June 28, 2017

Freedom from a 30 year struggle

 I was so blessed to spend the last week of April at the Revelation Wellness Instructor Retreat, in beautiful Williams, Arizona. The retreat and lessons learned along the way, were life-changing and life-giving, in so many ways, and have me well on my way to a freedom that I never thought was possible. Freedom(n); the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. 

But, first, some background....I took my first dance class at the age of five and fell head over heels in love with movement, music, performing... everything! I felt alive! I found my life-long passion as a five year old and never looked back. 
My first dance recital. Age 5

I continued to dance through elementary school, was selected for the junior high dance company two years in a row, and even served as dance company president in 9th grade.
More dance recitals. Age 8

When I got to high school, I saw the drill team perform and was smitten. I knew I MUST make the team. There was nothing more I wanted. I practiced for two years, didn't make it my junior year, but finally made the team for my senior year. I was over-the-moon with joy!
That's me in the very front, back-bending.

Dance was my life! But from my life's greatest passion and joy, has also come my life's biggest struggle. 
I'm in the back, center.

One day during a summer practice we were called, one at a time, into our advisor's office for 'weigh-ins'. I initially didn't think much about it until I stepped onto the scale and was horrified at the number staring back at me. 145 pounds. As our advisor recorded the number, I side glanced at the paper and almost gasped as I read the weights of the others; 101, 123, 111.....it's the first time I ever thought "I'm fat". I didn't have the knowledge, as a 16 year old, to reason that I was also at least six inches taller than those girls. I got off the scale and was randomly told to lose ten pounds, and excused from the office. 

No direction was given, no information on nutrition, just "lose 10 pounds". I probably didn't even tell my parents the weigh-in happened, I just set about to lose the 10 pounds. I did not want to be benched for being too fat. I couldn't live without my dancing.
That's me in the middle.

In order to lose weight, I thought I should just eat less. I would start my day (a day that included up to five hours of dancing) with a cup of Yoplait yogurt and maybe a banana, I picked at my lunch and would then eat a normal dinner. I don't remember thinking I had an eating disorder, but I guess maybe I did to some extent. I even lost my period for about 4 months during that time. We never weighed in again, and I'm not even sure if I lost the 10 pounds, but this one event in my past, has put me on a path of slavery. The bondage of not being good enough.
I'm on the left. Really bad picture quality in the 80"s!

Basically, I've been on a diet now for 30 years, and I'm tired. So tired. I've tried; low-fat, high-fat, Eat-Clean Diet, diet pills, Weight Watchers (both online and meetings), excessive exercise, low-carb, sugar fasts, Paleo, Whole 30(x5), intermittent fasting, My Fitness Pal, Slim Fast, carb-cycling, and Fitbit, just to name a few. Also, more magazine tips, podcasts and blog articles than I can count. All of these things gave the promise of quick weight loss and to me, hope. But, eventually the pounds would creep back on and I'd search for the next miracle.
My book donation pile. This is not even a quarter of the books I've read over the years.

I like rules and am very good with "black and white" concepts. Give me a list of foods to eat or not eat, and I will perform very well. So when I say I tried these diet plans, I mean I faithfully executed them to the letter, for months, if not years. And guess what? I got results with all of them. However, what I never got was freedom. Even if I hit the goal weight, I never arrived. I never had the "bikini body" that the magazines promised. I was never satisfied and always strived for more. Five more pounds. Or ten. THEN I will be there, then I will be happy. 
My figure skating team in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But perfection is hard to maintain. If I wasn't perfect to the plan on any given day, I would eat whatever I wanted with abandon because the day was already ruined. Cue the feelings of guilt and the promise of doing better tomorrow, or Monday or next week. I've also had more "last suppers" than I can count. In other words, if I'm planning to start a diet on Monday, I'd better eat everything and anything I can find before the restriction hits, because I'll never eat another cookie again. Can anyone relate? Such is the prison and unending torment in the head of the dieter.
I won my division at 2013 US Adult Figure Skating Nationals!

As you can see, I've spent most of my life in a cycle of obsession over, or neglect of, my body and my health. On and on the treadmill goes, will it ever stop? Will I ever truly be free? I've asked myself these questions so many times over the years. I had finally resolved myself to this being my lot in life. My struggle.
Dance recital at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

But two years ago, Revelation Wellness entered my life and changed everything. For the first time ever, I feel on my way to freedom. Real freedom. A freedom and peace that only God can give.
Dancing in my first recital with my daughter.

It never occurred to me that the Lord cared about this part of my life. For some reason I disconnected this struggle with God. I studied my Bible, went to church, and then spent most of my waking hours obsessed about the next best diet or work-out plan. I made the desire for health and weight loss (which can DEFINITELY be good things, and sometimes necessary) my god-thing. The thing I desired most. FOR THIRTY YEARS! 
My Marilyn Monroe number at US Adult Nationals.

The mantra of Revelation Wellness is Love God. Get Healthy. Be Whole. Love Others. Also, that the issue of body obsession, or neglect, is almost never about the food or the fitness. Instead, the issue is a matter of the heart. There is always something deeper to uncover, like peeling back the layers of an onion. It hasn't always been easy work, but we are called to do hard things.
I'm fighting for freedom for these two.

The Revelation Wellness message resonated with me so much, and I desperately wanted to be healthy and whole, but I resisted giving up my food rules. My rules were my safety, the place I felt in control and I've had a hard time surrendering them. I always thought my problem was with food, but it wasn't until a friend suggested that I "take a break from dieting" for a few weeks, that the Lord revealed my problem was with dieting. I looked to my food rules to save me, when I should look to Him, my Savior. I realized that I don't even know what is "healthy" anymore, as I have always followed the latest and greatest diet plan. The diet fad of the day will always change, but He doesn't.

