There was a period about six or seven years ago in which I cut back on attending lodge and Masonic events to focus on my business and health; you know, those “usual vocations” that they talk about in the lecture things that we hear once in a while. During that time, through the Scylla and Charybdis of diet and exercise, I managed to lose close to forty pounds of body weight. When I resurfaced at a few events, a number of well-meaning brothers took me aside and asked if I was “alright” or “had “been sick.” The intimations over that time was that most of us don’t lose a lot of weight in middle age unless it’s involuntary — poor health, cancer, chemotherapy, or side effects of various medications will often take a toll in that manner.
Over the next couple of years, though, the questions and concerns were replaced by remarks of congratulations (and sometimes surprise) for having kept off the weight. Of course, some of those remarks were also followed by warnings that it would probably come back, and then some. “Yeah, I did that [Atkins, South Beach, Mediterranean, Grapefruit, Paleo, etc.] diet last year. I lost twenty pounds, but I gained back thirty pounds six months later.” And sometimes, after having seen some of my blog or Facebook posts about some bike ride, brothers might respond that they found most exercise to be boring, or that they too often hurt themselves while lifting, running, cycling, or walking.
Brothers, I totally understand. Dieting, which is already difficult with the easy access to all sorts of delicious foods, is made more difficult by those dinners at lodge — not to mention the desserts after the meetings. Cake, pastries, and cookies are staples at my own lodge, and probably at yours, too. And the apres-loge snifter of brandy (or bottle of stout, or glass of scotch) certainly are not low-calorie treats. Let’s face it: losing weight, especially as we’ve gotten older and our metabolism has slowed down, is difficult.
But it’s not impossible.
Recognizing that many of my brother Masons have had a difficult time researching, planning, organizing, and ultimately adhering to a diet and exercise program, over the past year I’ve dropped pretty much all other Masonic activities in order to become, what I believe, is the first Freemason Fitness Coach.
To that end, I have opened the first Freemason Fitness Training Gym, offering personal coaching services in dieting and weight loss. My program is tailored toward busy Freemasons who are often out several nights a week, and who don’t “have enough time to exercise.”
My brothers, maintenance is boring and expensive. But it’s not nearly as time consuming and expensive as repair or replacement.
So here we are at just about the time that we have depleted the motivational energy needed to keep up with our New Year’s resolutions. The parking lot at the
human cardio treadmill gym down the street now shows a few empty spaces, extra donuts or pastries have started showing up in the lunch room at work, and I no longer see friends and coworkers patting their stomachs and complaining about their clothes not fitting; although on that last point, my own opinion is that most of them bought new clothes during the post-Xmas sales. Personally, I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, which means that I don’t have those guilty feelings about not keeping them up. Life is easier that way.
One of those things that I used to feel guilty about, though, was not attending lodge. For years I was one of those guys who you just knew would be down there, usually an hour early (although that changed as I began to put more hours in at work). But at some point over the last several years, I found myself attending lodge less frequently because I was busy working a different temple: instead of my spiritual temple, I was working on my corporal one. I had started working out.
For reasons not clear to me, Freemasons spend a lot of time and energy discussing our spiritual nature — often over vast quantities of food. Given that most of us are older, we’re doing so at a time in our lives when our metabolisms are slowing down and our bodies more easily turn that food into storage instead of fuel. We talk about “the house not made with hands,” but we never talk about the physical foundation of that temple, or about the body — the container — that carries around our minds.
When I hit my 50s, I discovered that I was out of shape. I mean, sure, my old pants didn’t fit, and I needed collar extenders all the time, but it didn’t really hit me until I was sitting in the doctor’s office discussing blood pressure and cholesterol medicine, and trying to figure out what all those numbers on the charts meant. From there, I put all the effort into studying fitness that I had previously put into studying Freemasonry.
And it’s interesting to note that, just like with Freemasonry, there is a lot of information, bad information, and misinformation about fitness. Which diets are better, what kinds of exercise are better, what times to work out, vitamins, supplements, heart rates, protein powder, ketogenic, paleo, primal… the names and words ran together after a while. But after a while I began to see the pattern, and I found my path.
The issue I had was that between work, family, and the various social events with which I’ve been involved, I often found myself skipping workouts. Eventually I understood that I needed to choose between consistency in my exercise routine, or something else. One of those “something else” was Monday night at lodge; and I felt guilty about this for quite some time. But as I became more fit, my sense of guilt subsided; after all, right from the beginning we are told that Freemasonry should not come before one’s family or other responsibilities.
I lost weight, but more importantly, I got myself off of the blood pressure medication, and managed to reduce the cholesterol meds to a marginal level (that I’m not even sure is necessary). And I gained weight back, but in the form of muscle. Between the road cycling that I do in the summer, and the weight lifting that I do at other times, I’m now arguably healthier than my doctor. But, just like with Freemasonry, it didn’t happen overnight.
The point to all this is that sometimes we neglect the temple that we already have: our body. And just like the temples of old need maintenance and upkeep, so do our own bodies. It’s easy to neglect them simply because we so rarely think about them as long as they keep moving us around from one place to another. But remember that in the long run, maintenance is usually less expensive than patches and repairs. Instead of waiting until New Year, or your birthday, or some other calendar date, take some time to take stock of your own temple, and start your own maintenance program.
If nothing else, it might get you some nicer presents than just a few bigger pairs of pants.