The Power of Positive Thinking (Wellness Post #3)

I know, I know, you’ve seen this title a million times. But stick with me? It’ll be worth it. I’m positive. 😉

It works. This positive thinking thing? It really does work. How do I know? It worked for me this week. It helped me reach what I believe to be a breakthrough–not just in my health, but in my attitude. And by positive thinking, I don’t just mean the “believe in yourself” stuff we’re fed all the time. If I’ve had any success, it’s not come from believing in myself. I can’t do it on my own. Left to my own devices, I’m a defeated, self-pitying mess! But the power that comes from dwelling on the Truth? It transforms. And I feel as though I’ve been transformed this week.

I could label this past week a failure because–GASP!–I cheated. I had corn and beans in some soup on Saturday. I even had two cookies with sugar in them! They were organic and at least gluten-free, though. On Sunday, the day before my initial three-week elimination phase was up, I ate a piece of cheese. Granted, Monday was dairy day (which seemed to pass the test? I had symptoms, mild ones, but not any that I wasn’t already experiencing). Tonight I had a peanut butter cookie (again, gluten-free, so not so bad, right?).

I broke the rules. I didn’t stay within the confines of the diet. So I could label this past week a failure.

But I won’t.


You got it–the power of positive thinking. This is what has made the difference between success and failure for me this week. I could stay within the guidelines of the diet, like I had been, and still be weighed down by negative thinking that fueled overeating. But this week, by the grace of God, more times than not, I didn’t overindulge. I stopped and asked myself, “Am I eating this because I’m hungry, or because I’m craving?” When I was hungry, I ate. And when I knew I was simply craving, I stopped and prayed, asking God to fill me with Him instead. I meditated on Psalm 84:2 over and over and over again, until it became true, and my heart and flesh yearned for the presence of the Lord. I couldn’t get enough of Him. And I didn’t just do this with food. When I was tempted to look to things, people, approval, appearance, performance, etc. to fill me, I stopped and asked Him to remind me that those things will never satisfy, and to fill me with Him instead. He did, again and again.

This week wasn’t perfect. There were times when I regretted every coconut oil-laden rice cake that entered my mouth and ended up on my thighs, when I reaaaallly didn’t like the fact that I had gained back all the weight I lost. There were times when I felt guilty after every bite I took out of fear of it making me fat.

But I chose not to dwell on those thoughts. I chose to confess them and instead remind myself: I need to eat to live. I do NOT have to feel guilty about eating! And being ten pounds heavier than I was a couple months ago, yet healthier, is a trade I’ll take.

I have to credit this shift in thinking, at least in part, though, to the Made to Crave Online Bible study. It’s been such a source of encouragement and accountability for me. I have over 40,000 sisters joining me in this journey, and it helps to know I’m not alone. Even though our individual lives and needs and struggles are unique, we’re in this together.

I also, at the suggestion of the Bible study, reached out to a friend who’s gone before me in this struggle with food and has come out on the other side. Knowing I have someone praying steadfastly for me in the battle, and being willing to check in each week and ask how it’s going, helps immensely.

I’m hopeful. The headway I’m making, not just in my health but in my heart, inspires me to keep making strides in the right direction. To keep dwelling on the truth. And let me tell you, it feels good to not be stuck in the mire of negative thinking! Sometimes I wander back there and am tempted to get comfortable again, but I’m no longer making it my home. Because it’s not really that comfortable! It feels a whole lot better–granted, it takes hard work, but it’s worth it–to live free, to take hold of the promise of the One who’s already set me free with the truth. And I am free indeed (John 8:32, 36).

The truths in the verses below have particularly helped me practice the power of positive thinking when I find my thoughts wandering down a destructive path. I hope you’ll find them helpful as well. They’re as helpful as they are to me today because years ago I purposed to commit them to memory. Can I challenge you to do the same? The work it takes to memorize them is absolutely worth it. Being able to recall them to memory when I catch myself slipping mentally, and choose to turn toward the truth, is a huge asset.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock, my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

“Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:5

(All are quoted from the English Standard Version.)

It takes determination. Determine to dwell on truth. And you’ll find yourself empowered to think positively.


Sometimes it’s okay to cry.

Sometimes it’s okay to cry when it’s 10:26pm and you’re not going to make your 10:30 bedtime. Even when you thought tonight was going to be when you get it right again, get a good night’s sleep and establish your new wake-up time of 6:30am for reals this time, instead of throwing good intentions out the window when the cell phone buzzes obnoxious to alert you it’s time to get up, and hitting snooze seventy times seven.

