It is the Monday after the 20th Anniversary of 9-11. As I read Maurine Proctor’s remembrances of that day, they were very similar to mine.  We too lived just outside the Washington, D.C. area.  We, too lived in a neighborhood with many Government employees that worked at the Pentagon.  Our children went to school with their children.  We too couldn’t help but be thrilled by the impossibly bright, blue and extremely clear skies that morning. My own first notice that something had happened was a neighbor who rushed to my door, very worried about how my husband had travelled to his Washington D.C. office that morning.  Had I heard from him? We hurriedly ran to the TV and watched in disbelief for hours … then days … as if waiting for some terrible other shoe to drop.  (Thankfully Bob’s office was in an unaffected area, but the atmosphere of the entire downtown D.C. area and transportation home that day were unforgettable.)

It had already been a long summer, with fires and tornadoes destroying homes, neighborhoods, businesses and lives, much like the past couple of summers.  This new tragedy seemed too much to bear, especially since we knew so many military people in our neighborhood and Ward that worked at the Pentagon!  (We later learned that several neighbors had been injured and one had been killed. There is now a beautiful memorial in that neighborhood to commemorate 9-11.)

The day after, September 12, I reported to work as a part-time Weight Watchers Leader.  Most of us had a very hard time even leaving the TV, so attendance at many events was extremely sparse for many things.  Nevertheless, my regulars were there, most of us wearing red, white and blue.  I passed out little flags and we all talked about personal freedom and how the only thing we can truly control in this life is what goes in our mouths (food) and what comes out of our mouths (words.)  It was a quiet, thoughtful and sober meeting.  (In fact, everything in the Washington D.C. area was strange for such a long, long time.)

One pretty at-home mom with pre-teens, Kareen L., joined us for the first time at Weight Watchers that day.  She sat quietly in the back of the room.  In the weeks to come I learned her astonishing reason for joining on that, of all days. 

Kareen’s husband had left for his office at the Pentagon on the morning of 9-11, just like always.  When a neighbor called telling her to turn on the TV, she had the sickening realization her life would never be the same.  She waited for hours and hours to hear from him.  The phone kept ringing as neighbors, family and friends kept calling, but it wasn’t him.

She did her best to control her thoughts, but picturing the future alone as a widow with her two children was hard to dispel.  What would she do?  How would she support them?  How would she ever get along?  Where would she work?  She had not worked since she’d had her first baby!  Her training was in pre-school education, but she had gained so much weight in her pregnancies with the two children and long-term emotional difficulties that she felt sure there was no way to go back to work or be hired in her field.  Her lack of confidence and insecurity was as big a challenge as her physical condition.

As these thoughts and many others added to the trauma of the day, she fielded phone calls and watched TV.  At last he called!  He was safe!  He would be coming home soon!  Their reunion later that afternoon was never to be forgotten.

Long after her husband fell asleep that night, she tossed and turned.  Her life would never be the same. It was time to face her own monster and defeating enemy — food and overeating as a drug to mask her pain from emotional issues.  It needed to be addressed not for smaller jeans and appearances, but so that she would never again fear being able to take her place in the world and provide for her family if necessary.

As she mentally pictured the disaster and frantic rescue efforts that had taken place in the Pentagon that day, she put herself in the place of many at the Pentagon that day.  She knew that she would have had great difficulty escaping, running, moving quickly or crawling into small spaces.  Her cumbersome size may have impeded someone else’s safety or made she, herself very difficult to assist. And would she have been physically strong enough to help anyone else? 

These thoughts made it very difficult to sleep that night, and by the next day she had her answer.  She simply would become healthy and fit.  She would face and overcome whatever emotional and physical barriers had stopped her before.

