Entrepreneur Expression

1465915699266

 

No need to dance around the subject, I’ll just go ahead and say it:

BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR IS EXHAUSTING.

I don’t know why I thought it would all of a sudden get easier. I mean, let’s be real, I truly have come a looonnng way in all of my personal and professional endeavors. But the human side of me is ready for some pieces to finally start fitting together. I thought I would be flying by now.

Reality is, these past six months have been one heck of a whirlwind …

In February I sought out to improve my own health through holistic functional medicine.
I then managed to survive 40 straight days vegan.
I concocted dozens of different smoothies, mush bowls, and veggie dishes on a daily basis. Nutritional background gratefully served in my favor.
Through a consistent effort, I dramatically improved my blood work profile and successfully balanced my hormones (with supervised guidance).

In my “spare time” I conducted loads of research, put together 24 chapters, and self-published an autobiography. (Not to mention the endless drafts and countless editing checks.)
I learned the ins and outs of digital formatting and online marketing. Somehow I’ve even kept up with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

I officially launched FitPeaceByPeace, LLC, accompanied by all the required filings, regulations, and processing fees.
I invested a chunk of my savings to get the ball rolling, dealt with tax information and opened a business bank account.
Hours and hours have been spent brainstorming, networking, writing programs and proposals.

Yet there is still seems to be no time to simply sit and twiddle my thumbs. (Even though I find myself doing this on a daily basis.)

The work is never done. There is always something I could be doing. But then I deliberately stopped to look at my situation– I don’t really wish for the work to be done.

You see, while I sit here and complain about all of the hard work, someone is still constantly at work. God is continuing the good work that He began in me. I don’t ever want to wish for His work to be over.

As I contemplate the next step, God is already waiting. While I spit out all the things that I have accomplished, He is still accomplishing a fine masterpiece in me. It’s not about all the things I do, the brands I make, or the stats I create. His work is all that matters. Who am I to rush the will of the Lord?

I am here, open, and willing. I dream of doing big things. But I want these things to be for God’s kingdom.

As I try so very hard to figure everything out, God already has my life figured out. He’s the boss with the plan. It’s my job to trust and to listen.

It is so easy to get caught up in trying to keep up in this world. But I think the lesson to remember is that this life is not a race. We each have a purpose while here for a short while, and only God knows when that purpose has been fulfilled.

Even still, this doesn’t mean that God cannot continue to use us. It doesn’t mean that once we complete a “task” given by the Lord that we are done with business here in this life. We are forever constantly growing, just like a business must constantly grow to survive. The growth and maturity and life lessons to be learned, are all a part of the process. And as an advocate of the phrase “just trust the process,” I need to remember that God isn’t done here yet. Therefore, my work isn’t done here either.

Sometimes, I think we try too hard. I think that we create this image for ourselves of what life is supposed to look like. But oftentimes, it still seems like we are running in the dark. Yes it is great to set goals. Yes, it is awesome to have time-management. But at the end of the day, if you worked whole-heartedly for the Lord, then all of your efforts that day were worthwhile, regardless of the outcome.

When we chase the Lord, our wildest dreams will fall into place. When our focus is in the right place, we won’t have to try so hard.

God notices our persistence. He sees our dedication. God feels our passion. Some days, with frustration and stumbling road blocks, all we want to do is make our Daddy proud. All we want is attention, affection, and commendable affirmation. But the truth is, we already have them. We have been enough all along…

So to all who have ever had their heart set on an impossible dream:

 

“The only thing impossible for God is to be impossible.”

 

 

 

Image source: conversations4change

Advertisements

A Heart of Humility

It’s hard sometimes, feeling like I’m all alone…not presently in a physical sense, but rather emotionally alone in my past struggles. I have made several distant connections with inspiring individuals who also hold similar survival stories, but it is still hard without that immediate affection from someone nearby who has literally been in your shoes. I talk to God about this though, all the time now actually. I know my God understands, because He suffered with me. He was waiting in my heart the whole time that it was fighting for its own beats. Against the voice of evil and deception, my God raised his cries of loyalty even higher. And I’m so eternally grateful that my patient Savior won. He always does, which is a truth I’ve slowly come to realize.

As complicated as this dual and sometimes triple diagnosis is, there is indeed a deeply twisted heart dilemma. Over time, we become fooled by a false idol of prideful satisfaction, dainty diligence, and piercing perfection. All of these things are only temporarily fulfilling, leaving us with a hollow begging bucket even emptier than when we began. Yet even amidst the anxious pounding of my own heart, not knowing what the next day would entail, I did know within my smothered being that this way of living was not what I wanted. I had convinced my logistical little mind that I could navigate through all these teasers of change and barriers of setbacks for the rest of my life. If this was how I was just “meant to live,” then I would settle to endure the pain day in and day out. I was tough…after all, just look at everything I had been through. I was different…and I willingly embraced this secret diversity.

fullsizerender-7

 

I don’t remember when my lost sense of realism finally came back around. I do believe that collectively, my prayers and thoughts and counsel from friends and family seeped into my pores from a spiritual angle, not a physical one. For years I appeared to be at an “acceptable” weight by the medical community’s standards, but little did even the smartest doctors know, that I was not yet internally healed.

