My interest in health was sparked as a young child. I loved learning about nutrition, and I was also very active. Growing up, I was always encouraging my family members to care for themselves. I jokingly call my dad my first client. At 8 years old, I persistently “counseled” him on the dangers of smoking, and he quit for my following birthday. I also started dance and tumbling classes as a toddler. Expressing myself through movement became a huge part of my life.
My passion for health and nutrition eventually became my profession. I worked in conventional healthcare settings for over a decade as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, or “RDN.” Years later, I added “fitness instructor” to my resume. Currently, I own and operate my private practice/ministry, “Whole Self Care” while teaching various fitness classes. My personal and professional journey is a story of redemption, which came through surrender after years of struggle.
As a teen, I began to struggle with anxiety and depression, and situational issues at the time caused me to grasp for something to control. My body became the target. Pursuing health transformed into controlling my weight at any cost. What started as innocent childhood passion became the tools used to manipulate my body size. My nutrition and exercise habits became overly regimented and disciplined. At 15 years old, I fit the modern criteria for the diagnosis of “Anorexia Nervosa,” although not formally diagnosed at the time. Meticulous food tracking and over exercise took over my life. I maintained a body weight too low for my frame. My menstrual cycle ceased for an entire year. I lived in constant anxiety of losing control if I deviated from my behaviors. It became my own secret little world. Deep down I knew it wasn’t right.
I surrendered my heart to God as a child. During my teens, my relationship with God developed deep roots. As I was learning what it meant to surrender to God and His BEST for my life, I struggled to release control over my body to God. I remember God frequently whispering in my ear “this is not my best for you” as I used food and exercise to hurt my body and keep me in bondage.
As an RDN who currently supports clients with eating disorders, I know my recovery story is not typical. I believe the years of struggle that followed may have been shorter lived had I received formal support at the time, but I believe my journey prepared me for the work I now do. It was all a part of God’s plan.
As I have looked back to process my past, I recognize God’s hand in orchestrating my physical recovery. The engrained survival mechanisms intelligently placed in our bodies protected me. (Psalm 139:14) Hunger drove me to increase my food intake when I could no longer maintain the fight against my body. Although I did not fully understand the reason at the time, God pulled me out of dance for a season. This decreased the physical demands on my body I had grown accustomed to. My weight restored to a healthier level as I slowly surrendered the fight to God. Although I was healthier physically, compared to my underweight state, my mindset had a ways to go. For a few years, I still periodically reached for these unhealthy coping mechanisms by restricting food intake and over exercising. It continued to give me a sense of control during a time when life felt out of control. It would have been easy to look at me and assume I was fully recovered, but it still maintained a tight grip over my mind.
While in graduate school preparing to become an RDN, my mindset slowly shifted back to being passionate about health. I no longer wanted to engage in behaviors I felt were unhealthy for my body, and I was ready to use my passion to change the world. It felt hypocritical to pursue a career in nutrition while holding on to my unhealthy habits.
Because I was trained to believe controlling my weight was a part of being healthy, and our culture so heavily focuses on body size as an indicator of health, my body still felt like something I had to control…but in the name of health. My eating and exercise habits were driven by the rules I learned and created. I carefully managed every bite I took. I exercised regularly, often pushing through sickness or injury. By our cultural standards, I appeared very healthy. Being a “health nut” was a huge part of my identity. I was praised for my discipline and dedication.
Although fear of losing control over my weight continued to consume my thoughts, I felt like I was living my healthiest life. I also habitually stretched myself beyond my limits, fueled by people-pleasing and perfectionism. I lived stressed out and sleep deprived. Positive reinforcement from others made it all feel “right.” My thoughts were still consumed by controlling my body, although it was more fixated on health vs being thin at any cost. I look back and see how disconnected I was from my body by trying to control everything. Fear of losing control kept me in constant anxiety. It was hard for me to see how much I was living in bondage. Deep down, I could not fully surrender my body to God. It felt like something I had to keep a tight grip on.