Sometimes it’s okay to cry when you said you weren’t going to get on facebook again tonight, and you wake up your phone to see facebook still pulled up, so you scroll a bit. You scroll a bit and you stumble upon a post by your friend who said her order of a book just shipped, and she can’t wait to read it. But not just any book. A book about a girl you barely knew who died of cancer at sixteen. And now her words are spreading life through her death. How can it be? How can He bring such beauty out of such pain? I wish there could have been another way. I wish the Earls didn’t have to lose their daughter, sister. I hardly knew her. And I sit here at 10:31 and I don’t care about bedtime anymore. And I know it’s okay to cry. I know it’s okay to cry for the moms and dads who bury their babies. And for wishing there could have been another way. And gawking at the mystery and grace that somehow, He can bring beauty and life from death. Isn’t that what He did with the death of His Son? Didn’t Jesus die so I could live? And couldn’t I, like Ann Voskamp challenges, live like I don’t know when I will die because it could be six decades from now and it could be six hours? It doesn’t dull the sting, but I think that those who know that death is imminent get the gift of knowing life is all the sweeter while we have it, all the more precious. I could live like that, too. It wouldn’t have to take a diagnosis. To stop feeling sorry for myself for all the miniscule ways things haven’t gone like I’d hoped or expected. Isn’t it funny how I’m not ashamed of my self-pity until it’s put to shame by the suffering of others? I don’t want to be so blinded by my own suffering that I’m unaware of the suffering around me. I want to be willing to set mine aside to step into that of others and share it with them. There is suffering that is deep and real and Jesus promised us it. He also promised we wouldn’t be alone in it—because He is here. But He also shoves us in the direction of others, tells us to bear up each others’ burdens, because there is power and hope in community and fellow human beings coming alongside one another and sharing tears and pain. There is healing that can come from another set of eyes peering into yours and saying, “I see you. I see your hurt. You’re not alone.” In hugs and literal shoulders to sob on and shirts soaked with snot and salt shed from the eyes. And I burn for being a place of invitation for sufferers to come. To come and cry and I can’t promise answers, but I know the way to the One who has them. I can let you place your head in my lap while I stroke your hair, can offer you a cup of tea and rub your back while you breathe between the sobs, and give you a place to just let it out. Just let it out.

Literally. You can come stay with me. I have a futon.

Or figuratively. You can visit me there and share your story and I will read. And I will listen. And I won’t try to fix it for you. But I’ll tell you about who can. I know He can because He has, and He’s done it for me. I’ve crawled to heaven’s throne and climbed into my Father’s lap and cried those tears, wiped my snotty nose on the robe of the King, because the Creator and God of the Universe has invited me to do so. He invites you to do so, too. Can you imagine? Jesus stooping to earth and becoming dust to offer us dustlings a place at the throne of grace. We can go together, you and me. I’ll cry with you too and be another voice that tells Him how much it hurts and ask on your behalf that He heal you. That He give you grace and strength to walk through the suffering, see the beauty that can be brought out of even this. He doesn’t promise easy and He doesn’t promise we’ll get what we want, even if what we want seems like the noblest of desires—but He promises peace and His presence for each of His children.
Maybe you’re not one of them—yet, dare I say? Because I desperately want you to know Him, too. And I’d love nothing more than to point you to the One who can save your soul and set you free and soothe your heart in the midst of suffering.


It’s an hour past my bedtime. I’ve lost an hour of sleep, but thanks to a sixteen-year-old girl who didn’t want her story to stop speaking after she stopped living, I’ve gained a fresh dose of compassion and a burning desire to help hurting hearts. So if you’re hurting, come visit me? Here on Peaks Island, or over at my inbox? I want to see your face. I want to hear your voice. I want to step outside of myself and step into your hurt. I want to be reminded that suffering is so much larger than the smallness of mine, and I want to help you. We can go to the throne of grace in our time of need and find healing together.


Tasting and Trusting Again

I spoke of tears of trust. And there was a time of true trust, of hands raised in praise—not balled into fists and thrust at the sky in anger, in distrust.

And then distress of a different kind came, and I allowed it to usher in the distrust. Those fingers once spread wide in worship, held up to the One who held my world, curled inward and shook upward at the One who still held it all. Tears cam again, but not of trust; rather, like that of a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. I let disbelief settle in—disbelief that He still had my best interest at heart. He had guided and led, but I was still responsible for the choices I made that brought me to the place I was, and still I audaciously accused, “How could You? How could You let this happen? Again? How could You leave me here all alone?”

But I’m not alone. I never was. And sometimes we have to feel a little lonely to learn we’re never really alone.

In my loneliness, He reminds me: He is here. Always. I am held. Always.