 

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder are severe mental disorders like all other clinically diagnosed mental illnesses. Yet this doesn’t mean that they need to be deemed a chronic lifelong sickness. The labels are simply a way to be able to make a clinical distinction of symptoms in order to qualify for professional help, or to be able to personally pinpoint and deal with all of the associated physical, mental, and emotional implications. I think that so often we become so fixed on the label, just like the numbers on the scale, that we forget where our true value resides.

The descriptions pertaining to the clinical diagnosis are merely that in themselves–they are solely descriptions of the symptoms summed up in a word or phrase in order to facilitate communication, when in reality, very few people are aware of the proper way of communicating about any of these severe cases. As an advocate of eating disorder recovery and intrinsic healing, this effort of sound communication is one of my main goals in my writing and activist efforts. Communication, in any circumstance, is key to understanding. Even though we may not be able to directly empathize with a particular mental illness, we can all do our best to both convey and exchange feelings and emotions which still float amongst common ground. As human beings, we all have the ability to feel (to a certain extent.) It’s time to use this commonality to set aside our differences and reluctance to understand the transformation behind someone else’s tale.

 

fullsizerender-11

“Communication, in any circumstance, is the key to understanding”

Sometimes I can feel as if I am swimming in a sea of emotional tidal waves, but at least I can feel them now. I remember what it felt like to have a heart frozen over by ice cold depression. Shivering in my own sorrow, I grew numb to even my own real feelings. When loved ones finally noticed and intervened, the avalanche began. It was so hard to warm back up, to soften my soul, and to let that heart-melting mercy back inside. But as I write this now, with tears streaming down my full rosy cheeks, I am so humbly glad I did.

 

fullsizerender-6

“He heals the brokenhearted…”~Psalm 147:3

 

 

I believe in the sincere transformation of heart. I have watched it, I have witnessed it, and I have experienced it. I have felt my own heart violently shatter, and then be fused back together–little by little, minute by minute, piece by piece.

 

 

 

I can tell of my story because I am no longer ashamed. I can cry while I’m telling it because I now carry tears of joy. I can now joyfully live a life worthy of purpose, because I can humbly admit that I’m only the co-author of my book. I can credit my healing process to many doctors, therapist, family, and friends, and the climactic self-revelations to myself. But I can only direct the glory from the life-changing eternal transformation to the one who owns and guards my heart. My God reigns inside my patched-up vessel, and with boldness forever, my heart beats for Him.

fullsizerender-9

 

Image source: google.com

 

A Hopeful Promise

Sometimes, you have to first make the decision to change for someone else. Sometimes, the accountability and motivation must come initially from an external source, to drive you forward until you can reach a point where you finally begin to love yourself again. In the beginning of all of my chaos, the majority of my professional treatment was forced, in a sense. In my own blindness, I liked what I had going for myself as far as my routine and disciplined behaviors were concerned; I thought I was doing a good job managing my life, and didn’t truly believe anything was wrong with my current habits…I thought I had found happiness through my controlling routines and rituals of obsessive diet and exercise.

After I was clinically diagnosed, I went to all the doctor appointments and counseling sessions in submission to authority as a requirement, basically for my parents, while I was still thankfully underneath their loving care. Eventually, rational thoughts began to re-enter my mind as my primary reward system during treatment was introduced—the deal being that if I gained enough weight back, I would be allowed to return to the sports that I loved. For a while this was my only motivation, along with pleasing my family members who I hated to see constantly worrying about me…at that specific time, a return to the soccer field served as the perfect external driving force which gave me hope for something in which I associated the feeling of joy.

Later on in my athletic career, I picked up the sport of distance running—something I never thought I would have been “allowed” to do previously because running burns an insane amount of calories. But while one may initially think that a sport such as running would be an awful idea for someone with my history, I believe it actually played a very positive role in my recovery journey. While in high school, my reward for weight gain once again revolved around sport participation—though this time being the privilege to run in an annual local 15K. With my new nutritional training from dietitians and schooling, I knew very well that I had to fuel myself more efficiently in order to keep up with my training schedule. It “allowed” me to eat more (in my little twisted brain,) and I was ok with mentally granting myself the extra calories because I was aware of the large amount of energy that I was expending during my runs.

Just to make things clear, however, this isn’t to say that this grueling sport healed me—I still sported unhealthy body-image vision goggles while racing in my prime. I do think that my time spent in the distance running world, which later progressed further into the fitness industry, served as a necessary stepping stone in my own personal recovery journey. Once I realized the new fitness goals I had made for myself, regardless of whether they were endurance or strength related, I became more motivated to follow up on the nutrition side—this time with a new focus on feeding instead of fasting.

 

img_2538

 

Just recently, after years of small increment changes on the consistency and quality of my food intake, I finally landed in a place along my recovery road where I sincerely wanted to change—I wanted to change for the better, and I wanted to change for me. Back when things spiraled downward years ago, it took compelling and begging from my family and friends; coaxing me and disciplining me to get better. Later on down the road, I wanted to show them how much I appreciate their love, concern, and loyalty during such a devastating time of my past.

Today, I still stand firm in my place of stable recovery surrounded by them as my backbone, and accountability partners forever. I made a promise to these loved ones to never again return to my dark corner, and I will most definitely hold true to this loyalty. Along with this pledge, now I finally realize that I do desire this talked-about life of ‘freedom’…I want this for me. I want a future full of promise and days full of laughter. I want to travel, see the world, meet new people and hike tall mountains. I want to be a strong presence for my family, instead of weighting them down with my insecure sufferings. I want to begin my own generation of family someday…to be a wife and a mommy…to sit on the back porch with my handsome husband hand-in-hand, watching our children playing in the yard…to be able to hold my daughter close and tell her how beautiful she is. I want to experience life and breathe the fresh air…I want to carry on a legacy of commitment and truth.

