health and fitness have become one of my top priorities because I have learned that physical health and well being is foundational to every other part of life. Jesus once said that we are to love God with “all of our heart, soul, mind and strength”. You can’t do that if you are not healthy. My personal commitment to health and fitness have become a habit that I cannot live without. No matter whatever else is going on or how busy I am, I MAKE the time to workout. Being healthy, both in exercise and nutrition have been woven into the fabric of my life and it is my goal – with God’s help – to maintain and even increase my commitment in these areas.
HFR: How do you feel it can improve your spirituality?
Pastor Chuck Bernal: The Bible teaches that we were created by God not only with a spirit (the capacity to know Him) but we were also created with a mind and a body. All three of these components that make us human are impacted by our health. When we are spiritually unhealthy, it will impact our physical and emotional health. This is seen over and over especially in the book of Psalms. David connects his spiritual health (of lack of it) with what’s going on in his body and with his emotions. By the same token, when our bodies are unhealthy, it impacts us emotionally and spiritually. In the New Testament Paul teaches that as Christians we need to understand that “our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.” This has huge implications for how we treat our bodies because what happens to us physically has a direct connection to our spiritual life. When I was fat, fatigued and unhealthy – I was not honoring God in the way that I should have. My commitment to physical health has only served to improve my walk with God. Being fit is a way to honor Him and also help others.
HFR: How to you promote health and fitness to your congregation? How do you emphasize it?
Pastor Chuck Bernal: If I am going to promote health and fitness, I not only have to embrace it for myself but I have to embody it as well. The most important way that I can motivate health and fitness is to model it. My church family is well aware of my fitness journey and I make it a point to use social media to post regularly about my own health and fitness – my wins and sometimes my losses. They know that if this almost 60 year old guy – with a history of health issues – can change his life than they know they can too. We also try to build health and fitness into our programming and events. We launched Saddleback Church’s “Daniel Plan” to encourage healthy living. We have had nutritional seminars, fitness workshops and community events like “fun runs”. My church, LifePointe Church in Crowley, TX is still a young church. Our facility is a fairly small space and we are not able to have any kind of on site fitness center, but we are still committed to helping our people find other places to train and workout. The director of our city’s recreation center is a member of our church and we have many of our people that use their state of the art facility. Over the years we have had several fitness trainers in our church and we help our people to connect with them. We have a cycling ministry called “LifeCyclers” and we also have a lot of our people involved in martial arts.
HFR: Being a Pastor can get stressful- what do you personally do to unwind and relax?
Pastor Chuck Bernal: In Stephen Covey’s great book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he talks about the need to take time to “sharpen the saw”. In other words, if we too busy and too stressed, we lose our edge. Sharpening the saw has become vitally important in my life and here’s some of the ways that help me: Family first – we have 5 daughters (all married), 12 grandkids and around our house there is never a dull moment. Spending time with my family is a huge part of what keeps me grounded and stress -free. Being together with them is a great source of joy and laughter. I also love to play guitar and there have been many times over the years that music has played a big role in helping to reduce the stress level. Of course, as a pastor I do a lot of reading and that is another way to relieve stress and pressure. Finally, one of the things that I have grown to love in recent years is cycling. I can be filled with stress and feel overwhelmed by the pressures of life and a good, long ride can put everything in perspective. In fact, some of my best times of meditation and prayer come as I ride. I think cycling has been a huge stress reliever in many ways.
HFR: If you could give 3 life tips to everyone, what would they be?
Pastor Chuck Bernal: First, LIVE A FITNESS LIFESTYLE. You have to make fitness a part of your lifestyle not just an add-on to your life – and you have to make fitness FUN. One of my passions has become cycling and there is nothing more therapeutic than a bike ride.
Second, GOOD NUTRITION. I have learned that you have to eat and drink your way to reach your goals. You can exercise 10 hours a day, but if your nutrition is bad, you won’t become healthy. What I have learned during my own journey is that my nutrition is 80% of the health and fitness equation and exercise comprises the other 20%. I was not raised with good nutrition and I continued those bad habits as an adult. I would eat the wrong foods, at the wrong times in the wrong amounts and it was killing me. In fact, in my prior “unhealthy” days – I would often skip breakfast and sometimes lunch and then load up and pig out at night. And one other important thing I would mention is this – GIVE UP ALL DIET SODAS!! I was the world’s biggest diet soda addict and that only added to my poor health and bad nutrition. I justified drinking them because they were zero calorie, but as science has proven, they actually cause you to retain weight and not lose it. I made the personal commitment to drink nothing but water and that has done so much to help me reach my goals and increase my health and well being.
Third, BECOMING HEALTHY IS AN ONGOING PROCESS – DON’T GIVE UP! Remember that getting healthy is a process and it takes time. When you start at 368 pounds, you are not going to get fit overnight. You must keep your eyes on the goal and work every day to reach it. When I got serious about losing weight and getting fit I asked myself, “Where will you be in one year if you keep doing what you’re currently doing?” I knew that I would I would either be even heavier and more unhealthy than I currently was– and that was not acceptable any longer. Then I asked myself, “Where will you be in one year if you really make a commitment to health, fitness and proper nutrition?” I knew that by making a commitment to change my lifestyle, I could lose weight, become healthier and look and feel better along the way. I had two options: stay stuck or change my life – and I am so glad I chose to change.
HFR: Tell us more about your goals.
Pastor Chuck Bernal: My overall life goal is to stay as healthy and active as possible and to be the very best I can be at any age.
My specific daily and weekly health and fitness goals include:
- A commitment to daily workouts (including walking, cycling & weight training)
- A commitment to clean eating and good nutritional choices (eating more not less, 5-6 smaller meals per day.
- A commitment to only drinking water (minimum of 130 ounces per day)
- A commitment to periodic “juice fasts”
- A commitment to good sleep habits
- A commitment to taking time for relaxation and “sharpening the saw”
I turn 60 years old this April and one of my BHAG’s (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) is to commemorate this occasion by completing a half Ironman Triathlon. This would be a huge accomplishment for me and one that I am working hard to achieve.
HFR: How is it being a modern-day Christian leader?
Pastor Chuck Bernal: The basics tenets of Christian leadership is the same today as it’s always been since the time of Christ – but the context of how we do ministry changes with every generation. In many ways, we are living in perilous times and this calls us as Christian leaders to be strong and courageous. As a pastor, I continually walk a tightrope between being Biblically and doctrinally sound and at the same time being culturally relevant. Being a leader ultimately means serving others in love and my greatest joy in ministry is to help someone discover the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness that God offers to each person. Our “unofficial” motto at LifePointe is that we are “The Second Chance Grace Place”. This really captures who I am and what I do as a Christian leader.
HFR: Would you like to add anything else?
Pastor Chuck Bernal: When you get “stuck” in a bad place – whether physically, emotionally or spiritually – you start to believe the lie that you can never change and that your situation is permanent. I was stuck for so many years in that negative mindset that kept me defeated. What I have learned through this process is that we don’t have to settle for less than God’s best in our lives and with His help we CAN change. The only thing that can keep us stuck and hold us back is our own unwillingness to step out of our comfort zone and take the risk to change our lives. I did, and anyone else can too. From 2010 to the present, the journey to health and fitness has been a challenge, a lot of work and hasn’t always been easy, but three words summarize the past 5 years: “IT’S WORTH IT!”. – and my passion is to help others do it as well.