My faith isn’t something I’ve shared too much here on the blog. You’ll hear mentions of it on the podcast, but up until recently I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to share on this platform; I want it to be and will continue to make it a space for all women to gather and learn to heal their relationship with food and their bodies without judgment. You are welcome here, no matter your background, your faith, your story or any of the labels society has placed on you.
But it IS something that is a huge part of my life; it is the cornerstone to everything I do, the belief that we are ALL worthy of love and acceptance and living an abundant life through Christ.
I didn’t always feel that way. I grew up with a very rules-based mindset around religion and faith. I was taught to be good, you must do good. To achieve the ultimate goal- the approval of God- I must live a perfect life. A perfect life that felt so thoroughly impossible. I was so overwhelmed by the thought of not achieving this beyond unrealistic standard, my perfectionistic-yet-rebellious mindset decided as an early teen, if perfection were the goal, I would never live up, and so why even try? I left the church when I was 16 and didn’t look back for an entire decade.
Unfortunately, this rules-and perfection-based mindset carried over in other areas: to food, fitness, relationships, and other goals.
I am the ultimate goal-getter. If I set out to achieve something, you better believe I will put my all into making it happen. The only thing that holds me back? Allowing imperfection. The only goals that don’t come into fruition are those I have focused so hard on achieving perfection in, and eventually become overwhelmed at the thought of- just like in my early days of lack of understanding when it came to Christianity.
Even harder for me? Letting goals go.
Letting go of the hold dieting had on me- the false control I felt by tracking every morsel I ate, photographing everything before I took a bite so I wouldn’t forget a single detail; the constant goal of each meal contributing to finally achieving the perfect body… was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Deciding to recover from my eating disorder was easy. I had swung too far, and I was no longer perfect, so it was time to bring it back. It was simply another goal to be reached.
The reason it took me so long to TRULY heal, so long to finally let go of dieting far beyond my initial recovery, was that I never truly sought help for the mindset piece- the piece I am SO passionate about now, the piece I see so many women struggle with whether they have ever battled an eating disorder; the inner fight for control; the never-ending search for perfection. It had nothing to do with the weight. It had nothing to do with the food. Re-gaining weight (or losing it, when I struggled with binge eating) didn’t change my mindset around food, body and perfection.
Changing the food I ate- eating more or eating less- didn’t heal the obsessive thoughts I had about needing to achieve a perfect body or a perfect way of eating in order to be good; to be healthiest, thinnest, fittest.
The true catalyst for change-- and why, seven years after my initial recovery and weight re-gain, I finally sought help for the mindset piece- something I am still constantly working on today in order to continue help other women fully heal their own relationships with food and their bodies-- was learning that it wasn’t all in my control. Having a complete health crash post fitness-competition, a massive goal I had worked years to achieve, and I lost one of the most precious gifts we have as humans- my health. Learning of my PCOS diagnosis taught me it hasn’t ever been in my control.
I was competing against my physiology. I was setting goals against the body God had created for me. In order to heal, I had to stop fighting against my body and lean in to the pursuit of honoring the body I had been given and living for it, not a false notion of perfection.
This surrender carried over into other areas, as well.
I started learning the difference between good-goals and God-goals.
I began schooling to become a dietitian immediately when I started college. There was no time spent deciding on my major, taking Gen-Eds to figure it out. I knew what I wanted to do (or at least, so I thought). Ultimately, when being a dietitian didn’t seem as cool as I thought it was (I didn’t want to work in a hospital or in food service, I just wanted to help people get healthy), I switched my major to sports nutrition-- a degree where there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities outside of working with athletic teams (which I didn’t really want to do, either).
When I left the US in 2010 to be with my now-husband, I was attending culinary school, knowing I could only help future clients learn how to become healthier by teaching them how to cook. But I felt unworthy. I felt without that designation I had decided against, I wasn’t qualified to help people (side note: I wasn’t practicing medical nutrition therapy. You NEED to work with a trained professional for this). I looked into going and getting my RD- only to be met with the reality that in a different country with a different system, I would need to start over completely. I felt defeated. Unqualified.
