How to get closer to Jesus without giving up chocolate for Lent

One of my most shameful moments in eating disorder recovery was learning that I’d rather risk the death of my daughter than to risk being fat. In summer of 2014 I had a heavy feeling that I was about to lose something very dear and precious to me. I became convinced that I was going to lose my daughter, and I had mentally worked on preparing myself to surrender her to the Lord should he ask for her to come home. The thought of losing her was devastating, yet deep in my heart I trusted that if God wanted her home, then I knew she would be safe.  When I went into anorexia recovery later that fall, I realized how completely wrong I was. The thing I was about to lose, the thing that was so dear and precious to me that God was about to take away, was my eating disorder.

I was so petrified that I would have rather Him taken my daughter. The shame I felt in understanding this truth living in my heart was so heavy I could barely stand.

When I confessed this to my therapist, Tamara, I expected her to recoil and affirm that I was indeed a horrible, selfish mother.  Instead Tamara shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, that makes sense. If your daughter dies, you know where she’s going, right?” Heaven, I agreed. “But, to lose your eating disorder is to risk becoming fat, and there’s shame in that because we live in a culture where it isn’t okay to be fat. To stay here and live in larger body sounds like suffering.”

Boom. To live a life of suffering shame in a larger body, which is what my eating disorder was telling me would happen, was far scarier and much more of a sacrifice than knowing my daughter would be safe in the arms of Jesus.


Growing up as a Christian, I understood the season of Lent to be about sacrificing something for 40 days to simulate a fraction of the suffering Jesus felt when he spent 40 days in the desert repeatedly tempted by the devil. We usually “gave up” stuff that we loved or found ourselves “indulging.” In my family all the way into my own adulthood, the sacrifice was often some kind of food–chocolate, sugar, chips, etc. Even into my adult years, I watched friends giving up cheese, Fritos, beer, chocolate, cake, coffee. Food was and still is often a go-to sacrifice to suffer without for 40 days, resisting and suffering through the temptations to cheat. And boy did I feel guilty when I did, as do many of my friends when they post pictures of themselves enjoying pizza and beer with the caption “Sorry, Jesus. Maybe next year.”  Really, Lent was more like going on a mini-diet, a religious regimen to work on healthier habits and lose some pounds under the guise of getting closer to Jesus.

Rarely did I ever feel closer to Jesus giving up food, and I am going to be bold in assuming most people don’t. Lent has become more of a New Year’s Resolution Reboot to give up the culprit foods we think are contributing to the inability to lose the weight we set out to lose back in January. And when we “cheat,” giving into the temptation of whatever food we sacrificed, not only do we feel guilty about eating the food but now we get the double whammy of failing Jesus.

Two years ago, I changed tactics. I asked Jesus what he wanted me to sacrifice for Him. What did he want from me during Lent so that we could be closer? “All I want is you.” That’s the response that whispered to my heart over and over again. That’s all Jesus ever wants… from me, from you, from all of us. He just wants to be close to us.

After realizing losing my daughter would be easier than losing my eating disorder, every plate of food became a little altar of sacrifice, and my prayer was (usually through clenched teeth and child-like sass-itude ): “Dear God, I am eating this plate of food for you. I am scared to death that it will make me fat, but I am trusting you to nourish me and make me healthy. Thank you for loving me and holding my hand through this. Amen.” This was a stressful, hard, suffering practice for months, but with every meal I felt better, freer, and more trusting of my body and of God. God’s intention wasn’t to make me fat, but to make me healthy and strong for the work he needs me to do.


If you want to be closer to Jesus, try giving up the diet mentality for Lent, and give control of your body to God. If you hate your body right now and are in the throes of trying to change it, then letting go of control and lifting up your body as-is into the hands of God without leaning on diets and scales and food rules is suffering. Because you’re risking staying in or growing into (what you believe is) a fat body, and culture shames people who are fat.  Make sure you understand what I am saying–it’s risky, not inevitable. Resisting the temptation to count calories, restrict “demonized” foods, check fat and sugar contents, eat Paleo or Whole 30 “compliant” requires full reliance on God and trust that the body he has created for you is the best body for you. This whole notion is a hell of a lot harder than giving up chocolate, but the focus is more meaningful and productive in achieving closeness with Jesus. And you can still eat chocolate!

To trust God with our bodies is risky… oh but what a risk worth taking if it snuggles us closer to Jesus. And all He wants is you.