 

img_2324

 

I have finally reached a point in life where I’m no longer accepting any nonsense from that deceiving little seed that somehow planted itself in my innocent mind years ago. There are trails I want to explore, sights I want to see, and goals I want to reach. I want to reflect on my past and learn from it, without it controlling my very being. I want to redefine myself by what I have overcome, and who I want to be, not by a previous lifestyle that may appear to present unsurpassable limits.

Through the ups and down and thick and thins, my faith remains unwavering. Though it was often blocked and masked at times, it has marched back up to the front of the line to lead me onward over and over again. In all the turmoil, confusion, self-ridicule, heartaches, setbacks and disappointments, faithful love endured as my constant. I am finally beginning to open myself up to that love, which has been desperately knocking on the door to my heart ever since I fell off the cliff of stringency over 10 years ago. All these years that I labored over trying to become my best; only to recognize now that I was the one who was standing in the way. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in a hopeful future, I just frankly didn’t honestly believe I deserved it. I could tough it out till the bitter end, just as I had been habitually doing for more than half of my life. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in surrender and serenity…I was just so unaware of the mere extravagance which could come from a future of freedom.

 

Today, this hope of a better tomorrow, stemming from a grateful present, is what propels me forward. Realizing the strong importance of self-expression, day by day I am becoming one with myself, and making peace with my past. It is a journey of forgiveness, kindness, thankfulness, and acceptance. It is a road of diligence, discernment, empowerment, and determination. Just like all of my countless road races, I know there will always be a finish line. My life holds value; value which I cannot expect to try and rush. It has taken me many years to openly confess my past flaws and sinful mess-ups, and to stand up to my own fears of shame and judgment. But it is time…time to stand transparent and true, proud and tall. It is time to find that boldness to share my story, for my family, my friends, my counselors, my doctors, my fellow soldiers, my God, and myself. I want to share to touch the lives of anyone out there struggling with doubts, fears, past hurts, self-inflicted pressures, and internal and external stressors. All of the knowledge and wisdom which I have been fortunate to collect over the course of this rollercoaster ride, serves me no good if I simply ball it up and hold it inside.

 

img_2318

 

So, friends, this is for you. Let this account be an external motivation to bring out your best self. Perhaps you have a loved one struggling, could use some extra inspiration, or maybe you are hurting behind closed doors. Regardless of the particular circumstance, I can promise you this: there is a such thing as hope. Believe in this hope, and in the healing power of intentional presence and heartfelt understanding. I can now say with sound audacity that I do understand what it feels like to drown… but most importantly, I now understand what it feels like to fly.

 

“Promise yourself that you will never do that to your body again…”—Anonymous

“I promise…with my whole heart, I promise. And I always keep my promises.” —AR

pinky-promise

A Forest of Life




“ANNN-ORR-EX-SSEE-AAA…” the sly serpent hissed. Slithering among the confusing forest of dissatisfaction and uncertainty, he released the echoing curse which overpowered the voice of reason within my innocent ears…

“AN-OR-EXX-SSSEE-AA…” The sinister syllables assembled together, and while seeping into my thoughts of denial, formed together the painful word that forces me to cringe even to this day…

“ANNN-ORR-EX-SSEE-AAAA…”
As I crouched defeatedly below the rising trees of threatening disgrace, I mistook the devious whisper from the luring vine as a convenient leverage out of my misery. Meanwhile, that poisonous snake had slowly, tactfully, and tenaciously wound his way around my legs, wrapping his scaly course skin tighter and tighter as he inched his way up my torso. I had fallen blindly into his convincing trap, and as he constricted firmly with every breath I took, his beady little hypnotizing eyes focused straight on my heart. “I know who you are…” He whispered, “….I will make everything better…trust me…jusssst trusssstt meeeeee…”



With each stifling constriction, his master grip strained my efforts to fight back. It was so much easier to simply give in, to slip back under the deceiving serpent’s shield. It felt safer…it felt secure…yet at the same time it felt sneaky and regretful. So many times I surrendered to that nasty snake’s lying little tongue. So many times I knew I was suffocating under his clever strangling grasp. Yet while clenched beneath the scheming serpent’s squeeze, the idea of freedom was even more petrifying than remaining pinned beneath his deathly hold.

____________

 

I remember the first time I was introduced to the word “anorexia.” On a gloomy rainy afternoon, my mother and I were together in her bedroom as I anxiously searched for ways to counteract the boredom from being cooped up inside all day. There was a copy of PEOPLE magazine lying on top of the bedcovers that she began flipping through, pausing briefly on a page which featured a story of a girl who had suffered from the awful illness. I remember looking at the picture of this woman in complete disgust, while my mom explained to me that this sickly skinny woman in the photo had once believed that she looked “good” posing for the camera. At this time, my view was not distorted–that poor woman looked anything but “good” as far as I was concerned. I had never seen someone so thin before, and quite frankly it was utterly disturbing to witness. It was a scary concept to think that the human body was capable of that kind of ignorant self-destruction. “Why would anyone ever do that to themselves?” I thought, puzzled. I remember discussing this shocking discovery with a friend on our way out to go get ice cream. I remember thinking, “Anorexia will NEVER happen to me…”



