Hi I’m Janie and I am not the girl I used to be.
Growing up, I never paid any attention to what I put in my body. Every day I would come home from school and sit myself on the couch watching Spongebob and Drake & Josh with a big bag of BBQ Frito Twists and Oreo ice cream...Every single day. I also remember one day eating a whole bag of cashews from Trader Joe’s in one sitting. I had no idea what a fat gram was back then in those care-free days (oops!).
But in high school I began to realize my body was changing, and I was becoming more and more self conscious about not only my body but also my quiet, introverted personality. I always felt like the boring one who no one wanted to hang out with. All I desired was to be thin & beautiful, accepted by my classmates, well-liked, and fun to be around. My naive self thought the ONE thing I needed in order to get approval and satisfaction would be found in getting skinny and weighing less. Once I reached this thinness and as I took control of my weight and body structure, THEN I would be finally be happy and have a good social life. Or at the very least -- being thinner would provide me an ounce of confidence to cling to and fall back to if I started feeling bad about my social life or self-conscience about being quiet and reserved. Controlling my body was always my fall-back whenever I was sad, stressed, lonely, insecure, doubted my friendships, had bad body image days, and so on. I held onto this obsession and body image control for my dear life because it felt like the only thing I could turn to in order to be satisfied with at least SOMETHING!
I'm now a Christian, and just like having lots of money can divert our eyes from God onto ourselves, making it easy for Christians to lose sight of God and our purpose on earth (to know God and make Him known), striving for earthly beauty and physical appearance perfection can be just as blinding for some.
For me, in high school, striving for control over my body and looking to my physical appearance alone for satisfaction, identity, and beauty spiraled me down to placed I never thought I'd reach.
I started exercising more and more and more and eating less and less and less because this was what I thought living healthfully was all about. I would have an initial thrilling feeling and a sliver of confidence as the number on the scale got smaller and smaller. I loved waking up in the mornings and seeing my weight be .5 or 1 lb lower. Loved it. It was working. I was getting skinnier and was on the road to confidence and approval of others. This was going to be IT!
Sports were my thing growing up: tennis, volleyball, softball, soccer, I tried lacrosse and swimming (well...I was actually horrible at these 2 lol), and cross country running. My sport intensity was high and the gym was my 2nd home as I began overexercising to an unhealthy degree. I became addicted to overexercising and losing weight and restricting my calories everyday.
However, the dropping number on the scale ended up never being enough. I just kept going. Running became my biggest control mechanism for my weight and appearance, and I clung to it like none other.
"Will I ever reach that satisfying destination where I can finally stop eating so little and exercising excessively?"
"Why do I actually feel emptier than when I started?"
I weighed less than I did back in 5th grade, yet I was becoming so distant from my friends which didn't make sense to me at the time. I'd opt out of social activities because of the beginnings of anxiety-development and wanting to go to the gym instead, avoiding any food outings out of fear of eating unhealthier foods.
The more I dwelled on my appearance trying to control it, the more inwardly focused I became, and depression started creeping in. I hated school and cried everyday mainly because of loneliness, feeling so set apart and different from other people, and this increasing social anxiety. The more anxious I felt, the more I looked to controlling my body for that sliver of confidence in getting skinnier.
I felt lost, not knowing where to go, who to turn to. "Am I going to be this way for the rest of my life?"
Summer before my junior year in high school when my mental and physical health was at an all-time low, I attended Kanakuk Kamps, which is a "ra-ra" Christian sports camp. Little did I know this would be the place where God decided to tug on my heart and whisper gospel truths into my mind and heart, planting seeds without me even realizing at first.
To my surprise, on testimony night, I learned that my camp counselor had dealt with anorexia to the point where it almost killed her. This made the hairs on the back of my neck stick up, and my eyes were opened a bit wider that night. I then shared my current story of how I was dealing with similar struggles with eating and my body and depression. My counselor prayed with me and for me and reminded me of who I am in Christ and how I am a beautiful image bearer of an awesome God -- My identity is not in my body and how I look on the outside. It is who I am in the eyes of Jesus. And I can fight with Jesus on my side to defeat any kind of eating disorder. I can't put it into words, but God was doing something here in my heart even though I still didn't realize it in its entirety back then. All the things my counselor told me I had heard before since I've grown up in a solid Christian home, going to church and Sunday school every week, and attending private Christian schools my entire life. However, something was finally just beginning to sink in about who Jesus is, what Jesus has done for me, and finding my joy and purpose in Him that I really had never understood before.