Related post: “Dear God, please don’t make me fat”

Food rules you can break (part II)

*This is the second post in a three-part series on common food rules that, while seemingly harmless or even healthy in theory, are confusing to the body’s biology. Understanding food rules, where they come from, why we have them, and how we can break them is important in learning how to rediscover your ability to eat intuitively and find freedom in food. 


Last summer we were at my parents’ house for a barbecue. All the good stuff was on the menu: burgers, hot dogs, chips, salads, fruit, all the fixin’s, beer, soda, iced tea, lemonade. Classic summer eats, warm weather, and lots of family. Everything was spread out on the table, free to grab as you pleased to fill the belly. Except for one thing. This one little item was still inside on the counter.

The brownies.

The brownies were for after dinner, as my daughter found out from Grandma when she asked Grandma if she could have one. So Haley ate her dinner and asked again for a brownie. The answer was no because dinner wasn’t over yet; people were still eating. Haley waited and waited, hovering around the brownies like a fruit fly waiting for her chance to land her hands on one. She tried not to ask too many times if it was time for the brownies yet, but it was hard because even when people seemed to be done with dinner, she still had to wait until Grandma was ready to serve dessert.

After all the barbecue food and accouterments were put away, out came Grandma with the plate of brownies! *cue angel choir*

But Grandma said, “Wait just a minute,” because she had to get the napkins and the forks. I thought Haley might actually explode from anticipation.

Finally sweet Haley got the go ahead for a delectable, gooey, chocolate brownie. She thoroughly enjoyed every bite, except for the bits she left all over her face.


No dessert until after dinner. This is a common rule in our culture that goes back decades, maybe even centuries. I don’t know. But, it’s a man-made rule with the intention of getting children to eat their “healthy food” first before filling up on dessert. That’s still the intention today; however, I think it’s sometimes used as a tool for control and power at the dinner table.

The problem with this rule is two-fold:

  1. It creates the mentality of a food hierarchy–> certain foods (e.g. fruit, veggies, meat, etc.) are better than other foods (e.g. brownies, cookies, ice cream, etc.). The “healthy” food goes on top and the “unhealthy” food–all the foods with sugar and fat–go on the bottom.

2. Fun food goes on the bottom, yet this rule also places desserts on a pedestal. Dessert is          something to be earned, to obtain after you’ve worked to eat through the hard food, the              good food, and because so, it becomes a desired prize. Dessert holds great value mentally.

So this rule actually has a third problem: it’s confusing! If dessert food is so “bad” then why do we have to work so hard to earn it? Why does it get a special place in the meal? Why is it treated with such specialness?


“No dessert until after dinner” has no biological logic. We seem to care when we eat dessert, but the body doesn’t. Food is nothing more than nutrients to your body. If you feed yourself broccoli and steak, then your body reads fiber, protein, fat, iron. When you feed it brownies and ice cream, it reads sugar, fat, vitamin D, and calcium. These are all nutrients. You can dip your broccoli in your ice cream for all your body cares. Your body doesn’t read or categorize food on a hierarchy; all food has equal value to the body depending what the nutrients do. If all you’re eating is salad and beef jerky, it’s going to ask for a sugar and fat source, (you might start craving brownies and ice cream) so your body can level out the playing field again.

To break this rule: put all the food on the table–entrees, sides and desserts. This practice gives you the the option, opportunity, and mental permission to eat all the nutrients equally without the mental anguish of having to eat through certain foods to earn others.

Our dinner table from the other night. Hubz was still finishing up the steak, so it isn’t pictured.


This doesn’t just go for dessert after dinner, by the way. This applies to all our rules about when we can eat certain foods. We have strict rules about what we can have for breakfast, right? We tend to tell ourselves and our kids, no ice cream or chicken nuggets or pizza or whatever the forbidden food for breakfast. Again, your body doesn’t care what time it is when you feed it certain foods. If bacon and ice cream sound good at 8:00 am, go for it. Your body gets fat, protein, and sugar to get the engine running. Great!

That’s great and all, Leanne, but if I put brownies on the dinner table then my kids will fill up on brownies and nothing else. What about that, hmmm? Or a bowl of ice cream before school isn’t going to fuel them for their math test. 