Unfortunately, with so much misleading information floating around the media these days, many people tend to believe in the common misconception that the unfortunate incarcerated life of an eating disorder victim is a deliberate cognitive choice. Eating disorders can often be mistakenly perceived as simply a disciplined “quick fix,” or a popular “fad” diet. Yet while the initial changes in behavior, which gradually lead into a rather harsh restrictive lifestyle, are premeditated, the end result does not always tend to match the beginning vision of the curiously determined individual. The fact of the matter is, eating disorders are not merely another trial “diet” or temporary alteration in habitual living. Once that dangerous line is crossed, it is extremely difficult to turn back around. It is true that the anorexic/bulimic may always be intrigued by various cycling diet trends which society manages to toss around on a constant basis, but many cases are also often classified as having severe poor body image and perfectionist personality coupled with extreme anxiety over food. Yet, the conditions are so much more than that–intertwined with these distortions and fear come feelings of inadequacy, guilt, delusion, self-ridicule, scrutiny, helplessness, hopelessness, and despair.

The disease develops into a self-built prison…



Eventually you become trapped behind your own cold skeletal bars. You have a narrow glimpse of life outside your cell, only you’ve been malignantly deceived by the snake and have swallowed the key to the door. That key which once gave you access to self-control and clear decision-making is now churning recklessly inside your stomach, ripping apart your intestinal walls and preventing any absorption of sustaining nourishment. Sometimes you feel empowered and even thin enough to perhaps slip through the cell bars, but you disappointedly get stuck with one foot in and one foot out. As the frustrating time passes, you regress further into the encompassing shadows. The idea of escape involves too much energy; energy which your body lacks. Isolation soon becomes the norm. Alone in the corner of your stone-cold cell, you feel complacent and disoriented. Though you may be unaware, you have the key to freedom buried deep inside. You just have to discover the strength to find it. 



Just like any other psychological disorder, anorexia is classified as a form of mental illness. It is more often than not, paired with other psychological disorders, (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety disorder.) Additionally, it is common for one form of disordered eating to develop into another unhealthy eating disorder classification. Any form is indeed a sickness in need of proper healing– a sickness which is a progressive obsession over manipulating controllable factors in order to gain a convincing sense of stability; a misconceived form of comfort; a source of safety; an outlet for escape. It is a silent plea for approval and attention; a search for satisfying accomplishment, and attempt at self-appraisal. It is a distorted concept of becoming “the best you can be”–a false belief that true happiness will sprout from a thin “perfected” figure. It is an internal battle with present purpose and past failures; an unintentional development into selfish self-worship and physical idolatry; a search for identity; a quest for peace.

Contrary to popular belief, very few of the desirably envisioned attributes sought by the individual in the beginning, are ones which are ultimately gained. The initial goal may be as simple as healthy weight loss or improved structured schedule, but even these small positive modifications can grow out of hand. With the condition’s severity, there is not one underlying treatment, or magic button that instantly creates a dramatic shift back to joyful reality. If they aren’t caught early, behaviors and habits grow exceedingly worse, and ironically feed the confused mind and driven personality. Without fair warning, the initial attempt to control your own life is inevitably taken away: No more strenuous solemn workouts in the garage laboring to your heart’s extent. No more afternoon bike rides with a pit stop by the smoothie shop for your first allotted meal of the day. No more freedom in the kitchen, or choice over what or when you eat. No more agility training or basketball practices…and good luck trying to explain to your friends why you will be sitting on the bench for your championship soccer game.

The control over the very few aspects of your life which you perceived to have finally been able to manage, is abruptly snatched from your closely fastened grip. Suddenly confined to a lifestyle of strict supervision, there is inadvertently no escape–someone is always there hovering over your shoulder, monitoring your activity, weighing your food, and closely watching over your every move. A small part of you undeniably likes the attention and the relief from the rigorous regimen you had become pinned underneath. A subtle piece inside your being–the tiny piece of the real you that is left–breathes a sigh of thankfulness that someone finally noticed. All of your efforts, all your self-induced pressures, all of your determination, athletic drive, and ignorant restrictions had collectively gained momentum down the treacherous hill towards disaster. A curious desire to make a change, originally with positive intentions, had all of a sudden backfired, blowing a deadly ring of smoke in your face. Little harmless habits had developed into obsession. Obsession had triggered an entirely new drive to persistently keep digging…and keep digging and keep digging…an endless hole which would never be deep enough, wide enough, or firm enough to hold all of your secret dissatisfactions, as you disappeared further and further into its shadowy deceiving depths.

Sometimes it takes someone else standing from up above the edge of the dark hole with eyes of wisdom to cry down to your own trapped soul quivering at the bottom. Unfortunately, we are often buried so far down beneath our own piling dirt that we cannot hear the concerned voices of love coming from back on top of level ground. Sometimes it takes a daring individual to break the surface with their own shovel, and begin digging alongside your mound until the tip of their shovel reaches yours…the cares and prayers of family and friends trickling into your trench and lifting you up; the necessary intervention of a team of professionals, and forceful drags to doctor appointments against your will; the coaxing and pleading around the dinner table; long battling meals; attempts to educate and break through the pit of self-destruction. Sometimes it takes the honest truth from a friend, and a comforting promise that even though the climb may be rocky, you’re never climbing alone. 

