A Lost and Found Story
By Carolyn Allen
If the words “I’m off all medication, down nearly 70 pounds and no longer crave sugar, sweets or foods made with white flour” sound important to you, you’ll be intrigues by this article about Judy Jensen of Taber Alberta Canada.
(Note From the Author Carolyn Allen: Today’s article includes an important success aided by the LDS Addiction Recovery Program. If you have had experiences with this program that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you! [email protected]. I would like to learn more in order to share with Meridian Readers about the healing powers of this program.)
Last Sunday I was blessed to teach the 11 year olds in Primary. Our lesson focused on Matthew 15, which includes the parables of the lost coin, the lost lamb, and the Prodigal Son. As each of the class members shared about having lost something important to them (a pet, a special piece of jewelry, etc.) and the joy they experienced when it was returned, I couldn’t help but marvel that achieving a healthy weight, though termed as a “loss” is, in a better sense, a gain, with the same joy that accompanies the appearance of anything that has been lost or something missing that is greatly desired.
Today’s story is about Judy Jensen of Taber, Alberta Canada. Judy (turning 60 in June) is down nearly 70 pounds – 55 of that since the end of Summer 2009. Her journey, like many of ours, has lasted for a long time — over 35 years. As she reaches her goal in the next several months, her success is as worthy of the great rejoicing of the shepherd who found his lamb, the woman who found her coins, and the father whose son came home. Though she has lost weight and numerous illnesses from her body (diabetes, knee problems, fibromyalgia and cholesterol issues) she has found control for a fierce addiction to sugar and foods with a high percentage of refined white flour. The underpinnings of it all are a marvellous experience manifesting the Lord’s power through the Atonement, repentance and fervent prayer.
I met Judy through Meridian, when she ordered my book in the summer of 2008.
Here is her story in her own words:
“Growing up, my mother was a wonderful cook. She baked a great deal – delicious cakes, cookies, etc. There were few vegetables or fruits. The vegetables she did serve always had either a cream sauce or a cheese sauce. In fact, looking back, there were always lots of sauces, lots of sweets and treats. Even so, I didn’t have a weight problem until the birth of my 3rd child in 1973. I went to Weight Watchers after Tammy’s birth and got down to 134 and received my Lifetime Membership with Weight Watchers early in 1974. I was 23 years old.
I thought my issues with food were over permanently. I promised myself I would never be overweight by overeating again. I even made covenants with the Lord, in the temple, that I would keep my eating challenges under control and never repeat the destructive behaviour. And I was sincere…..very sincere. I broke those covenants, it’s sad but true. Through the next 35 years, I gained the weight back and also got caught in a seemingly never-ending cycle of repentance, relapse, repentance, relapse. I had an anchor around my neck, and often wondered – “Is there ever going to be a way out.” I baked rich, delicious goodies constantly for my family and friends I sampled everything I made. I ate anything and everything. There often seemed to be no limit on any of my eating.
However, it did not make me happy. In addition, was suffering physically! At my heaviest in the late 1990’s I tipped the scale at 220 pounds. Believe me, I was the most miserable “active” Latter-Day Saint that I knew My knees hurts, I was diagnosed with diabetes, some times heart palpitations, lipomas (fatty tissue/cysts) all over my arms and legs. I was also diagnosed with both diabetes and fibromyalgia, I needed knee surgery as well.
Carolyn’s book and little cards helped in the summer of 2008 (see them at www.MyWeightLossFriend.com) , but within a month of getting started, once again there was a trip out of town, and events that way-laid me yet again! I returned to my old habits.
The next spring (May of 2009) I went to San Diego to visit my family when my granddaughter was starring in a production of Annie. When the pictures came back, I was shocked to see how bad I looked. Nevertheless, I carried on through the summer, eating everything in sight, ignoring the fact that I have diabetes. It seemed like I was on an eating marathon, as I just could not stop eating sweets of every kind.
On one memorable day last summer (2009) I had three doctors appointments: Dr. Wesley Steed, my diabetes dietician, Lori Sencennes, and Dr. Ian Hurdle all told me, on the same day, that I needed to lose weight. But how? Easier said that done.
