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‘Full House’ star on overcoming obstacles with fitness and faith

Actress Candace Cameron Bure was able to overcome the trappings of fame, food addiction and bulimia through following the tenets of her faith and the lessons of her family. She’s since gone on to embrace a healthy lifestyle and shares her secrets in “Reshaping It All.”
/ Source: TODAY books

As the young star of ABC's hit series “Full House,” Candace Cameron Bure enjoyed massive fame at an early age. But through solid familiar discipline and faith, the actress was able to overcome the temptations of success and other obstacles later in life. Here's an excerpt.

Dad’s Infinity and Beyond

One of the perks of acting at such a young age is that I earned a tremendous amount of money for such a young person growing up. You’d have thought that a girl in my position would have been living in the lap of luxury, wearing the best fashion money could buy and driving the finest of cars, but Dad had other plans for my life.

My father earned his living teaching public middle school, math and physical education, while raising a family of six. He believed people should work hard for the things they have, and so he instilled that idea in us. He could see that hard work was not only a prerequisite for success but that it was also a prerequisite for strong character. Struggling for the things we get teaches us the all-important lesson of self-discipline while it strengthens our body and spirit. It wasn’t enough for us to achieve a level of success in this world; our parents wanted us to reach our full potential as people who are strong in spirit and mind.

Although my brother Kirk and I were in a position to do it, Dad wasn’t comfortable with the idea of any sixteen-year-old blowing truckloads of cash. The success of "Full House" and "Growing Pains" was phenomenal, but that wasn’t about to change the dynamics of our all-American family. Maintaining a level of normalcy at home was also important. Whether I appeared on the cover of Brio magazine, or walked the red carpet that day, behind closed doors we were a family living much like everyone else. I still squabbled with my sisters when washing the dishes and waited in line for the bathroom in a house with three siblings. My rise to success didn’t change the atmosphere of our family or offer me a free pass from hard work.

Buying my first car was a bit of a battle. Knowing how much I enjoyed acting, Dad didn’t think of it as “earning” in the sense of hard work. I enjoyed being on the set every day and loved acting, so it wasn’t as though I was working in a busy supermarket dealing with angry customers, crying babies, and cleanups on aisle four. He knew it was income, but he still wanted me to learn the value of setting a goal, counting the cost, weighing the gain, and doing the legwork it takes in reaching that goal. It was time to sit down and formulate a plan.

Taking a part-time job at a restaurant wasn’t an option for me, so we got a little creative. During the height of the success of "Full House," I was asked to attend massive events nationwide where I did autograph signings and public appearances mainly at shopping malls or civic arenas. These events weren’t nearly as glamorous for me as you’d think and were particularly exhausting. Although it was great to meet my fans, trying to sign posters and take photos with up to twenty-five thousand people at an event could get seriously overwhelming. But income from those events and sales from merchandise allowed me that additional hard-earned money. My dad agreed that once I had enough money earned from those weekends, I could purchase the car, so I got to work. After several months a black Nissan Pathfinder rolled off the lot and into my life. I loved that SUV!

About a year or two later the same dealership had a great price on an Infiniti Q45, a luxury sedan that my dad had his eye on but couldn’t afford. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to buy it for him, and after talking it over with Mom, she agreed to let me.

I never considered it a gift from me. Since I was part of a family, it was from all of us kids, the way I knew it should be. Together we wrapped the car in a large red ribbon, tucked it into the garage, and waited for Dad to get back from school.

It was an emotional moment for all of us when the door finally opened and we looked at his face. Humble and grateful, the tears stung his eyes. My parents chose to live a life as normal as they possibly could so that we might learn the value of setting and reaching a goal. We learned that a goal itself is not to be desired but rather that value is found in the effort.

By learning the hard way, Dad taught me five important steps in reaching my goals:

1. Envision your goal.

2. Formulate a plan.

3. Consider the gain.

4. Count the cost.

5. Do the necessary work to achieve it.

Both planning our goals and the means of getting there gives us a greater chance at success than living impulsively would. When things are organized and on schedule, the likelihood of success is increased. Unexpected obstacles often stand in our way, but if we invest in foresight and consider the ways we will deal with each hurdle, we are leaning on wisdom rather than chance.