Sometimes it takes the tears of the parents who raised you; who reminded you each day that you are beautiful, and told you every morning and night that they love you; tears from the caregivers who raised you right. Sometimes it requires all the patience, all the courage, all the strength, all the cries, all the efforts, yet most importantly, all the love…so much unconditional, unsurpassable, unquenchable love. The precious family who remained there through it all…who saw all the things you couldn’t, heard all the worried phone calls you didn’t, vouched for all the things you wouldn’t, and sacrificed everything one shouldn’t. They didn’t deserve any of the filthy mess involved in your frustrating rescue, but out of desperate love they strapped on their hard hats and dove into the hole with you.

Slowly but surely, everyone found footholds in the caving walls. Reaching up hand in hand, the treacherous climb was manageable. Victory was attainable, step by step.


Once at the top, however, it wasn’t always firm soil…sometimes I would indeed find myself with one foot out and one foot in. But at that point, the light was radiantly clear, and my group of spotters only continued to grow.

It is this group of spotters, cheerleaders, listeners, and role models, whose valued presence simply cannot be emphasized enough. There is something to be said about a sturdy net of caring influencers, paired with instilled hopeful confidence when it comes to overcoming any internal struggle. As a matter of fact, there have been numerous studies on the scientifically termed “placebo effect” in relation to the miraculous outcomes of documented “spontaneous recoveries” in the medical field. Various evidence has pointed to the following conclusion that certain life-threatening diseases have been known to take a complete 180 degree turn when the victim (1) believes in a hopeful future, and (2) is surrounded by an empathetic, caring and trusted source. I would loyally vouch for the highly beneficial impact of these same two factors in the realm of eating disorders.

Now I stand on solid rock–an unshakable foundation that not even an earthquake could break apart. Yet even if disturbance were possible, I now have multiple branches nearby on which I could latch: branches of education, experience, wisdom, and support, extending to a whole network of caring spirits. My dream is to continue planting, and to fervently cultivate trees of abundance, promise and hope…trees to fill the valley of uncertainty so that there is no longer any space left on the ground for any more dark holes. Together, we can build a forest…a strong, beautiful forest. A forest full of rejuvenating air, stable trunks, sprightly grass and comforting leaves. A forest filled with singing birds, swaying stems, gentle brooks and havens of revival… a forest that is serpent-free. Together we can create a forest…an interconnected, forever-growing forest…a sustaining forest…a forest of Life.


“Be Still and Know”

Contrary to my typical school days, I had several good guy friends while in college. These enthusiastic guys were genuinely smart, humorous, truthful, and tended to make certain group gatherings more fun. They were a lively asset to football-watching parties, board-game-playing potlucks, and recreational sporting scrimmages on campus. They were pros at crafting a clever joke, and willingly contributed to thought provoking conversations minus all the nagging female drama. Needless to say, I greatly valued their friendship, encouragement, and personal opinions for that matter. One afternoon after a routine ultimate frisbee session, one of my guy friends, Ken, mentioned that he had seen me running around campus earlier that week (a daily activity for which I quickly became known.) Attempting to compliment my physically active lifestyle, he proceeded by saying, “Amanda, you’re one of the healthiest persons I know.”

Conflicted by his politely intended comment, I remember thinking sadly to myself, “If only you knew, Ken…if only you knew the truth.”

The ironic truth was that back in college I did know–I knew all about my history, and knew that I was still regretfully hanging on to painful pieces of my past. With my academic major of choice being Exercise Science, I had acquired a substantial amount of insight on how the magnificent human body operates. From my own experience and educational influences, I knew all about the foundational idiosyncrasies of my specific condition and was highly aware of what I should be doing to combat it. I knew about many intensive biological processes and detailed components pertaining to anatomy and physiology. I was rehearsed in the guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, and was well-trained on how to properly lead others towards adapting healthy choices and developing a balanced lifestyle. I knew all of these concepts like the back of my hand…I just frankly wasn’t applying them to myself. On the outside I may have appeared fit and healthy, but on the inside, I was deniably still struggling beneath my protective fitness persona.

Reflecting back to my ignorant 13-year-old self, however, I didn’t know. I didn’t know the difference between carbs, fats, and proteins. I didn’t know that there was a such thing as too much exercise or nutritional control. I didn’t know how foods were broken down in our bodies, or that words like “calories” and “metabolism” even existed. I didn’t know anything about nutrient timing or hormones. And of course I didn’t know at the time that all of my intentional efforts to improve my athletic ability and conscious focus on physical enhancement were unintentionally eating up my body. Literally.

 

Yet instead of translating this lack of knowledge into a prime teaching opportunity, the majority of what I absorbed fell within the spectrum of crucially labeling foods and habits as either “good” or “bad.” Despite the attempts to facilitate matters, everything suddenly added on to my pre-existing set of rules. This observant, reserved, intuitive young girl only wanted to become the best all-star athlete out there, and instead accidentally took her competitive perfectionist personality overboard. I “learned” by my own observation and perceived judgement, disappointedly losing the very control I set out to attain in the beginning. I wanted to get things right; I didn’t mean to cause my body harm…but at the same time I also wanted to understand why I was suddenly being forced by doctors to confide in a new strict and monitored lifestyle. In spite of my inner will to improve myself, I was constantly overpowered by the regulations of my treatment team, and my own eating disorder voice telling me everyone else was wrong.