Overextending myself, exercising too much, and not eating enough was gradually breaking my body down. At the time, I couldn’t identify why I felt so crappy all the time. I was constantly sick. My digestion was terrible. I struggled with focus and mental clarity. My muscles were constantly tense, especially in my chest, leading to shallow breathing. I had little energy and drank too much caffeine just to make it through each day. No medical providers could give me a clear reason for my symptoms. I began to feel hopeless. I could see no way out.
As I prayed for healing, God brought answers. Things started shifting for me when I learned to reconnect with my body, surrendering to the mechanisms God put in place to keep things in balance. This includes our weight. Reading “Intuitive Eating” by authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch spurred the initial spark towards change. (If you aren’t familiar with their work, they are both Registered Dietitian Nutritionists who literally wrote the book on eating intuitively. Since its original publication, much research has been inspired on the subject, showing physical and mental benefits of taking care of our bodies with attunement vs. control.)
I identified inadequate nutrition and rest as huge drivers of my health issues, caused by living out of harmony with my body for so many years. For example, I previously thought of hunger as something to fear and control. I learned to honor it as tool, put in place by God, to identify what my body needs from moment to moment. I learned to embrace it instead of fight it. Exercising without adequate fuel and rest to recover also hurt my body. Living in survival mode kept me in a constant state of stress, leading to an unbalanced gut and exacerbation of existing health issues. Similar to my transformed approach to eating, I started moving my body from a place of harmony and attunement, increasing my fuel (food) when my body asked for it and balancing activity with rest.
Digging more into the research on weight led to a complete paradigm shift. As previously stated, God created our bodies intelligently. Systems are in place to maintain homeostasis at all times, including weight. Fighting to drive our bodies below their genetically determined weight range puts our bodies in chronic survival mode, eventually leading to rebound weight gain for most people within 2 years and often a shift towards a higher weight over time. It also increases your risk of eating disorders, negatively affecting your mental and physical health. Seeking to control our bodies from the outside (weight) leads to disconnection from our bodies, living in chronic survival mode, and for most people, weights trending up over time. Surrendering to how God made our bodies by caring for ourselves from the inside (attunement, focusing on healthy behaviors vs. weight) leads to freedom and weight stability within your natural weight range.
These new revelations went against how I was trained, and how I practiced for many years in the weight loss industry, but it made so much sense to me. I saw it time and time again as clients felt discouraged and defeated trying to lose weight and keep it off. Consistently fighting these systems in my own body for long periods of time, keeping my weight below my genetic preference, led to deterioration of my health. I could see the great harm in our culture of using weight as a marker of health status without looking at the FULL picture. I have coined this phenomenon “assumption based healthcare.”
(I have so much compassion for those in this struggle. I wish I could go back and reverse the weight loss “counseling” I provided at the start of my career, as I feel I contributed to the problem in our culture. I also wish I could fix the stigma still existing in our world against larger bodies. At the time, I believed I was helping. I now recognize it is a cultural issue. I know I was working within the means of what I thought was truly best at the time. God is a God of GRACE, and I’ve had to give myself the same grace.)
When I surrendered control of my weight to how God created our bodies, it didn’t lead to an unhealthy body as previously feared. It led to weight stability and a healthier body. Listening to my body, eating enough, and honoring my limits set the foundation for my healing. God also sent the right resources to increase my knowledge of gut and hormone health. I was able to assess what was out of balance, and give my body more support. These interventions added another layer to my healing journey. My symptoms drastically improved. My breathing improved. My digestion improved. My mental clarity returned. My energy continued to increase. Over time, I felt more like myself again.
As my physical health improved, my mindset transformed as I continued to infuse it with truth. Eating is now based on listening to and taking care of my body, giving myself grace along the way. Exercise is a way to feel good in my body and take care of it, not control or punish it. I have learned to live more within my limits. I have learned to rest more. It’s a continuous journey of surrender to the Lord, and how He created our bodies. I found TRUE freedom and continue to experience it today.
God can redeem any story when we fully surrender to Him. My journey prepared me to walk alongside so many others in the middle of similar struggles. I feel blessed and humbled for the opportunity to support others seeking their own freedom. I feel overjoyed to help others pursue true, whole health, getting to the root of what is making them feel bad in their bodies. I feel God has brought me full circle, bringing me back to where it all started as a young child, excited about helping others on their health journey.
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