The Reclamation

Today is a glorious day! For the past week I have been filled with an abundance of creative energy. It’s that feeling I get when I know I’m on the cusp of something big and I need to take action.

God has been planting kernels of change in my life for a few months now, preparing me for success. He has placed the right people, books, information, provision, etc. in my life to make these changes possible — my heart and mind had to be ready to take a leap, and the safety nets had to me in place lest I fall!

I have done my best to follow His will, whatever it may be, and to do so courageously, and I can genuinely say that He has repaid me ten-fold for every time I have listened to His commands.

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I’m detailing this journey from the beginning because it is an amazing process to go through. I don’t want to forget any of it. I am a copious journaler — my mom has a bookshelf of my lifelong journal collection beginning from my first locket diary in Kindergarten — but this time it felt like a story that needed to be shared. I wish I could spend this entire post updating you from August 2015 on, when I really invited God to step in and take the reigns, but it would just go on and on, so I’ll start back just a few weeks ago as to how this transformation began.

Actually, even before that, I need to mention my first Facebook Live video. It was life changing. I was driving home from Bible study, reeling from the joy and love that my friendships give me. I was on fire and remember feeling flooded with this desire to give it to other people. Give what? Passion, inspiration, freedom, unecumbered joy. I had been off of social media for awhile because I was 5 months postpartum and feeling ashamed of what my body looked like. But God whispered in my ear to go Live — this brand new Facebook feature.

At first I said no. That it was a ridiculous notion; that surely this wasn’t God’s will. That it would be humiliating; that everyone would see how fat I was; that friends I had painstakingly collected from my career achievements would delete me or (worse!) hide my posts because they’d find me obnoxious and zealous. People from my past would find me and make fun of me. Fear, fear, fear. And God gently urged me on.

My first Live video I paced in my rose nursery with my plants surrounding me. The sun was so bright that even with the forward-facing camera I couldn’t see my face. I think if I could’ve I would’ve been too distracted with how disappointed I was in how I looked to make any sort of impact. But I told people that I had just come from Bible study; that I was alive within the Lord, that this was a new chapter in my life and that I loved all of them and wanted to conquer fear.

It was very well received with lots of people coming out of the woodworks with an abundance of love and support; lots of people who I didn’t know were believers. I felt less alone, less scared, more empowered.

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But, as it goes, a vice that I constantly battle with is an undeniable love to be the center of attention. I love being the star of the show. I am humbled by John the Baptist when he teaches his disciples that he must become less and less as Christ becomes more and more. So the Live videos kind of obsessed me and became a little too egomaniacal. At the advice of my husband (who wasn’t quite keen on them in the first place) I shelved them for awhile to really contemplate what my intentions were, what my message is and how I should approach it.

I mentioned earlier my struggle with weight, especially after the 70lbs. I gained while pregnant wasn’t exactly melting off. I knew I was overweight but still had no drive to reclaim my health. I simultaneously started my endeavors in cooking and baking for my family, not paying much attention to the quality of ingredients I was using or how many (empty) calories the meals contained. Oh, and I was eating dessert like three times a day.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, I was a completely hopeless sugar fiend. What is sad about this is that my mom raised me to know better. She was buying crop shares and feeding us organic food before it was cool. We NEVER had junk food in the house (but I always seized the opportunities to raid the pantries of my friends for their Doritos and watermelon Gushers). But over the years the powerlessness I felt against sugar became overwhelming… I would inhale entire trays of brownies, huge pints of ice cream (what’s in a fast food milkshake anyway?), full-size Cheesecake Factory desserts even though I knew I would feel like total crap afterward, not only that I-shouldn’t-have-eaten-that-because-I’m-fat guilt, but 1) God asks us to be temperate, 2) I even admitted to my husband that sometimes I would choose food over God (ahem, that’s idolatry, folks) and 3) my emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing would go haywire when I’d wrecked my blood sugar levels… and yet there I was, unable to quit chowing down.

As the holidays approached I was taking a cue from George Straight and making lots of Christmas cookies. I realized at some point that I was buying copious amounts of butter and white sugar. And then I realized what absolute, nutritionless shit I was making. It was essentially all butter and sugar. I even posted on Facebook about it, utterly shocked. Somehow making it from scratch instead of consuming it at restaurants woke me up. I felt gross, like I was betraying not only my body but those who I was baking for — this stuff wasn’t good for them either!

