Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Prism Journey

I was interviewed for an article about "faith and diet" that was supposed to be in First for Women magazine. The article was never published, but I thought I'd post my answers any way! I actually need to re-read this, re-commit myself to eating healthy and getting back to the gym on a regular basis. Enjoy!

Here are my answers for your story on faith-based weight loss programs. I'm excited to share my Prism experience with you and your readers, as this has been the single best thing I've ever done for my family, myself and for my relationship with Christ. It's been life-changing and life-saving for me!

To re-cap the info you already have: My name is Ilyse Johnson, and I live in Richmond, Virginia. (I actually live in Midlothian, Virginia, which is a suburb of Richmond). I'm 50 years old, 5'9" tall, and I weigh 143 pounds. When I started the Prism Weight Loss Program in April of 2005, I weighed 198 pounds. I reached my "right weight" in November of 2005 and have maintained that weight loss since. Additionally, my "BMI" rating went from 29.2 to 21.1 and my Body Fat percentage dropped from 46% to 33%. My cholesterol was nearly 300 when I applied for life insurance in 2005, and my premium was at a higher rate because of the risk factor. However, I was re-evaluated in 2006 and again in 2007, and I was able to decrease my premium significantly, because my cholesterol was 193 for over a year, without medication.

TYPICAL DAY -- A "typical day" on Prism Weight Loss begins with a short reading, self-examination and journaling. I brought my workbook with me to work, and I started every day with the daily reading and answering the reflection questions that followed. Prism teaches that to truly lose weight and become healthy, the transformation has to take place inside as well as outside... In other words, whereas many diets will bring successful weight loss, Prism takes it a step farther -- If you don't change your heart, you will go back to eating the way you did before and eventually put the weight back on (plus a little extra as well), and the cycle repeats itself again and again. Prism's principal is based on the scripture in Romans 12:2, which says: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You have to see yourself differently, get a new mindset about eating, think differently about nutrition and overcome old habits for this transformation to take place.

Prism helped me realize how I had always turned to food whenever I had to face stressful situations. I'd avoid dealing with things that got me upset by getting a snack or stopping at McDonalds. Once on the program, I was diligent about sticking to the guidelines and keeping within my daily calorie limit. I couldn't turn to food to relieve stress like I had before, and by doing so, I learned to face the stressful situations, work through them, and claim a victory over junk food.

Prism eliminates all white flour and sugar, along with processed foods like cookies, crackers, cakes, chips, boxed and dessert foods. It teaches you to read food labels and really understand them. Sugar is disguised with other names, and it's in so many packaged foods. "Enriched flour" sounds like it would be a healthy choice, but the opposite is true -the reason it's enriched is because all the natural nutrition has been processed out of the flour, and only a few nutrients have been replaced! Prism's program includes weekly instructional videos that discuss various aspects of nutrition, vitamins and minerals, healthy fats and oils, and the emotions faced by people who are attempting to lose weight. One video even features a wardrobe consultant who shares how to deal with your changing body image. The information is very helpful in understanding how to make the changes permanent. I've chosen not to add back into my diet the foods that I know are not healthy for me.

I work out at a gym or do some physical activity 5 days per week. I combine strength-training with cardiovascular exercise, and I alternate between free weights and resistance equipment. I go to the gym 4 mornings before work per week, plus Saturdays. On a cardio-only day, sometimes I take my dog for a long walk and enjoy the fresh air and being outdoors. I have all praise music on my iPod, and that keeps me motivated.

Faith - My relationship with God is the most important relationship I have. I've learned to trust Him to lead and guide me in all areas of my life. Prior to Prism, I thought I had surrendered control of everything I have to Him. Through Prism, I learned that I had lied to myself and to God about truly making Him Lord of all. I think I always knew this in the back of my mind, but never could admit it or face the truth. I didn't equate being overweight as a spiritual problem, but came to understand that any time you're dishonest about any area of your life, there’s a wedge placed between you and God... and anytime a person is separated from God, that is known as sin. The joy of Prism is that as a Christian, I believe that Christ died to set us free and overcome sin. Through Prism, I realized that I AM free and need to honor God by accepting that He died on the Cross for me….to do anything less invalidates His sacrifice. I asked myself why if I can give Jesus Lordship of my family, my home, my job, my finances…why couldn’t I give Him Lordship of my weight?