Slowly, the fingers are unfurling. Sometimes they find themselves starting to curl inward again. I constantly face the choice to release the fists and lay these hands open, palms up, ready to receive whatever He gives—or to use them to offer up what He requires. In surrender. In sacrifice. Oh, it’s painful sometimes. My heart and flesh so long sometimes to hold onto what I think will satisfy. But I’m finding it’s always only Him: “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:2, NIV. And the more I open up to Him, offer to Him, receive of Him, the more I want to. Because once again I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8), and He satisfies like nothing else will.

I’m learning to catch myself when I start to take my fill of other things I’m tempted to think will satisfy me. And when I fail and fall, He’s right there to catch me and say, “Remember, I’m here. And I’m the One you really want.”

I’m learning to crave God. And I’m finding that I’m satisfied by Him and yet craving Him all the more, all at the same time. Only He can do that. Only He can fully fill me and leave me hungering after more, only to keep filling. His supply never ceases. The ice cream carton empties, and at the end of the day when there are no eyes on me, the well of approval dries up again. Not so with God. He dotes on me and delights in me and lavishes His love on me, His chosen child (1 John 3:1).

The same is true for each and every one of His children.

If You’ve trusted in His Son, then child of God, you are loved by Him. Maybe you’re like me and have struggled with believing that. Let it sink in. Let Him love on you. Let Him fill you and replace your hunger for lesser things.

Oh, taste and see that He is good.

Trust Him.

Failure? (Wellness Post #2)

Week two of the elimination phase down!

Were you afraid I forgot to write last week? I didn’t. I planned to, I really did. But I kept putting it off until the end of the week, and then other responsibilities became higher priorities—that, and, I just didn’t really feel like writing. Why—because the thought of sitting down to type was too tiresome? No. Because I wanted to be able to write about what a success last week was. And I simply couldn’t do that. Because it was not a success. At least not in the way I’d like to think of it.

Following this diet is hard. The real challenge is not so much avoiding certain foods as it is the time and preparation that has to go into making all of my meals, because I’m so limited in what I can eat. To avoid eating the same things over and over again, it takes creativity, and I was just so mentally exhausted that I didn’t feel like exerting that kind of creative energy. Physically exhausted, too. A lot of the time, I just didn’t feel like cooking. So you know what I ate a lot of last week? Rice cakes. Rice cakes with coconut oil and agave syrup and salt, rice cakes with avocado and agave syrup and salt, rice cakes with ghee and jam and salt, rice cakes with coconut oil and jam and salt. A lot of stinkin’ rice cakes. Because they’re cheap and quick and carby, and, when I add things like agave syrup and jam and coconut oil, they’re sweet and fattening. And my body’s like, mmmm gimme more. So instead of cooking chicken and some veggies for lunch, I have a quick rice cake for a snack because I’m hungry, and one turns into ten in place of a meal.

Remember how I was concerned about losing weight on this diet? Not the case. Not the case at all. In fact, I’ve noticed I’m steadily gaining. That should be cause for celebration, because I lost so much and not in a healthy way. But remember how I said I was actually kind of excited about the possibility of losing more weight (sad, I know)? So the slow and steady gain is not so exciting. In fact, it’s been kind of depressing. And thus I didn’t want to write because last week was a failure. I didn’t make all the pre-planned meals that I, in fact, didn’t pre-plan; I didn’t actually make very many meals at all. I ate a lot of rice cakes. And fruit. And gained weight. And got depressed. So I ate some more. Because even though I was depressed about gaining weight, the temporary pleasure of sweet, fatty, rice cakes in my mouth seemed to take that away for a little bit—or so I thought. But not really. It ended up just making me feel worse in the long run. Worse about overindulging, and worse about the fact that I was depressed over gaining weight—because I shouldn’t be so concerned about my appearance.

As much as this week was a failure in the sense that I didn’t have three square meals a day, and didn’t earn a gold star for shining self-control, it wasn’t a waste because I learned from it. I learned a lot about what’s in my heart. And as much as I didn’t want to write about my rice cake habit, I think I was more hesitant to write because my failures exposed what’s in my heart. That’s painful to admit to myself, never mind to others.

