JANICE EWALD’S HEALTH RECOVERY STORY “My New Freedom For the 4th of July”
As told and written by Carolyn Allen for Meridian Magazine, July 2021.
You can read this full article online when you CLICK HERE
(Please note that this article was written and published last year,
July 4, 2021. A year later, she is now 79 and keeping the weight off. She inspires everyone around her to believe in themselves and take control of their
health! JaNice loves the Tea and adds it to her tool box of how to stay healthy.)
The very long, strange and trying period of the COVID19 Pandemic left most of us turning to comfort foods and sweatpants. Many of us are still battling the extra pounds from 2020. My new friend, Janice Ewald of St. George, Utah, age 78 and a widow of just 18 months, however, has a very different and very inspiring story to tell. It is a true and current story that can make a big difference for all of us needing to prioritize our health.
Janice (pronounced JaNiece) raised three daughters as a single mom. As a busy working mom, she had no health problems or weight challenges until her mid-50’s. As menopause commenced, the family genetic tendency towards obesity was suddenly triggered. (Several of her family members had reached the 350 pounds range and died from morbid obesity health challenges.)
She herself gained a frightening amount of weight.
“Burger King was close to my work. I’d have a double cheeseburger and chocolate shake every day. I never exercised. I had never had a problem with my weight before and just kept gaining.”
Over the next 15-20 years her weight ballooned to well over 400 pounds. 413 to be exact.
In the early 2000s, she met her wonderful Bob while serving as a senior sister missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints and they later married.
In her early 70’s, she and Bob were both diagnosed with Diabetes and put on insulin. Diet and lifestyle changes were not part of life or even encouraged by their doctor. Eventually she made some changes and lost 50 pounds. When her husband had a serious fall three years ago, she moved with him into a nursing home. They thought their days of independent living were over. They and the staff seemed to be just “marking time” until they passed away.
“I was in a wheelchair nearly full-time. I wasn’t strong enough to wheel myself around and oh, how I wanted an electric wheelchair! They wouldn’t get me one, which was probably a good thing.”
She and her husband snacked constantly on the junk food they purchased each week with the weekly outing to the shopping mall. The nurses were kind and gently mentioned once or twice that perhaps they should cut back, but no plan was ever made. Each meal they ate was recorded and each month their weight was dutifully noted, but no one ever said anything.
On her own, she did begin to implement some weight loss strategies, losing another 50 or so pounds. But it was not until the Spring of 2020 that she reached her real conversion to creating a healthy life for herself.
In December of 2019, with well over 150 pounds still to lose, her wonderful husband passed away, just before Christmas and two short months before the Pandemic began. “He was in so much pain, that I prayed he would either be healed or be taken. When he died, I knew my prayer had been answered.”
Their marriage of 18 years had been very happy, rich and centered on Church activities and their shared faith. She missed him terribly over the Christmas holidays. As the fog of bereavement and sadness started to lift several months later, she was shocked to realize that the world had changed. The Pandemic had hit and the nursing home where she lived was now in lockdown. Her meals were now quietly delivered each day to her room, which she was not allowed to leave. Though there were phone calls and support from her Ward and family, her days were very long and very lonely. Janice was grieving, utterly alone and “desperate.” She says:
“As I sat in my empty room at the nursing home, I realized if I was going to get through his death and the isolation caused by the Pandemic, that something had to change in a huge way. Through prayer I came to know that my 300-plus pound temple, my body, was terribly polluted. I knew that the Spirit of God I so needed and wanted was not going to dwell in a polluted temple. So, being the hard-headed German and the hot-headed Irish gal that I am, I first made up my mind I was going to succeed. Health and weight loss for all the right reasons became my goal. A mind-set, if you will. Then, besides just thinking about it, I became adamant about what it was going to take to do it. In other words, action!”
“I prayed to know exactly what “action” looked like. I literally COVERED the wall of my apartment with quotes that would sustain and inspire me from wise men and women, and of course, many Scriptures. I learned a whole bunch of new coping skills from my grief counselor. Thank goodness the family insisted I do the grief counseling. My mindset on that was, “God and I can handle it.”
“Now, 16 months later, it turns out that me, God, inspiration from the posted quotes and help from the counselor have done an amazing job. My improved diet and exercising helped create my return to my current weight of 158 pounds. I myself am as amazed as anyone else and thank my Heavenly Father every day for helping me to get my temple clean!”
One of the most important new tools she acquired from her counselor was how to manage her anger. “I’d always just had a knee jerk reaction of anger to every little thing, but my counselor taught me how to stand back and be proactive with decisions and situations. All that anger was not doing anyone any good, especially me! It feels just as wonderful to be in control of that, as it does to have my weight be in a healthy place! In fact, I feel like I’m walking on air!”