In "The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom," Dr. Phil McGraw writes,

Because I have counseled so many overweight patients, I can tell you with absolute certainty why some people stay fit and others do not. If someone is successful in keeping weight off for five, ten, twenty, or more years, they have carefully planned thoughtful goals that they hold to and live by.

The Bible also reminds us to consider carefully our plans before we set out to build: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28–30).

In that passage Jesus was pointing out the cost of being a disciple. Life will offer us a thousand and one reasons we shouldn’t follow Christ, but those who have built their faith on conviction won’t give up because they have counted the cost beforehand and their eyes are fixed on the goal ahead. The same principle should apply to the important life goals we set. We consider the pros and cons before we start; then we map out a reasonable plan and stick to it.

The empowering words “first sit down and estimate the cost” can revitalize any life when we put them in action. If we’ve mapped out a solid plan, we have a healthy chance of reaching the goal, and of course success will also depend on whether you’re doing all that you humanly can to adhere to the rules. Human effort is all that’s ever expected of us, and it’s all we should ever expect from ourselves.

Do you have a recipe for success? Have you carefully considered your weight-loss goal and detailed the means you’ll take in getting there? If you haven’t taken that important step, I urge you to grab a pen and paper — a pretty little journal if you have one—and answer the three following questions in detail:

1. What is the goal you hope to attain? (Weight loss, better health, release from the bondage of food, more energy, a fitness routine, etc.) Without a specific goal in mind, it’s nearly impossible to attain it. Be specific. If you want to lose weight, decide how much you hope to lose and when you hope to reach this goal. Knowing how much you want to lose will be the measuring stick to the time and effort required to lose the extra pounds. It will also measure the lifestyle changes required in maintaining the loss.

2. What do you hope to gain by reaching this goal? (I’ll feel younger, gain respect, feel accepted, look beautiful, etc.) Answer honestly; and don’t worry, no one but you will peek at your answer. By looking at the emotion behind the goal, you may also discover your drive. Hopefully this step of self-analysis will give you a deeper understanding of yourself. It could prompt you to choose a direction you’ve never considered before. If the answer is “to be skinny,” then go one step further and ask what being skinny would mean to you. Our reasons tend to shift over time, and therefore it’s an interesting exercise to evaluate where you are today.

3. What is the cost? What is it going to take to make this change? Will you do the legwork it takes to reach this goal? If you want to lose weight, carefully map out the plan, listing the life changes you’ll make to get you there. If drinking more water is important, then also list it here. If you want more energy, you will need to be eating well and exercising regularly. Be specific, listing things you need to eliminate as well as changes you need to incorporate. It might be that you are taking things slow, making one change per week, or it could be that you need to make several changes now.

The ability to envision your goal and the means of getting there brings us that much closer to achieving it. We become travelers on a journey equipped with a compass and a map.

Once you have decided exactly what your final goal will be, we can start breaking it down into smaller attainable pieces. For example, if you want to lose fifty pounds this year (let’s round that off to fifty-two pounds in fifty-two weeks), we can do the math and conclude that your focus for each week will be one pound. That’s it — one pound per week! One hundred pounds? Then you’re looking at roughly two pounds per week, which is attainable if you have counted the cost and are willing to adhere to the plan.

Author Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable ones then starting on the first one.”

You start by taking the first step today and concentrating on each step as it comes. If you can make it through one day, you have the same ability to make it through each day that follows. Standing face-to-face with a mountain can be overwhelming, especially when your perspective is that of looking up from the bottom. But if we decide to take one step and then another, looking only at the ground set before us, we realize the potential we have.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:34)

Too often dieters will say, “I want to lose weight so I’ll start cutting back.” And that’s pretty much the end of the plan, as undefined as it may be. Be prepared for the Achilles’ heel of internal negotiation. If my best friend Dilini shows up with a box of chocolates for me tonight, that I mindlessly munch while watching TV, “cutting back” may not hold the same definition that it held yesterday. If I have to start dealing with internal conflict between my desire and my thoughts, I could easily take the low road that leads to desire. Internal conflict is a constant fight between flesh and spirit. It’s our desire opposing our wisdom with both fighting for control.