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But that still didn’t stop me. I figured I was overreacting and it wasn’t that big of a deal. But I knew I was lying, for in my inner life I was pleading to God to help me in my helplessness, admitting that I had no control over this mess. I was also praying the rosary at least once a day.

There were a few building blocks that really stand out to me as God answered my prayer:

1) I brought cookies to a pregnant friend who declined them. “I’m a recovering sugar addict,” she said “and I also don’t eat gluten.” She explained to me how her adrenal glands were fried and she was healing her body through her diet. I remember feeling so sorry for her that she couldn’t eat my delicious cookies.. but also relieved that she had the control to turn down the ingredients lurking within them. We made a commitment for me to help her whip up some snacks during her pregnancy (she also has a very active 1 year old) and she gave me some examples of what she eats (she even recommended collagen powder as a protein additive which I thought was super weird, but now use it as well!). I didn’t think much of it then, or how it might apply to me. But I knew it felt nice to not be along in that struggle against sugar.

2) The Godfather to my son is extremely, radically health-conscious. He and I had been talking about how ostracizing his decisions for his family had been; that he often gets made fun of for what he believes about nutrition, avoidance of toxicants, and earthing practices. We were out to eat all together at a Mexican restaurant and, on autopilot, I ordered chips and queso. At some point I realize he wasn’t eating, so I inquired into it. “I would rather have a nice piece of cheese, where I know what’s in it, how it was made and who by, with some nice crackers and wine than stuff myself with endless queso at a restaurant. It’s just about the experience.” He was so intentional and mindful about truly enjoying his food instead of just filling some endless hole in his body (unlike me, three baskets of chips in). He was aware that he wasn’t actually hungry and didn’t actually even like that type of over-processed and super fatty cheese. It inspired me to have a more respectful relationship with my food. He also threw away all of our conventional household cleaners (and I’ve never looked back. More on this later.).

2) I have a deep love for a very good friend of mine who is also a family member. I was talking about her to my friends at Bible study, lamenting over her music choices (death metal) and that she didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ. I was so sad for her, to watch her loneliness and anxiety and discontent, but didn’t know how to help her. A friend of mine looked at me and said “if she’s listening to that music, and wearing pentagram shirts, the devil already has her. She is publically endorsing him. This is going to be a struggle. What are you willing to do for her?  Are you willing to pray for her? Are you willing to fast for her?” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t fast for myself, in my own power, but I could fast out of love. That same day I pledged to give up sugar for three days, offering it up to God.

3) At some point I remember thinking to myself “wow, I fart a lot.” Yes you read that correctly. I’d never really thought about it and just assumed it was a normal part of digestion. But when I became aware of it, I felt the discomfort of the bloating; how swollen my belly looked (it wasn’t all just fat, come to find out!); how much indigestion I was experiencing… and I remember thinking to myself “normal people don’t feel like this”. I probably meant healthy people don’t feel like this. And a thought struck me: the main side effects from the antidepressant I’ve been taking for 5 years is gastrointestinal issues… nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, etc. I wondered if this wasn’t only connected to my diet, but with my use of this antidepressant.

4) Another friend of mine had posted long ago a picture of a book she was reading. I remember scrolling through Facebook, glancing at it, taking some interest because it looked pertinent to my struggle, but I scrolled on without retaining the title or authors name. When #3 happened, I remembered that book vaguely and asked her for the title: “A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives” by Kelly Brogan. This was the absolute game changer. It validated everything I had ever intuited but had no evidence to substantiate. It was the research I had always longed for. It was the call to immediate action. God had answered my prayer.

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So I began a detox diet, cutting out all sugar, gluten, wheat and dairy. I threw away ALL of my over the counter medications — pain relievers, antacids, cold medications, etc. I cleaned house. It was radical and so freeing. I was going to begin listening to my body and finding other ways to answers its pleading calls. And I was going to taper off of my antidepressant.

Now two weeks in, I can genuinely say that abandoning my food addiction has not been the teeth-pulling painful experience I expected it to be. I don’t miss it, I don’t want it, I certainly don’t crave it. I feel like I was sold a bill of bad goods under the guise of profit-making, and I’m sticking it to the man by refusing to continue the game. I feel empowered, alive, stable and motivated. My skin is clear, my mind is clear, I have energy, my arms don’t have those weird red bumps on them anymore.

I am reclaiming my health.

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