So? They have brownies for dinner.  They’ll be hungry again later and tomorrow and the next day. You keep offering different food options (from all categories) any time they eat. Over time brownies (or whatever the dessert) lose their value, become less interesting when they’re always available. Your kids (and you!) will begin to balance out your plates. They won’t have brownies for dinner forever. As for breakfast, just offer some protein to help support the ice cream. For two months straight, Haley ate chicken nuggets and chocolate ice cream for breakfast. It was the perfect meal for her, and it held her over until snack time and sometimes even lunch, in which she’d have another opportunity to get other nutrients. And eventually, she got tired of chicken nuggets and ice cream for breakfast. She moved on to other things. Kids are the BEST intuitive eaters when we grown ups don’t interfere with a bunch of food rules.


I challenge you to try breaking this rule: no dessert until after dinner. Practice putting your forbidden or prized foods on the table with your other foods. I know it seems weird and maybe even scary, but remember that nutrients are nutrients for your body. You’re just giving you and your family the opportunity to get all of them on an even playing field. Over the next few weeks, notice how the attitude (yours and your family’s) and value towards dessert changes.

P.S. Anyone else craving a brownie right now? 🙂

My Forgotten Baby

My first pregnancy ended in a Subway bathroom on my lunch hour. I had taken a home-pregnancy test the previous week after my period had been about a week late. Though faint, the test came back positive, and I was looking forward to my doctor appointment scheduled for the following week. Two days before the doctor appointment, I was standing in line with my co-workers at Subway deciding whether I wanted the cold cut combo or the black forest ham when out of the blue I was struck with cramps in my lower belly. A hot flash came over me and I felt dizzy with a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. I excused myself out of line and headed straight to the restroom.

As I sat down on the toilet my belly cramped again, and I essentially started hemorrhaging into the porcelain bowl. My skin had gone clammy and hot and my head felt light. I leaned my head onto the wall, trying to take deep breaths and keep calm. The blood kept coming, and I felt trapped in that cold, tiled bathroom all alone. Waves of nausea washed over me, and I kept thinking what is happening? What is happening? I sat there a long time, just waiting for my body to finish expelling itself. When my body finally seemed to calm down, I tried to clean up the best I could. Can I just say that cheap, 1-ply toilet paper in a fastfood establishment bathroom isn’t conducive to mass bleeding?

Then I flushed, wondering if there was any way the tiny baby inside me was still there.

I emerged from the bathroom on shaky legs and with zero appetite. I felt numb and scared. I found my co-workers and they asked if I was okay. “You look pale.” I mumbled something about not feeling well and needing to go home for the rest of the day. I don’t remember anything else from the rest of that day.

Two days later I showed up to my doctor appointment and peed in a cup. I told the nurse what had happened in the Subway bathroom. When both the nurse and the doctor returned they looked at me with a bit of confusion. “Well, your hCG levels are high, so you were pregnant. But you were so early in the pregnancy that most women at this stage don’t even know they were pregnant. They just figure their period was late and heavier than usual.”

I went home feeling sad and confused. So did I miscarry? Had I only been “kind of pregnant”? I felt like I had experienced a loss, but it wasn’t being defined as one, so I didn’t know if I was allowed to feel sad.

My husband and I went for a walk that evening and I explained to him that we were pregnant “for like two minutes” but not anymore. My husband said that basically the embryo was like a zygote. I let myself cry just a little, and then I completely disconnected from the experience. I only told a friend or two and my parents about it and then never really spoke of it again.


My husband and I were blessed with two kids following that pregnancy, who are now nine and 11 years old. Strangely over the last 11 years, I’ve had random and sporadic sensations of a third child in our house, a child that I have forgotten about, maybe napping upstairs or playing in the other room. My husband once came to me and said, “Do you ever get the feeling there is a baby here that we’ve forgotten about?” Yes! I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who had the feeling. Neither of us had been able to explain it or come up with a logical explanation as to why we felt this way. “Maybe we’re going to have a surprise baby when we least expect it?” I speculated once. I secretly hoped not!

I mentioned to my mom these feelings of a “ghost baby” in our house that we sometimes feel and explained that we couldn’t figure out why in the world it was happening. “Well,” she said, “maybe it’s the baby from your ‘two minute pregnancy’ that you’ve never really acknowledged.”

*heart stop*

I took this to therapy recently, and guess what? My mom was right. Dear reader, I spent over 13 years “disconnected” from a real pregnancy and real loss. I had emotionally disengaged from my miscarriage, not even allowing myself to call it a miscarriage, mostly because it wasn’t like any of the miscarriages my friends or acquaintances had experienced. It also wasn’t like I lost a full-term baby during or right after birth like a couple other mamas I know. Because my loss wasn’t the same, as tragic, as other women, I had minimized my fragile unborn baby into scientific verbiage, and buried a physically terrifying and emotionally fraught experience. I thought I had disconnected, but my body and my heart never did.