Without a set plan, we tend to negotiate a bit too much with the stomach, and when that happens, we all know who wins! But if I accept those chocolates with the foreknowledge that a small treat after dinner is in line with my plan, I don’t have to negotiate. I can rely on a plan rather than impulse. Two chocolates come out of the box, and the rest are put into the cupboard and out of sight until the next day. The plan doesn’t mean you necessarily have to start counting calories; it could mean envisioning the size and frequency of your meals beforehand, then sticking to the rule. This is where wisdom takes over and willpower takes a backseat.

The same thing can apply to exercise. The familiar line, “I plan to exercise more often from now on!” What does that mean? “More often” can mean once, or it can mean daily. If you leave the choice up to whim, chances are you’ll opt for the minimum rather than the maximum workout experience. Be precise. Develop a regime you will stick to. For example, if your plan is to walk for forty minutes five times a week, map it out by deciding ahead of time when you’ll schedule your walks, where you’ll be walking (treadmill, outside, etc.). And if you can find a partner, then jot down whom you’ll be with. By scheduling a time, we move it into our life and begin to shift things around it, rather than trying to squeeze it in where it fits. Priorities have a way of squeezing out the less pleasant activities, unless we make a point to prioritize them.

In a 2008 interview with Larry King, actress Ricki Lake, famous for losing over a hundred pounds and successfully keeping it off for over a decade (way to go Ricki!) said, “It’s all in moderation; I think it’s being consistent; I think it’s being conscious of what you put in your body. There’s no magic pill, there’s no secret — it’s hard work and being consistent.” She added, “Any diet works, I’ve done them all. If you stick to it, they all work. But you have to stick to that plan.”

The “plan” makes us conscious and aware of what we’re putting into our bodies and how we are taking care of them, by fine tuning our focus. It eliminates bad habits while establishing good ones. When we prioritize items within the plan, we aren’t wasting energy or spinning our wheels.

Evaluation is also important. If you aren’t getting anywhere with your weight-loss plan, take a close look to see where you need some adjustment. Remember that if you’re drinking calories in addition to your meals, cutting them out will benefit you. Consider portion size to see if you need to cut back. Look at the extras like gravy, cream, and dressing to see if they are an issue.

Setting a goal to lose slowly is not something most of us want to do, but it’s a good way to go, and the truth is that time does go by fast. Imagine being fifty-two pounds lighter next year at this time. That’s only one pound a week. Likely one frustrating, hair-pulling pound at a time, which calls for plenty of patience, but imagine the difference it would make! That is if you even had fifty-two pounds to lose. Maybe it’s that last ten, twenty, or remaining baby weight of thirty pounds. Develop a plan, roll up your sleeves, and get the job done.

In formulating a plan that works best for your life, I’d like to offer you this snippet of wisdom:

If you want something you’ve never had before,
you have to do something you’ve never done before.
—Author unknown

Think about that. Doing mediocre work won’t get you in fantastic shape. If you want to wear a different pair of pants, you have to live differently. Living differently doesn’t mean you need to change the world around you, but it does mean you will have to make changes within. That’s doable!

Watch thin eaters for a while, and you’ll soon discover that most of them have a natural tendency to eat just enough. They haven’t made eating a form of late-night entertainment, and eating isn’t on their mind 24-7. In other words, it isn’t their god. That natural tendency to eat just enough and to look at food as fuel rather than entertainment can be a part of you, too, over time. I don’t look at food the way I used to anymore. I don’t count calories, and I don’t have to concentrate on stopping when I’m full. I’ve become so accustomed to living this way over time that it’s ingrained in me now.

The plan I started with in the beginning was one that would fit into my lifestyle: eat the food that I love in moderation and exercise on a regular basis. I counted the cost, decided that I wanted to look good and feel great, and then did the necessary work to get there. I lost twenty pounds when I was seventeen years old and after each pregnancy was able to return to that comfortable weight once again. I’ve even dropped another five pounds in recent years staying at the lowest and the leanest weight I’ve ever been in my adult life. My clothing fits well, I have more energy than I did at sixteen, and I have learned the value of working and the return that it brings.

Reprinted by arrangement with B&H Books, from "Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness" by Candace Cameron Bure, with Darlene Schnacht. Copyright © 2011 by Candace Cameron Bure, with Darlene Schnacht.