Through the following 8-10 months, we got to know her week by week as she lost 60 pounds.  She didn’t sit in the back for long!  Her courage, her ideas, her recipes, her discipline were all a joy to watch.  By the time summer and the end of the school year came in June of 2002, she was wearing a size 8-10 and looking fabulous. She was able to support her children’s activities as competitive swimmers comfortably and in a completely different place than previous years. Now able to wear summer attire and move about easily at the pool and meets, her confidence soared as she became an essential volunteer.

Throughout this entire time and over the summer of 2002, she worked as diligently on her emotions and mental well-being as her healthy eating.  Devastating events from her youth that had caused the emotional eating badly needed to be addressed.  With prayer and help, she was able to forgive those that had harmed her and discover ways to establish personal peace without food.  Exercise became her best friend and relieved much of the stress and sadness that she had been using food to cope with.

By September 12, 2002 she was at her goal, and was the pride and joy of our weekly meeting group.  She did indeed go back to work as a preschool teacher.  Never again would she be at the mercy of an overweight body.  Although she has experienced other health challenges they have been resolved without trouble and she has been grateful that her weight was not a complication.

Keeping the weight off through the years has not been easy, but for Kareen, 9-11-2001 was a turning point for her health. 

It can be for us as well!

As the years have unfolded, with many devastating floods, hurricanes and emergencies such as Hurricanes Katrina and Ida, it’s important for all of us to ask ourselves some important questions, just as Kareen did the night of 9-11-2001. (Of course, if you are handicapped, aged or have other health issues outside of your control, please be gentle with yourself!) 

1.  At my current weight, am I able to easily and confidently live a productive life?

2.  In the event of a flood, fire, auto accident or disaster, would my weight and body size have an impact on my safety or rescue efforts?

3.  How is my mobility? Could I run or climb to safety? 

4.  How is my flexibility? Can I bend, reach, lift and move in a hurry?

5.  How is my strength? Would I be strong enough to lift, carry or help anybody else?

 6.  Would my size, weight or lack of strength slow down the speed or efficiency of the rescue team?

7.  Would I have to be left behind or risk someone else’s safety who wanted to stay with me?

8.  Could I easily be hoisted to a helicopter, or loaded into an ambulance?

9.  Would my weight, size or strength be a challenge in any way for anyone?

10.  When the disaster concluded, what would my feelings be? Would I regret not having been in as good condition physically as possible?

In our hearts, we know what we must do.  Not for just ourselves, but for our family and loved ones – and for any required rescue workers!  There is no turning back the clock.  The prophecies will continue to be fulfilled. Weather-related disasters related to climate change and the prophesied last days of domestic terrorism are a real part of every-day life. While I am not one to focus on doom and gloom, there’s no denying that when we’re healthy and fit, not only are we prepared for the worst, but we’re better able to enjoy the fun and the best!

Just ask Kareen.  For her, health became a matter of faith, not fear.  With that thought, I add a most meaningful hymn to help you sing to yourself as you focus on 9-11, your health and what matters most as we embrace our mortal lives and the journey that is ours.

When Faith Endures
Hymn 128

I will not doubt, I will not fear
God’s love and strength are always near
His promised gift helps me to find
An inner strength and peace of mind
I give the Father willingly
My trust, my prayers, humility
His Spirit guides, His love assures
That fear departs when faith endures.

Practically speaking, September is a tremendous time for fresh starts of all kinds.  Why not for health?  If you have not spent time on the remarkable website created by Latter-day Saint and Meridian author Jane Birch, today’s a great day to check out www.DiscoveringTheWordofWisdom.com. The practical application for this inspired information is free and exciting at www.ForksOverKnives.com.  I highly recommend both as happy places to get started.

So back to our quote from the beginning: “If we learn nothing else from the tragedy of 9-11, we learn that life is short and there is not time for hate.”  …. No time to hate – even the health habits changes that make a life-changing difference for ourselves and our dear ones.

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 a columnist for Meridian Magazine since 2007. She provided mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success and happy living both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 through Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of a growing number of darling little ones. They are now happy empty nesters in Sandy, Utah where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox

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