I processed my loss for the first time just recently. I now understand that I had three pregnancies, not just two. One day when I go to heaven, I’ll have a little girl waiting for me. I know she is a girl because when I talk to God about her, when I asked Him if this baby was real, my heart pounds in response with an inexplicable knowing that yes, she’s real. And I cry every time (like right now) I think about her and her realness. There is a completeness in my heart now that the “forgotten ghost baby” is no longer forgotten… or a ghost.

When I think about what the doctor had said, about how “most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at this stage,” I had written that off to mean that my pregnancy didn’t count. In reality it is a miracle that I was let in on a secret that God needed me to know. He wanted me to know that this unborn child exists. He’d been whispering to both my husband and me reminders of this secret for over a decade. I don’t know why, but I believe like every baby He creates, she is a gift for our hearts given to us with Divine love.


Friends, our bodies never forget what’s happened to them. Everything that happens to us, regardless of how seemingly small it seems to us matters to God. Deeply. No matter how hard we try to minimize, deny, or bury our hard experiences, they always stick with us and God wants to heal the hurt that comes with them. I pray that if you have something that’s happened to you, that you’ve tried to forget or from which you’ve tried to disengage, that you find someone to help you process through it and that God heals your hurt.

Food rules you can break (Part 1)

*This is the first post in a three-part series on common food rules that, while seemingly harmless or even healthy in theory, are confusing to the body’s biology. Understanding food rules, where they come from, why we have them, and how we can break them is important  in learning how to rediscover your ability to eat intuitively and find freedom in food. 


One of the most common food rules we have, much to every child’s chagrin, is we must finish everything on our plates.


Do you have this rule? Can you articulate why you have this rule and why it is necessary to finish everything on your plate?

If the answer is because you don’t want to waste food, that is an absolute valid thought; however, an easy solution is to save for later what you don’t eat now.

Is this a rule you grew up with , so you just follow it because eating everything on your plate is what you’re “supposed to do”? Not everything we were told to do as a kid is the best instruction; it’s okay to change or ditch the childhood rules.

You don’t have to finish everything on your plate! (If this is a rule you have with your children, I am going to respectfully beg you to ditch it.)

The problem with this rule is your brain forces you to ignore your body when it says, “I’m full.” The focus of the meal becomes eating everything in front of you rather than eating to satiate hunger. It’s easy to overeat because you don’t stop when you’re actually full. Instead you wait until all the food has been eaten, which can be long after your body has had enough. You end up feeding your body more than it needs and more than it can metabolize before you sit down to the next meal. When the body becomes overwhelmed with more than it can use, guess what it does? Yep. Stores the excess in added weight.



First, practice assessing your hunger level. In Resch and Tribole’s book, Intuitive Eating, they discuss the hunger scale that goes from zero to 10. A level zero means you’re starving–running on empty; you’re so hungry you have the shakes, a headache, feel faint. You might not even feel hungry at this point because your body has “all hands on deck” to keep your brain functioning. Conversely, level 10 means you’re so full you feel sick; one wrong move and it might all come back up. Ugh.

Ideally you want to start reaching for food when your hunger is right around a level three or four. This will feel different for everyone, but for me I feel:

  • my belly grumbling
  • the thought of a particular food sounds good
  • a little dizzy
  • hiccups in my ability to think clearly

Notice what a level three or four hunger level feels like for you and maybe even write down what you are feeling. When you’re at level three/four, try not to wait until you’re starving to eat because by that time your body has moved into deprivation mode, which means you’re likely to overload your plate to begin with, feeling like you won’t be able to get enough food!

Once you know you’re comfortably hungry, the second step is to fill your plate to satiate. When you think about the hunger/fullness scale, think about feeding yourself enough to satisfy your body’s hunger rather than filling yourself to the brim. What amount of food would take you from level three/four to a comfortable six/seven? Hint: You aren’t going to know by looking at the amount of you serve yourself, but rather by tuning into how you feel as you eat. Start with what you think sounds satisfying and give yourself permission to either save what you don’t eat now or to go back for more if you need to.