But that’s the very thing that fuels me today, that spurs me to write. Because writing through this journey is not about the rice cakes I did or didn’t eat. It’s about helping me to process what I’m learning through it, and therefore hopefully be a blessing to you as perhaps you can learn something from what I’m learning, too. Things like:

  1. Regaining health is a process.Okay, if you thought I was an obsessive, indulgent freak, I wouldn’t blame you. Even after vowing several times that I would give up health blogs/books, I didn’t. I kept going back to them for my next high. “Aha! So THIS is what I’m doing wrong!” Or, “Okay, so I just need to tweak this, or that,” is what I’d think based on my latest reading. Even though I was seeing positive changes in my health (the eczema on my hands has almost completely disappeared! 😀 And for the most part, my upper abdominal discomfort has dissipated), I was still not seeing changes in other areas, and saw new symptoms arise (after a rise in energy and seeing those “episodes” of fatigue/feeling faint/dizziness/weakness/headache/twitchiness pretty much disappear the first week, the energy plummeted again and the “episodes” reappeared; I also exchanged the upper abdominal discomfort for lower abdominal discomfort and bloating, and have noticed an increase in joint pain). So, back to the health books/blogs I went to figure out where I might be going wrong. I kind of jumped on the RRARFing bandwagon (rehabilitative rest and aggressive re-feeding–you can google it if you’re curious), and gobbled up Matt Stone’s book, Eat for Heat, faster than a rice cake with coconut oil and strawberry jam. But of course, I took it to the extreme and ran with it, thus eating copious amounts of rice cakes. But I didn’t feel better. In fact, I just felt guilty. Rightly so, because I was being gluttonous. And maybe all the rice I was consuming was starting to bother my stomach. “Maybe there is something to this whole grain-free kick!” I thought. Don’t worry, I’m not there yet. But, I’m willing to give it a try eventually if all else fails and it means regaining health. Anyway, when things didn’t seem to change as fast as I thought they should, I got discouraged. I thought I was doing enough right (I was sticking to the diet and avoiding the things that aren’t allowed) to be feeling better—and I am! But I think without realizing it I was hoping for more of a quick fix, and when immediate recovery didn’t come, I got discouraged. I had to step back and remind myself, “This isn’t a quick fix. It’s not going to happen overnight.” Instead of being frustrated over not-yet changes, I can be thankful for the already-happened changes. Instead of getting down about the failures, I can ask the Lord for forgiveness, and for help to exercise self-control.
  2. Regaining health is a means; not the end.When I was frustrated over my health still not being where I think it should be, I stopped and asked myself, “Why do I want to be healthy?” I found my answer to be a rather selfish one. I didn’t like the pain and discomfort that came along with not being well. My goal was comfort. Health was the end. I just wanted an end to the stomach discomfort and the debilitating fatigue and the headaches and panic attacks and all the other nagging issues. When I realized that was my answer, I then asked myself, “Why should I strive to be healthy?” And I realized I was far from striving for the right goal. My goal is to honor God. In everything (1 Corinthians 10:31). When I’m not eating and drinking to His glory, when I’m not doing the best I can to take care of the body God had entrusted to me, I’m not honoring the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Paul says earlier in that chapter that we’re not to be mastered by anything; not even food (vv. 12-13). So I should strive to be healthy by not being mastered by food, because when I am, I’m not honoring the temple. And being healthy frees me up to have more strength and energy to minister to others in the ways that the Lord has called me to. Becoming healthy, as much as is in my power to do so, is simply a means of honoring the Lord and seeking to be the vessel He desires to use. Health itself is not my aim. In making it such, I’ve made it an idol. Again, not something I wanted to admit. But it needs to be confronted in order for it to change. So, there. I’ve said it. I’ve made my health an idol. And in realizing such, you know what else I’ve realized? I’m not entitled to good health. God’s Word makes it clear that we’re to be stewards of what He’s entrusted to us, including our bodies. But even if I’m doing absolutely everything humanly possible to become and remain healthy, I’m still not promised perfect health. I live in a fallen world. I can eat all the right things and drink the right amount of water and get the right amount of sleep, and there will still be days when I have a headache, or my stomach hurts, or I have joint pain. Those things aren’t necessarily a reflection of failure on my part to ensure health. They are simply a part of life. And God is sovereign. He could very well answer my request to be healed by zapping away every little ailment if He so chose. But in His sovereignty, He knows what will most make me dependent on Him, and show His power to the world. If illness is it, then His grace is sufficient. And like Paul, I can boast all the more gladly in my weakness, because in it Christ’s strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12).
  3. While it’s not okay to overindulge and throw self-control out the window, my weight and outer appearance do not define who I am or determine my worth.My friend was wise to warn me going into this process. Body image has been a struggle for me since I was young. Despite knowing intellectually the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, my heart actually believed that I was not beautiful. And without realizing it, most of the time my redeeming thought was, “Well, at least I’m skinny…” Yep. I’ve been there. While I struggle at times with being satisfied with the face in the mirror, by the grace of God, I’ve grown leaps and bounds in this area. However, I still grapple with the issue of finding my worth in the size and shape of my body. I liked the way I looked when I was ten pounds skinnier. I thought it made me more attractive, and I liked that. So when my overindulgence brought those ten pounds back, I allowed it to discourage me. I allowed it to discourage me because I started to fear, “What if I keep gaining?” And I was scared that a continual gain in weight would render me unattractive and thus less valuable. But to whom? Did I really think my friends and family, those who already love me, would love me less if I gained weight? No. And when it comes down to it, do I think it will mean God will love me less? No. Sure, I know when I choose to sin against Him by making unhealthy choices that I am grieving Him. But I know He doesn’t love me less. I know this, intellectually. The thing is, after eighteen years of walking with Jesus, sometimes I still struggle with believing that He loves me at all. Oh, I’d never tell you I don’t think Jesus loves me. But without my mind realizing it, my heart has believed it to be true. So that’s why I go looking for validation in other sources. I’ve essentially said, the Cross wasn’t enough to speak of my value to You, Creator of the Universe. I need to be important to people. To men. Even if it’s only that they think I’m attractive.

