How Ed Chavis Became Augusta’s Biggest Loser

(Editor’s note – Last year, we began following the experiences of Ed Chavis, associate pastor at Lumpkin Road Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, as he worked to get his weight down as part of a local version of television’s “The Biggest Loser.” This is the last part of the story.)

On May 16, my involvement with the Augus­ta’s Biggest Loser competition came to an end. The male and female with the highest per­centage of weight loss were declared the winners during our local finale, which our local NBC af­filiate videotaped for broadcast in the timeslot immediately preceding “The Biggest Loser” fi­nale. It was revealed at the finale that I had lost over 143 pounds, setting a record for the high­est percentage of weight loss by any competitor in the three years of the program. My starting weight was 342.8 pounds; my final weight was 199.4 pounds. My waist measurement went from 59 inches down to 34 inches; my wed­ding ring now fits on my middle fin­ger, and my shoe size even decreased by a size and a half.

For the next year, I will be in a maintenance plan, designed to help me keep my weight at a level that I can sustain comfortably. It’s been a unique experience adding some foods back to my diet that I have not been allowed to eat for the past six months. For me, banning some foods was easier than trying to find that place of moderation.

During the past six months, I have had some opportunities to share the things I have learned with others who have been struggling with their weight. Some of them only need to lose a little; others need to lose in ex­cess of 200 pounds. Regardless of where they are on their journey, I give everyone the same basic tips:

1. While the debate rages on between those who advocate a low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet, it was my experience that my weight loss was almost entirely dependent on how many servings of carbs I had in a given day. My diet consisted primarily of lean meats like chicken and turkey (white meat only of both), vegetables, and fruits. We avoided red meat as well as fatty meats like ham and other cuts of pork. A low-carb diet also means eliminating things such as potatoes, pasta, rice, processed foods, sugar, white breads, and all fried foods.

2. The body needs a certain amount of sodi­um, but it occurs naturally in so many foods that any salt added to food will push a dieter over the limit. Excessive sodium causes water re­tention, decreased kidney function, and all sorts of other unpleasant side effects.

3. Most overweight people do not drink nearly enough water. The rule of thumb is to take your current weight, divide by two, and that number is the number of ounces of water one should drink each day. A 250-pound man should be drinking about a gallon of water per day.

4. Exercise is an important part of the equation. Three days a week we had a trainer coach us through calisthenics, lightweight training, and other exercises. On the other days, we worked out by ourselves on treadmills, elliptical train­ers, and other machines. Although I continue to have access to the gym, I also run in my neigh­borhood and work out with a fitness video that has a routine similar to what we did during the competition. I continue to work out about an hour a day, five to six days a week. If that sounds too intense, simply walking will go a long way towards getting fit. Our trainer instructed us to get a pedometer and make sure we walked at least 10,000 steps per day (about five miles). After dinner each night, I would see how many steps I had taken that day and make up the bal­ance by walking around a store, mall, or track.

These are just some of the practical aspects of successful weight loss – there are other com­ponents, such as recognizing that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that main­taining a healthy body is an act of obedience. Another important key to success is building a support team for encouragement and account­ability — my church family was as important in this area as my teammates in the competition.

I remain committed to a healthy lifestyle, and I am motivated not only by my own goals, but by my desire to help others with their jour­ney. As a lifelong pizza and burger addict, I can honestly say that anyone can have victory in this area if they have the knowledge, the mo­tivation, and the encouragement of others to stick with it.

Ed continues to write about his weight-loss jour­ney at