Sunday, September 14, 2014

He Doth Nourish Them and Strengthen Them

Have you ever had a sudden flash of perfect understanding? When all the things you've studied and read about a particular subject suddenly come into focus and you know exactly what is right for you to do? The spirit works this way with me sometimes. Because of my struggles with weight over the years, I have read many, many books and articles that have to do with health, dieting, fitness, and nutrition. Sometimes having an obsession with one subject can lead to a lot of confusion. I'm reminded of the words of Joseph Smith in his history, chapter 1 verse 5. Read it here. He is talking about the religious tumult in the region where they lived that was causing divisions among the people, some crying, "Lo here!" and others, "Lo there!" That's exactly how it is when it comes to the subject of good health, nutrition, diet, and fitness. People develop a religious fervor about whatever ideas they have espoused. Try telling a vegan that you don't agree with their choice of diet for yourself. Any valid reasons you offer are quickly discounted and discarded and you are left feeling like a lesser mortal who's intelligence and ability to reason things out for yourself are wanting. Some even hint that you are not quite righteous! Try telling a runner that, that type of exercise actually causes you constant injuries. They will extol the virtues of their lifestyle and the benefits of "the runner's high" until you feel quite ashamed that your own joints won't allow you to partake of that particular "drug." While I am thrilled for people who have found the thing that works well for them and brings them the health and happiness they desire, that religious fervor can actually lead the hearer to feel cynicism, anger, confusion, and guilt. (It actually makes me want to do the opposite! Am I rebellious?)

While I was praying for direction for my food plan, I had one of those flashes of perfect understanding. The prescription that would work for my obese, middle-aged, insulin resistant body was a very simple diet consisting mainly of protein and high water content vegetables. This doesn't mean that there aren't a host of wonderful nutrients in fruits, nuts, grains, and starchy vegetables. It means that for my particular health issues, it is best for me to leave them alone during this phase of my journey. If I get a kidney infection, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic for me to take for a specified period of time to clear up the infection. This does not mean I should take that antibiotic forever, nor does it mean when my neighbor comes down with an earache, I should insist that he take my prescription because it "worked so well for me!" I CAN however, refer him to my doctor who took such good care of me. That is what I'm doing. I'm referring you to the Great Physician to help you with your own unique and personal health issues.

Call the doctor! I need help!

As I prayed over the inspiration I'd  received, specifics began to be revealed to me. I was led by the spirit to read Ether, in the Book of Mormon. Read it here. In Ether, Jared, his brother and their families and friends are spared having their language confounded during the time of the tower of Babel through the fervent prayers and faithfulness of the brother of Jared. God tells the brother of Jared to gather his family, friends and all their supplies and head to the valley northward and he will meet them there. Once there, the Lord talks to the brother of Jared in a cloud and tells him that He will go before them and show them every thing that they should do. This struck me so powerfully, I began to weep. I knew the Lord was telling me that he would lead me along. I may not know the course of the journey I was taking, but He would lead me and I could put my trust in Him. When I want to talk to God, I pray. When I want to hear his voice, I read the scriptures. It always works. I find the greatest strength and help from reading and pondering the scriptures. As I feast on them, my need to feast on food disappears. Anger and confusion disappear, obsessive thoughts disappear, and I am left with a deep and abiding peace.

After the Lord leads the brother of Jared and his family and friends through the wilderness, they arrive at the seashore. The Lord tells the brother of Jared to build 8 barges to carry them across the waters. He shows him exactly how to build them so that they will be tight and so that water cannot get in. As I pondered this, I thought of Nephi and his family and their journey into the wilderness. Their experience was very different that the Jaredites' experience. Nephi's family went through rebellions and hardships and actually took twice as long to reach the sea. Read it here. (1 Nephi 2-4, 7, 16-18) The Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship and He instructed him exactly how to build it. It was nothing like the brother of Jared's barges, yet Nephi's ship took his family safely to the promised land, just like the barges safely took the Jaredites there. I realized that we all have our own journey. It will not look quite like someone else's. If I turn to the Lord, he will show me the way and will help me to build the perfect ship to carry me to my promised land of health and wellness. All I have to do is trust Him and be obedient to His commandments and follow the promptings of the Spirit.