    Do you know how empty that’s left me? When I started to get the attention from men I craved, I thought I had gotten what I wanted. I thought it would fill me up. It didn’t. It left me feeling more empty. And here I am tempted to run back to that same source, tempted to feel depressed because I fear that gaining weight will take away the validation I find in men considering me attractive.

    Wow! I learned all that from diet failures? God is good, isn’t He? I’m glad He’s willing to take even my failures and shortcomings and use them to show me what’s in my heart. I’m glad He loves me enough to show me what’s there, not so He can throw it in my face like His enemy so often does, but to uproot it and replace it with the truth. I needed to be reminded this week that my value is determined by the fact that I am made by the hands of, and in the image of, an Almighty, Awesome, Beautiful Creator and God, who delights in me and died for me even when I didn’t deserve it. I needed to be reminded that He’s more concerned about the condition of my heart than the weight of my body. I needed to be reminded that if the attention I crave from men never comes, I am loved beyond measure by God—and even if that attention does come, it will not fill me. It will not satisfy. Looking to it to do so will only leave me feeling empty. But Christ fills to overflowing like only He can do. And wants to!

Are you with me at all? Have you ever been tempted to find validation in the attention of men—or people in general? Do you ever feel discouraged and look to food to fill that void, too? Doesn’t it just leave you feeling empty?

Well, here’s what I’m prescribing for myself this week—maybe you’ll find it helpful, too:

I’ve joined the Online Bible Study, Made to Crave, courtesy of Proverbs 31 Ministries. It’s free to sign up; you just need a copy of the book, Made to Crave. I find it fitting that it happens to be coinciding with my journey to health. God’s timing is perfect, isn’t it? Speaking of such, someone I was talking to this week suggested I read Psalm 139 each night before bed, without even knowing my body image issues. What a great suggestion—it’s one I’m taking. And when I’m tempted to overindulge, to get frustrated over the not-yet changes, to get discouraged about gaining weight and potentially losing the attention I desire, I’m going to stop and ask myself, “What is it that I’m really craving, seeking, desiring?” Whether it’s comfort or validation, it’s something I’m craving in place of God. Once I identify that, I’m going to remind myself of the only One I’ve been made to crave: God. I’m going to choose to meditate on Made to Crave’s Online Bible Study verse of the week, Psalm 84:2: “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; y heart and flesh cry out for the living God” (NIV).

So, who’s with me? If you decide to implement some or all of these things, will you let me know how it goes?

What are some other ways you combat feelings of failure, and temptation to find comfort and validation apart from Christ? I’d love to hear your stories of success in fighting the battle. 🙂

When words fail, He whispers…

Words. They’re what I’m about. I use them to communicate; we all do. And when you’re aiming to communicate to an audience through writing, when you’ve set goals for yourself to accomplish such, sometimes it can feel like the pressure’s on. I wrote about that last week. But I’m reminded there’s no pressure. Just process. Progress. So can I let you in a little on how the process has been going this week? Honestly, It feels like little progress has been made. There were lots of words this week. There were things I could have, and felt like I should have, written about. But getting those words together in order to communicate what I thought they should proved to be a struggle. Then there were no words. The enemy is always on the prowl, but he seemed to be in overdrive in my life this week. There were feelings of failure and defeat and thoughts of, “How can I possibly have anything of consequence to say when I just. Can’t. Seem. To. Get. It. Together.?”
Granted, I think there’s a difference between deceiving oneself into thinking she can write and try to encourage people to do and think right, when she’s not doing so herself and has an unrepentant spirit. However, when we’re honest with the Lord about our struggles and seeking His forgiveness, I think it’s merely a tool of the enemy when we start to think we’re unworthy or have nothing to offer. We’re not and we don’t, at least not on our own. But the Lord bestows value and uses willing vessels to speak through.
So then there are these words. And right now, they’re the ones I feel most compelled to share–mostly because today I desperately needed to be reminded of them. So here’s a repost from the archives (originally posted here):

