When Bishop Linwood Dillard, 44, went for his annual check-up in November 2020, his lab results revealed his cholesterol and blood pressure levels were borderline high.

With a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes in the family, his doctors wanted to prescribe him medication. Rather than run the risk of experiencing any adverse side effects, Bishop Dillard asked his doctors for a chance to solve the problem himself using diet and exercise.

“I just felt that I was at a place and a time in my life that, regardless of if I took medicine or not, I needed to take better care of my health given my family and all that I was responsible for,” he adds.

A year later, the pastor, husband, and father of three is already down 27 pounds, and his blood pressure and cholesterol levels remain in the normal range. His only complaint is having to bring his minister suits to a tailor nearly every week to keep up with his weight loss. As the founding pastor of Citadel of Deliverance Church of God in Christ (COGIC), Bishop Dillard’s weeks are nothing short of demanding. “Pastoring is not an easy role,” he says. With the added responsibility of being a bishop and Chairman for a COGIC national conference, creating healthy habits certainly didn’t come without its challenges.

Despite his busy schedule, Bishop Dillard prioritizes his workout regimen every week. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays start off bright and early at Beast Mode Fitness, where he and his personal trainer complete a round of high-intensity interval training. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are reserved for strength training and cardio at the Collierville YMCA, while Sunday is dedicated to rest and recovery.

“Love yourself enough to give your life a chance.”

When it comes to his diet, Bishop Dillard says he tends to stay away from fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages, while instead opting for lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and green smoothies.

Cheat days are incorporated into his routine every 10 to 12 days to allow for the occasional burger or sweet treat.

Dillard’s wife, Stephanie, jokes that her husband turns into a beast when he decides to go all-in on something, no matter the circumstance. “If I’m gonna do it, then I’m gonna do it,” he laughs.

The pastor’s motivation is rooted in scripture. His motto is to love yourself enough to give your life a chance and then love your neighbor and those who depend on you daily by prioritizing healthy habits. “If your health is challenged, or you experience premature death, then there’s this gaping hole of someone that potentially could’ve had more longevity had they taken care of themselves,” he adds.

Looking ahead, Bishop Dillard says his main goal is to reach the ideal weight for his height, while hopefully encouraging and inspiring others along the way.

“What you do, what you eat, [and] what you allow into your gates – your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth – impacts your life, lifestyle, and lifespan,” he says. “You only have one life. You only have one body. So, we should be good stewards over that.”

By Colleen May
Photo by Tindall Stephens