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Posted on May 16, 2016 in Health | 0 comments

Awesome Whole 30 Recipes

Awesome Whole 30 Recipes

I finished my Whole 30 program at the end of March, but am continuing with the plan because I feel so good about it. I wrote last time that I was surprised by how good clean eating can be. This time I’m going to prove it! Give these “recipes” (I use that word loosely) a try and let me know what you think, if you modified them, and how they turned out.

You’re welcome.

Pork Roast

Pork RoastThis one is so easy, I can’t stand it. The flavor will make everyone think you’re some kind of a genius in the kitchen! I don’t know if I ever had pork roast before The Whole 30. A friend recommended it, or I would’ve never attempted to make it myself. The basic recipe is here and I modified it slightly to suit my pantry.

Basically, get out your crock pot, spray it down with cooking spray (I use Pam Organic Olive Oil), and lay 3 slices of no-sugar bacon (I got mine here and it’s delicious), or prosciutto if you can’t find sugar-free bacon, on the bottom. Put a 3-5 pound pork roast (I use the biggest one I can find because I want lots of leftovers) on top of the bacon. (Make sure your pork doesn’t have MSG in it. I got a natural one from Wal-Mart, but check the label!) Now, make 5 deep slits in the meat and put a peeled garlic clove in each one. (I crush mine a little with the flat side of my big knife so they melt into the meat a little easier.) Lastly, put a couple tablespoons of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt on top of it. Cook it on low for 12 hours (newer crock pots) or 16 hours (older crock pots). Do not baste it or mess with it at all. Trust me.

THIS IS IMPORTANT! When it’s done, remove it from the crock pot and put it in a large bowl or casserole dish. Using two forks, shred it. Do NOT shred it in the crock pot. The juice is way too salty and will ruin it. You really need to shred it (and mix it around pretty good) to distribute the roasted garlic and crispy skin evenly. Roasted garlic is mild and delicious, even if you end up eating a whole bulb of it at once, but it really enhances the flavor of the meat when it’s broken apart in the shredding process.

Just to make it extra-easy (because you do so much prep-work on this diet), I serve this with roasted red potatoes, canned green beans, and store-bought, sugar-free applesauce.  I also take the remaining juices and bacon from the bottom of the crock pot and put them in a container in the fridge. Whenever I need cooking fat, I pull that out and savor the added flavor. YUM. Just note that if you use it, you won’t need nearly as much (if any) salt because it’s already very salty.

Ingredients list: 3-5 pound pork roast, 3 slices sugar-free bacon, 5 cloves of garlic, 2 T Pink Himalayan sea salt (I didn’t grind mine, but if yours is ground, you should probably use less.)

Prep time: 5 minutes before, 5 minutes after

Cook time: 12-16 hours


Roasted Red Potatoes

The Whole 30 is extremely restrictive, but it does allow for all varieties of potatoes. According to my sister (an expert in all these things), if your main goal is weight loss, you’ll want to skip all but the sweet potatoes. But if you’re feeling deprived without bread or pasta and want to splurge a little, this recipe is delicious. I came up with it one day when, on a whim, I decided to invite friends over for lunch after church to share my precious pork roast. I’d planned on making 2 roasted sweet potatoes, but that wasn’t enough for all of us. I came up with this on the fly and it was so quick (compared to baking for an hour) and easy, I made it for guests several time. There were rave reviews every time.

Get one of those small bags of baby red potatoes at the grocery store, spray them with some veggie cleaning spray, wash them, cut them in half (or don’t, to save time), and place them in a glass bowl with a lid. Add a few tablespoons of water to the bowl, put the lid on tightly, and microwave them for 8-10 minutes. You want them soft, but not so mushy they fall apart. That’s not the end of the world, but they’re harder to work with if they get too soft.

Drain the water and put the potatoes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic powder (or minced garlic, if you have the time), onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Broil for 5 minutes, stir, then broil another 5 minutes or so. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, but let them get a nice caramel crust on them. That’s it. You’re done! YUM.