He keeps me safe from misplaced enthusiasm to try everything that worked for someone else. This also saves me a great deal of money! I have noticed that for me personally, if it comes from Heavenly Father, it is not expensive to do, and the plan is quite simple. I am urged to beware of  'evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the latter days." (Doctrine and Covenants 89:4) People seem to want my money all the time! Being overweight for a good number of years has made me the target of those who earn a living selling promises to the desperate and heavy. I'm sure many of them have good intentions, and if you can afford their product, I wish you well. However, I know that the Lord has the perfect plan for each of us and we can save ourselves a lot of pain and disappointment if we will only listen to Him.

I buy the best quality food I can afford on my budget and I pray over everything I eat. I am reminded of something amusing my sister Debbie's friend told her. She prays, "Heavenly Father, this is the best food I can afford. Please bless it to make us healthy and strong anyway!" The majority of my food is in as natural a state as possible and I try to avoid much processed or packaged foods. I use mainly fresh produce, but occasionally frozen. Obviously, I buy meat in a package because I'm not a hunter, fisherman, or rancher with a talent for butchering beef and chickens! I have prayed and been inspired over all the vitamins, minerals, oils, and herbs I take. Each one was specifically revealed to me and in a way that is easy for me to get hold of. I use Active Vitamin Packs, Flax Seed Oil, and another vitamin D capsule every morning.  I use Metamucil Fiber supplements every morning and night. One half hour to two hours before every meal, I take one garcinia cambogia capsule and one green coffee bean tablet. Every morning and afternoon I drink a Zip Fizz. All of these supplements I purchase at Costco. (No, they are NOT paying me to say that.)

I eat 3 small meals a day consisting of about 2-5 ounces of meat and a cup or two of vegetables and I do not snack between meals. I use butter salt, pepper and spices and a little dressing on the side. I eat very slowly and listen for the very subtle internal voice that tells me I've had enough. This takes a while to cultivate, but it does come and is a very useful tool and guide. I was amazed at how much less food my body became satisfied on. I really ate a lot before, even when I thought I was eating "right." Because studies show that middle aged women are perpetually in a state of slight dehydration because of leaky cell walls, I alkalize all the water I drink. This has been shown to help heal these cell walls. I cut lemons and limes into quarters and squeeze one quarter into every glass of water I drink, in my Zip Fizz, and my fiber supplement. This allows my body to drop fat more easily.

Please do not think that I'm advocating my food plan for everyone. I'm absolutely not doing that. Heavenly Father may show you a completely different plan for your "ship." Don't be afraid to come unto Him and do what He inspires you to do. He loves us all. We are His children and He desires to bless us.
"Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lord I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief

We all have moments of clarity in which we see what it is that we really want. One particularly poignant one for me came in January of 2014 when I looked into the perfect face of my new granddaughter Lindi. I saw all the love of generations of mothers, daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters looking into my eyes and I felt something deep and profound and ultimately, life-changing.

I sat there holding this precious baby and I knew that I wanted to be there for her. Really be there for her. I wanted to help her feel joy, I wanted to play with her, I wanted her to know that her grandma loved her and would do anything for her. At that moment I felt trapped in an uncooperative mortal frame. I had a body that was wracked with pain, no energy, and was shrouded in obesity. All the reasons, excuses, shame, and disappointments didn't matter. This little perfect child needed me. The real me. Sara. The joyful, happy, fun, and spiritually in-tune Sara. Someone who could give her positive love and guidance. Someone who could run, play, hike, swim, sing, and dance with her. Someone who could teach her about the love of The Savior.