Her family was extremely supportive, calling often with encouragement and excited to listen to her progress. It was not the same with her assigned nursing home doctor and one of the important decisions she made at this time was to switch doctors. At her monthly medical check-ins, he was remote and dismissive of her weight loss and goals. Exercising her rights, she insisted on going back to the doctor she’d had before living in the nursing home. This proved to be an excellent decision. She also found the courage to insist on healthier personal meals from the nursing home kitchen. “Those things are all within your legal rights when you live in a facility. For the most part, these are good places to live and there was always at least one or two people on each shift who were kind and interested.”
In April of this year, 2021, Janice decided she was physically healthy and strong enough to live independently again! When her doctor and social worker asked if she didn’t want to live with one of her grown daughters, she emphatically said, “They need their own lives, and I need mine!”
She gave up driving when she became too large to fit behind the steering wheel. Now that she can drive, she doesn’t want to. She does all her grocery shopping online and continues to learn more about health, diet and living the happiest and healthiest life possible. She also walks often, even in the St. George heat.
At this time, July 2021, Janice is down 255 pounds from her top weight of 413. She is just 14 pounds short of her ultimate goal. She had been on 18 medications, many of them taken twice daily. Except for a once-a-day thyroid prescription, she is now off all other drugs, including insulin and blood pressure meds. Her doctor monitors her weight and health monthly for adjustments as necessary. Each check-in is an exciting opportunity to see new improvements and everyone is excited for her.
“They were all pretty skeptical when I made the announcement of what the end result was going to be, but hey, hey, hey, it’s happening!” she says with a wonderful laugh.
Her achievement is very impressive on every count. For every faithful step, however, the foundation has been Janice’s constant desire and inspiration to turn to the Lord for strength and direction, especially when COVID19 hit. Her goal has been to be healthy in body, mind and spirit – to be self-reliant and proactive. She began reading everything she could on Diabetes and health, listening to YouTube podcasts and researching for the foods and information that would bless her health.
“I have learned so much and was inspired through both prayer and education on the best diet for me as a Diabetic.”
Her sense of humor, humility, openness and ability to communicate delightfully have served her well, too. So, the big question is: Exactly how did she do it? That was my question when we talked on the phone and through email throughout last week.
DIET: CLICK HERE
Janice provided a detailed email that you are free to read at THIS LINK. She did extensive reading and studying to find out what would work with her Diabetes and IBS.
IMPORTANT: Denture Update! I have even more admiration for this amazing lady as I learned that her dentures do not allow her to eat a lot of things. She has to depend on canned goods in order to eat many of the foods in her plan. She did not let this hinder her determination!
Janice says “Lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise takes having a mindset and prayer to get you through your journey.”
“After listening, reading and watching podcasts by several food gurus, if I found two or three who seemed to agree with each other (reminding me of the Scriptures and the importance of two or three to serve as witnesses) I would investigate further. If it suited me, I would try their methods for losing weight and getting my health restored. I ended up with what I call a Modified Paleo Food Plan.”
“The word ‘diet’ is not in my vocabulary. I call my new eating habits my ‘food plan’. The word “diet” suggests a fad-program that is hyped to make you lose 15 pounds or something crazy the first week. That is just not going to work! When my doctor said to not lose more than 10 pounds a month, I said, ‘Yes, sir!’ That slow loss will help the pounds stay off and not rebound immediately after going off a fad-diet.”
“I learned that fruits, vegetables and proteins were the best combination for me. Interestingly, I had an impression I should eat “paleo” food, but did not know at the time that was what it was called. Some of the foods in the Paleo and Keto diets, however, do not agree with my body, so I have eliminated them.”
I asked Janice whether this diet was served at the nursing home.
“Oh, no! They’d serve me the old regular stuff, and I’d send it back in a hurry! Within my patient’s rights I was entitled to havethe correct diet for my own health, and I made sure that’s what I got.”
To me, the most important part of this diet information is that she was willing to do the study and investigation to learn what her body needed for her personal health. How many 78- year-olds do you know who are so open to education, research and application to change their ways? Amazing!
When I asked Janice about her exercise program, I was equally blown away. She says:
“What didn’t I do?! I used the facilities at the nursing home that were there for physical therapy.When I was still so heavy in the 350 pound range, we started out with walking — or should I say shuffling. I eventually got to where I could go more than two steps at a time and by the time I got out of rehab and into independent living, a timed walk with my walker had me going 1175 ft in 6 minutes. I’ll never forget my feelings and the look on the therapist’s face that day! We were both absolutely amazed! Now I can walk everywhere.”
“I also rode the stationary bike. That again was a slow process. The resistance level was from 1 to 10. I started out at the lowest and by the time I left the nursing home, I could ride for 20 minutes at level 7. That really strengthened my legs and helped me to walk so much better. Then there were various physical therapy and occupational therapy exercises. All of these things took place every day and I spent about an hour every day doing the exercises and using the equipment.”