Ingredients: small bag of baby red potatoes, water, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: about 20 minutes


Pepper, Onion, Tomato Awesomeness

I’m not sure what to call this mixture. Sauce? Side dish? So, we’ll go with Awesomeness, because that’s exactly what it is. With The Whole 30, you need to eat veggies at every meal and sometimes that gets challenging. This recipe works really well if you can do your prep work in advance. It’s a sweet, flavorful mix that brightens up any plate. It’s so good, I use it on just about everything – eggs, meat, and even by itself. It’s not a fast recipe, so it’s best if you make it when you have plenty of time. Then refrigerate it and warm it up when you’re ready to use it. It’s totally worth the time.

First of all, get one of those 3-packs of multi-colored sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange). Wash, seed, and slice them. In a skillet, melt some of your pork roast fat or other cooking fat, and add the peppers. I like to put a tight lid on them to speed things up. The point of this step is to soften up the fresh peppers.

*I’ve discovered a way to skip this step though. If you pre-slice all the peppers and onions and freeze them, the peppers will be very soft when they thaw out. Then you can put the peppers and onions in the skillet at the same time. I tend to do several batches of peppers at once, which saves time and tears (onions) later.

While the peppers are cooking, slice a yellow sweet onion and peel and mince some garlic. Cut a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes in half (or use regular tomatoes, whatever you have on hand). When the peppers have softened, add the onions and garlic, stirring to incorporate everything well. Put the lid back on and sit down to read a book. Check on them every few minutes, stirring to be sure they don’t burn. When the onions become translucent, add the tomatoes, stirring everything up again. Add some salt, pepper, and a little basil if you want. (I like to add crushed red pepper too, but I’m the only one in this house who likes things spicy. Do as you wish with yours.)

Cover it back up and go back to your book. When the onions start to caramelize, you’re done. The tomatoes should’ve wilted down and everything should look like it’s soft and wonderful. Stir it up one more time, then put it in a glass dish with a lid.

Add this mix to everything until it’s gone (sigh) and you need to make another batch. If you have company, don’t put it all out on the table or they WILL They won’t even realize all the work that went into making that amazing dish. Keep some back or you’ll be staring wide-eyed and mournful while they eat every last bite.

Ingredients: cooking fat, 3 sweet peppers, 1 yellow onion, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil

Prep time: How fast can you wash, seed, peel, and slice peppers, onions, and garlic?

Cook time: about 15-20 minutes



FritattaIf you’re anything like me, you enjoy making breakfast but don’t always have time for a big production. This basic dish is an excellent solution. I started making it ahead, planning to eat the leftovers on busy mornings. I used to grab a bar or a couple hard boiled eggs on busy mornings, which always left me feeling a little cheated. With this dish, I have a breakfast I can look forward to, needing only a minute or so to reheat it. It tastes just as good the second day as it does the first, so enjoy!

First, figure out what kind of meat you want to use and prepare it in a cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet) over medium heat with some cooking fat so it doesn’t stick. I’ve used ground beef, chicken sausage, bacon, and kielbasa. Use enough for 2 servings. Add in some of your Pepper, Onion, and Tomato Awesomeness and half a bag of raw spinach. Stir it all up. Cook it for a few minutes so it all gets warm and the spinach wilts.

While it’s cooking, turn your oven on Broil and whisk 6-8 eggs really well. The longer you whisk, the more air gets in there and gives you nice, fluffy eggs. You can add a little water to the mix too, if you want.

Go back to your meat and veggie mix. Make sure it’s all warm and evenly distributed. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, you may want to push everything to one side and spray it again with Pam, then do the same on the other side. If I don’t do that, my eggs really stick, but I don’t have a non-stick skillet that’s oven-safe over 350 degrees F. Fuss with your ingredients a bit here, making sure you don’t have a bunch of meat in one spot and a big hole somewhere else. Once everything is spread out nicely, pour the eggs over it. Now, let it sit for a few minutes until the sides begin to set. Not too long or it’ll burn on the bottom! 3-4 minutes is typically enough. If you want to be really fancy, you can add sliced tomatoes, diced avocados, or crumbled bacon to the top. It makes it look extra nice, but isn’t necessary.