The Lord is capable of healing on the spot, but sometimes the healing is a process that must be walked out through faith. I have not had linear progress in my pursuit of freedom. There have been many times that I succumb to one more book, or one more blog for answers, or one more "plan of attack" for quick weight loss, but the Lord is always patient and waits for me to come back when I am ready. After completion of the Bible study, The Wellness Revelation (a revised and updated version will be released, in book form, this August-Pre-order is available now!), I decided I was all-in! So much so, that I enrolled in RevWell Instructor training, not necessarily to teach fitness classes, but mostly in pursuit of my own freedom.

After nine weeks of online classes, to include; Bible study, leadership training, food and nutrition guidance and lots of fun movement, we retreated to Williams, Arizona to dig deeper.
Our amazing RevWell leadership team.

Eleven strangers were forced into this small cabin to do life together for a week. Truly? This may have been the hardest part! (You all know how much I enjoy roughing it!) My daughters were super excited that I got a top bunk, though.

But after a week of baring our souls, struggles and sharing lots of laughter and tears, we became sisters. All brought together by a common passion and mission, FREEDOM! Otherwise known as #fitnessteachergospelpreachers.

There were 150 of us in all, and we prayed together, 

ate together,

studied together,

played together, 

partied together, 

but mostly, we worshiped together.



Movement as worship. I had never connected the two. Moving my body for the joy of it, as opposed to a way to burn calories takes everything to another level. Seriously! I rediscovered my five-year-old, little girl passion; a room with music, movement and choreography. My happy place. I also reclaimed my original design, that of a dancer. I've lived my entire life believing that I did not have what the world called a 'dancer's body', but the Lord told me otherwise. He gave me a body that is still capable of, and loves to dance, even at 45 years old! I'll take it!

And this lady, Alisa Keeton, the brave founder of Revelation Wellness, and unbeknownst to her, my mentor for the past two years, has changed my life. Because of her obedience to the Lord in starting this ministry, I am well on the road to freedom. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Yes, I am totally fan-girling in this picture!

And what a legacy! Thank you Alisa!

It is interesting, as I progress on my journey towards freedom, how little about food or fitness this road has become for me. I realize with sorrow how my thirty year quest for the perfect pant size has robbed me of so much more. I haven't been truly present with my family, and have let the number on the scale, or the level of my diet perfection, dictate my mood for the day. It pains me to think of the wasted years and effort spent chasing something that would never fill me. I'm heartbroken to look at the pictures contained in this blog, knowing that I felt fat and not good enough in every single picture. Always striving for more or striving for better. But God.....

His mercies and grace are new every day. Every. Single. Day. Even after thirty year's worth of tomorrows, His patience never waivers. Today, I weep no more over time and opportunities lost. Today, regardless of my pant size, I will take good care of this gift that I've been given. I will treat myself with kindness and accept and respect my body for what it can do. (What does that look like? 1) Feed my body life-giving food and drink, 2) leave plenty of room in that for fun and celebration without guilt, 3) move my body daily, with joy, because I can, 4) get on with life. That's it. The Gospel is simple, not always easy, but simple.) But most importantly, today, I look towards the only being who will ever truly fill and satisfy me. Jesus

Do you want to lose a lot of "weight" in a hurry? Clean out your closet and get rid of everything that doesn't fit TODAY. I am not at my lowest weight, not even close, and these clothes represent a longing for what was, and a false hope for the future. I can't put my hope or happiness there anymore. I am enough, right now, as-is. There is peace in that.

I started this journey, partly for my own freedom, but mostly to break the chains for these two wonderful girls that the Lord has so graciously entrusted to my care. I don't want them to inherit this bondage from me. After all, they are daughters of the King. We all are, and He has something so much better in mind!

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1



8 comments:

  1. Oh I love love love this! Bondage for sure! Breaks my heart that you ever did not see yourself as so BEAUTIFUL! But it's a common bondage women face :(. Awesome post!

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  2. Beautiful post, Jamie. So true for far too many women, and probably men. Do any of us ever feel good enough? I hope you will be able to share this beautiful message with all of those who will cross your path.

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  3. I read this, then went to the website, and heard your spot on there. Lovely. I've been through this kind of thing too, and honestly? I believe most women have. I was frustrated with how much time and energy weight management and fitness and food tracking was taking up in my life --it can be the majority of my time if I let it have that power. I too have specifically asked for help with this. I don't want my potential as a servant of God to be compromised by this big ball and chain around my ankle. I have gotten so much help, but know it is a journey, and I haven't arrived yet. At least I am finding joy in the everyday, my workouts are for me and my enjoyment. Thank you for sharing so much, for being so vulnerable. It is a form of service to share something like this --again, thank you.

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  4. Very well said and I'm right there with you!

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  5. You are so brave and amazing for sharing this! As we have talked about before, the struggle is real! I'm still working through this myself! I need to read that book! 💕 I'm so happy and proud of you for the journey you've taken! God is incredible and so faithful! I miss you immensely!

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  6. So happy for you Jamie! Thank you for sharing your struggles with us and being an example of how Gods grace and love heals! You are loved!

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  7. Such an important point - how we let even good things like fitness become just another form of idolatry. Beautiful post, love you sis!

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  8. what a beautiful testimony! God gets the glory! you received true freedom! thank you so much for sharing your life!

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