Although I had repeatedly examined my habits and health for so many years, I had no choice but to look at things again.
I started thinking about when things first started to be a problem with me. I believe it began with my third pregnancy. My first husband, Jack, at the time, was very busy finishing up his bachelor’s degree at BYU and we were poor. Jack was either gone to school or working and left me home alone a lot with our sons, Jackie and Randy, who were 3 and 18 months. I ate to fill the loneliness and cope with being pregnant and two small children plus deal with school debt and living on a shoestring budget. (That marriage later ended and I returned to Canada to be with family. I later met the love of my life, Harold. We were married in the temple and will celebrate our 20th anniversary this year.)
Through all those years, raising my children, through my divorce, etc., I have always been on a diet. Constantly! At least constantly between the “last supper” of cookies and milk at midnight and the next morning when the leftover pancakes from breakfast needed to be cleared. With every effort to dig myself out….I was actually digging a bigger hole. Every diet that lasted any length of time were only getting me into a worse mess. No matter how healthy the written plan of eating was, I could either do ALL or NOTHING.
Again and again I would make new charts, mark the calendar, put up quotes around the house and resolve to “make it” this time. And thus, I “dieted” up the scale instead of down.
A Turning Point: Sunday, August 23, 2009
By the end of last summer I was really in trouble. On Sunday, August 23rd, 2009, I didn’t want to go to church because I had nothing to wear. I am the ward chorister and I always have to stand up in front of the entire congregation and direct the music. My clothes were fitting tighter and I didn’t want to go buy another size larger. Although I had been praying to my Heavenly Father for a long time to help me with the heavy chains of bondage that I have felt with my weight problems.
I pleaded that day that He would help me come to grips with this never ending addiction to food that I have. I use the word bondage, for that is how it felt! Somehow I got to church that day, but the next day was worse than ever with an uncontrollable desire to eat, eat, eat.
On Monday, August 24th, I seemed to want to eat all day long….and not foods that were healthy, either. I binged all day on anything that was not attached to the table or shelf. I remember making chocolate pudding for dessert and putting a healthy serving of sugar on top of that. And me, knowing all along that I have diabetes! I was utterly out of control. I had made a larger bowl of pudding and a smaller bowl. When my husband picked up the larger bowl I was really upset with him because I had made the bowl larger, on purpose, for me….NOT HIM!!
As my husband and I said our prayer together that night, I pretended all was well, but after he went to bed, I got up. I said my own personal prayer and then I cried mightily to the Lord because of my problem. I cried and cried, then went to my book shelves and found five books that I had previously bought and read, about weight loss, and sat in my bed to read the self-help books.
They did not make me want to start eating healthfully, but one particular book was of interest to me. It was written by Brent O. Hafen, Keith J. Karren (a personal friend of my husband), Kathryn J. Frandsen and N. Lee Smith and it was entitled “To Your Health, Gospel Perspectives on Nurturing the Mind, Body, and Spirit.” I started to slowly re-read the passages and came across a quote by President Monson. I had previously out-lined the book with a yellow high lighter and the words just jumped out at me.
“One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for
no failure ever need be final.” Thomas S. Monson, “The Will
Within,” Ensign, May 1987, pg. 68.
I felt like my Heavenly Father was directly talking to me and giving me encouragement.
On Tuesday, August 25th, 2009, another impression came to call my good friend (Joan) and talk to her, again, about my love for food and my feeling so down and out, about my inability to conquer my obsession. She had no answers for me but that was okay because the Lord did. He directed me by Joan telling me about a friend of hers, Dee Ann, who had lost a lot of weight using the 12 Steps from the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
About three weeks earlier, I had read an article in the Lethbridge Herald about a community weight loss group that teamed you up with a sponsor who would help you commit to your food program and eating behaviours, somewhat like AA. It turned out that Dee Ann’s program and the community group were one and the same! I was excited and knew that it was Heavenly Father’s guiding hand.
So, I quickly called Dee Ann and we talked for about a half hour. She loved the food program and had lost all her weight and was still down after joining several years earlier. She also had been called to assist with the Addictions Recovery Program organized by the LDS Church. They were a similar group to the ones in the newspaper. She was a very encouraging and I was very eager and willing to listen. I was already being lifted and sustained by a power much greater than my own.