Now, take the skillet and put it under the broiler. I like to put it on the top rack so it cooks quickly. 2 1/2 to 3 minutes later, your fritatta is golden on top and delicious!  Cut it in half, pour a cup of hot coffee, and find a comfortable spot to savor your delicious meal!

*Note, I like to do as much prep-work ahead of time as possible. During the kids’ naps, I’ll often brown the ground beef with some onion and garlic for a later recipe, or slice up the kielbasa, or cook the bacon til it’s almost done. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend doing ahead of time is whisking the eggs. That didn’t turn out so well for me. :-/

Ingredients: cooking fat; 6-8 eggs; Pepper, Onion, Tomato Awesomeness; Baby Spinach; Meat of your choice


Grill Day!

This isn’t a recipe, just a tip. It’s really helpful to do The Whole 30 during the summer when fresh fruits and vegetables are widely available and you can fire up the grill easily.

When you get the grill going, this is the time to do as much prep-work as you possibly can for the week to come. I like to cover every inch of my grill with something (twice)! I also like to use a charcoal grill for the taste, so I don’t want all that work setting up the grill to go to waste.

To prepare, put your meat on the counter for about an hour so it gets to room temperature. Pound the chicken so the thickness is even. Coat your steak and chicken well with sea salt and pepper. Spray the grill with Pam and get it as hot as you can (500-600 degrees, yay!). Gather your supplies: oven-mitts to protect your hands and wrists from the heat, plates, utensils, sauces, baskets, meat, veggies, and anything else you plan to grill.

Grill everything you can get your hands on and have a feast! Then, take all the leftover meat and store it in individual 4-5 ounce servings. Grilled chicken and steak can be sliced or diced. I use snack size zipper bags and freeze them. Use the leftovers in salads, your fritatta, or other recipes.

Note: Living in a rural, farming community, I don’t have easy access to awesome stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. I buy almost all my groceries at the local grocer. I’ve found my store to be very responsive to the smallest request, upping their supply of anything I happen to mention. Anything I can’t find there, I typically order from Amazon Prime because it comes so quickly. I did recently travel 90 minutes away so I can leisurely stroll around Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I filled my car with all kinds goodies I can’t find locally.

Lastly, if you’re interested in doing The Whole 30 yourself, I’m starting a Facebook group to offer support and encouragement. We’re starting on Monday, June 13th. Let me know if you’d like to join. And if you’d to get daily updates, follow me on Instagram. My handle is kimberly.wyse. 🙂

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Posted on Apr 18, 2016 in Health | 3 comments

Be Awesome: Update

Be Awesome: Update

Be Awesome

This year my resolution is to Be Awesome.

My fabulous sister-in-law gave me a little “Be Awesome” plaque that now sits in my kitchen. I love it. Putting it in the kitchen gave me an added boost in March (2016), reminding me as I spent hour after hour in there, of my promise to myself. In March, I completed a 30-day health reset (following the program The Whole30 by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig). It’s a pretty extreme diet to help reduce inflammation, sugar cravings, and set your body back on track. It’s very intense, but I studied the program, followed it nearly 100% (never intentionally going off-plan), and feel awesome about it.

I spent about two weeks studying the book to make sure I understood the program, preparing my mind for the changes I was about to make, and planning how I would eat and not eat. During the program, I spent a lot of time chopping vegetables, lining baking sheets with parchment paper, making meal plans, and shopping for approved foods.

The result has been great! I didn’t realize that a change in my eating could help eliminate anxiety, but it did. Some of the health issues I had have been seriously diminished or are completely gone. I lost a few pounds, and I learned a great new way to cook and feed my family. I discovered that my kids actually like healthy food better than most processed foods, and I stopped spending some much money at the grocery store. (Full disclosure, we purchased beef [grass-fed and local] and pork [free from sugar, MSG, and other junk] from other sources.)

During the time I was doing this extreme diet, we had three sets of out-of-town guests. We had two birthday parties (Charlie and Rick), a wedding in which Eliana was the flower girl, Easter, and all of our regular responsibilities. During all of these events, I was able to stay on the plan – no grains, no sugar or sweeteners, no milk products, no legumes, and no alcohol. What you eat is simple, whole food: meat, vegetables, and a little fruit. It’s designed to help you renegotiate your relationship with food, set up healthy eating habits, and allow your body to heal by removing any foods that might stir up allergies or inflammation. I set up a text message group and sent out regular texts to those who were interested, letting them know how I was doing with the diet, and inviting their responses.

