Contributed by Ansley Higginbotham

By now you’ve seen the ads and the hype about the Youth Pastor Diet from DYM.  You’ve seen some testimonials or maybe you’ve even talked to some friends who’ve had great results.  It’s the New Year, and you’ve been eating lots of sweets, so maybe it’s time for a resolution?

But that’s not actually what the YPD is all about.  The idea was born from DYM leadership seeing how those of us in ministry have neglected our health for the sake of our ministries.  I’ve seen it too.  We are often tired, worn down, and surrounded by bad, cheap food in more cases than we’d like to admit.  We can’t sustain these lifestyles.  And they don’t help the kingdom of God.

Listen, if you feel healthy and fit, then maybe the YPD isn’t for you.  Yay, you!  But, if you don’t, then consider this:  I have participated twice in the program and haven’t lost a single pound.  But I consider myself a success story.  And I’ve signed up again for 2020.

You see, I didn’t sign up to lose weight.  Sure, I hope that is a by-product, because it always feels better to lose some belly fat, am I right?  And while I would love to win some prizes, that is not what motivates me.  I am signing up for the community, for the support, and for the accountability for my health.  You see, last year, I went through some really stressful life transitions, while working an extremely demanding (and understaffed) full-time job.  I am also a mom of two small kids.  And I had a long commute, so my free time was pretty tight.   I met three major goals last year on the YPD: not gaining weight during stressful season, kept exercising, and eating healthier.

I am always inspired by the Facebook posts of others participating.  They motivate me and remind me that, yes, I do have time to exercise.  This is important.  I am not selfish.  We shared recipes and strategies for eating healthy on a youth worker schedule.  And we supported each other on every single win, big and small.

To me, this is what the YPD is all about!  Yes, losing weight can be awesome for some of us, and yes, I have a goal this year of losing some myself.  But if I keep exercising, keep thinking about what I am putting in my body, and keep supporting my tribe while they are doing the same, then it will be worth it, and I will feel successful.  Have you noticed, there are plenty of ways to win for just participating?  There’s a reason it is set up that way.  Just staying with it, checking in every week, and not giving up is the main goal!

With that in mind, here are some alternative goals for the YPD 2020:

Exercise Daily:  Since I had others cheering me on, I figured out new ways to get in a workout.  Listening to a DYM podcast while taking a walk was one of my favorite ways to work out without feeling the guilt of taking time away from work.

Eat Healthier: No matter our weight, we all feel sluggish when we eat junk.  I was more conscience of packing my food for work, and more conscience of what we served at my events.  I did an entire lock-in without eating any of the teenager food!  That is a win!

Get support: On our Facebook page, many of us were able to find others who suffered from the same health challenges and offer support to one another.  Some of us moms were able to discuss post-partem challenges to our health.  Some of us just needed motivation when we wanted to give up.  I know I would have given up without the posts from my community during the YPD.

Set non-weight goals: I also found myself practicing other self-care more often during the program.  For me, that meant playing the piano, getting outside more often, and practicing thankfulness for the physical abilities I do have.  For instance, rather than obsess over my weight, I realized I was able to run further than I ever could when I was thinner, and that regular exercise really helped me to control the depression that my mom battled at my age.  I was also more productive and was able to meet more professional goals than I would have otherwise.  Often, a daily walk was a prayer time for me.  And, planning our food more carefully made more likely to cook with my kids. There are so many possibilities that have nothing to do with how we look and everything to do with experiencing more joy.

Whether you are joining the YPD diet or not, I hope you find a community that helps challenge you in the balance of self-care and ministry.  Set some goals for mental, spiritual, and physical fitness and health for the new year.  Sit back down to the piano, write some poetry, walk your dog, ride bikes with your kids, keep a thankfulness journal, or whatever gives you joy and renewal.  For me, that means joining YPD in 2020.  I hope to see you on the Facebook Community!