April 18, 2017 12:24PM
By Nancy Burns-Fusaro
WESTERLY — While some of the people weighing Saturday morning were keeping their weight loss amount to themselves, two members of the weekly Weight Watchers meeting at Central Baptist Church were happy to announce their good news. Even though for one of them it meant a loss of another sort.
The Rev. Cal Lord and the Rev. Sunil Chandy have been in the throes of a friendly weight loss competition since Dec. 31, when the two pastors decided to create a friendly competition to kick off what they’re calling “a lifestyle change.”
They agreed that the one who lost the most weight between New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday Eve, would buy the other a brand new suit — an item that comes with a price tag of roughly $300.
Last Friday afternoon the two ministers met at Toscano’s Men’s Shop where owner Paul Gencarella measured the clergymen for brand new Italian-made light woolen suits.
While Gencarella bantered with the two men inside his Canal Street shop, and offered up his unique brand of barbing, customers strolled in and out and watched as Chandy and Lord modeled their suits.
Lord was being measured for a navy blue chalk stripe Caravelli suit, Gencarella said, while Chandy would be fitted for a loden green Caravelli.
“We wanted to support a local business, and we didn’t want our reward to be food related,” said Lord, the pastor of Central Baptist Church, explaining that their competition has been intentionally very public.
They wanted their parishioners and their community to know about their challenge, said Lord, in hopes of inspiring others to adopt healthier lifestyles. Even once the suit challenge is complete, he said, the two plan to continue their fitness ministry.
Chandy, the pastor of Christ Episcopal Church, across from Lord’s church on Elm Street, said they were hoping to be good role models for all people interested in getting fit and hope to continue to engage others on their road to fitness and health.
While Christ Church, where Chorus of Westerly co-founder George Kent serves as music director, is known widely for its music program, Chandy said he wants to add health and fitness to its reputation — both physical and spiritual.
“It’s biblical too,” said Lord. “We’re told that our bodies are our temples of the Holy Spirit.”
“I love you, Cal,” said Chandy with a laugh, as he threw his arms around Lord in a great big bear hug.
“It’s been great having Cal as a fellow journeyer, companion and friend,” said Chandy with a smile.
The two pastors have been praying for one another, and sending positive text messages since they began the competition, said Lord.
Lord, 58, who is a diabetic, said in addition to weight loss, his goals are to wean himself from his expensive diabetes medicine, and to lose somewhere between 30 and 45 pounds for keeps.
Chandy, 50, who lost his father to heart disease at age 50, said he is determined to take weight off and keep it off.
Back at the Saturday morning weigh-in, Lord arrived a good half hour before Chandy and was one of the first of the Saturday morning regulars to step on the scale.
“I think we’re going to measure percentage of total body weight lost,” he said as he stepped out of his sneakers and onto the scale.
Weight Watchers leader Traci Boiselle, a Groton resident who was born in Westerly, and who herself has lost 44 pounds, took out a calculator and punched in Cal’s numbers.
He had lost 21.6 pounds, she announced, or just about 9.9 percent of his starting body weight in the 15 weeks since they began the competition.
“I started at 219.8 on December 31,” said Lord, who weighed in at 197.8 Saturday morning.
“They have been doing some hard work,” said Boiselle as they waited for Chandy to arrive to determine which minister would be buying the suits.
Membership in Weight Watchers has been up in Westerly, said Boiselle, noting that members can choose from four meetings a week for weigh-ins and group discussions.
Lord said sharing stories of struggles, challenges and successes can be a powerful tool in the weight loss process.
At last, Chandy, wearing shorts and a baseball cap, came chugging up the stairs. The moment of truth had arrived.
After peeling off his jacket, and taking off his watch and sneakers, Chandy stepped onto the scale.
The Episcopal minister, who lost a total of 17.8 pounds, or 7 percent of his starting body weight, would be buying the suits.
“Phase two starts today,” said Chandy as he beamed and accepted a hug from Lord. “I love you, buddy.”
People who are most successful, are those who have the support of the community, said Chandy, whose congregation has been in his corner since he announced his plan.
“I’m going to continue to take weight off, and I’m going to keep it off until God calls me to some other place,” added Chandy. “Hopefully, that’s not for a while.”
The men have already planned a number of events and activities designed to include and encourage others. Chandy said he hopes to start a walking group while Lord has organized a series of Tuesday afternoon Zumba classes.
“I want to be known as the healthy church,” said Lord. “We already have the music church across the street.”