Joy Mast laughs about a serious talk she had with a friend more than a decade ago.
Her friend asked Mast to be a bridesmaid, but the bride-to-be was worried about Mast’s reaction to the wedding party’s wardrobe.
“We went on a walk, and she said, ‘I need you to know the bridesmaids dresses are going to be sleeveless,’” said Mast, who lives in Matthews. “She knew I did not wear sleeveless clothes because I was embarrassed about my arms.”
Weight had been an issue for Mast for much of her life, and it continued long past the wedding. She lost and gained weight and tried counseling, support groups, weight loss programs and diets.
The turning point, she says, was asking God for help.
She’s now kept off about 45 pounds for more than 10 years – even after two pregnancies – and in April she will lead a weight loss class at CityChurch Charlotte using a curriculum she developed.
“As far back as 11 years ago, I knew I wanted to help other women as I was learning about how to deal with my weight, and what I was eating, in a healthy and spiritual way,” Mast said.
The eight-week course, which is called Releasity, uses humor and honesty to give women tools for weight loss, and show them how to integrate faith in their efforts.
Mast said she taught the course in 2012 and 2014, and participants have lost, and kept off, 10-111 pounds.
“It gave me the boost I needed to start my journey to health and to start loving myself the way I am,” participant Peri Yager wrote in an email. “When I had a slip I was able to hold on to the things I learned and start the journey again. More importantly, I found a group of friends that understand a part of me that a lot of people, including family, don't understand.”
Mast keeps Releasity groups small to encourage group sharing and discussion. Since she last taught Releasity in 2014, Mast has restructured the course around the acronym HELP, which reminds women to eat when they feel physical hunger, recognize their emotions rather than reach for food, take their emotions to God and pursue life beyond food.
Often, participants take up new hobbies and past-times after the course, Mast said.
Threasa Lambert, who was part of the 2012 Releasity course, remembers a meeting where Mast staged a “practice dinner” complete with nice place settings and flowers.
They then discussed strategies, ranging from taking one bite at a time to asking God for help, to stay aware of what they were eating.
“You would be shocked by how much I ask for help,” Lambert wrote in an email. “I always thought it had to be something really important for me to ask God to help me, like I was going to die, rather than asking him for help with food, but now I do.”
Mast said said discovered how to stop criticizing herself for weight issues. Instead, she has focused on Bible verses such as Romans 12:12, which instructs Christians to be transformed by renewing their minds rather than conforming to the world.
“If you learn to think and believe differently and learn to love yourself and receive God’s love, the weight stuff is going to follow,” Mast said.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to go?
Releasity requires a weekly commitment to meetings. The course will be 7-9 p.m. April 7-May 26 at CityChurch Charlotte, 2300 McClintock Road. A $15 fee covers course materials. Details: joymast.com/releasity.