Just when I thought as though I had nothing left to give, that I had let God into the deepest recesses of my heart, I hear Him whisper, “Let me go deeper. Invite me in.”
He loves me enough to go there? To the places I’ve let no one go, have hardly dared to go myself?
Well, doesn’t He already know what’s there? Yes. He knows better than I do. What’s the point then of voicing it to Him, then?
“But it’s too painful to talk about, God. I don’t want to go there.”
Gently, He says, “Come, My child. Tell Me what’s there. Tell Me what hurts.”
“Why, God? You already know…”
“I want to heal you,” He says tenderly. “Let me.”
“…for I am the LORD, your Healer.” Exodus 15:26

Intro (Wellness Post #1)

Welcome to the first installment of my weekly wellness posts! This is going to serve as an introduction of sorts. So, I’ll forewarn you that it’ll be long. If you’re brave, or just bored and have nothing better to do, keep reading. 🙂 Since I plan to post these on Fridays (note: I know that by the time you’ll be reading this one, it will be Saturday. I know, I know. I told you to keep your eyes peeled. But Friday is coming to a close—at least mine is at 10pm, and, I love you all, but I realllly just don’t feel like leaving my warm house and walking out in the cold to the library in order to catch some wifi to actually be able to post this. Alas, it will have to wait until morning. Yes, yes, I did plan to have this done in enough time to make it to the library today, but it just did not happen. Such is life.), I had originally thought of naming them something catchy, like “Foodie Fridays.” But, I decided against it. Why? This is about more than just food. While the purpose of these posts will be to chronicle my journey to healing through diet, I realize that encompasses more than just what I put into my mouth. We are whole beings, made up of heart, soul, mind, and body. All are intertwined and affect one another. My mood affects how I’m feeling physically, and vice versa. So, I could not adequately capture the healing process and talk only about food, or the physical aspect. What I put into my mouth affects not just my body, but my mind, soul and heart as well. And, a lot of the time, what is put into my mouth is driven by what’s in my heart. For example, I often overeat when I’m sad or depressed. This reflects that my heart believes the temporary pleasure and comfort offered by that, or those, brownie(s) will soothe the pain and satisfy my longings. The choice to eat those brownies is not simply a choice to eat brownies because they taste good. It is fueled by something deeper. It is fueled by a wrong belief that eating will provide what my soul is really longing for—which can actually only be found in Christ.

So what does all of this have to do with my new diet? (I should add that my new “diet” is not a weight loss plan; it’s simply an eating regimen designed to help me get well.) Well, a lot. You see, my emotional eating—or lack thereof (when I’m depressed, I eat; when I’m anxious, I don’t), is likely a large contributor to my current circumstances. While I don’t believe my diet or eating habits were entirely to blame (I think a lot of it was also me getting stressed out and allowing my external circumstances to overwhelm me and drive my emotions out of control—and thus my body), I do think they played quite a role in landing me where I am now. Thanks to youth and genetics, for me, weight gain hasn’t really been a significant consequence of overeating. My body, however, has paid the price for that and other poor eating choices in other ways. So, just where exactly did that land me? While I had been battling fatigue, headaches, and stomach issues off and on for quite some time, these all became exacerbated a couple of months ago, on top of other issues that developed. My mood was all over the place, I was having panic attacks with increasing frequency (again, not necessarily the fault of food, but another indication that I needed to make some serious changes for my overall health and well-being), and I was having trouble sleeping, which was unusual for me. My mind, body, and spirit were all such a wreck, and things seemed to be getting steadily worse. I began to catch on that perhaps my issues were, at least in part, food related, and began to do a lot of research. First I cut out gluten for a time, but when issues seemed to remain despite its absence, I started to think there was more to it. So, I did more research. Then I thought maybe the problem was yeast related when I stumbled upon a book at a rummage sale called, The Yeast Connection. It was an interesting read, but written in the ’80’s, and a little outdated. So I took my search back to the internet. I found a few different “anti-yeast” diets, which eventually led me to GAPS. I had never heard of anything like it, but it fascinated me. So I kept researching. And researching, until I drove myself crazy with an unhealthy obsession, and became overwhelmed with all the information out there. Some swore by GAPS. Others claimed negative long-term effects. Still some others touted Paleo as the way to go, and others, SCD, just to name a few of the more well-known ones (or at least they seemed to be in the natural food/health blogging world). So, which one was the route for me? How would I know? I was beginning to become more discouraged than hopeful by all the information out there, and felt a growing sense that I would benefit from the help of a professional. One of the sites I found had confronted this very issue, stating that a one-diet-fits-all, or a one-supplement-fits-all approach is not going to work. It was there that I first saw the term “functional medicine,” and googled it to find out just what the heck it was. Oddly enough, one of the first links to pop up was labeled something like, “Functional Medicine Maine.” No way! I thought. To boot, the office was in Scarborough, a couple towns over from Portland. And, the guy’s a Christian. I felt hope for the first time in this whole process. When I had first begun to sense that working with a professional would be helpful (and that a doctor in the traditional sense wasn’t going to be the best bet, because I had tried that route and just ended up with no real answers, and just band-aids for my symptoms that didn’t even really seem to work), I had looked into alternative medicine and holistic healing. However, I was concerned about the spiritual component. So when I found Dr. Sholl, I felt such relief. When I met with him, we discussed my entire health history, and current symptoms. He suspected leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and low stomach acid. His prescription was a list of supplements, and that I go on an elimination diet to identify possible food allergies. What that means is avoiding common allergens like eggs, dairy, wheat, nuts, beef, corn, and soy, among other things, for three weeks. After that time has passed, I can begin to reintroduce one food or category at a time and monitor my reaction to it. So in the meantime, what can I eat? Most fruits, vegetables, poultry and gluten-free grains like rice, millet, quinoa, aramanth, etc.