Dee Ann suggested I buy and read a book entitled, Hi Did Deliver Me from Bondage, written by Colleen G. Harrison. It was about using the Book of Mormon and the Principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they correlate with the Twelve-Step Program to overcome compulsive/addictive behaviours and other problems. As I read Sister Harrison’s words it was as if she was reading my mind and writing a biography about myself. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
On Wednesday, August 26th, I called the group. They invited me to attend a meeting that evening in Lethbridge, at 7:00 p.m. I felt directed by my Heavenly Father to join this group and once and for all overcome my battle with food. Names and phone numbers jumped off pages, telephone calls were made and things fell nicely into place. I didn’t realize then, but I do now, that at that moment of complete surrender, I was about to enter a whole new way of life, a life turned upside down and inside out. Little did I know then that the course my Heavenly Father was about to set before my path would require me to admit I was a food addict. Also, I started to realize that I needed to have a relationship with Heavenly Father and submit my will to Him. I am nothing without the Lord. We were finally on the right path…..together.
President Ezra Taft Benson said,
“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.” (Ensign, May 1988, p.4)
I knew that I was not on this path alone. I know now without a shadow of a doubt that by the grace of God I had found some help.
The Journey Begins
I attended my first meeting. It was led by people who were very fit and attractive. It was hard to believe they had ever been overweight. Though the food program was not given to me that night, I was assigned a sponsor, someone I would chat with several times a day with the understanding that I commit myself and my eating plan.
Since a family reunion was happening over the weekend, I decided to get everything all ready, then start on the following Monday. Then I ate everything I wanted, and then some for the next several days. It was amazing how much I could eat, and eat and eat!
When we returned, I got started.
I knew the food plan was very strict, but I was ready and committed. It felt very right.
The first morning, with my oatmeal, blueberries and yogurt – just a small percentage of what I usually ate, it felt like next to nothing. But I wasn’t hungry and I made it to lunch, which included a salad and protein. Dinnertime was very enjoyable with a huge salad, a little more protein and a cooked vegetable.
My body was definitely on de-tox, weaning itself from the sugar it was used to. That first week I had to lay down during the day with headaches, but I adjusted.
I learned that I didn’t have to be as full as I was used to being to be “just fine”. It felt good to stop eating before I was overly full. I began to lose weight immediately. The structure was exactly what I needed.
I was in constant contact with my sponsor, and also required to make calls to other members and to attend meetings. Although it was very helpful, as time passed, it became overly time-consuming. Nothing else was getting done! I was constantly on the phone or attending meetings.
A Very Special Sunday, September 20, 2009
Three weeks into the program, I learned that I needed to attend more meetings to stay with the group. If I could not attend one of their meetings, then I was to attend a local AA meeting with alcoholics, which I did.
This did not feel right. The whole meeting/sponsor commitment seemed impossible time-wise and overly demanding in an unhealthy way. It almost felt like I was exchanging my addiction to food to being fanatical with the group. Yet I so badly wanted to be successful and to participate! I also felt that the Lord had guided me to them. What was I to do? It was a terrible emotional roller coaster for several days.
I knew there was something wrong, yet I did not want to quit – and fail again! I also knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was a food addict, and needed a structured program to help me deal with my addiction. An addiction is an addiction, whether it is cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or sugar and flour. If the substance is in control, then it is addiction.
I spent the following Sunday very troubled, upset, worried, and feeling very unsettled. So, I decided to ask my Heavenly Father about what I should do. I felt He led me to the program and I was doing so well on it, but I didn’t feel good about always being gone, always dwelling on my food addiction, putting myself first and my church and family second. I know that is not what my Lord would have me do. I stewed. I prayed. I called people. I talked to Harold.
That afternoon I found the phone number to Colleen Harrison in Hyrum, Utah, the author of the book, He Did Deliver Me From Bondage.
After visiting with her, my eyes started to well up with tears and I ran to my bedroom in all the humility I could muster and pleaded with the Lord and my Saviour to help me with this problem. When the Lord makes you over it is priceless. All He asks is that you give Him your heart, and He is especially fond of broken ones. My heart was broken.