Thankfully now, I know. I now know the severity of the disease that consistently won the battle for nearly ten years of my life. I know the mental and emotional toll that tags alongside the obvious physical toll. I know the meaning behind terms like “triggers” and “tendencies,” and how to monitor them. I know now that if I want to be able to continue to engage in the physical activity which brings me so much joy, I have to strategically fuel my body with the right sources. I know that food is my muscle’s best friend, and that it provides substance, energy, and natural healing remedies. I know truthfully just how vital it is to have loving moral support during such a darkly rough time. Additionally, I have no doubt that with my passion for learning, this large knowledge base will only continue to grow. And with this knowledge, I know deep down that recovery is possible. I know, again, a life of vibrancy, contentment, and peace.

In times of confusion, discouragement, and affliction, I remind myself of this gift of the present. In all circumstances, it helps to know there is someone right there on your side. Someone rooting for you each step of the way. Someone who will walk with you, cry with you, and stand strong with you. Someone who values you, admires you, and cares deeply for you. Someone who would drop everything just to sit quietly with you…to patiently wait in silence with you, aspiring to bring comfort and assurance in reminding you to simply

…”be still and know.”

Be still, be calm, and be brave. Be still and know that there is such a thing as hope. Be still and know that it can indeed get better. I know, because I’ve been there. I know, because I’m here.

~Psalm 46:10~

A Voice To Be Heard

 In honor of eating disorder awareness week, which ironically also happens to be the week of my birthday, I invite you to share in both sincere reflection and new excitement with me. But most of all, I invite you to join me in celebrating 25 years of life–a life that was once shackled, and is now free–eating disorder-free. 

  
I applied to become a mentor in an online eating disorder mentoring program, pretty much on a whim. I usually don’t think spontaneously like that, or act with rash intention, but this new curiosity was different. I never even knew something like this existed, and intrigued, I wanted to be a part. Simply put, life is just too short to keep this truth hidden any longer. It is a part of my story, viewed from a new perspective of gratefulness and strength. Yes, it is a heavy part of who I am, but it no longer defines my inner being or enslaves my identity. I have considered myself “in remission” from this awful disease for the last ten years, but it wasn’t until my senior year in college that I began to experience climactic mental breakthroughs. I had finally reached a point in recovery where I was tired of waiting for someone with a similar history to stumble across my path. I wanted to reach out and help heal, or at least offer my own account as some sort of hopeful encouragement. I can remember back when I was struggling through those gruesome times, feeling utterly alone. Thankfully I had my loving family by my side through its entirety, but as much as their caring hearts longed for my curing, they would never fully understand where I was during that daunting point in my life. I want to be able to be that special someone for other suffering souls. Someone who can genuinely say, “I know…I’ve been there…and it does get better.” Sometimes, in the midst of our struggles, those simple words are enough. 

Hearing the news that I had been accepted into the MentorConnect program as a mentor spoke wonders for my current state of stability and strength as an “ED survivor”, and I was elated to immediately receive two match requests for mentees. Excitement overflowed as I was finally able to speak one-on-one with my first match over the phone, and I immediately felt a strong connection to this complete yet friendly stranger from Greenwood, SC. I had never done anything like this before, (conversing with someone form an entirely different state in the U.S. whom I had never met,) about something so personal. Since then, our friendship has continued to grow, despite the fact that we still have yet to speak face to face.

The opportunity to share life with this amazing woman has been extraordinary. The idea that someone would respect my insight (my mentee is 32 years old) and admire me for my success story and current position of recovery is not only encouraging, but completely humbling. It has been an excellent exercise for me also, because our extensive conversations provoke a certain revisiting of those dark times and cause me to realize just how much I truly have overcome. It has prompted me to view my situation with yet another whole new set of eyes, and has allowed me to take on a new grateful title as a counselor and role model. The more accountability I can acquire, the better, as I strive to reach out to this overlooked population and use my story to help others. It is gradually giving me a new voice…a voice which wants so much to be heard, not for my own merit but simply to break the wall of misunderstanding and hopelessness in so many out there. My mentee, just like each and every victim of this disease, also has a voice of her own, and by actively seeking this mentoring program has acquired a new listening companion from my compassionate heart. 

In speaking with her I am faced with a new challenge–I must be open and honest, but also take into consideration her current state and respect the fact that all of us move through life at our own unique pace. Being a true “fixer” in personality, this is often extremely difficult. I must accept my own limits and circumstances beyond my control, and focus instead on how to help encourage healthy behavior and positive outlook. I do feel a personal connection and care deeply for this incredible gal, but must wait out this journey with her while demonstrating patience, persistence, and understanding. Everything isn’t always perfect on my end either, nor will it ever be. But for the first time in a really long time, I’ve accepted that fact with peace. 

Upon acquiring this exciting new outlet, I have also been engaged in a lot of deep reflection, which is something I am often accustomed to doing when life throws me curveballs. My mind has been spinning and bouncing back and forth to past revelations, scenes, and emotions, and has repetitively hovered around one recurring idea, or dream if you will: to write a book.