I was surprised to find that the text message group became a source of fun and ministry for me. The things I shared triggered others to share personal things with me, and I was able to pray with several group members and offer encouragement beyond healthy eating. It was a great way to get my mind off myself and to reach out to others. I reconnected with a few people I’d lost touch with, and enjoyed the challenges they presented to me too.

I felt so awesome, in fact, that I decided to stick to the plan moving forward. I won’t be quite so strict, but I will make it a priority to feed myself and my family whole, healthy meals that allow our bodies to function well, rather than constantly fight off problems. If I do go off the plan, I will ask myself if it’s worth it. If it is, I’ll eat as little as possible to feel satisfied.

I did get discouraged because I’d hoped for big weight loss numbers. It wasn’t all about weight for me, but I was hopeful that it would be a side effect. I did lose weight, but it was about half of what I’d hoped to achieve. I’ve been reminding myself of how awesome I feel on it, trying hard not to let that derail me again. The longer I eat in a healthy way, the more my body has a chance to heal from the poor choices I made, and the better I can feel overall. The better I feel, the more I can do positive things like exercise, and the easier it will be to lose weight. (My goal is not to be a particular weight, but just to be healthy and fit, which for me requires some weight loss.)

In order to help keep myself on track, I’ve jumped into another program that sends reminders to my phone every day, letting me know one new thing I can do each week to be as healthy as possible. For Mother’s Day, I plan to ask for a fitness tracker. I know if I keep moving in the right direction, I can truly learn to prioritize health for myself and my family. (And not turn into a crazy mommy, obsessed with being skinny. Lord, help me find the balance!)

Beyond the physical health changes I’ve made, I’ve also made some decisions to care more for myself emotionally. (It’s amazing to me how I never seem to do enough of this, no matter how much of a priority I make it, and how selfish I feel in spite of all the knowledge I have about how important it is to take care of yourself so you can take care of others.) I’ve made a point to stop knocking on doors that haven’t yet opened. Moving to a rural, farming community has been a big change for this city girl, in spite of my childhood in the area. I thought I could change some of the basic things about myself to fit in better here, but it turns out that trying to do so only makes me unhappy and doesn’t work anyway. I’m enjoying life on the farm, and I even had Rick expand my garden for this summer! I’m looking forward to growing fresh vegetables and fruit, spending time outdoors tending my garden, and feeding my family from the harvest.

I also need some semblance of my old life, though. In the last four months, I’ve made some changes that might seem silly at first glance, but are important to me. In order to get me back into the city on a semi-regular basis, I’ve changed some of the people I work with so I have a good reason to get into the city. I’m not just out shopping, but I’m seeing the eye doctor, getting my hair done, and so forth. It helps me feel like I can breathe.

Part of being awesome this year has also included taking a week-long family vacation, with our nanny, to a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN. She watched our children at night, so Rick and I slept without interruption for eight nights straight. We haven’t done that in about four years, so just being well-rested was a hugely awesome thing! During that week, I stayed off social media and just spent time with my family. I read a book. The whole week was good for me, so good that I really wanted to stay another week. I’m usually ready to get home from vacation, but this time was different. It probably had a little to do with sleeping all night! From that well-rested place, I embarked on this health reset and found the end of a deep sadness that had come on me toward the end of 2015.

How are YOU doing on your new year’s resolutions? Is there anything YOU feel awesome about and would like to share? I’d love to hear about it!

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Posted on Oct 29, 2013 in Devotional | 8 comments



Perfect little arms and legs, a sweet little belly button, fingers that can pick up anything, and a fluffy little head – things that delight me every day as I look at my daughter. Her legs and ankles are getting stronger, allowing her to walk around objects as long as she holds on. Her two little teeth flash when her face lights up in a smile. Her eyes have turned brown and she has thick, light brown eyelashes. She kisses me with her mouth wide open, often getting in a little lick. I cherish the grossness of her sloppy kisses.

