As the last of the Christmas decorations are put away and life returns to normal, the fresh wind that the New Year always brings is crisp and invigorating. We’re surrounded by weight loss success stories from every newsstand magazine and TV station in January, yet none have the soul-anchoring, eternal perspectives that bring both the catalyst and the power to change as does the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
I hope and pray that today’s story featuring seminary teacher Helen Luksan of Seattle, Washington, will be a strength and joy to you this week. Click HERE for special information about MyWeightLossTeam.com, the program Helen is using (as a supplement with the scriptures and gospel living) to heal lifetime issues with food and overeating.
Today’s Quote: “There are three constants in life. change, choice and principles.” (Steven R. Covey)
Have you read Steven R. Covey’s book, Living the 7 Habits ? It presents more than 70 little stories of people as they meet the challenges and practice the seven habits from his best selling book of ten years ago. Some are overwhelmingly dramatic, such as the banker-turned-minister, who, while cleaning his gun as his pregnant wife napped on the couch, accidentally discharged it, killing his wife and the unborn child, and how learned to recover from grief and guilt, Some are a slice of everyday life, such as parents who learn to hear their teenagers’ anxieties with respect and understanding.
I think if he’d heard Helen Luksan’s life story, he’d have included it in his first chapter!
Helen, 57, is an early morning seminary teacher. “It’s a yours-mine-and-ours’ family” she says with pride about the combined ten children and 16 grandchildren she enjoys with her husband Michael. Their two youngest teenagers are still at home.
Her life, though filled with adversity from early childhood, is a testament to the power of the gospel and the Lord’s love to change and heal. At age 3, Helen was adopted, leaving behind the siblings with whom she had close relationships as she became an only child. Her new mother and father, though not members of the Church, had a strong faith in Jesus Christ and taught her about Him. They both worked, so for the next seven years (from ages 4 through 11) she went to a babysitter’s home each day. Unbeknownst to anyone, and never spoken of, were the things that happened during those years with the babysitter’s teenaged sons.
At age 11, her parents agreed that she was old enough to come home alone after school. Although her weight and eating habits had been perfectly normal until that time, now she was alone after school for several hours each day and spent that time grazing to both pass the time and to fill the insecurities that were beginning to manifest themselves.
“Cookies, ice cream – anything that was there, I’d eat,” she says remembering those long and lonely afternoons. When she was 12, her parents divorced and she moved with her mother to another state. The move and the divorce brought more insecurities and more eating problems.
At aged 16, she began to date a charismatic and enormously gregarious young man. Though at age 20 he was too old for her, their relationship flourished. He was a member of the Church with a marvelous pioneer heritage, but was not active at that time.
“He was so outgoing! I could just relax and sit in the background while he took care of everything,” she says kindly. He enlisted in the military and was assigned away from their home area. With the security of his affection, she refrained from dating anyone else while he was gone, although she did not refrain from eating and once again began gaining weight.
“I think my overeating was my way of coping with all the things that had happened from my early childhood, losing my siblings and the years of daycare. I should have been socializing and having normal teenaged experiences.”
When he returned, they quickly married, just two months after turning 18 and just two weeks after her high school graduation. She had managed to lose the weight for her wedding and at that time put a ceiling on how high she would let her weight go – 50 pounds above a healthy weight for her height.
During the next years they had a beautiful daughter. Best of all, at age 27 she discovered the gospel and their little family became very active.
“I’ll never forget the day I was baptized,” she said. “I was alone in the house, getting ready to go to the chapel for my baptism. My husband and daughter were gone. I’d showered and my hair was in curlers. I was putting on my make-up, though to tell the truth, I’d had so many sad things happen through the years that I really didn’t like looking at my reflection. The music from Saturday’s Warrior (a popular LDS theatrical production of the mid-70’s) was playing on the stereo.
“All of a sudden, I felt such an all-encompassing love fill my heart. I looked in the mirror and for the first time felt genuine love for myself. I instinctively recognized it as my Heavenly Father’s love for me that had always been there. I felt such joy and such a great desire to share that love and extend it to others. From that moment on, that feeling of being loved accompanied by a deep desire to pass it on it has been one of the greatest gifts the gospel has brought to me.”
Though not intending to have more children, once she understood the gospel, they had two more children and were very happy and active in their ward. Her weight staying within a reasonably normal range.
As though living in a bad dream, however, her life abruptly changed again. When their youngest child was only six months old, bad choices her husband had been making for some time were revealed. He was sentenced to prison for ten years. Though she and the children were completely innocent, the situation that caused the imprisonment was very public in their community. They lost their home, the beloved horses they loved to ride, and all their belongings as she became a single mom with no income. Her little children had adored their father and had a very difficult time understanding why he was now gone.
