My mother passed away when I was 5 years old, so my brother and I went to live with our paternal grandparents. Grandma had diabetes at that time, and Grandpa was diagnosed shortly thereafter and then died suddenly of a heart attack in his early 70’s. Throughout my adolescent and teen years, I witnessed my grandmother suffering greatly with the consequences of her disease. She was in and out of a rest home in her later years and during my many visits with her, I saw not only her suffering but the suffering of others in the rest home. This made a huge impression on me as a young child.
I’ve also seen the suffering of many others in my family. My mother had died of cancer at a very young age. My father had heart disease and was eventually diagnosed with diabetes. He died about a year later from pancreatic cancer. My maternal parents both had diabetes and heart disease and suffered strokes. One of my mother’s brothers had diabetes, heart disease, and eventually kidney failure, so he went on dialysis. After 5 years, he took himself off because of the great suffering he had experienced. My mother’s sister was diagnosed with diabetes in her early 40’s. She also has heart disease and has suffered a stroke. She continues today to live with the impact of these diseases.
Over the years I’ve thought about family members plagued with chronic diseases and wondered: Are these diseases and their suffering my destiny? Am I doomed because of my genetics? I was concerned about this at an early age. I did not want to go through what I saw my family and others going through. So I decided in my early 20’s that I was going to do everything in my power to avoid what many would say is my genetic destiny.
I now find it a blessing that I began to battle my weight after high school because I went from being sedentary and a bit lazy to being very dedicated to exercise. I thought that was going to keep me healthy. Unfortunately, my commitment to exercise turned into an obsession, and before I knew it, I was on a vicious cycle of dieting and exercise in my early 20’s. Worse, it was discouraging to see women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s who were still struggling to maintain their ideal weight. I hated the mental madness of the dieting game, and I did not want to still be dieting when I was 40! I firmly believed that Heavenly Father didn’t want me spending so much time and energy worrying about my weight. Along with being consumed about my weight, I felt terrible. At 21 I was fatigued and tired all the time. I couldn’t understand why at this young age I felt so bad. I wanted to have energy and be active and healthy. I believed that Heavenly Father wanted that for me as well.