For a while now, I have heard God’s voice telling me that I’m meant to use my story to help others, and I have just been rather unsure as to the specifics attached to this. Recently, however, I have begun to connect a few dots here and there. One of my “breakthrough moments” was in the car while listening to the song “My Story” on the Christian radio–a beautiful song of how God’s saving grace is revealed in each of our unique individual stories. Lately I have realized just how much I love to write, and talking with my mentee has influenced me to reflect on just how much I wish to be able to say. All my life, friends and family have attempted to highlight writing as one of my gifts. Words have always had a special meaning to me, and I find joy in sharing them with others. In a hand-written note on the inside cover of a journal that my Nana gave me for Christmas following graduation, she encouraged me to continue to record my memories through expression of the written word, using this joyful gift. I already have a plentiful archive of journals and thoughts stashed away from over the years, pertaining to the sincere topic of my painful history. But why only continue to write for myself? What good will spark from keeping powerful words in anxious secret? Why not write with the intention to share not only a personal journey, but a story of conquered struggles, successful survival, and sustaining hope? 

I have now reached a point where I passionately want to be heard. No more sulking behind a regretful shell of shame. There is so much truth that I wish to share, with an attempt to instill faith and comfort to those currently struggling, or who are helping a loved one fight the battle. My mother admitted to me the other night that during the most devastating times, a comforting word was something she searched for–book after book was flipped through, only to disappointedly stumble across one more depressing narrative after another. There were very limited (from what my mother could find) success stories and uplifting documents on the topic. During the dark hole when my family needed it most, the encouraging promise from someone who had walked in their shoes ensuring that “things will get better,” was simply nowhere to be found. 

Standing before you today with even greater compassion and voice of confidence, sincerity, empathy and truth, I wish to change that sad report. I want to provide that encouraging word, that yet even in the toughest challenges, offers a faithful account of a true success story–something which is devoutly possible given the proper education, guidance, and support. There is so much to be said, so much to be revealed, about the complexities and anxieties of this misunderstood condition, which I long to bring to the surface. But not to evoke a sense of sadness, or create an aurora of disheartening sympathy. My efforts will be to be real enough to draw you into the mind and home of an eating disorder victim, with an attempt to offer a glimpse of the severities, only to emphasize the immeasurable weight of a stable recovery–which IS attainable through a network of faithful, dedicated spirits. 

Writing and collecting my thoughts into one published piece of work would allow me to share this voice–this strong, bold voice of truth. The voice which has won over the notoriously often-quoted “eating disorder voice.” And in doing so, hopefully will bring peace, comfort, insight, and exhortation to every person who flips through its pages. I want to obey the voice of my eternal Savior, who dug me out of my unintentional self-made pit, and represent all of those precious trapped voices of victims then and now. I am excited to let the words flow…words no longer to be kept guarded inside, but shared out of love.
                                                          ________________

Stay tuned for relevant snippets of my survival story in its entirety, optimistically projected to be completed by Feb 25, 2017 (Which will be my 26th birthday and over a decade since my initial diagnosis.) Although I still plan on consistently posting healthy recipes during this project, the Fit Peace By Peace blog site will be mainly devoted to a collaboration of thoughts and expression towards this goal. Therefore, please pardon my brief hiatus from general nutrition and wellness posts as I attempt to gather and organize all of the jumbled heavy words which have been pressing on the inside walls of my brain over these past 12 years. Using detailed memories, personal accounts and maturing circumstances, I hope to extend a message of hope and encouragement to those suffering and to their loved ones, as well as to the other misguided minds of society. Your support means the world to me as I strive towards fulfilling my vocational calling to intentionally give back in this area, while sharing bits and pieces along the way, to become genuinely transparent in attempts to help anyone through their own health journey no matter what their background entails. I welcome any questions or inquiries with outstretched arms as I take on this compelling opportunity. The time has come to commit to a new season of openness; to become the woman I’m meant to be; to cough up some courage, and truly become an “open book.”

There is a voice to be heard, a voice once trapped behind a lying voice of false identity–and I’m not just referring to my own here. Voices of sweet souls past and present. His voice, her voice, your voice…all deserve to be heard. There is no reason to be ashamed…your voice may be exactly what the person next to you needs to hear. 
                      ~“This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.”~ 

Night Ride 

I was driving home the other night, when I noticed through the streetlights something moving across my windshield–eight little legs scurrying across from the INSIDE of my vehicle–every female’s horror. Needless to say, I had an unexpected little visitor…now I am by no means a spider expert, but this was not your typical black little jumping spider–this guy was big, brown and pacing his way back and forth trying to find a reasonable means of escape–right in my center vision.

I was suddenly caught in quite an icky predicament: stare too long at the road and I would start to lose sight of the whereabouts of my creepy crawler friend; but fix my gaze on his speedy little legs and I found myself swerving left and right over the street lane markers. It may sound silly, but my body switched to the “fight or flight mode”, and my keen internal survival instincts kicked in–as I also prayed that the stupid spider didn’t fall on my face as he began to propel from his web now rooted in the corner of my door frame. In that moment, as I watched him swing to and fro while the movement of the car jostled his suspension, I carefully cracked my side window as an attempt to “swing” him outside with the passing wind–either that or hint at the little fella–“hey man! Outside is this way!”

After a few minutes of repeatedly shifting my focus over from him to the road, then to the window, he finally managed to make his way close enough to the presented opening crevice and a gentle breeze swooped him out into the night air (probably more like on top of my car roof, but regardless at least he was outside.) In my sigh of relief, I realized that in those few moments, we were both essentially helpless to some extent. He was reliant on me to allow him the means of escape, and I was reliant on him to follow through with my lead. But it is also in perceived “helpless” moments such as these that we are also completely reliant on God. In that moment, I was challenged to balance my focus and remain calm to ensure safety and survival, for both myself and the frantic little spider. Not only did I have to think and act quickly, but I also had to take a risk, with hope that the proposed idea for both of our relief would all work out.