Annndd here I am on day five. Almost a whole week down! Has it been easy? No. But I have already begun to see the pay-off. Before I started (my doctor and I had decided on waiting until after the holidays to start), I kept indulging myself in all the foods I already knew were bothering me, but I wouldn’t be able to eat once the diet began. I figured I’d enjoy them while I could! But I wasn’t even really enjoying them because they just made me feel awful afterward. And while I had decided that I was also going to wait until after the wedding I was in last weekend to start officially, it came to a point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, for the five days leading up to leaving for Bangor, I ate essentially diet-legal. And I felt better. I knew it would be hard to try to stick to it in Bangor, so I didn’t plan to. But I think eating the way I did leading up to it made it a little easier. That said, when I officially started this Monday, it wasn’t so hard because I had already had a practice run, so to speak, and had the benefit of seeing the results it yielded. Even after indulging all weekend, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to avoid sugar and bread, essentially the two things that my body usually craves most. And while I’m not out of the woods yet, I have noticed a difference. My mind seems clearer, my sleep has regulated, and I’m not having these intense episodes of brain fog accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, and twitchiness that I was having essentially every time I ate. Sometimes I feel a little funky, but it’s not as bad now.

If you’ve stuck with me thus far, kudos! Treat yourself to a piece of chocolate or something and enjoy it for the both of us. 😉 With all that being said, why write about all of this? Well, I hope that by sharing some of what I am learning—about myself, life, food, health, God—throughout this process, I can be of help to others. One such thing I’ve learned so far is this:

-Life is so much more enjoyable when I focus on the good I do have, rather than gripe about what I don’t or can’t have. For example, right now, I can’t eat ice cream. But I can eat this coconut stuff I found at Whole Foods that tastes like ice cream, but doesn’t have dairy or sugar or other things I can’t eat. Hooray! This principle applies to other areas of life as well, and this small example dealing with my diet reminds me of that. And it reminds me that God is good and gives good things; we will merely miss their goodness if we remain focused on the lack of other seemingly good things.