“I think the common criteria for exercising is 30 minutes a day, five or six times a week, which adds up to 150 minutes a week. I was definitely getting that in.”
“We worked on the abs too. The Home Health Care therapist asked me just this week if I had had an operation to get rid of the loose skin. Nope, just the core exercises. She was amazed because she has worked with a lot of people who have been terribly obese. They all have had to have an operation to get rid of all that loose skin still hanging around.”
“I keep saying this is a miracle because things have happened that amaze people. They say ‘How did you do that?’ Well, I just kept at it and figured that if I would do the best I could, Heavenly Father would pick up the slack and that’s exactly what has happened.”
MINDSET AND SOUL
Without a doubt, turning to the Lord for help has been the roots and wings for Janice’s new life. As she told me about her new State-issued ID card and photo, we talked about the fact that this is not her only new ID. As never before in her life, the Savior has become her best and greatest friend, inspiring her with wisdom, strength and power to do something she could never do alone. Her truest identity is that of a beloved daughter of God and warrior for Christ.
“I just want to be like Him when I grow up! I want to live with Him! He is everything to me and has changed my life in every way!” she says with passion and joy.
Janice continues, “I’ve been a reader since I was little, so anything with the printed word on it gets my attention!”
Here is Janice’s spiritual gym for her spiritual workout each day:
“The Scriptures are at the top of the list!
( A complete list of her scripture and faith based books is at the bottom of the article printed at Meridian Magazine. CLICK HERE
In conclusion, there’s so much fun stuff going on for this power-house 78-year-old Sister, and even more to come. There are hugs and admiration everywhere she goes that I just have to share:
First, with COIVD19 behind us and her move to independent living, she has gratefully returned to the Ward she lived in before the nursing home.
“It’s so much fun watching people trying to figure out who I am! When I tell them my name, they are just blown away, saying that more than half of me has disappeared!”
She continues, “I did get the ID card taken care of recently. It will be about 6 weeks before I get the colored final card. In the meantime, they gave me a black and white copy of it. It doesn’t tell the story of the change very well, so as I saw the clerk glancing at me every few minutes the day of the appointment, I said, ‘Yes, that’s me! Five years makes a big difference doesn’t it!?!’ She was so sweet! She congratulated me and said she was proud of me. Imagine! A total stranger who doesn’t know me from Adam’s ox, telling me she is proud of me!”
Next she adds: “The Home Health Care case worker was here this morning and I’m doing so well, I was discharged from physical therapy. But before he left, he gave me a hug and he also said he was proud of me. He said he was excited about this article and hopes it will help others on their journey to better health.”
“My sister-in-law texted a while ago and said I was A Super Woman! I told her, “NO, just trying my darndest to be a good Disciple of Christ.”
“I have been so blessed this last year and a half! I am positively amazed, overwhelmed and grateful beyond words.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all for her is that there is a beautiful new life ahead of her, even in her late 70’s, as a teacher and mentor for those who need support in changing health habits. “I thought my job these last years of life would be just to be kind and friendly to those around me. Now I have others turning to me for inspiration and advice! It seems that Heavenly Father wants me to be doing a lot more than I ever imagined!”
Janice is a true woman of devotion to God and faith in his ways and plan. She shared an article by Meridian Magazine author Wallace Goddard that eloquently expressed her feelings and new life best. He says:
“Our jumble of mortal experiences can be understood with the template of fretting or the lens of faith. Either process will yield a coherent story. One interpretation burdens us; the other blesses. The choice is ours.”
There are many ways to write each story…We can write our lives’ stories with discontent as the theme and fill them with unfulfilled hopes and pain. Or we can write our stories with God as the hero and growth as the theme. After reading such a book, we ask ourselves, “How could it have been any better?” And He whispers: “It couldn’t have. I blessed you and ministered to your growth through all your experiences.”
Each day as we make sense of our lives we add to the story line. We let in more light or we groan in the darkness. Some of us cling to the miserable but safely familiar plot line. Some of us open our minds to see His purposes. The single most important factor in finding meaning in our lives may be faith. “Let the kaleidoscope of life’s circumstances be shaken, again and again, and the true believer in Christ will still see, ‘with the eye of faith,’ divine design, purpose, and pattern in his life” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Notwithstanding My Weakness”, p. 122)
As Janice celebrates this Fourth of July with a freedom that years ago she could not begin to imagine, I personally am in awe of her courage, vision, devotion to the Savior and ability to apply the Atonement in ways that will make an eternal difference for not only her, but all who are inspired to follow her example.
While some may say, “Oh, she didn’t have a family to feed or other challenges that I have that make it impossible to lose weight,” I add that each of us have unique challenges that can take us to our knees in prayer for understanding and guidance to make personal behavioral changes – or not.
Janice’s journey is a powerful witness to what can be achieved with the Savior as our ultimate guide at any age.
Next week I’ll provide a little update of her life since this article was published one year ago.