But even with the imagined possible horror of having the spider (potentially venomous/at least capable of biting) fall on top of me in the process, I took the chance knowing that if that were to happen, God would reveal to me the next course of action in due time. Very similar to life if you think about it…who would have thought that a little nighttime car ride excitement could actually teach me something about my own walk with God. Regardless of our current circumstances, He is always with us, and is capable of providing a solution to our current challenges if we trust to cling to him. And sometimes, when we devote too much of our time living in the future, he will send a little spider to run across our windshield, to remind us to pay attention to the present and to submit to His will each day.

My humbling little spidey experience taught me a very important lesson to walk away with (thank the Lord both scratch and spider-bite-free):

Don’t focus so much on the road ahead, that you fail to notice what’s right in front of you–or a spider may just end up falling right in your lap. Instead, keep your eyes lightly gazed upon the path ahead, while listening to God and trusting him with your present circumstances, holding fast to the faith in knowing that even in the occasional dim and confusing journeys, He will always lead you safely home.

Core Strength 

The past few days have been truly humbling, once again setting me in my place in this world of my creator. I was a little too ambitious in the gym on Friday, and ended up straining a lower abdominal muscle pretty severely. It scared me, and although the pain didn’t really begin until the next morning, all I could think was “great job, Amanda. You screwed yourself up again.” Sometimes we really do have to learn the hard way, which I have learned one too many times. But in this minor setback I was forced again to surrender control over something that I often take for granted–once again, something in the realm of fitness. Ironically, it was my core that was weak. My inner structure and support lacked strength and sustainable power. It wasn’t until I tried to perform everyday activities and common motions that I realized just how much I rely on my core strength for just about everything. This was enlightening to me, as I forced myself to sit up straight and had to overcompensate for my lack of stability, frustrated with my limitations and helpless control over my body. I actually even sat there with my small protruding swollen belly thinking “is this what it is like to be pregnant??” 
Yet in this frustration and temporary mood downer, I had to accept this new position of inconvenient vulnerability. I do believe that with our own free will we are prone to make mistakes. But God can still use our mistakes for good, and I couldn’t help but wonder if God was allowing me to get a taste of a rather functionally limited world. It really did alter my perspective again, as it did with my former marathon injury. It amazes me sometimes how quick we are to try and take matters into our own hands, to take risks which seem fine and dandy during the moment, only to remind us later of our own stupidity. Fallen, once again, due to our own pride, only to cry out in tears for forgiveness and healing, but all the while in strict reliance on our Savior.  

Even in these moments of misunderstanding, regret and hopelessness, God is still sovereign. I am glad to announce that my tummy is slowly returning to normal, but even if it had turned out to be permanent damage, I would have to be ok with that. God would have still found a way for a misfortunate circumstance to bring him glory, and that is essentially our sole purpose on this earth. It might not have been the exact state I had envisioned myself to glorify him in, but it’s not my plan that reigns–God has the ultimate say, and deserves to have the last laugh. I am honored to have his unshakable power inside of me, forever serving as my internal core strength. Even if I were never able to do another sit-up ever again, with God as my inner source of strength, my spirit would be unstoppable . I have to center my heart and mind on His will, and his alone. Remembering, of course, that every strength and ability is graciously given by him as a gift and not an entitlement. 

Little reminders like these aren’t always fun, but are definitely necessary. I have come a long way in my ability to let go of things that I’m not supposed to be gripping onto anymore, which has been a continuous lesson in my sanctification journey. Lately, I have really been making an effort to pause and listen, and to refocus on the here and now rather than always set my mind 2 steps ahead. Not to say preparation is a bad thing, but recently I have realized my tendency to jump forward into future tasks and plans rather than take the time to savor, appreciate and invest in the moment. I now am well aware of my my over-thinking and analyzing habits, and impulse to easily feel poured on by pressure. Knowing this, I daily pray for peace. When my mind and spirit is relaxed and content, fully and truly extending trust to God, my inner being is stable and secure. It has taken me a long time to let go of the tight grip I have always held on myself, and on my own high expectations. Through much struggle and defeat to try and race against time, through years of beating my body to the ground, holding myself to unbeatable standards and strict discipline, my exhausted soul is finally raising a white flag. Although I still have strong ambitions to be the best I can be, to fight strong, to hold my faith and stand bold in self-discipline, loyalty, honest effort and integrity, it is all now for a greater purpose–all for the Lord and his kingdom. I try so hard…so very hard…to figure everything out. To be what I believe to be acceptable, respected, and admired. When really, all that matters is that I work for Christ, out of his love. I am already acceptable in his book, I am already precious in his eyes. His grace covers everything…even all of my past and failed attempts, even my over-ambitious and naïve mistakes. He is my inner strength forever, although my flesh and my heart may fail.

 Funny how with any condition out of the “norm”, our bodies know deep down, how to survive. Instinctively when faced with any grueling circumstance, or inflicted with an injury, all our other parts kick in to pick up the slack. Priorities shift around, perspectives change, and other pieces contribute on a different scale. It may be difficult to learn, to accept, and grasp at first. We may stumble, or experience reoccurring pain here and there, but eventually our bodies adapt. We find an inner drive that keeps us going. Only a creator so genius like our God could have come up with a system so remarkable. He is my internal and external strength, forever worthy of praise.