I also need some accountability. And committing to writing through this process requires me to be transparent. I need that. Remember what I said earlier about how this whole external issue of food is actually one way of revealing the internal issues in my heart? One of my friends, when I told her about beginning this process, warned me against becoming obsessive and controlling about it. I kind of brushed it off, thinking that developing an eating “disorder” wasn’t going to happen to me, because I love food and eating way too much to let that happen. But then I remembered that eating disorders come in different forms, not just anorexia. And having an unhealthy relationship with food was partly what got me to where I was in the first place. And, I have to confess that when the doctor first suggested I go on the diet, even though I knew the intent of the diet was not to lose weight, I was actually kind of excited about the prospect of that. Prior to seeing Dr. Scholl, I had already lost about 10-15 pounds in only about a month’s time, which is a lot for me. A couple of big things happened/were happening that I let totally stress me out, and I was hardly eating anything. You know I’m really stressed when I’m not eating, because usually I am an eating machine. People kept commenting on how thin I looked, and I kept saying that I wasn’t trying to lose the weight, and didn’t want to. I wasn’t trying to, and I didn’t want to, at least not that way. But when I looked in the mirror, as much as I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I liked what I saw. I wasn’t pleased with or proud of how I got there, but I was pleased with the result. After regaining my appetite and indulging in holiday treats and sweets, I gained back probably 5 of the pounds I lost. When Dr. Sholl suggested the elimination diet, I had a hunch that by eliminating a lot of the sugary treats and breads that I was eating, I’d likely lose that again. And I was excited. I was excited because I was happy with the way I looked, and was tempted to find my validation in that. But what I’ve already learned, once again, is that it is not what validates me. Christ defines who I am, and established my worth long ago when He decided to create me, and even further, died for me when I didn’t deserve it. And, that a diet or eating plan isn’t going to fix the issues in my heart; they will still be there. The me that indulged in brownies still is tempted to indulge now—like on the 8 mini sweet potato coconut blackberry muffins I ate the other day (which, by the way, were totally delicious, and I’ll be posting the recipe for them as well). Fixing my diet won’t fix my heart. But it can be used as a tool to steer my heart in the right direction. I want to follow this diet because I want to get well. And I want to find out what things to avoid if it means getting and staying well. But part of that process means addressing and uprooting unhealthy habits. While I’m not trying to count or cut calories, I still need to tackle, with the Lord’s help, this issue of overeating, whether it’s brownies or carrot sticks I’m indulging in. Granted, if I’m going to indulge, the carrots would be the healthier choice…But that’s beside the point. If I’m stuffing myself to try to satisfy an emotional need, something is still off-balance. So I need to write about this, because it helps keep me in check, and forces me to take an honest look at where I am with the whole thing. It would be easy to stay silent and get swept up in either feeling sorry for myself for all the brownies and pizza and ice cream I can’t eat, or fool myself into thinking I’ve really got a grip on this thing when I might actually be slipping into an unhealthy thought pattern or habit. So, you can expect me to be brutally honest in this process. And, if I start to get silent and you don’t hear from me for a while, it may just be because I’m busy. But it may be because I’m struggling and I don’t want to be honest about it. So, do me a favor? If it’s been a couple weeks since you’ve heard from me, shoot me a text/email/whatever, and ask how it’s going? Like I said, I need the accountability. So, even if I resent you for a second for calling me out on my silence, I will ultimately love you and appreciate you for loving me enough to reach out.

Okay, so honesty. Lessons. What else can you expect from these weekly wellness posts? I also plan to include recipes (like this one for gluten-free, egg-free and sugar-free sweet potato coconut blackberry muffins! Yummm) and other exciting finds that I discover along the way—like my newfound looooove of coconut oil! I was already turned on to its many wonderful benefits and yumminess (call me crazy, but I like to eat it by the spoonful! I usually have at least one a day), and then found this list thanks to a friend posting it on facebook. The one about removing eye makeup? It works! And it doesn’t sting your eyes. Hooray! Cheers to not having to spend money on a separate eye makeup remover. 🙂

I’ll leave you with that little tidbit and say good night, as this has been long enough and I’m sure you’re ready to be done reading by now, if you’ve even made it this far! If you have, thanks for keeping up. Til next week,

Be well.

❤ Tamara

Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free and Egg-Free Sweet Potato Coconut Blackberry Muffins

When my doctor suggested I go on an elimination diet, he gave me a packet that included allowable and non-allowable foods, meal ideas, and recipes. One such recipe is for “Meal in a Muffin,” which was “adopted with permission from Wheat-free Sugar-free Gourmet Cooking by Sue O’Brien, Gig Harbor, WA, 2001. I adapted it a little based on what I had on hand in my kitchen.

Below is the original recipe:

1 medium carrot, grated

1 large apple, grated

1/4 cup ghee

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

Egg replacement equal to 2 eggs

1/3 cup rice syrup, molasses, or agave (or mixture of those sweeteners)

2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup millet flour

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup dates

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together all wet ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients then mix both together. Lightly coat muffin tins with oil spray. Fill 3/4 full and bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack.

And here are my adjustments. I used one medium-to-large-sized sweet potato in place of the apple and carrot, grated as well. I also substituted coconut oil for ghee, used a flaxseed/water ratio (1/3 cup of water to 1 tbsp. of flaxseed blended together and left to sit for 5 min.=1 egg) for the egg replacement, agave syrup for the sweetener, white rice flour instead of brown rice flour, and blackberries instead of dates (I didn’t have dates, and don’t really like them, anyway). I used a mini-muffin tin, and filled each cup about 3/4 of the way full, and baked them for about 20 minutes. They don’t round on the top like typical muffins because the flaxseed mixture acts as a binding, but not leaving agent. So, to give them a little more volume, I filled the second batch to the top. These needed to bake for at least 25 minutes. The result was a sweet, delicious muffin that stayed very moist even the next day! These are definitely going to become a go-to snack, I can tell… so long as I can keep them around long enough without indulging in half the batch as soon as I make them!