“But If Not…”
By Carolyn Allen
Editor’s note: Carolyn Allen is heroically spending this week at her stake girls’ camp. This rerun column is a reminder that sometimes the best of intentions are not enough.
I have received a number of responses from last week’s article referring to Judith Moore’s book, Fat Girl , and the deep frustration over bodies with medical challenges and required medications that do not allow them to lose weight.
With justifiable consternation, articles about “thinking positive” to lose weight when it is medically impossible are a slap-in-the-face. This is especially so when they are doing everything possible and living healthy eating programs to the letter, yet carrying extra pounds as if they ate three meals and all snacks at McDonalds.
Today’s thought is for each of us, who are mortal sons and daughters of a living God whom we honor and serve. By mortal, I mean that that our bodies and life situations are far, far, far from the perfection that is promised with the resurrection and subject to many injustices, no matter what level of faith and diligence we have established in how we care for ourselves physically, spiritually and emotionally. (My thanks to the Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the Seventy, who presented this scripture in the April 2004 General Conference.)
Today’s Scripture: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of thine hand, O King; but if not, be it known unto thee, O King, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3: 17)
“But if not …” Were there every more powerful words spoken when an outcome was unsure?
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago, unwilling to worship the golden calf, courageously stood up to the King, declaring that no matter the threat, they would choose to serve the living Lord.
We all know what happened ? they were protected from that fiery blast.
In exactly the same way, we can adopt their confidence with our healthy eating plan. Maybe it’s not a golden calf, but we do have the ever-present Golden Arches and other temptations!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the pounds fell off regularly week after week? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if old habits were as easy to disgard as last year’s calendar? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if health situations didn’t slow our weight loss progress? Wouldn’t it be wonderful it the pounds we work so hard to lose would just stay off?
Well, we can dream. And then we can wake up and like this inspiring trio, we can vow to serve the Living Lord. We can say loud and strong:
I will do my best, but if my weight loss is not as quick to work or as easy to achieve as I’d like, then I’ll know that I’m headed in the right direction and that my body and spirit are responding in unseen ways that guarantee my eventual physical and spiritual success. At least my Heavenly Father knows I’m doing my best.
Last spring when the book and the movie The Secret by Rhonda Byrne came out, I was delighted with so many aspects that have been a big part of my life and made a huge difference. In many ways, it is our Heavenly Father’s way. Nevertheless, there was one aspect that remains that was not included ? our Heavenly Father’s plan for opposition and for his will to be made manifest in lessons learned when life presents injustices.
According to The Secret , we create every reality in our head first. These principles are exemplified throughout the scriptures ? and yet, whoever would dream about and intellectually create a tragic car accident that leaves loved ones permanently injured? Or birth defects? Or any of the unnumbered things that are as much a part of our earthly experiences as the beautiful blessings, opportunities and experiences that give us joy now and provide cherished glimpses of the next life when we have moved beyond the limitations of mortality?
For some of us, our very bodies, the very gift from God that was provided by Him for us to carry through mortality, are the test itself.
After her sophomore year at BYU, our Emily (now 22 and serving as a missionary in the Ft. Lauderdale Florida Mission), spent the summer as a counselor at a youth camp in Arizona. Before the regular sessions, they did a week with kids who have asthma, and then a week with kids who have diabetes. They were trained with how to care for these kids, and extra medical staff was hired for these two weeks. It was an eye-opener, and with tenderness she shared a conversation with a 9-year old girl who had been receiving insulin shots several times a day from the time she was in pre-school.
“Emily,” she said at lunch one day. “Do you have diabetes?” When Emily replied that she didn’t, she asked her several questions, and ended with, “Then you can eat anything you want … whenever you want ?” Emily softly replied, “Yes, I can.”
“Wow,” the little girl replied. You’re so lucky.
Emily reflected that she’d never been so mindful of her body’s perfect chemistry that regulates blood sugars and other functions without her even thinking about them. Yet she herself was born with an inherited genetic disorder from my side of the family that left her mouth and teeth in a state of disarray from second grade through her junior year of high school. When her teeth did not come out at the right time with its associated emotional upset that came when she compared herself to her little friends and the distinct lack of tooth fairy visits, I knew she would repeat my own history of front teeth that do not come out or grow in on their own.
In fifth grade, when she was 11 (still with front baby teeth), we at last found the dentist who listened to my history, removed the teeth, then with good intentions falsely assured her the new ones would be in several weeks later. From my own personal experience, I knew that that would not be so. Ah, it’s such fun to be toothless in these pre-adolescent years and middle school.
In seventh grade, we finally found the orthodontist and oral surgeon who would work together over the next five years to go in after the teeth surgically and bring them in. Throughout middle school and high school, Emily had numerous oral surgeries where an orthodontic band was bonded to these disobedient teeth that were still embedded in the gum. Attached to the band was a wire that was attached to an anchor tooth that had grown in, and like a little lasso, the tooth was slowly dragged into place. Apparently it’s not too unusual to have one of these embedded teeth, but Emily had eight or nine that were deeply embedded.