When people ask me how I managed to lose weight and I tell them that I give all the credit to God, I get some pretty strange reactions. But in all honesty, I proved time and time again, that I have no will power. I started a new diet just about every morning, only to blow it by lunch time. I had the best intentions every day, but when I tried to do it on my own, I failed. However, when I turned this all over to God, His strength made it seem easy. To this day, I realize that my weight loss is not because of anything I did on my own; rather, it’s all through Him that I reached my goals.

One unique feature of Prism that other diets don’t share, is that your success isn’t measured by the scale. In fact, after the 2nd week of the program, you’re encouraged to put the scale away and not get on it for at least another month, if at all. Every 6 weeks, you have the option of weighing yourself if you want to, but it’s entirely optional. The logic behind this is because if you weigh yourself and you’ve lost more than you had anticipated, your first thought is to celebrate by eating something you’d been eliminating or that’s not allowed on the program. And conversely, if you weigh yourself and the scale says you’ve lost less than you thought it would say, your reaction is to say “Oh well, it’s not working anyway…” and that is taken as license to eat what you’re not supposed to eat as well. Either way, you eat what you shouldn’t. Instead, Prism gets you used to the idea that following the guidelines, sticking to the commitment you made when you joined the program and faithfully staying within the daily calorie limits, you just know that you will lose weight. God wants us to be obedient, and He rewards our efforts when we trust Him!

DIFFERENT FROM OTHER DIETS – Unlike other diets, Prism doesn’t eliminate specific food groups or over-emphasize others. It’s a healthy, balanced, whole foods approach to weight loss and healthy living. It incorporates the whole person – body, mind and spirit – and goes beyond just reaching a quick weight loss goal prior to a special event. Prism changes the way you look at what you eat, and helps you overcome a lifetime of negative self-talk and sabotage of success.

Prism is also different because it doesn’t sugar-coat (no pun intended) the fact that losing weight and overcoming a lifetime of bad habits is going to involve some struggle. Instead, it hits the hard issues head-on and offers encouragement to see beyond the struggle. It’s entirely based on the Word of God, and I love how the scriptures relate to the specific situations faced along the way.

Prism’s food guide and eating plan is based on reduced calories (1000-1200 for most women at the starting point), weighing and measuring food choices, recording everything in a food diary, and sticking to the “agreement of resolution” that states you’ll follow the plan exactly as required. This is not a low carb diet, high protein diet, grapefruit diet. It doesn’t use points or exchanges. You’re not told that you can have everything, so long as it’s in moderation – there are some things (white flour and sugar) that are never allowed on the program. The first 6 weeks also eliminates all bread, pasta and potatoes, though these foods are re-introduced later in the program in healthy versions like whole grain bread and whole wheat pasta.

DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN – I’ve always been a very accepting person and very OK with myself. I knew my family loved me no matter how much I weighed. My darkest times came when I’d be so frustrated with myself for not being able to stick to a diet time and time again. I would be so motivated one minute and totally deflated the next. The more this went on, the worse my reaction to it, until I finally was so frustrated and tired of pretending I would be able to succeed, that I just gave up. I made myself feel better by buying new clothes (size 18 or 20) and spending money I really didn’t have on stuff I really didn’t need. I was dealing with my problem by not dealing with it, and I was on a downward spiral and didn’t even realize it. I can’t say that I had one specific turning point event that rocked my world and made me change… rather, my journey just kept pulling me down, down, down and I got thoroughly sick and tired of feeling sick and tired … and depressed about it.

In January of 2005, when everyone was talking the usual talk about New Year’s Resolutions, mine were the same as always… Lose weight, get in shape. I asked my pastor’s wife if we could do a Christian weight loss group at church, and she approved, as long as there was someone to lead it. I hadn’t really expected that to be me, but she gave me free reign to find a program and get it going at church. I googled “Christian Weight Loss” and contacted the ones that came up. I narrowed it down between Prism and one other. The other program already had a group meeting in our area, and I visited their group to get a feel for how it worked. I also ordered and introductory packet from Prism, but they didn’t have a group in this area, so they sent me the first workbook to examine as well. I’ll never forget when I received the workbook and started reading it. The words in the book spoke directly to my heart, and I knew that was the program I wanted to do. I read through the first 2 weeks of material in one sitting, with tears just falling from my eyes because I knew that this was where I needed to be.

