Last week, just a few days before Mother’s Day, Kirstie Alley, celebrity actress, comedian and former spokesperson for the Jenny Craig diet plan, announced that she has gained 83 pounds in the past year and is now at her personal top weight ever :  228 pounds.  After making national commercials and losing 75 pounds with the famed diet group, she, like many of us, is facing the same pounds … again.

She’s on the cover of People magazine this week with her story.  Similarly, the January 2009 cover story and photo for Oprah Magazine featured the TV Queen and an in-depth report of how she had also relapsed and gained her weight back:  40 pounds in a year.

How did this happen?  Why did they do this?  In the eye of unforgiving cameras and the general public, with untold fortunes to hire the best trainers, cooks and coaches in the world … it happens to them, too.  Granted, all celebrities love and seek the spotlight, and most of us love weight loss stories, so, (now this is just a tongue-in-cheek thought) perhaps they did it to gain publicity, endear themselves to their fans by being “one of us” and gain some new ones!

More than likely, though, in private they are as upset and disappointed in themselves as we have been when the pounds return.  Their hows and their whys can surely be no different than ours.   Barring special health issues and/or medications, they, like us, just stopped being accountable.  They got too busy and stressed-out. They ignored the key indicators. They ate too much food and did not exercise enough.  In short, they put down their guard and picked up their forks. 

The only difference between them and us is that they are celebrities with the world watching and someone no doubt paying them for their stories and how they will try to lose the pounds once more.  

Shortly after reading Alley’s story on the internet, I sat down with my husband, who teaches early-morning seminary, to view a video for his class.

In this particular Seminary/CES video, several ancient, warrior youths with armors and shields are warily walking through a dense, dark forest.  Suspenseful music underscores the threatening circumstances as they slowly proceed with their shields raised.  The camera quickly pans to a sinister warrior-the enemy, dressed in black, hidden behind a tree with his bow drawn.   

Suddenly an arrow flies across the screen.  One youth raises his shield and deflects it.  The evil warrior flees in anger, and the movie immediately flips to several high school seniors who are contemplating attending a drinking party.  The movie is exceptionally well crafted, alternating between the ancient youths in the forest who, hot and tired, take off their armor to rest for a bit, and the modern-day youths and the party.

The scriptures to “put on the whole armor of God ” are carefully explained and dramatically emphasized with clips of a conference talk from President Hinckley.   It culminates with a scene at the airport where one of the boys who did not attend the party is leaving on his mission, while his friend who attended the party expressed regret that he would not be leaving for another while.

“They say that repenting is so easy!” he had tearfully told his bishop. 

Though it must be emphasized that gaining a pound or two, or even 20 or 50 or 100, is not a sin in the Lord’s or the Church’s eyes, there is no denying that, like the repentance process, preparing and preventing weight gain is a much easier path to health than repairing and repenting.

For Alley, putting down her shield, “started with New Year’s [2008], right after leaving Jenny Craig.  When you’re a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, there’s responsibility. You have a person every week standing over you when you get on the scale. It was amazingly successful. But the first nail in the coffin was that I didn’t have to weigh in. I just sort of went wild.”

In addition to a diet heavy in butter and Chinese takeout food, Alley pointed to an unbalanced take on vegetarianism as the major culprit in her weight gain.

“For seven months I was a vegetarian, and I can’t tell you how much weight I gained being a vegetarian! A vegetarian would probably be eating vegetables. But to me, being a vegetarian meant I’m going to eat enchiladas with no meat, and I’m going to eat lots of bread, lots of carbs.”

“I’m ready to work,” she insisted. “I messed up along the way, but I’m not going to concentrate on that. I’m gonna go, ‘You know what? Get back on the horse, lose the weight, and then just move forward!'”

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For Oprah, it was her idea to juxtapose the two pictures – one at an ideal weight back in 2005, the other at well over 200, stating that facing reality was the one of the most important elements of getting focused and taking charge once more.  A bishop couldn’t have said it any better.

Whether the question is asked by the public to a celebrity, or the private workings of one’s own inner mind, the truth is clear: Facing a weight gain and relapse and starting again is a Home Depot do-it-yourself project, and – like dishes, laundry and home/visiting teaching, something that is never “done,” nor permanently checked off the list.  It’s rarely “fun.” And just as no one can repent for someone else, nor can anyone-no matter the level of love, concern or expertise-lose weight for someone else.  Sadly, there are no temple proxy workers or handy hired substitutes to fill in for each of us in creating a healthy life for our individual selves.

If celebrities gain the weight back with all the finances and professionals to help them eat right/exercise/cook fail at their diets, what about the average person?  What can we do to stay on track?

The Seminary movie and the scriptures are a good place for a refreshing place to re-start.  Applying the imagery of the whole armor of God is an excellent one, and it’s free!  No weight loss meeting charges or dues, no coach to pay.  Like noble youth, we, too, can read the scriptures and then visualize what we must personally (and actively) do. 

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers , against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

…” Ephesians 6:10-18

Helmet: The intellectual knowledge of healthy eating and a game plan. Whether you join a group like Weight Watchers or TOPS, this information is easy to come by in any library or on the internet.  My continuing favorite:  ” Fit for Life ” by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond.

Breastplate: The perfect understanding that YOU are a child of God, and not a number on a scale.  This defines who you are and protects discouraging days and plateaus when things are progressing slowly.

The Sword: Carry a snack and a water bottle at all times!  Have some healthy meals in the freezer for when you’re tired.  Get enough rest, and don’t get hungry.  No one makes wise choices when they’re tired and hungry.

Feet: Get on those sneakers!  Take action and exercise!

Girdle: An article of clothing that you try on regularly, or the scale once a week.

It is interesting to note that the Evil One has no body – yet he endlessly tempts and torments us with things that we can do (or not do) and foods that we can consume that will harm our own bodies.  Is there a connection between our evil world and the alarming increase with obesity for people of all ages, and the increasing number of both inappropriate foods to eat and limitless ways to market them?

While that visualization is tangible, real and rather dark, here’s another source of power that’s perhaps a little gentler – and just as powerful!

We celebrated and remembered mothers this week with Mothers Day.  However It is a verb to help us take action every day – even as a loving mother does!   A good mother disciplines, whether she’s in the mood or not!   Whether your mother embraced you in the ways you needed most or did not, as adults it’s our choice to wisely mother ourselves.  The stripling warriors turned to thoughts of their mothers when the battle raged and lives were at stake.  It made them invincible!

Perhaps you remember or sang the old M-O-T-H-E-R song and can get this little ditty going in your head.  If not, it makes a wonderful poem and fills in the empty or lonely spots in ways that food is not capable of doing.

M- Is for MYSELF, worth taking care of
O – Means I’m the ONLY ONE to lose the weight
T – is for the TIME I make to do this
H – is HEALTHY foods upon my plate
E – is for the ENERGY I’ll ENJOY NOW
R – is RIGHT and RIGHT this all will be

Put it all together it spells, MOTHER, a word that I can do for ME.

Bring on the tempting foods and challenges!  Pick up your sword, helmet and shield!  Carry on, Kirstie and Oprah!  As Healthy warriors, with mothers behind us and monitoring our choices, the Lord in our hearts and a song upon our lips, we’re on our way once again. After all, our health and futures are at stake.