Where did January go? A month ago it was the magical week between Christmas and New Years where most of us eat whatever we want.   New Year’s and January 1 were beckoning just around the corner with the allure of changes in the air. How are you doing with the goals and plans you made during that fantasy week? Have you read my earlier articles? Did you get your calendar and stickers? Did you choose your “one little thing” and a word? Are the stickers adding up as confirmation that you’re taking action? If not, It is never too late to start! (Read: “Ring Out Wild Bells to a Healthier New Year” and “One Thing, One Word, and One Year“)

Today we’re going to add another element to this personal calendar that will make this year one to truly treasure for health, peace and progress.

Remember Lot’s Wife

One of the best gifts during Christmas was a talk from a BYU devotional that Bob read at dinner one night. With his wonderfully welcome humor, warmth, and just three little words, he added a wonderful dimension to our holidays that has carried into a way of meeting my goals for the New Year. “Remember Lot’s Wife” (BYU Devotional and Speeches of the Year,  brought back a childhood memory of a Hollywood movie about the Old Testament. I remember being horrified as the music rose in a dramatic crescendo with everyone scurrying to leaving Sodom. The tension mounted while Lot pleaded with her to hurry and follow God’s commands. I remember her great costume as they walked into the mountains and that one last forbidden glance as she turned back and saw the city spread below her. Then BAM! She was a pillar of salt with the music crashing. It was the first time I’d heard this story! I’ve never forgotten the chill that ran down my spine.

It all came back as Bob read Elder Holland’s magnificent portrayal and it’s vitally important principle of not looking back as we struggle to progress. He summed it all up in the three words of the Savior, “Remember Lot’s wife.” In truth, looking back upon the past, both literally, and figuratively, can be a killer!

What is so infinitely powerful in the message and these three little words are the feelings and graphic mental image of this one person, her life, the consequences of her actions, and most of all, what might have been.

As the Savior and Elder Holland know, a name and a story move us emotionally and make an impact that words alone can never accomplish. They used Lot’s wife to teach us to not only be obedient, to forgive ourselves and others, but to leave the past behind. While this in and of itself is an essential part of healthy living on a day to day (and even hour to hour, or minute to minute basis!) there’s more to it for creating and permanently establishing a healthy lifestyle.

Choose a Name for Health

Here’s today’s calendar trick: Simply choose someone who has personally made health choices (either positive or negative) that have had dramatic consequences and put that name on your calendar! As you choose your name, remember to the best of your abilities the details of their experience, how it affected them and those around them. Turn it into a dramatic story, as Elder Holland does. Perhaps you might even want to put a picture of them on your calendar, as well as just writing their name.

Every family, ward, and neighborhood has beautiful people who can inspire your healthy life with this trick. For example, in our own ward, we lost a beloved friend and Relief Society sister four years ago to brain cancer and a stroke. I’ll call her Jenny.

I originally met Jenny 30 years ago in a Washington, D.C. Singles ward where she was a single mother, working full time and raising a beautiful daughter. Our paths crossed again years later when we both bought houses in the same ward. Love came along again many years later and she and her new husband wed at the same time her daughter did! The years passed. A weight problem that had always been there got bigger and bigger. Diabetes developed, but not her ability to address it through eating and exercise.

It didn’t matter to any of us, of course. We just loved her and she was an important part of our ward. When she was diagnosed with brain cancer, we were all devastated. A stroke after brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible further complicated matters. While it was thought that she had only a few weeks, or a month, at most to live, she lingered for many, many months, first at a nursing home and then to her own home, where her incredibly devoted husband took care of her around the clock.

She was in her early 60’s when she finally passed away, leaving a darling husband, a beloved daughter, son-in-law, three precious teenaged granddaughters, and a cheering grandstand of people who adored her. For years she was the sacrament meeting chorister and had a way of dressing – from suits and blouses to shoes to scarves to earrings to fabulous perfume – that made you happy and smile every Sunday just to see her in action. Her priceless Southern drawl and running commentary about life, her husband, her crazy two little dogs and how she was going to decorate her house were a hoot. There was rarely a fast and testimony meeting that she didn’t share her joy in the restored gospel.

Needless to say, the chapel was packed for her funeral. I led the music and was blessed to see and watch everyone’s tender emotions from my seat by the organ on the stand. The youngest granddaughter, just 12 or 13, was one of the speakers. She told us that at birthday time, her sweet Nana couldn’t bear for only one of the girls to get a present, so she’d send presents for all three! “She would always point to her cheeks and say, Now give me some sugar, honey!’ when she wanted us to kiss and hug her,” this granddaughter told us. At the end of her talk she just broke down sobbed with the words, “Nana, we already miss you sooo much!”

