Shedding The Pounds

By Mike Powers

Over a period of several weeks last spring, God began speaking to my heart about taking better care of myself physically. After losing my parents, I practiced in spades a lifelong habit of being an emotional eater. Not only that, but my history of struggle with losing weight is long and complicated, and it dates back to the late 70’s when I was still in grade school. I’ll summarize it by giving you a few of the highlights.

Twice, once in junior high and again in high school, my mom and I participated in a medically supervised program that can best be described as speed plus diet equals outstanding weight loss. And the loss was great. The regaining immediately after stopping the pills... not so great.

Between my junior and senior years at Texas Tech, I weighed in at 425 pounds. My dad paid for a gastroplasty, otherwise known as a stomach staple. I don’t know if it would be a stretch to say this surgery saved my life, but since I was already feeling serious effects of my morbid obesity on my knee joints, in particular, back and hips, there’s no doubt the success of it extended by years the usefulness of parts of my body. I’m sure my heart appreciated, too. Between the surgery and a circumstance-imposed exercise regimen of thirty miles a day on a bicycle, I lost all the way down to 205 pounds in less than two years. I hit that milestone in 1996, and did it without worrying about a bite.

For the last 23 years, that failure to worry about the bites has caused me to begin losing the battle of the bulge inch by inch and pound by pound. By the time I was taken into custody by the TDCJ, I was back up to 275, but keep in mind that I’d just spent a year out on bond for sexually assaulting a student at the school where I’d been working. I knew that I was, deservedly, going to prison, but I wasn’t so prepared for the emotional fallout. Part of not thinking fully about the consequences of my crime for my victim and for my own friends and relatives was not fully recognizing just how devastated my community would be. The emotional trauma was overwhelming, and one of my chief coping mechanisms, of course, was food. I suspect I probably weighed more than 275 at some point during that year, but I’d rebuilt a small network of personal support, made peace with my closest family members, and started exercising regularly, primarily on the orders of my outstanding attorney, who knew I needed a stress outlet. Consequently, I’m sure I’d shed some of the weight I gained that year. That “return to normal” lasted several years, but as I aged and faced the challenges of keeping fit in prison, I slowly put on the pounds.

So, here I was, last spring, in a Christ-centered program known as Men’s Fraternity. You are probably familiar, even if you don’t attend church, with some parts of this program. The modules on intentionally raising godly sons and daughters and rewarding their achievements with celebrations like a “knighting” and a first date with dad have become part and parcel of many parenting programs, even those outside of the religious community. Part of this program deals deeply with contemplating the “end game”, our legacy and our destiny, and since I’m nearly fifty years old already, and since I’ll be getting out of prison next year and starting with nothing, you can imagine the energy I’ve put into serious contemplation of my end game. To put it succinctly, I refuse to let incarceration for aggravated sexual assault of a child be the defining moment of my life. It can be a milestone and a major event. It is certainly a catalyst. But it will not be my legacy. It will not be my destiny.

Now, that’s easy to say, right? Just like so many times in the past, I’ve said, “I love you,”, and then turned right around and said things or done things that showed ANYthing but love. So, if I really love someone, the things I say and the things I do will reflect that feeling. In fact, as any long-married couple knows, we will find ourselves in situations where we need to love someone with our actions when our feelings couldn’t be farther away from it at times. The same is true of legacy-building. Sure, I can say I want a fantastic future. Who doesn’t? Men’s Fraternity helped me not only to define what I wanted my future to look like, it provided the tools necessary to look at how much hard work will be unavoidable if I’m going to build the kind of legacy I can be satisfied with, the kind that I’d be happy to leave behind for my family.


As we all know, hard work usually requires effort, not only mental, but most often, physical. And THAT, friends, got me to thinking really hard about where I was at, not only spiritually, but physically as well. Both my parents died at age 74. Neither was living a healthy lifestyle. So, in order to give myself more time to build my legacy, I knew changes were in order. In order to make that time more productive and meaningful, I made those changes.

I started exercising. More amazingly, I started enjoying it. I changed the kinds and amounts of food I was eating, and when the opportunity presented itself to show a certified physical trainer for the U.S. Navy my diet diary and get tips on exercise, I ran with it.

Since April, when I weighed 286 pounds, I’ve lost over 36 pounds. I’m somewhere between 245 and 250 as I write. I’m not on a “diet”. My diet is the food that goes in my mouth, not a program. Instead, I refer to my new lifestyle, because that is what it amounts to. While food is part of that, it includes so much more that affects my health, not only today, but for the rest of my life. And, I’ve managed to sustain the good habits in spite of TDCJ’s inability to call recreation times like I wrote about last time. That is a strong indicator to me of the inner change that is producing the outer change. Regardless of what the next few years hold, my body will be better prepared to face it.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez