Very simply, The Healthy Edge initially began in 2008 as a mechanism to reach a goal for a leadership development seminar. Seriously, it’s only by the grace of God that the vision rooted in ego, pride and competition has morphed into the transformative and healing ministry it is today. Praise God!
I once told The Healthy Edge story very differently than what it is today. What a gift time is! Often, it is only after we have moved out of a season of life, that we are able to look back and see the faithfulness, power and hand of God at work. Although the past cannot be rewritten, it can be redefined depending on what lens you look through. Here is The Healthy Edge story today through the lens of the goodness of God.
In 2006, I left a teaching and Assistant volleyball coaching position at my alma mater, The University of Findlay in Ohio to move to Seattle to be with who I described as “God’s greatest gift to me” - my fiance, Brian. I shipped thirteen boxes of my belongings (shoes, clothes and books) and left everything else behind. Instead of going back to teaching and coaching, I completed my personal training certification and met my first client while trying on clothes at The Loft. This first client happened to be from a large Greek family and so most of my clients were her relatives and close friends.
Personal training was so much different than teaching high schoolers and college kids. It was definitely less stressful and less mentally stimulating, but it felt good to connect with women. I soon realized I wasn’t just a trainer, I was a therapist, coach and nutritionist. And it didn’t take long for me to figure out that no matter how hard I made the workouts, I couldn’t out work what they were doing the other twenty-three hours of the day. I listened to their need for the nightly wind down with wine, ice cream, chips or chocolate (or all of them), the pressure to have convenient options for their kid’s lunches and snacks and the exhaustion of trying to be everything to everyone - oh and don’t forget finding time to food prep, grocery shop, do laundry, shower, clean the house and prepare a healthy dinner. I also heard about the desperate attempts to fix their weight by restricting, depriving, counting calories and investing in the latest diet fad.
I could relate. I had always been committed to (and good at) appearing to have it together. Perfectionism is the term we use to describe it. No one (not even Brian) knew that I was fighting my own internal and physical battles while appearing to have it all together on the outside. From the age of 23, I had battled bulimia. Instead of addressing the gaping wound left by watching my mom fight and lose the fight to breast cancer and the rejection that seemed to be a common theme throughout my life, I grasped onto various ways to cope, numb and avoid the pain. Bulimia, laxative abuse, alcohol and scale obsession were all my dirty little secrets that no one knew about and even at the time of training my clients, I still struggled with them. So I always felt shameful. I always felt guilty. I hated what I did, but the fear of not doing it and taking the risk to feel the pain (and not get swallowed up by it) were too great. I had created an entire life system designed to make me feel “okay” that had turned into an all-consuming obsession. I never stopped thinking about what I needed to do to feel “okay” that day. Fear was the driving factor. I feared that a let down of what I had created to numb and avoid the pain would allow everything to erupt out of me and I would be reduced to a pile of rubble. I couldn’t allow that to happen.
From a young age, I struggled with my identity or as some refer to it - self worth. I remember struggling to see evidence that I was loved, accepted and enough, even though it was there. I sought validation, attention and connection in a variety of unhealthy ways including performance, promiscuity and adopting a larger than life personality. Often I was compared to my sister who was the beauty queen with great skin while I was dubbed the “smart” one. I decided if I couldn’t change my face, I could change my body. I began lifting weights when I was fifteen and it became my identity. I loved being strong. I loved the attention I received when I bench pressed or picked up a heavier weight than a boy at the gym. I loved the validation I felt when someone remarked on how my body looked. This carried over into college and became something I received a lot of attention, praise and envy for. I began combining this identity with alcohol at the bars and a persona of being a tough girl who had it all together. I soon got very good at manipulation to get the attention I craved and needed.
So, when I met my husband I appeared strong. I appeared independent. I had been through a lot including my mom’s death, a betrayal by my fiance right before my mom died, purchasing my first home by myself and another four year relationship that ended in disappointment. When I met Brian, I felt God had answered my prayers for love, approval and security. He supported everything I did and finally, I felt someone saw me the way I had always wanted to be seen.