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them”” (Ether 12:27, italics added).
I have enjoyed that scripture before and have even contemplated its meaning before, but on that day, Sunday, September 20th, it meant more to me than at any other time. I was feeling the Savior’s Atonement. I was being shown my weakness. And his grace was all I needed. This theme resonated throughout the entire three weeks prior. I cannot do this without him Without my Saviour.
Who isn’t aware of their weaknesses? I’ve certainly felt them all of my life, but finally dared to approach the Lord and ask Him to show them to me from His perspective. Fortunately, He is a merciful God and chose not to overwhelm me by revealing everything at once. Yet, in a way difficult to explain, He has begun to open the “……eyes of [my] understanding” (D&C 76:19), helping me to see my innermost struggles in a new light. Seeing them more clearly has enabled me to pray more specifically for the help needed to begin to peel away my most unattractive qualities.
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was painful and humbling. I began to recognize a softening inside that only comes from making more room in my heart for the Holy Spirit. It is filling up the spaces that used to be claimed by my sins and weaknesses, by my food addiction.
It was an experience I will cherish always, no matter how painful!
That day I realized on that day that I didn’t need my sponsor, or meetings, the phone calls from sponsors, etc. They were making me unhappy and I felt very stressed. Those were Satan’s tactics, not my Saviour’s.
Then, all of a sudden, within 30 minutes of this powerful experience, the phone rang!
On the phone was a dear young woman in the Taber 2nd ward and the whole experience came to a head. She was a former program member and had lost a lot of weight. She was at her goal. She had noticed my weight loss and wanted to talk. She told me about the LDS ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) that our Stake sponsored and she was attending some of those meetings. In talking with Dee Ann, she too had attended the ARP meetings and spoke highly of them. She was still following the FA diet but attending the ARP meetings. ARP stands for Addiction Recovery Program. I had decided to leave the FA program, go to the ARP meetings, read my scriptures, and talk to two of my LDS FA friends that were now in ARP.
It all felt so good and so right! When I called my group sponsor to tell her about my decision, she was so remote and uncaring when I told her that I knew I’d made the right decision and that the Lord would not let me down when I put him and his love first!
I felt free…..but….concerned about my addiction. Could I do it on my own? Well, of course not. I still needed my Saviour, I still needed the scriptures and I needed to attend the ARP meetings.
I know now that at the time, this was an amazing experience with the Atonement when I was humble enough to plead to the Lord for help. I also had my young friend who was attending the ARP meetings. She offered to be my sponsor and hold me accountable for my food commitments. Jenny, though only 25 years old, was going to be my sponsor. How fortunate I was to have her call me that Sunday evening. I know the Lord inspired her to call me.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
I attended my first LDS ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) meeting and it was a stark contrast from the non-LDS meetings I had been attending. We opened with prayer, closed with prayer, and the spirit of the Lord was in great attendance. There were lots of men and women in the meeting. Some were suffering from pornography, some from drugs, from cigarettes, anger issues and some even there with Food Addictions. I was not alone. I wasn’t better than anyone else in the room. The common theme was we were all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we were all addicts and we all needed each other for support. We all needed the Atonement. We all needed the Saviour. I learned that much of the material from Sister Harrison’s book has been used by the Church to create this powerful program.
I also had the opportunity to share LDS ARP program with a friend I had made at the original group, a non-member named Susan. She was also concerned about the fanatically strict requirements of the first program We remain great friends and are continuing the weight loss journey together. It is wonderful to know that here is yet another
powerful tool to share our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for each of us!
I continued with the food plan I had been given with the first group. I grew to love it!
As the months passed, (55 pounds between September and the first of March) my weight continued to drop. The cravings for non-nourishing food vanished. I have learned to truly enjoy appropriate foods! I kept track of my eating on my personal computer, and also found some wonderful online support at <a href="https://www.
myweightlossteam.com/” target=”_blank”>www.MyWeightLossTeam.com where there are some wonderful LDS women. I also put up Carolyn’s little quote cards all over the house to keep me focused.
As I learned more about my addiction, I learned that I would have to separate myself for a time from situations that brought about behaviours that I knew I would regret. As a result, I passed up many social situations. I also managed to get through the holidays and all the food temptations without faltering.