After camp, I truly wanted to grow in my relationship with God because something in me (cough cough - cue the Holy Spirit) was pulling me into God's arms and giving me a desire to learn more. I wanted to be "ALL IN" and stay all in. And this was just the beginning of the journey of learning that I wouldn’t find satisfaction in what my body looked like, and that my faith and freedom in Jesus is what would guide me and give me hope to ultimately be freed from this body image / eating disorder battle. I didn’t really understand what it meant to live this way yet as I began learning more about God in the Bible, but the Holy Spirit put this beautiful seed in my heart to finally desire Jesus. Anyways, this whole not-finding-satisfaction-in-looks is definitely easier said then done and doesn't always make sense.
When I got home from camp, I told my mom I wished to see a nutritionist because I wanted to turn things around and gain weight. I learned so much from my dietitian about nutrition and how to properly fuel myself for all the physical activities I was doing. I had to throw away all my crazy false notions of "healthy eating." I slowly started gaining back some of the weight I lost, which was roughly 35 pounds from my highest to my lowest weight. People think gaining weight would be wonderful because "you can eat anything and everything you want.” FAR FROM THE TRUTH. It was the most mentally challenging thing I had ever done. In reality, it was a GIANT mental battle with myself. It was not easy. I’d look in the mirror and see changes that I didn’t like. I wanted to quit so many times and just fall back on what I was doing before. But I didn’t give into the deceptive thoughts going through my head. God was holding my hand even on these rough days, and somehow He provided the strength and mental determination necessary to keep going even when I felt absolutely hopeless. I am still to this day learning that the benefits of regaining weight FAR outweigh all the negatives and the dangers that come with being so underweight with an eating disorder. My face wasn't sunken in anymore, my athletic performance increased immensely when I fueled myself with a lot more nourishing food, I was finally getting periods again here and there which I lost for many years, my bones were happier I'm sure, and so on.
Life went on but was most definitely not all rainbows and unicorns. Jesus does not promise an easy comfortable life once you know and believe in Him. But knowing Jesus is 100% worth any suffering and hardship we might face because of this bigger and better thing called HOPE and JOY in his promises in the Gospel.
College came around and I did NOT want to go! Panic attacks from severe anxiety were a daily thing that summer out of fear of the unknowns and self-consciousness with my quiet personality which I thought would prevent me from forming any relationships. It was a hard and painful summer emotionally.
Also side note: with the weight gain I had going on, I was still probably overexercising and hurting my body, but I continued because it made me feel like I had a slice of control over my appearance still. I would not let go of this exercise thing. I was a stubborn lil gal...
Cue the beginning of freshman year: I began dealing with this mysterious hip pain the day before school started that prevented me from exercising at all. It hurt to even walk from class to class and it was ALWAYS on my mind, stressing me out and making me anxious from having exercise ripped from me all of a sudden. My control mechanism of running was not an option anymore. I think I had internal red sirens going off in my mind like there was an intruder or something and I didn't know what to do.
I doctor-hopped to allllll the doctors around St.Louis because no one knew what was wrong with my hip and I swear some of them thought I was lying about this hip pain. So frustrating!! I just wanted some help and guidance. They just kept throwing me into physical therapy after multiple MRI's that showed absolutely nothing being wrong.
Eventually after a year and a half, another MRI (with contrasts this time) showed that my right hip was torn and I had to get hip surgery at age 20 (can you say #GrandmaStatus?). This surgery again challenged my anxiety SO much with no exercise and literally learning how to stand up and walk again in the midst of a freaking loooong, frustrating recovery process. It actually took me twice as long to recover compared to most people who have gotten the same surgery because it took the doctors so long to diagnose me.
Having something stripped away you, like running/exercise for me, is maddening at times, confusing, and mentally challenging on so many levels -- especially coming from a history with an eating disorder, like anorexia. I thought I'd get fat from barely moving and still having to eat (Far from the truth!! Take it from me! If you're dealing with this mindset for whatever reason or going through a surgery, please please PLEASE keep fighting and preaching to yourself that you will be OKAY and food is still necessary for our bodies to function and heal even without exercise, and you will most certainly NOT get fat).