“I’d spent my childhood in daycare, and that was the last thing I wanted for my children,” she said. With guts and faith, they moved into a very tiny home where she says with wistfulness, “It was the best of times, and the worst of times.” Her ward family and the community were loyal and kept her centered in remarkable ways. She received some assistance, and established a dog-grooming business in the garage.
“Even so I was overcome with worry and fear over my children, finances, and my own history. My anxiety became almost more than I could bear, and I turned to my old patterns of eating anything and everything in sight to relieve it.
Scared of gaining weight, however, I developed some disruptive eating disorders that I knew were wrong. Though many people are forced to turn to professionals to overcome these, I am here to testify that prayer and the saving power of Jesus Christ came to my aid and I was able to overcome this without professional intervention. But I was not able to stay at a healthy weight.”
As the years went by, she was able to help her children through the trauma of their father’s situation. They are now adults with children of their own, living rich lives centered around their testimonies and the gospel. She eventually remarried and had two more children.
Through the ups and the downs of all these years, food was always a challenge and her weight went up and down as well.
“There was so much on so many levels for each of us! Through the scriptures and the teachings of the gospel I discovered how much healing can happen, and how with the Lord’s love we can truly forgive people who have caused unimaginable pain and harm. Even when bad things happen, there are good things to learn and embrace – even from the people who have brought the situations.”
Six years ago she was called to teach early morning seminary. Though shy by nature, she was ready and willing to serve. As she immersed herself in both the scriptures and the service of her calling, she had a great desire to live by the Spirit and sanctify her life. A miraculous blessing came when the mild, yet constant (and surely understandable!) depression that had always been with her left.
“I was so grateful to be free of the depression, yet I yearned to be free of my food addictions: the constantly thinking about it, overeating, unable to stop myself after a bite or two of something delicious and fattening! You know!” She says with a laugh. “As I sought to have the Spirit in my life as a wife, mother and teacher, how I prayed for a way to overcome it and lose 50-60 pounds, yet how it held me in its grips!”
In early April of 2007, she found one of my articles here at Meridian. In checking through the archive of the other articles in this column, she appreciated “the gentle, healing, positive” approach of the articles. She ordered the book, and on her 57 th birthday, April 29, 2007, she joined MyWeightLossTeam.com.
“Within a very short time the answers to all my prayers were realized,” she said. “Everything that everyone has said all along that made sense intellectually, but that I couldn’t do, became delightfully manageable. The personal profile page made counting calories (her program of choice) easy. The weekly weigh-in was just the right amount of accountability. There was constant support and friendship from beautiful people both on my team and at the community pages. The perspectives I gained there and through Carolyn’s writings were just what I needed. I was able to help some other people and I began to lose the weight.”
Now down 48 pounds, she is only 10-15 pounds away from her goal. “The fitting into my clothes, then giving them away as they become too big, the looking/feeling physically better is truly almost secondary to the joy it is to know that I am permanently healed of the cravings. I’d love to reach my goal by my 58 th birthday, but it doesn’t matter. It’ll happen soon enough. I am at peace with food. I love to eat, and will always love to eat. I don’t want to ever give it up, but I do want to be the master of what and when I eat and to meet my Heavenly Father in the next life as the master of my physical appetites,” she says with passion and joy.
Her new habits include journaling her calories each day, weekly weigh-ins, cooking as simply as possibly, and especially avoiding foods without lots of sauces or calorie-laden extras that leave her wanting more. She will always love to cook and finds joy in creative recipes with vegetables and salads. She indulges occasionally in her favorite goodies (i.e. cream puffs with custard) knowing that there will always be special times and situations where such treats are part of relishing the joys of earthly life.
“I’m relaxed. I’m succeeding. I am on my way know in my heart that I will never go back,” she says with quiet delight.
Back to today’s quote: “There are three constants in life. change, choice and principles.” Helen’s life and example are a shining star for the rest of us to reach out and hold on to as we embrace the new year and our own opportunity to change and choose through eternal principles..
Hellen’s frequent postings, recipes and interaction at MyWeightLossTeam.com are an inspiration to all, and we’d love to have you join us! Click here to learn more now.
Today’s Empowerment: “With the Lord’s love and the example of others, I choose to make the changes that bring health and peace.”
Today’s Recipe: Helen frequently contributes recipes and eating ideas at MyWeightLossTeam.com. “I love to eat and never intend to quit! I concentrate on healthier ways and things to cook.”
Helen’s Green Beans
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon miso paste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted.
Steam green beans for 5 minutes and put into serving bowl. Meanwhile, stir together the other ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the green beans. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds on top.