Spiritual and physical fitness go together for 78-year-old Lewis

Diverse group of people excercising in a circle

With her 78th birthday just around the corner, Carole Lewis is completely healed from the double knee replacement surgery she had just one year ago. She’s free from pain, free from medication and free to live each day to the fullest.

“I’ve done strength training, I eat right, exercise and, most importantly, I have learned how to balance my life physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Lewis, director emeritus of First Place 4 Health, a national Christian weight-loss program that grew out of a ministry that began at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

“I’ve had my share of losses over the years,” she said. “My daughter was killed by a drunk driver on Thanksgiving 17 years ago, my husband passed away from stage four prostate cancer, and we lost everything in a hurricane in 2008. If it had not been for the total health and wellness ministry of First Place, I could be a wreck.”

She believes the church plays a vital role in the overall health and wellness of its church body because, ultimately, they know the truth about what the world should seek first for life fulfillment and peace.

“Matthew 6:33, which is also the First Place founding verse, says: ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’” That’s the premise of our program and of what living from Christ means; we give Christ first place and we don’t have to worry about all the other stuff.”

Lewis, who was a member of the original First Place group that started back in 1981, speaks at conferences and ministry events on the importance of personal and spiritual balance, fitness, encouragement, and personality and temperament. She has also written 15 books throughout her ministry.

She said churches should be intentional in their health and wellness ministry because anything less than a comprehensive biblical approach to health won’t last.

“If a person is just focused on weight loss and doesn’t deal with the real underlying reasons behind their poor health, it’s like putting a Band-Aid on an open wound,” Lewis said. “The Band-Aid doesn’t do you a lot of good because you didn’t clean it or dress it or do what’s necessary for true healing and restoration.”

Sadly, Lewis said, the body of Christ is missing the mark in many ways.

“At an expo I encountered a man I knew pretty well from the Christian publishing world who weighed I’d guess probably around 350 to 400 pounds,” she said. “I tried to get him to come into our First Place booth. I was able to tell him a little about First Place and he said, ‘Oh well, if I die young, I’ll go live with Jesus.’ The man had basically given up. But the sad reality of his life is that if he doesn’t do something different, death is his best-case scenario. What if he had a stroke and his wife had to take care of him? It’s the quality of their life and their witness that gets lost when Christians don’t take care of themselves.”

Unlike the overweight man, Lewis said she doesn’t want to just survive—she wants to thrive. At nearly 78, she wants to walk upright and stay up on her feet for hours at a time. She wants to haul books to and from speaking engagements because she can—because she’s strong.

“This is the only body we’re going to get,” she said. “And, by the way, it’s not our own—it was bought with a price. Believers should honor God with their bodies.”

And while weight loss is one probable side effect of health and wellness restoration, it’s not the ultimate goal.

“Losing weight is not the problem,” Lewis said. “The problem is that only 5 percent of people keep it off. They’re not willing to change their lifestyles and instead, just see their efforts as a diet or as something temporary. It’s not a diet, it’s a ‘live it.’ We can live this spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically strong the rest of our lives and glorify God every day.”  

TEXAN Correspondent
Kayla Rinker
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