It took four full years to get all the teeth in and straightened. Then she was ready for the major surgery to align her jaws that had never matched and were badly misaligned. They would do a bone graft to expand and straighten the upper palate, and remove some bone to shorten the lower jaw. Her jaws would be wired shut for six weeks, so it was scheduled for the first part of the summer when she wouldn’t be in school.
On the day of the surgery, July 5, she had a slight fever, so the operation was postponed.
Much like arriving to deliver a baby only to be told to go home, it was enormously frustrating, especially since she had turned down summer employment. The surgery was rescheduled for late August. She would spend the first part of her junior year with her jaws wired shut.
The surgery was finally done. The recovery was very painful and her face was swollen for the next several months. Her jaws were, indeed, wired shut and she could not eat real food for six weeks. Nevertheless, seven months later, the braces came off and voila! There was our beautiful Emily with a perfect smile ? as if there had never been a challenge at all. I am quite sure that Resurrection Morning will feel quite familiar to Emily, and that she will remember the joy she experienced when the surgeries and painful hours of sitting in dentists’ chairs were over.
Now, would anyone wish that on a child? How unfair is this? She lives with the knowledge that she may very well pass it on to her children, even as I passed it on to her. And yet, the things she learned are of inestimable value, as did I when I went through the same thing during the same years (minus the jaw surgery ? she upped me on that one.)
Our travails had an ending. So many physical limitations do not, and how we wish the Savior could be here and as he did during his life, lay his hands upon us and heal each and every sickness and injustice.
The most frustrating and potentially disheartening thing of all when our bodies do not respond to healthy eating plans is the more-than-obvious judgment call of the rest of the world: “Why aren’t they doing something?”
A child abuser can walk down the street and no one knows, but someone with medical issues that do not allow weight loss walks down the street and everyone thinks “Wow. Why doesn’t she do something about that? What’s wrong with her that she doesn’t?”
Well, as my husband tells his Seminary students: “The scriptures have the answers!” I was grateful to find this one several years ago for things that happen that are so unfair and have no justifiable reason: Go to Alma 17:
The sons of Mosiah rejected their rights to the Kingdom and lives of ease and regal luxury to become missionaries. Though successful, Alma 17: 5 says “they had many afflictions; they did suffer much both in body and in mind, such as hunger, thirst and fatigue and also much labor in the spirit.”
In their great desire to serve, they fasted and prayed much, yet the trials still came. But here is the thrilling word of the Lord that comforted them that we can liken to ourselves:
And it came to pass that the Lord did visit them with his Spirit and said unto them: Be comforted. Go forth among the Lamanites and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me , and I will make an instrument for thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls (Alma 17:11).
Aha! Could it be that along with the many personal lessons that come with mortality’s genuine injustices, their greater purpose has a divine origin that extends far beyond the trial itself?
Whether or not you agree, it’s surely zero-calorie food for thought and prayer.
In the meantime, is there any other course than to stay the course with foods that build our bodies and thoughts and prayers that build our bodies and spirits? And to be able to say to our maker, “I did the best I could with what you gave me.”
Surely He, who endured far greater injustices than we can ever imagine knows us, loves us and appreciates whatever efforts we can make to live healthfully and wisely.
With every hope for your weight loss success, I pray for your body to respond normally to eating less and moving more. ” But if not …” please know that my heart is with you and that our Heavenly Father has a beautiful plan that goes far beyond scales, dress sizes and the seeming judgments of others.
Here’s to Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, the Sons of Mosiah ? and us!
Today’s Empowerment : Today is a new day! With the Lord’s love and help, I will do my best this day with the choices before me. I hope to lose weight this week, but if not , I will know that peace comes in many ways besides pounds lost.
Today’s Journal Prompts and Discussion Starters:
- Is my body medically able to lose weight?
- Do I need to consult with my doctor about a healthy eating plan that will be better for me?
Today’s Recipe : Emily’s Birthday Stroganoff
Whenever we smell this cooking, the whole day feels special because it reminds us of the many sweet birthday dinners with Emily where this has been her request. It’s super-easy to put together, but will taste like you’re quite the gourmet cook.
Emily’s Birthday Stroganoff (Serves 4 at 400 calories)
- 1 one top round steak, 1″ thick
- 1 8-ounce pkg. pre-sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. dried dill
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 8 oz. 50% less fat sour cream
- 2 cups hot cooked noodles
- Trim fat from steak, cut steak diagonally into 1/4″ thick slices. Place sliced steak, mushrooms and next 7 ingredients in crock pot. Stir well.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour and broth. Add to crock pot and stir. Cover and cook on HI for one hour, then cook on LO for 7-8 hours (Or HI for 4-5 hours.)
- Turn off crock pot and let cool for 10 minutes. Gently add sour cream and stir. Serve over noodles.
(3 g Dietary Fiber; 400 Calories; 10 g Fat; 43 g Carb)
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