For years I had prayed for help. "Heavenly Father, please help me to lose weight. Help me to be strong. Help me to stick to my diet plan. Help me to hate carbs." I had tried mantras, visualization, listened to weight-loss cd's with subliminal messages that told me how much I loved vegetables. I worked my body into a frenzy of exercise. I over-worked it; I injured it; I damaged it; I tried liquid diets, high carb/low-fat diets, low/carb/high fat and protein diets, HCG, fasting, The Up Day/Down Day diet, Atkins, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, and a lot of other permutations of this list. I can't even remember everything I've tried. They all ended the same. Sara, face first in noodles, french bread, pudding, chocolate, ice cream, cookies, candy, pie, and every yummy thing I could get my hands on until I had gained back all I'd lost and more. I dieted myself into obesity. What started out as an insecure teenager trying to lose 5 pounds so her mom would quit telling her. her 110 pound body was getting a "square bottom" ended as a 49 year-old woman more than 100 pounds overweight.

My prayers started changing after Lindi was born. I began to really ask for guidance. I searched for answers everywhere, but was no longer willing to just try anything anyone suggested. What did Heavenly Father want me to do? What was his plan for me? My moment of clarity was followed by others. I REALLY didn't want to drop dead of a heart attack. I wanted my husband and children to stop being frightened of that happening. I wanted to have the strength and energy to serve the Lord better, to go on missions with my husband. I wanted my attitude toward food to be changed from a pleasure seeking thing to a survival thing. I wanted to find the real me again.

Around March, a friend of mine stood in Relief Society, (a church organization for women,) one Sunday and told us about the upcoming BYU Women's Conference that was to be held in May and she passed out cards with the information on it and how to sign up. I felt a prompting from the spirit that I needed to be there. I took my card home and put it on the nightstand beside my bed and then every time I looked at it for the next couple of months I came up with excuses why I didn't need to go. Later, I found out that this same friend was actually presenting at the conference and my desire to go greatly increased. I knew that she'd be singing and I didn't want to miss that. Then I forgot about it again and didn't think of it until a few days before the conference. By then it was too late to sign up online, which meant I'd have to go early on the morning of the conference and stand in line to get registered and get my badge. I really didn't want to do that. But, my dear husband kept encouraging me to attend, and I thought that if I could convince a friend to go with me, then I could get there. So I called one of my good friends and she said she could go with me for the first day, and she even offered to drive!
Me, My Nightingale-Voiced Friend, My Dear Friend Who Got Me There

Walking from the parking lot up the hill to the Marriott Center was the hardest workout I'd done in a long time, but I made it and didn't embarrass myself by passing out in the road or anything ridiculously dramatic like that. As I sat in that huge room with 20 to 30 thousand other women, browsing my conference guide, I was thrilled, and ecstatic to discover that Sheri Dew was to be the keynote speaker of that session. As she spoke on grace, I was mesmerized. I sat there hearing and learning things that I had never before understood very well. I tried to take notes, but it frustrated me to have my attention diverted from her face on that huge monitor for even a second. You can read her talk here. I felt hope beginning in my heart. I felt the gentle voice of the Spirit whispering to me things that I could do starting right then. All throughout that day, I kept receiving inspiration from the spirit. In a later session, Elder Bruce Hafen and his wife also presented on grace and the Atonement. Because of Sheri's talk, I was able to understand the Hafen's deep and doctrine-filled talk more fully, although I knew I'd need to go back and study it more deeply. Read their talk here. When I was in bed that night, I discussed with my husband the things I had heard and felt that day. After he went to sleep I prayed like I'd never had the courage to pray before. "Please Heavenly Father, I will do ANYTHING you tell me. I will have faith and I know that through Thy grace and power, I can do anything you ask of me. Please tell me what to do. I know that I am weak, the very weakest of all, but I KNOW through Thee, I can have those weak things be made strong."

That night I had a bad case of insomnia. I did pray a lot, and I did receive guidance, but when I awoke after only 2 hours of sleep, my head was pounding and my body hurt all over. I decided I couldn't possibly get to the second day of the conference. As I lay there, a dear, dear friend and buddy texted me from Washington. I told her I felt rotten and didn't think I could force myself to go. She answered, "Get up and get to that conference for those of us who wish they could be there and can't!" So I did!