She has a good appetite and eats just about anything I give her. She stopped eating baby food months ago, preferring whatever we’re eating instead. She eats with gusto, shoving little bits of food in her mouth, somehow chewing it up, and making happy noises when new flavors are experienced. But when she’s full, she turns her little head and holds up her hand. That’s it. No more. No apologies to the chef, no concern that there’s still food on her plate. I’m amazed by how her perfect little body works, letting her know when she’s full and making no allowance for gluttony.

Yes, I’m calling my child perfect. Absolutely perfect.

I make no apologies for it. She is an amazing mystery I will never comprehend – how she grew inside me, gained weight and formed beautifully all while I vomited and vomited and vomited. While I laid on the couch and wanted to die, she grew. And then she was out and an entirely separate person, and I was FREE! It’s all too weird to understand.

A childhood friend of mine was also growing a child in her womb while my Eliana was forming in mine. My friend was also doing all she could to nurture new life, to pray for her unborn daughter, and to stand in amazement at the things that were happening to her.

But while I was planning a nursery, she was planning a funeral.

While I was greedily soaking up the perfect little spine I saw on the ultrasound, she was hearing words like “Truncus Arteriosus, Atrial Septal Defect, Cleft lip/palate, and Cystic Kidneys.” Her precious daughter, Abbie Ann, was not perfect. She had Trisomy 13 Syndrome, a genetic disorder that caused her to never get to see the face of her loving parents. They lost her before she was ready to be born.

My friend posted regular updates on Facebook, asking us all to pray for a miracle as she and her husband gave their child every chance to live. I prayed, begging God to heal her daughter, begging God to give her peace. I felt so selfish and small, clinging to the amazing news that my own miracle was healthy and whole. While she dealt gracefully with horrific news, I sobbed in frustration that I couldn’t stop throwing up, wondering if I’d ever feel normal again.

I made a decision. Abbie Ann would never be forgotten by me. Her short life would not go without meaning.

When I look at my daughter, I often think of Abbie Ann. Eliana has a body that works exactly as it should, a mind that is sharp and alert, and a personality that charms. When she was born, I didn’t hope to see unusual beauty, a particular feature, or a color of hair. I hoped for health and wholeness. I was told she was beautiful. I didn’t see it. She was simply my healthy, whole daughter, free from disease, free from pain.

Some day this perfect girl will look in the mirror, and because she is human she will somehow be disappointed by what she sees. She will tell me she wishes she had a different-looking (fill-in-the-blank). And I will smile and tell her she’s perfect. When she rolls her eyes at me (you know she will), I will tell her the story of Abbie Ann. I will tell her how much Abbie Ann’s mommy wishes she could hear her say something so frivolous as her nose is too big (or whatever). I want her to look in the mirror and see wonder – breath-taking, glorious health. Perfection.

I’m not encouraging vanity. It’s the opposite, really. I’m encouraging her to think beyond the pettiness of concern with having just the right face or body or hair to fit in with today’s ever-changing standards of beauty. I’m encouraging her to live in the skin she was given, to behold the wonder of a body that works exactly as it should, and to give thanks to God for the miracle of life.

If our bodies function normally, shouldn’t we all throw up our arms in thanksgiving to God for the gift of perfection? Shouldn’t we praise and sing in wonder and joy?

It’s one of the greatest gifts I can think to give my daughter. I won’t be the mother who encourages vanity. I’ll be the one who reminds her of the great gift of health and wholeness, perfection, she has received. She’ll be hearing me encourage her to go out and make the most of this precious gift.

Psalm 139:13-16a NKJV

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.

My friend, Maribeth Johnson, has been a pillar of godliness and grace through her difficult loss. She has allowed God to minister to others through her personal tragedy, and she is pressing forward into all God has given her to do. Again, we are expecting new babies around the same time. This time she has heard the beautiful, priceless words – healthy and whole – from the doctors regarding this new life. I rejoice with her and thank God for second chances. She is an extremely talented singer and is about to release a new album. I encourage you to like her page on Facebook and support her when the new album is released. You can find her at

Photo Credit: Bliss Photography,

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Posted on Sep 18, 2013 in Marriage, Parenting | 4 comments

Naked and Not Ashamed

Naked and Not Ashamed

Today I find myself wondering how anyone can ever stand before another, even a trusted spouse, naked and not ashamed.  In our over-sexualized culture, images of perfection (not even real, but air-brushed) are everywhere.  They mock those who save sex for marriage and consider self-control impossible.