So having a mental illness like anorexia with an addiction to overexercising, losing weight, and under-eating, along with body dysmorphia ("mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance"), major social anxiety, depression, and having exercise ripped beneath my feet in the blink of an eye due to hip pain/surgery along with torn meniscuses in my knees ALLLL came into my life in a perfect storm, bringing on tons of hard valleys of suffering that I never would have expected I'd ever go through. Why me? What's up with all this?
Little did I know... God's hand has been all over my story since the very beginning and his hand is still over my story being told as I write this and for the rest of my life.
God allowed all these struggles and mental battles, which was the biggest tough-love gift to me I'd ever received and the biggest blessing of all.
"Why is that a blessing JANIE?!"
MAN OH MAN! I will take these struggles any day if it means knowing and loving Jesus more fully and learning what it means to find freedom and beauty and satisfaction in him.
God took something away from me that I was clinging onto for my dear life instead of looking to him to find all that I was searching and yearning for. I believe He did this to show me and teach me that I need Jesus and that He is my everything -- NOT physical outward beauty and trying to find confidence in my looks and being skinny.
God knew I majorly idolized running and working out and that I stubbornly would refuse to admit it and let go of it, so he allowed a "thorn" in my hip (Paul and I could totes bond over this - 2 Corinthians 12:7-9) to force my eyes off of myself and up onto Him. And oh boy, I needed it big time. The whole hip pain and hip surgery ordeal ended up being a HUGE wake-up call, revealing to me my idols, the earthly things that were blinding me to Jesus, and the lingering eating disorder thoughts and struggles that I didn't even know I still dealt with subconsciously.
I was looking and searching for satisfaction and personal glory in all the wrong places.
But then a Hero came in and did his marvelous tough-love work in my heart to begin fostering a deep and rich and intimate relationship with me.
What a gift. What love. What grace that I don't deserve. But thank you Father. You know what I need more than what I think I need.
I'm very well aware that my continuing life story will be chock-full of more trials as well as more joy. But even when the trials come, having Jesus to cling to and hope in is the greatest treasure of all because he is enough and he is everything and he will come again one day. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” - Revelation 21:4
I still have my earthly battles I deal with daily, which can easily consume me and divert my eyes from Jesus, but God I pray that you will never stop challenging these worldly struggles I face and continue teaching me more of you and this JOY and SATISFACTION and HOPE and BEAUTY I have in Christ already! When my sinful thoughts and desires start spiraling down to obsession and idolatry and self-glorification and only seeking earthly satisfaction, God, PLEASE come in, intervene, fix me, and open my eyes to return to the Gospel -- return to YOU in humble repentance with a hopeful, thankful, and worshipful heart for you and your glory alone.
Bring on the suffering God — for it is GOOD! Use it to bring your children to you, God, and prepare us for the return of your Son.
Come Lord Jesus, come quickly!
Thanks for reading how God has been working in my life. With this website I want to share my love of living an all around healthy lifestyle - living freely, eating healthily, and exercising to love and take care of yourself. I want you to know that health can be found at every size -- there is no one size fits all when it comes to "healthy" or "healthy lifestyle." It will look different for everyone. Also, healthy eating does not have to be complicated and uninteresting. Through my growing knowledge on nutrition, I have developed a huge passion for yummy food and cooking and baking healthy meals and treats. I want everyone to realize that eating healthy is not all about low-calorie food and boring spinach salads galore like I once thought. Eating healthy is a wonderful way we, as human beings, created by an awesome loving God, can care for our bodies as best we can by feeding ourselves wholesome foods to nourish, not to destroy our bodies. Bodies are truly a gift, so let’s enjoy them, be thankful for them and all they can do, and feed them wonderful meals!
I'm a big foodie, so I am always looking for delicious, good-for-you recipes to try out, and I want to share those with you. Then, maybe you can see for yourself that eating healthy can be 100% enjoyable!
Come join me on this crazy journey of life which will be chock-full of ups and downs, laughs and tears, gym-time and lazy-time, and roasted brussel sprouts and oreo ice cream. Life is hard. But life is also great and filled with joy. Especially with Jesus by the side and in the heart.