My friend couldn't go that day so another friend told me I could come and find her and her daughter and sit with them. I was late, but I got there. That second day was more of the same. I felt promptings and help from the spirit all day long. During a break between sessions, I forced myself to trudge up the 10 million stairs to the top of the Marriott Center to find the restroom and buy some lunch. While I was out there, I ran into my dear sister-in-law Patti. We talked for a bit and like most women do, we talked about how to lose weight and maintain that loss. She is a beautiful woman with a dozen children, that maintains her ideal body weight. She said something that struck me really hard and gave me direction as to what to do with all the promptings and inspiration I'd been receiving. She said, "Before I go to bed each night, I decide exactly what and how much I am going to eat the next day." Now, that isn't exactly what I felt I was to do, but the idea of being prepared for each new day struck me with great force. I could prepare by having the proper food in the house, the supplements I'd need, and most of all, to prepare myself spiritually each night before sleep and again when I awoke in the morning. I would know my plan for the next day before I even went to sleep. That way, the next morning, the decisions were already made and more easily kept.
2nd Day of Women's Conference
After the conference I began to formulate my plan. I prayed over each thing and would not add it if I didn't receive a yes from Heavenly Father. The things he didn't have me add were as interesting and important as the things he did. I prayed about exercise and received a, "Not now." That surprised me. I was so used to starting out a new program with punishing workouts, sore muscles, and general unhappiness. I asked if I should weigh myself and how often, and I got a, "No, you can trust me." What a relief. In the past, my ability to obsess over what the scale said was legendary. If I lost a lot, then I deserved a reward. If it showed no loss, then I sucked and why try? Nothing worked anyway! As I received answers to my questions, it was borne in upon me of how compassionate and kind our Father in Heaven is. He was rescuing me from myself! He was teaching me how to avoid obsessive thinking, unnecessary pain, and a host of other unhealthy habits I'd developed over the years.

He gave me my food plan, and taught me how to control my thoughts by turning to Him. He taught me that my only job in all this was to be obedient to what he told me and to new promptings I received. Remember, Heavenly Father doesn't give you everything at once. He sends it in small and doable doses. He really does love us and wants to help us receive the righteous desires of our hearts. Mormons tend to get mixed up about grace because of the phrase, ".....after all we can do. " I tended to think I had to do everything myself and when I'd proven myself, then He would help me. It certainly went along with the attitude of self-reliance we are taught to have. This is wrong thinking! He is with us before during and after. THE WHOLE WAY! My duty is to remember Him, obey Him, and follow His guidance, and He will carry my burden. He will take my burden of food addiction and HE will carry it. "All I can do" is come unto Him. I have three easy ways that he has shown me to control my thoughts. I do these things if I have a random food thought or craving, if I start to think negatively or become angry, If I start to obsess over how long will it take, or how much will I lose, or any thing like that. They are 1. Read my scriptures. The Book of Mormon has become my lifeline. I've read it 2.5 times in the past 4 months. I have it on my iPhone so it is always with me. 2. Pray for grace and to be strengthened. I pray for His peace and His power numerous times every day. 3. Sing or hum a hymn. My personal go-to hymn is "How Firm a Foundation" found here. I have used it since I was a little girl when I got nightmares at night. It has always brought me peace and comfort. It is especially helpful and effective when I have to grocery shop and pass by yummy looking treats. If you hear me humming in Costco, you'll know why!

This is the very beginning of my journey. In later posts I will share a more detailed description of how I eat and the supplements I use. This is not intended to be a list. I have hesitated until now to share my plan because it is so personal to me. Heavenly Father is the greatest physician of all and I feel like this plan is His prescription to heal Sara's body. When I have received healing, I have no doubt he will reveal to me my own wellness plan. I have no desire to make anyone feel like I think they should do what I do. My dear sister has prayed for direction to deal with her health issues and has received a completely different plan than mine, and she is experiencing her own miracles. Don't be afraid to get on your knees and ask for your own prescription!