This takes us to step three which is practice paying attention to yourself as you eat. It’s imperative at the beginning of your new practice to eat without distractions–no phones, computers, projects, friends, television, etc. Create an environment where it’s just you and your food. (This will be harder if you have a family but not impossible!) Eat slowly, focusing on how the food smells, tastes, and feels in your mouth. I know this sounds kind of weirdly meditative, and it is. Not weirdly, of course, but definitely meditative! As you make your way through your meal, focus on your hunger level and notice when you feel the move from hungry to satisfied. When you feel the comfort of satiation, stop. Don’t worry about how much food is left on the plate! Ignore it and stay in tune with your body instead. Doing something that actively makes you stop can be helpful–push the plate away; stand up; place a napkin over the plate.

Within about five or 10 minutes of ending your meal, you’ll notice one of two things as your body settles:

  1. You’re still hungry and need to eat some more (go ahead! Honor your body’s request.)
  2. You are comfortably full–satisfied without feeling like an overstuffed bear.

The more you practice these steps, the less you’ll have to think about them. Tuning in with your body will become intuitive.

There are no rules when it comes to food. Following rules, such as “finish everything on your plate,”  instead of following your body cues will absolutely contribute to weight gain and keep your body from finding its homeostasis, that place of size and good feeling you were designed to embody.

The next rule we’ll tackle: no dessert until after dinner.




You don’t struggle with your weight

“She’d always struggled with her weight.”  This statement bothers me when I read it in biographical media or watch documentaries on famous ladies. Why is that even mentioned?They might as well just say, “She was always fat, trying hard to get skinny yet never seemed to get her act together.”

We don’t struggle with weight. No one does. We struggle being comfortable and happy inside ourselves.


When I was in the depths of anorexia, I was scared of becoming fat because I believed if I became that way then people wouldn’t trust me, wouldn’t find me beautiful, wouldn’t take me seriously; I would be sick, unhealthy, and “less than” in the eyes of others. As someone who craved acceptance, needed to be heard, wanted to be “enough,” fat was scary. So I went to extremes to stay thin. I didn’t know what thin enough was, of course, so I just kept getting thinner. With every comment about how good I looked or adulation about my good discipline, focus, and healthy ways in addition to praises in my work, the eating disorder clawed in deeper and I got sicker.

It wasn’t the weight or loss of it that was the struggle, you guys. I was insecure in my body because I was insecure in who I am and wasn’t sure that I would be seen, accepted, and loved. 


Hear me well if you feel like you struggle with weight: The struggle is so much deeper than body size. You are constantly told, whether directly or indirectly, through media, doctors, health professionals, models, red carpet stars, and diet companies that larger bodies are “bad.” Larger bodies are unhealthy, ugly, lazy, undisciplined, sick, embarrassing, unreliable. The tragedy for for you if you live in a larger body or think you might be in a larger body is you believe the body labels are definitions of who you are: “If my body is larger then that means I’m fat, which means I must be unhealthy, ugly, lazy, undisciplined. I need to be change. Be better.”

So you wrestle with diets to help you be more disciplined, to be healthier. You get into workout routines you don’t really love, but you love the idea that the movement might make you skinnier. Then when the restriction of the diets are too hard (which is not your fault, by the way) and the hard core workouts become a cursed chore, you give up and further feed the belief that you’re lazy and undisciplined. The weight you might have lost comes back plus a few extra pounds. Then the cycle starts over again, with feelings of inadequacy rooted even deeper.


From the outside, all the world sees is your body size getting bigger then smaller then bigger then smaller, and judges you, as you do yourself, as “struggling with weight.”  No. The constant rise and fall of weight on any person is simply a symptom of a much deeper struggle with negatives feelings and inaccurate beliefs about who she is inside her body. These feelings and beliefs are rooted in past hurt or emotional/mental damage and are simply exacerbated by cultural ideals and expectations.

A diet will never cure low self-esteem; a work out regimen won’t change who you are. And a thin body won’t bring the happiness you’re looking for. Trust me. I almost died trying. Internal struggle isn’t solved by external work (this is part of the reason why diets fail). Internal struggle is healed through deep inner work, and usually cannot be done without the help of a counselor.


Do you feel like you struggle with weight? Do you know someone you’ve always thought of as struggling with weight? I want you to see yourself or your loved one as someone who is struggling with inward hurt rather than struggling with weight. There’s healing that needs to be done, and with healing comes the body satisfaction, and even body love, as physical health aligns with mental/emotional/spiritual health.