I know that missing certain activities because they involve food is not a “forever” thing, but I determined that wisely separating myself has been paramount to reach my current goals and need for success. I still have about 15 pounds to go. I know there is much learning still to do as I learn how to maintain the weight loss and return to situations where food is a dominant part of the gathering.
(Carolyn’s note: As Judy and I talked about passing up some social invitations, we used our LDS full-time missionaries as a reference. For a certain period of time, they also voluntarily remove themselves from much of a typical life so that they can focus on and achieve their goals and commitment to serving the Lord. It’s a small price to pay for the blessings and character that come for a lifetime!)
By Christmas Time I had lost over 30 Pounds Here’s a comparison of last summer and Christmas time, and March of 2010. Just call me “the incredible shrinking woman!”
Now I am down 69 Pounds! Many of my friends, even those who have known me well and been in my home, do not recognize me. As fun as that is, there are other indicators that are so very, very exciting. I am able to shop and find wonderful outfits! I have loved shopping at our local “Value Village” where I can find attractive pre-owned clothing for a song, then return it as it becomes too large and buy even smaller sizes! Having fun, affordable things to wear all along the way has made things very enjoyable.
Better still, I recently visited my doctor. It’s hard to describe how ecstatic he was with my test results, my blood sugar levels, my weight, my appearance, my energy … That was a thrilling day!
If I have fibromyalgia still, it’s retreated so far that I don’t experience it any longer!
The doctor had me on Metformin, a diabetes pill, plus Lipitor for High Cholesterol and a high blood pressure pill. I am no longer on any meds….none! My bad cholesterol has gone down and my good cholesterol has gone up, my blood pressure is normal. I feel 20 years younger.
More good news: My husband is an architect and builder. He has just completed our new dream home. I love it. I am thrilled because I can now clean and care for it by myself! I run up and down the stairs with more energy than I know what to do with.
I’m so grateful for the Lord’s help and for the atonement! At a healthy weight, with my eating in control, I’m happy and at peace in every way. I am so much more able to enjoy my new home, my sweet husband and play with my grandchildren.
At this time I am very close to reaching my goal. I know there are some important learning experiences ahead, that may very well be difficult. But I know that the Lord is on my side and that I will never be fat again. Though I may be a food addict, I can overcome it and live the life I’m meant to.
How grateful I am!
The program I followed was very demanding, but so very, very worth it. My doctor approved it for me, and of course, if you are interested in following it, you should check with your doctor.
As I tell people about it, they are amazed that I could follow it. For me it was exactly right. I no longer crave sweets or foods with flour. I am free, and know that this is Heavenly Father’s plan for me. If you would like to contact me, please send your name to Carolyn at [email protected] and she will forward e-mails to me.
Food Addicts Food Plan
Breakfast – between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.
8 oz. of plain yogurt and
1 piece of fruit such as apple, orange, pear, peach, small grapefruit, nectarine, or 6 oz. of apricots, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, plums, pineapple and
1 oz. of dry oatmeal mixed with water and cooked in the microwave. May add some salt.
My favourite breakfast is 1 oz. of oatmeal mixed with water, heat in the microwave and add half of my blueberries to the oatmeal and the other half to my yogurt.
Lunch – between noon and 1:30 p.m.
4 oz. of protein – either beef, pork, chicken, turkey, ground beef, ham, etc. or 2 oz of hard cheese or 4 oz. of cottage cheese or
2 eggs, any style, can be fried with Pam but no butter and 6 oz. cooked vegetable and one piece of fruit You may have herbal tea but no sugar or cream in it
Dinner – between 5:00 p.m and 6:30 p.m.
4 oz. of protein – either beef, pork, chicken, turkey, ground beef, ham, etc. or 2 oz of hard cheese or 4 oz. of cottage cheese or 2 eggs, any style, can be fried with Pam but no butter and 6 oz. of cooked vegetable and
8 oz. of salad with lettuce or spinach and raw veggies and 2 tablespoons of salad dressing or 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of salad dressing
NO POP, CANDY, ETC.
NO CHERRIES You will have these added in when you get closer to your goal
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