And then, thanks to an incredible opportunity interning at a holistic nutritionist’s practice in the city, I began to pursue an education in holistic nutrition. Something I hadn’t even realized was an option, five years prior, nor would it have been something I think I would have considered during that time.
I spent the next few years acquiring certifications in holistic nutrition, pre-and post-natal nutrition, personal training and sports nutrition, - but nothing made ME feel good enough. I was building up my knowledge base left and right, helping people in the best way I knew at the time-- but I was still so uncertain of myself. I didn’t trust in the knowledge I had- even though I never felt lacking, and if I did- I had no problem referring my clients out. But that perfectionistic mindset would not allow me to embrace the knowledge and education I had received. I was determined I needed to do more. I decided to talk with my husband about pursuing one last program (so I said, this lifetime learner is never done!). I applied, got into the program, sent off my first check, and thanks to some unexpected life circumstances that popped up the summer I was supposed to start, I had to postpone my entrance into the program. I continued on, all the while learning about intuitive eating and finding my balance, feeling a small tug at my heart every time I read over the syllabus and realized there were significant parts of the program I wouldn’t agree with. But I had convinced myself this was the thing I needed to do-- THIS would make me qualified.
As I began digging deeper into Intuitive Eating I learned there was a certification program that I could pursue to become a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. I talked to my husband about it, and we agreed I couldn’t pursue both programs at once- so I set it aside, convincing myself I was unqualified, yet again.
Months went on and the idea of pursuing this program- which required multiple weekends away from my family, arrangements with other family members when Nick was away and a huge financial strain, became stressful.
I was sitting in quiet time one morning in the late fall, and I felt God nudging me to withdraw. “But I need to get this certification to be qualified,” I urged. Qualified to do what? He gave me back.
To do what I was doing then- helping women learn to meal plan and meal prep and simplify living healthier lives? I already had that down.
Helping women find a framework to find the same freedom with food and their bodies I had found and was so passionate in sharing?
This certification would do nothing of the sort.
But pursuing a certification as an Intuitive Eating Counselor, digging into the evidence behind why diets don’t work and learning tangible tools to help women achieve the same peace and freedom I had found with the same approach that had so powerfully changed my life?
That would help me do exactly that.
So I withdrew from the program and applied for the certification’s January class. I was accepted, and in June, with a year and a half left to achieve what I had so passionately pursued in six months- I received my certification. Nothing has ever felt so right. And though I still have days of feeling unqualified-- I have never felt more certain this is one huge part of my calling- God’s plan for my life.
Only weeks after I withdrew from the program I received an email from Proverbs 31 Ministries sharing their 2019 dates for their annual She Speaks writing and speaking conference. Something I had desired to pursue for two years, knowing deep in my bones God has called me to share my story to other women through writing and speaking-- but still felt too young in my faith, unqualified, let alone the fact that we hadn’t had the funds available for such a high-level conference.
The dates were right smack in the middle of when I would have been away pursuing the other certification.
And I had the funds because I had made the choice to withdraw from the other program.
God certainly has a way of making His way known.
I spoke to my husband, and he agreed it seemed all too right. I registered.
So this week, I am stepping out in faith, and declaring God goals over good goals.
I’m flying to a city I’ve never been to, with eight hundred women I’ve never met, to pursue a goal that always felt like a pipe dream.
I gave up marathon training this year. It was something I pursued and enjoyed last year and my perfectionist brain had convinced me I had to pursue again to be ‘a marathoner’. I did want to run another marathon-- and I still very well might. Just not this year. I had to come to terms with only having limited time-- and with my husband’s career growing, and pursuing my biggest goal yet-- writing a book-- the time simply wasn’t there.
It wasn’t a cop-out or an excuse. It was a reality check from God that you can’t do it all and do it well. There are good goals, goals that make us happy in the moment when we achieve them and they might very well be good-- but then there are God goals. When you’re pursuing God goals, He makes a way.
When you’re pursuing God goals, you know without a doubt it will work, some way, some how.
Because there are good goals- and then there are God goals.
“Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 NIV