But no one can give you self-worth. No one can heal the places of brokenness we avoid and numb with coping mechanisms and building walls around our hearts. Over the years, I had morphed into the version of who I believed I needed to be to keep up what I had presented to Brian and to the world. Now, I had to be strong. I had to be independent. I had to be confident. I had to be perfect. I had to be thin. The life I had created depended on it. I had an all-consuming fear of if I am not all these things, then who am I? Who will love me then?
So, what does this have to do with The Healthy Edge, you may ask?
Everything. You see, The Healthy Edge began as a mechanism to reach a goal and a “system” to share with my clients to teach them how to eat for nutrition and think healthy, but over the past ten plus years God has shown me that The Healthy Edge was the path where I confronted by biggest fear - meeting my true self. Not only did I meet her, I would eventually fully accept her imperfections and fall in love with her. Through the stages of the growth of The Healthy Edge as a business and mission, God has taken me on the most crazy, painful, beautiful and exhilarating ride home to who I have been created to be.
The gift of revelation often happens when we look back and receive a fresh perspective of what we have just walked through. As The Healthy Edge was starting out and growing, it was all about me. Yes, I wanted to help my clients. Of course, I wanted to make a difference in the world, but I also loved the validation and praise I received while doing it. I loved the control in calling the shots. I loved the idea of being known across the globe. I loved how it felt to stand on stage and have the power to say whatever I wanted. I loved knowing people wanted what I had. Ugh.
This is the ugly side of myself I had to come to terms with if I was ever going to be free to be me. The first step in my journey began with telling my small group (at the same leadership development seminar) that I was bulimic. I remember shaking uncontrollably as if the very foundation of my life was crumbling. I was unable to formulate a word when I even thought about letting the truth out of the box I had locked it in. You see, they too saw what everyone else saw - a healthy, strong, successful and confident woman and I knew that allowing them to see me for who I really was - was the only way I was ever going to be free to receive the love and acceptance I had been on a quest for my entire life. I also knew that truth was the gateway to my biggest fear - rejection and ultimately being alone. But something had to give. I was exhausted. I couldn’t keep doing what I had been doing. Something had to change. So I spoke the truth, felt the million pound weight lift and braced myself for the aftermath. I felt arms and faces surrounding me as they embraced me in my vulnerability. You see, people can only get as close as your facade and the love, connection and acceptance our soul craves is withheld at this distance. That experience also began my adult journey with the God of my childhood and his son, Jesus, that had been stagnant and distant since my youth. My journey to freedom had started as well as The Healthy Edge.
I told my secrets to my husband, Brian. He held me and loved me anyways with full support and understanding. But the journey didn’t end there. If only that was the only step I would have to take and the only pain I would have to walk through. Although I knew God delivered me from the power of bulimia that day at the seminar, there were so many layers that would be peeled away over the following years. As The Healthy Edge grew, I was growing right alongside it. For my followers who have been with me from the beginning (God bless you), they have been on a ride! God is so gracious to have blessed this vision when it was all about me because He knew the plan - that someday I would make it all about Him.
The Healthy Edge began with the seed of vision planted inside of me and was brought to life through a partnership that included myself, Brian, my sister, April, and her husband Brandon. April and I both felt our mom’s life would be honored through the vision of teaching and mentoring women on how to love and care for their bodies and minds so they could be strong and healthy advocates for their families and the world. Originally, The Healthy Edge program was conducted in our home in Auburn, WA where each week we would have 20 - 35 people in our kitchen and living room. I had a projector and a powerpoint and today the content is automated and online in video, audio and written format. The Healthy Edge slowly evolved into a health coaching certification for professionals who wished to use the curriculum and format with their own clients seeking better health.
Over the next seven years (or so), April and Brandon expanded their family to three kiddos and decided to part ways with The Healthy Edge. Brian and I took on the full-time operation of the business where a whole new layer of growth emerged in our marriage and within ourselves. We were involved in the planning of many local events as well as traveling to California, Colorado and Ohio to support our growing number of health coaches and facilitators across the country. In 2004, we invited 200 people to be part of the second filming of The Healthy Edge program. At the time, I joked about having a baby on stage. At the time, Brian and I were enjoying hosting two exchange daughters from Denmark and Luxembourg. Things seemed good or at least “appeared” to be good. Brian and I agreed that working together was not good for our marriage and Brian moved on to pursue the dream of owning his own business and started Ghostfish Brewing Company, the first gluten-free brewery in the state of Washington in 2014.