Lingerie commercials use models who have bodies covered with little more than glittering makeup to brazenly strut across our television screens.  They appear unashamed of their bodies, but stories of cutting and self-abuse filter out of their closely guarded world.  New shows glamorize adultery and betrayal.  Reality TV draws the viewer in with claims of competition and then baits them with underwear-clad, pencil-thin cast members who compete in physical challenges that often demand censors to blur body parts because they can’t keep their tiny cloth pieces held together by string in place.

Turn off the television and the billboards remind us.  Move to the country and magazines in the doctor’s office remind us.  Stop picking up the magazines and the catalog shows up in our mailbox.  Throw the catalog away unopened and see your neighbor’s teenage daughter imitating what she’s seen on the latest awards show.  Images of both desirable and undesirable bodies show up on the sides of our social media pages, our email screens, and even in newsletters from Christian celebrities.  They tell us what is acceptable and unacceptable, training us to believe that beauty can only look one way.

How am I, a 37-year old pregnant mother, to manage my emotions as the condemnation comes at me from every angle – telling me  I’m not thin enough, my hair isn’t long/curly/straight enough, my complexion isn’t creamy enough, my lips are full enough, my teeth aren’t white enough, and my legs aren’t smooth enough?  God-forbid I have any cellulite, varicose veins, or body hair!  It’s a full-time job to try to meet all these requirements.

In order to look like a supermodel, I need to spend hours each day in the gym; more hours planning and preparing perfectly balanced and healthy meals; even more hours removing body hair, smoothing and curling the hair on my head (adding hair pieces or extensions to make it thick and long enough); and even more hours getting facials, manicures,  pedicures, and body scrubs.  Let’s add to that time in the cosmetic surgeons office for Botox, lip fillers, a nose job, liposuction, a boob job, and a chin implant; then put makeup on my perfect complexion.  Fake eyelashes make my dark lashes thicker and longer, contouring deceives the eye so I appear to have more distinct features, and expensive powders remove any hint of shine.  After spending 16 hours a day on beauty treatments, where do we find time for a vocation, a family, or a social life?

tears_modelI’m convinced that’s why the models on the runway look miserable.  They’re furious about all the stuff they have to go through to have the privilege of representing the American woman to the world!  But if you take the time to do all these things and try to be the perfect woman, then people question if you have an eating disorder or need to find a job to occupy your time better.

No wonder so many like me find it nearly impossible to stand before our spouse – naked and not ashamed.

A lovely young bride confides in me that her husband has never seen her without her shirt on because she can’t see the beauty other see in her and feels mortified by her figure.  A mother of three cringes when her husband touches her in the dark, horrified that the skin on her stomach is loose and he will reject her.  A handsome young man starves himself while lifting weights, gets his entire upper body waxed and goes to the tanning bed – in an effort to look chiseled and desirable.  While he’s able to get dates, he cannot allow anyone to get close enough to see beneath his thin veneer of carefully cultivated masculinity and wonders why he’s always alone.  A beautiful woman causes her body to shut down and stop functioning properly so she feels thin enough to find a husband.  These are real people I know.

Imagine what it was like back in the days when those words were written.  God made Adam and Eve naked and not ashamed.  They lived in a garden.  They were totally innocent and unaware of comparison.  They didn’t know they were too hairy, their skin was too dark, or that they would be more appealing to Americans with blonde hair and blue eyes.  They stood before one another as perfect beings, loved and accepted.

I struggle with these thoughts every day.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s every waking hour of every single day.  Sometimes I just give up because who could ever be perfect enough?  And then at times I fight, walk the tightrope of perfectionism, and feel happy when I find myself somewhat closer to the elusive ideal.  When I was a young teenager, 5’10” tall and weighing all of 135 pounds, I felt mortified by how overweight I was.  If only I could reach the golden number of 125…  But no matter how much I exercised and starved myself, my body simply refused me.  If I wanted to weigh 125 pounds, I was going to have to stop eating all together, and somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to get to that extreme.  I was a size 5 or 7, but my significantly shorter friends wore size 1 or 3.

