The heart-pounding strains of 2001 Space Odyssey theme stuck me as I walked through the doors of Freedom Seminar. I am sure I looked as frightened as I felt.

My friends, Nancy and Judy who had paid my way along with friends of my fellow trainees, were cheering us on as we entered the room. Then the doors closed and there we were, 24 strangers together with those who would guide us for eight days.

It was February of 1994. I weighed 430 pounds. Life was never going to be the same again.

How Committed Are You?

During the opening session, Russ, whom I knew as my adult Sunday School teacher now turned trainer, stood in the middle of the circle where we were seated. Without moving, he made eye contact with each of us.

Then, he said, “We are all here for a reason. We are all on a journey. We want something for our lives that will bring us greater freedom. Our journey will take commitment to this process.

“Right now I want you to think about this question. How committed are you to this process with 0 being no commitment and 10 being wow, I’m all in, 100% committed?”

Immediately I felt like I was a two. I was there to write a story for the regional Christian newspaper I edited and published. I was there in observation mode. I wasn’t there to be a part of any process. Sure, I needed to lose weight, but I didn’t expect this seminar to help me do that.

I would stay for the duration because my friends paid the fee, but I was definitely not there for any participatory aspects. Then he said, “So let’s do some sharing. Stand and tell us where you are and why.”

I stared at the floor. Then to my surprise, people started getting up and talking. The first ones who stood were the go-getter types. They were all passion and excitement. They were all in, but they had valid reasons as to why they wanted the process to work.

What Keeps You There?

Then one brave woman stood and said she that she was a two because she was skeptical that anything would help her. Finally, someone like me, I thought. I greatly identified with her.

Russ asked her, “What are the barriers that keep you at a two?” I don’t remember what she said, but I remember what I was thinking. “I don’t want to have to stand up in front of all these people and say that my biggest problem is what they already know just by looking at me. My weight is the barrier that has me stuck.”

Then he asked, “What would it take to move you to a five?” My unspoken answer was that it would take me understanding what was driving me to eat. Then, I realized that if I felt anything could actually help me figure that out it would move me to a 10. The answer can’t be that I was just was born to be fat.

How Is This A Reflection of Your Life?

When I came back to myself, Russ was asking another question. “How is this exercise a reflection of how you do your life? And what would it be like if you always did your life at a level two commitment? What would it be like if you could do your life at a level 10?”

He had my wheels turning. I knew if I stayed at two, I’d be stuck for life. If by some chance I could begin to live my life at a 10, I could do anything with God’s help. I knew God wanted me to live at that 100 percent commitment level. I also knew that I was holding back being all in because of the foods I loved to eat.

That day I began to dream of what it would mean if I was all in, living life at that 100 percent level and not settling even for 99 percent. Observation mode went out the window and I decided I was all in for the process.

The entire eight-day seminar was a spiritual, God-directed journey just for me. I sensed throughout the entire time that God was directing my every step and my every thought. I felt His presence more strongly there than in any church service I had ever been in.

What Kind of Person Can Have What I Want?

Towards the end of the seminar we spent some intense time in small groups working to discover what we wanted to be our true identities. It began with me asking myself the question, “What do I really want?”

After a lot of drilling down to get to what that really was, I said, “I want to write books.”

Pat, the trainer working with me, asked, “What kind of person can have what you want?”

That took more time and more back and forth with questions from Pat and my group until I got down to the real answer. It stemmed from something Russ had said during the seminar. He had defined holy as whole and healthy.

God Words

Then in a flash, God dropped words into my mouth. I said, “It would take a whole, healthy, happy person to write the kind of books I want to write.”

I didn’t think about it. I just said it. After I said the words, I saw their truth. No one can be an author unless they are whole emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. They need to be healthy in all those areas in order to have the clarity, stamina and energy they need to stay with the process of writing a full-length book.

They also need to be happy. The process of writing needs to bring them joy. They need to be happy within themselves.

During the seminar, I had gotten a glimpse of the areas in which I was sadly lacking. I wasn’t whole emotionally. I had a lot of issues I needed to deal with. I had faulty mindsets. I had spiritual disconnects. I wasn’t even sure I trusted God.

I knew before I came that I wasn’t healthy. Weighing 430 pounds did not a healthy woman make. My weight was not just affecting my health, it was affecting every part of me.

I wasn’t happy. I should have been. I had a wonderful husband, great children and loved what I did. Yet I knew personal happiness was missing.

Self-Prophecy

The next step was a huge one. In order to have what I wanted, I had to prophesy into my life. I had to declare to the group who I was. The trainer called it making a contract with yourself, but it just felt like I was lying.

How was I going to do this? Remembering that I was 100% committed to the process, though, I took a deep breath, gathered all 430 plus pounds of me and said, “Hi I’m Teresa. I’m a whole, healthy, happy woman of God.”

I can still hear the applause. It was one of the best days of my life.

Life-Guiding Statement

That statement has guided me every day since then. At every Freedom Seminar reunion we would introduce ourselves with our I am statements. Though it took me many more years before I fully stepped into that self-prophesy, God used that statement to guide my life.

I remember the first time I went to a Freedom gathering after I had lost 250 pounds. Embracing the fact that I had fully stepped into my self-prophesy made tears come to my eyes.

God knew my future back then. He pulled back the curtain of my life and inserted His words into my mouth. They were words that said what my destiny would become.

As the seminar came to end, 24 strangers, who’d become more than friends, gathered in a circle with their arms around each others’ shoulders and sang a final  meaningful song together.

I sensed God crying tears of joy with all of us. I know every single piece of my Freedom Seminar experience was God speaking into my being, breathing His life into me, guiding me on my path.

Thank You, Jesus that today, I am a whole, healthy, happy woman of God.

Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds.

Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing An Appetite for God".

She also offers a weight loss academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and podcast here on the website under the tabs by those names.