Then in February of 2016, I was living my lifelong dream and desire of having a growing baby in my belly and becoming a mommy. I was seven months pregnant and full of all of the dreams a mama has in her heart as she carries life within her. I sat down to start my day and opened an email from a close friend. The email seemed as though she was revealing something about why she had been so distant in the past few months and as I read further she was confessing to an affair with someone. The someone ended up being my husband.
Over the course of the next four years, I vacillated between despair and hope, pain and unspeakable joy and control and surrender as I navigated motherhood and the path of forgiveness with all its twists and turns. It is so interesting as I look back on the last four years to see how God had been preparing me for a second chance. A second chance to go through heartache, pain and loss with Him as my anchor and not the inadequate substitutes of the world. As I have navigated the rejection, the betrayal and the loss, I didn’t allow myself to grasp for food, alcohol, bulimia, exercise, the scale or someone so I could escape the refining of the first I was walking through. No, The Healthy Edge journey had been my training ground to prepare for the fiercest battle of my life. The battle to keep my identity and faith in God while everything I had built up around me crumbled down around me.
God equips us for what he calls us to. He has equipped me to walk alongside women of all different backgrounds, ages, struggles and sizes. He has allowed me to walk my own path in my own strength because he knew when I got weak and fell to my knees, I would look up. God has extended a hand to me to pull me out of the depths of the mire and He has anointed and called me to do the same for other women hurting in a body (or life) they don’t recognize.
I want to share an except from my blog, “I am a fraud”.
“I did not see anything good in the rubble of my life during the dark season of my husband’s betrayal. But, I knew from previous life experiences that turning my back and avoiding the mess was not going to lead to freedom and peace. So I have been walking among the broken pieces of my life as a part of my healing process and discovering who I really am. Sometimes I sit down in the mess and ponder how I got here, asking for wisdom and revelation from God. Sometimes I lay down among the pieces of my life and let the reality of the carnage wash over me. Some pieces I pick up, hold them in my hands, pull them into my chest, rock them gently back and forth and weep with tears that flow from deep wells inside of me. These are the pieces I mourn. Some I throw in anger until I am so exhausted, I collapse and surrender the anger for forgiveness. Some I just let remain, untouched so I can just remember them as they are. Eventually, I will be ready to leave my mess full of peace and wisdom. I may decide to carry some of the pieces with me for a while as reminders of what I have learned about myself and God while sitting in the rubble of the life I constructed for myself and my own glory rather than for God. Eventually, I will humbly surrender each piece over to God to do what He had already decided to do for my good and for His glory.
As I walk among my rubble, I don’t feel like a fraud. I actually feel more like myself than I have ever before. You see, in the rubble is where we find ourselves, because it’s where we meet who created us and we lay down what we have created. In the rubble, we discover that God is using the broken pieces of our lives to make us whole by showing us how broken we are without Him. It’s in this sacred place that we are reconciled back to the plan that God has for us as we humbly surrender our plan.
It’s time, my sister, for you to do the same. Perhaps you need to go back to a pile of rubble that you have been avoiding for years. It’s time to sit down in the middle of that mess and let the God of all comfort and healing, sift through the pieces with you and pull out the treasures you need to move forward and to hold some pieces close to your heart for a moment or two and then turn them over to God. You don’t need them anymore. This process will allow you to release the habits and thoughts you have had to grasp onto to maintain the mess you haven’t dealt with. You were created for this process and you are not in it alone!
I am not sure what stirred in you as you have read my story, but I am sure something is. God did not design a diet to give you peace, confidence and security. He gave his son, Jesus. Your journey to real, lifelong transformation that you feel and see is not in another food plan or app to count calories - it involves redefining your relationship with food, your body and God. That’s what The Healthy Edge is all about. It’s for imperfect people serving a perfect God. I would be honored to come alongside you as your coach, guide and mentor and navigate the terrain of your internal and external life to get things back in order so you can live fully in the purpose God has fashioned you for!