Would Jenny have passed away so soon if she’d been able to lose some weight? Been there for more birthdays and to see the granddaughters grow and marry? What if she’d allowed the sugar kisses on her cheeks from her granddaughters to replace the desserts and treats that she couldn’t resist? Followed the doctor’s counsel at an earlier point in life?

While it’s inappropriate to dwell on it or point out the obvious, it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that she was extremely overweight when she became ill and not taking prescribed action on her diabetes.

In truth, however, brain cancer and strokes happen to the healthiest of us! The difference is that when health tragedies happens to someone who has made smart health choices as part of life, there is the peace of mind for both them and all their dear ones that they have lived in a way to protect and strengthen their one and only, God-given physical body. It is in this perspective that taking time to exercise and spending money and time to prepare and eat healthy foods are not selfish extravagances, at all!

The saddest thing of all was that Jenny was only in her very early 60’s.

As the years have gone by since her death, we’ve spent many hours with her dear and lonely husband. How he misses her! Now single and in his later-60’s, he probably has many years ahead without her. Not only is the cherished (and hilarious) companionship gone, she is sorely missed for many of the practical, necessary things that she provided for his life. Equally sad is that there are few among us don’t well know a situation similar this.

Can you see how simply saying “Remember Jenny” could help you quickly walk away from foods or portions that you know are inappropriate? On the flip side of the coin, you could choose the name of someone who has grabbed a hold of their health and made changes!

As an example, I have another dear friend in my ward- Marita! She inspires me every time I see her. The only sad thing is that we have so many new families in our ward that most of them would not even realize that up until several years ago she carried an extra 30 to 40 pounds. It has been that long that her healthy weight is, indeed, her new “normal.”

Her motivation to get healthy was her realization that she was not able to interact or play with her grandchildren the way she wanted to. There were many, many years ahead and she wanted to be there in the most effective way for them, not sitting on the couch or bench watching. She also wanted to be an example to them. She chose a nearby health and weight loss facility that offered counseling, a detailed meal plan, a gym, and accountability. It wasn’t free, but she knew she needed this structure to help her lose the weight permanently. She went there several times a week to work out, weigh in, and reach her goal.

While it was fun to watch her lose the weight over that year, it has been more amazing to see her keep it off year after year! She continues to buy stylish outfits and looks like a million bucks at church, during the week, whenever. Her real goal to lose the weight, however, was to be able to be involved in a very active way with her grandchildren. Her Facebook page is continual proof of that, as it is continually updated with delightful pictures of her with them.

(Incidentally, being happy to be photographed and IN the pictures, instead of always hiding behind the camera, is important too! In years to come, it’s those family photos that will tell the story of your life to your posterity, and don’t you want to be in those pictures???)

How many years of joyful photos and family times has Marita added to her life? How will it all impact her grandchildren and their lives? We’ll never know. Once again, as part of our Heavenly Father’s plan, some health situations are outside of our personal control. What she does have is the peace of mind that she has done, and will continue to do, what she can to bless her body and, in turn, her family and extended posterity.

So! Have you got a name? Prayerfully choose one over the next day or two as we get ready to turn the calendar page to February. Let that dear individual be your guiding star this year by writing it at the top of your calendar. Simply put your “Jenny” or “Marita” on the pages for each month. When health choices come your way, as they do many, many times each day, we can simply say, “Remember Jenny!” or “Remember Marita!”

As a review, we now have:

* a personal health calendar
* reward stickers
* “one little thing”
* one word
* and now a name!

I don’t know about you, but flipping through those beautiful blank pages to write my “word” and now adding my “name” has me giddy with excitement and confidence in my ability to reach my New Year’s goals. The daily stars are adding up as it’s time to be saying goodbye to January and moving into February.

It’s going to be our healthiest year ever!

P.S. If you just loved Darla Isackson’s story this week about 7 Scintillating Reasons to Simplify, you may be interested in her amazing health story now posted HERE

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success – One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She is the owner and president at MyMiracleTea.com, an herbal detox tonic in keeping with the Word of Wisdom. She is mother of five and the grandmother of a growing number of delightful grandsons and granddaughters and lives with her husband, Bob, in Springfield Virginia, where she serves as the Visiting Teaching District Supervisor. She has been writing for Meridian since 2007. Her favorite foods are broccoli — lots of it! and chocolate frosting … just a taste every now and then. Her book is available at both Amazon.com and her website, CLICK HERE