My church has been phenomenal in helping Prism get started and facilitating the program - they purchase the materials, and participants reimburse the church. As the group leader, I was able to do the program for free, and I’ve been so blessed to help others break free from their food addictions and get healthy. I’ve also helped other churches in my area launch their Prism groups, and the results are similar everywhere – People are not only losing weight, but their walk with God is strengthened as they become honest with Christ and themselves in this area of life. Prism is a means for God to heal us, and it’s been a privilege to watch miracle after miracle unfold. Our group has been meeting every Monday night since April of 2005, and I’ve seen some amazing healing take place!

I struggled with weight most of my life, though it got worse after I started a family and never really lost the “baby weight” after my second child. I’d had temporary success on Weight Watchers, NutriSystem (I was a radio DJ who did the program and did the live testimonials on the air for them), Atkins and Herbalife, but always gained the weight back when I went back to my old way of eating. I even took the prescription drug “Redux” which was pulled off the market because it was causing heart conditions and deaths. Though I did lose weight with all of these programs, I always gained it back and I always went even higher than I’d been before. I had basically given up on ever being a normal size again, and I re-opened my charge account at the Plus-size store, which just made me feel even more defeated. I was 47 years old, my kids were pre-teens and I couldn’t keep up with them. I remember thinking that I didn’t want my kids’ friends to make fun of them because their mom was the fat mom. Also, I’ve always worked full time but I started dreading leaving my office to call on clients because I wasn’t comfortable with how I looked and it took a lot of effort to spend the day outside the office. Seeing clients is an important part of my job since I’m in commissioned sales – if I don’t sell, I don’t get paid!

Every time I’d start to be aware of how bad I felt, I’d turn to food to cheer myself up. I didn’t realize that the food is partly what was making me feel bad, but the things I’d eat contained so much sugar, processed foods, chemicals and non-food stuff that I was really poisoning myself, which only made me feel worse. I was perpetuating a vicious cycle and didn’t even realize it.

MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS BEFORE – My greatest concerns were my cholesterol and triglycerides. I had developed arthritis in my knees, legs and feet, and had back spasms on occasion. I’d be sitting on the couch watching TV in the evening, and my heart would begin to race for no reason at all. That scared me, and I didn’t know if it was because of stress or another problem. I have a family history of cancer and heart disease, and did not want to follow in those footsteps. Since losing weight and getting in shape, I have no problems like that at all.

HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT IT NOW – My life has been so changed by Prism and feeling better abut myself! My trust in God and my closeness with Him has never been better. Prism is a means of experiencing God’s grace – It’s taught me to enjoy His provision and good health. I’ve changed in ways I never even thought about – I believe that the Lord has taken away my desire for junk food and it doesn’t bother me in the least to be around the foods I choose not to eat. I am not tempted by unhealthful foods and I don’t feel sorry for myself or feel like I’m missing out because I’m not eating them. In the past, if I said “no thank you” to dessert when I was with friends, I would go home and “make up for it” later. Now, I have no desire at all to do that because I don’t want it, don’t miss it.

I’ve realized that by taking care of myself, I’m doing the best I can do for my family and for myself. My daughter wrote me the sweetest note on Mother’s Day, telling me that I’m setting a great example to her by becoming the person God created me to be. For a teenager to notice and acknowledge the change, that says a lot!

At my gyn check up this year, my doctor and I discussed the changes my body is going through – not just the weight loss, but the hormonal changes, mood swings, etc…and he told me to keep doing what I’m doing, and that he wished all of his patients would approach “the change” the same way. I can honestly say that even when my weight was down before, I always saw that as temporary, because I knew that I was going back to overeating and bad choices. Now however, I feel I’m completely healed and free from being overweight.

I believe that the Holy Spirit has given me a boldness I never had before. I am so grateful for this healing, that I will tell anyone about it, and encourage them to seek it as well. I know that my experience is a blessing and a gift from God, because I had tried so many times to achieve this on my own, and never could. I give God all the honor, praise and glory, because it is through Him that I found Prism and it’s through Him that I found freedom!

How do I feel about my life now? I feel everything is enhanced and better. I feel that I’ve broken free from a lifelong problem. I know I can go through my 50’s feeling better than ever before, doing what I know I should be doing and without feeling the frustration of not being able to do what I need to do. I feel blessed and more willing than ever before to share the blessing with others. I am eager to be used by God to help others find the same sense of peace and freedom I’ve found.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


not really sure why I got this blog set up, other than the fact that I thought of a cute title for it! Guess I'll have to start using this... along with FaceBook, Twitter, etc.... Yikes!