Fifteen years later I hired a Christian personal trainer/nutritionist to help me meet my goals.  The goal he set for me was to weigh 125 pounds.  When I laughed and told him that was next to impossible, he confidently told me I could do it if I’d just follow his plan.  Forget the fact that 125 is considered underweight for someone my height, but okay….  A month later I was injured due to over-exercise and cancelled my contract with him.

Lately I’ve been questioning myself.  Why can’t I just find a healthy balance, cherish it, and be a good example to my children?  Why must I either walk a tightrope of extreme measures or give up all control whatsoever?  What is the healthy middle ground?  And how can I find it?  Am I too far gone to ever have a healthy body-image?

I never remember a day in my life when I wasn’t on some kind of a diet, someone scrutinizing my food choices and judging me for it.  I don’t know many women who grew up differently than me.  The way I looked was always a reflection on someone else.  And it was important to meet or exceed the American standard of beauty.  Whatever the cost.  I tried hard to measure up.  I even went so far as to take laxatives, throw up, and stop eating all together, but I couldn’t maintain the discipline.  I hated the way I felt, even felt like I was sinning, and decided it wasn’t worth it.  I would take responsibility for the food I put in my mouth, for the calories I consumed, and find a way to deal with the consequences.

When I look at my precious Eliana and her perfect little form, my heart cries out in agony at the thought that I will pass this self-hatred and comparison on to her.  I want it to stop with me.  I want to find a way to cut through the lies that our culture is already throwing at her every day and somehow teach her to love and cherish her body.  I want her to feel grateful that she’s healthy, that she has a body that functions properly and is strong.  I want her to look in the mirror and see that she is fearfully and wonderfully made.

And in her security with how she looks, I want her to know that she is so much more than the way she looks.  Please God, let her know that she is valuable for who she is, for her gifts and talents, for her wit and kindness.  I want her to be full of the gifts of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  I pray that she’ll be empty of comparison, self-loathing, and insecurity.

How do we teach our daughters to cherish and value themselves in a culture that demands perfection?  

How do we teach ourselves to accept and love our imperfections and scars?  How do we find a way to balance the instant gratification that’s available to us through processed foods and cosmetic surgery with the self-control that’s from the Holy Spirit?

I’ve searched my heart for answers and I’m still searching.  I’ve begged God for clarity, divine wisdom, and grace.  I’ve prayed for help to make wise and healthy choices, to use words that build up and do not tear down, and to show her through my example what a healthy and whole life looks like.

One day I hope to know what it means to be naked and not ashamed.  One day I hope my daughter will know the freedom of standing before her husband naked and not ashamed.  And I pray God will send her a husband who gives her no reason to feel shame but totally accepts and loves her the way she is.  I hope she will confidently walk away from anyone who even suggests that she doesn’t measure up.

As I consider a solution to the problem, the one that comes to mind kind of shocks me.  

What if I make a choice to embrace life to the fullest? To have so much life and love and joy that there’s no room for concern with self-image.

What if I fill my life up with so many good things – friends, love, laughter, children, fulfilling work, helping others, giving of myself – that I don’t have the energy to care about ridiculous things like cellulite (something even the thinnest, most athletic person can have)?

There are times when cultural norms will invade my joy-filled bubble and I’ll take some time to fancy things up a bit.  I may even hire a personal trainer to get back in shape after the ravages of pregnancy are over.  And if a facial is relaxing and I don’t have to go into debt to get one, I’ll enjoy it.  It won’t be to meet some standard of perfection, but be a way to relax and be good to myself.  Those things all have their place and we’re free to enjoy them, but when they become a measuring stick to guide our feelings of self-worth, they are tools to enslave us.

I’d love to know what are you doing to teach your daughters and sons to have a healthy self-image.  What are you doing to have a healthier self-image and stay off the tightrope of perfectionism?

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