From 300+lbs to “Iron Monk”, This Catholic Benedictine Monk seeks Ironman Glory
I am Brother Elias Eichorn, and I am a Benedictine monk of Saint Joseph Abbey in Louisiana. Dustin and I met at a local race a few weeks back, and he offered to let me write a little guest piece for his blog. Dustin is trying to raise awareness about obesity in our world today and it strikes me at the heart because of my own struggles, I was once over 300 pounds. Here is a bit of my story…
When I was fifteen years old I decided that I wanted to become a priest in the Catholic Church. So my mind was set on entering seminary after high school. During those years of discernment in high school I was quite a hefty young man. Tipping the scales at over 300 pounds on a 5’9” frame (that is my height right now so it may have been less at 15 years old) was without a doubt in the obese category. There were a few members of my family that were overweight so we decided to tackle the challenge together.
Unfortunately we got onto the unhealthy low-carb diet. I would not recommend this diet to anyone, but we did it at the time. It worked for a while, and I am now firmly convinced that diets do not work, lifestyle changes work. You cannot change your diet and your body composition without changing your life. It just does not happen. You will go back to the same place before you started the diet.
We went on the diet for a while and it worked. We lost weight, but some of us put it back on. I luckily held off the weight again. That’s because I changed my life. As mentioned above I had decided to go into seminary to become a priest. Someone once asked my biggest secret to losing weight and there is only one answer that I can truly give, God. With the risk of sounding a little too pious I will say that it is through prayer that God gave me the strength to lose the weight and keep it off.
I prayed. I asked God to give me the strength to ward off temptations and make the changes needed. It was a tough road. Really tough. Not easy in any way. I had to make tough decisions. I had to learn how to say “no” to certain things. But the lesson I learned is that in saying “no” to some things we are saying “yes” to many others. In refusing to eat certain foods, or certain amounts of foods, we are saying yes to a healthy lifestyle; we are saying yes to something bigger than that minute of eating more than needed. It’s a bigger significance than just saying no for the sake of losing weight. We say no for the sake of our well being. Different motivation.
The first fifty pounds seemed like a piece of cake (pun intended). I remember hitting the 250 mark and thinking “man this is not too bad.” Things had not even started for me yet. The first wave had just begun. The timeframe of weight lose is tough to say in the beginning, but I do know that between May 2003 and November 2007 I lost 80 pounds. At this point I was in seminary studying to be a priest. It was my junior year in seminary, and there was a new student that liked to run. He had run a marathon. We became friends.
I looked at Brendan one day and simply said “when are you going to teach me to run?” I don’t know if he took me seriously at that time (BK if you are reading this let me know about this because I am curious whether you remember this moment as well as me) but a few days later we were running. So at 220 pounds and a half-a-pack a day smoker I started running. After a week I dropped the cigarettes and never turned back; nor do I want to.
Since then I have run five marathons, a few triathlons including a half-Iron, and a host of other races. I ran the Boston Marathon for the first time this past April, and now I am hopefully working towards a full-Iron. Since I started running I have entered the monastery, made first profession, and have developed my relationship with God even more.
There is a lot to my story that is not written in this piece. I have more I would like to say, but that will wait for later. The last piece of information that I will add is what I deem most important about my running. As a monk my most prized relationship in life is with God. I live for God. My community and vocation help to sustain that relationship. On top of those things running helps me to move closer to God in my life. That is why I run. To grow closer to God with every step.
One final thing. I am trying to get into the Ironman World Championships in Kona. So check out the video attached to the link below. Watch and vote for me. Enjoy.