I am sharing a new testimony, and this one is so powerful and inspiring. I met Janelle through Instagram and she’s actually in the process of writing her own book that scheduled to release this fall. (Isn’t she awesome?!) But her testimony is one that discusses something many of us women battle with: body image and weight. Read about her weight loss journey and how she found freedom in Christ when her love of food was once an idol. I’m sure you’ll be inspired just as I was.
The Fitness Challenge
In Jan. 2007, my great friend and co-host of our local Christian Radio station gave me the challenge to be the captain of a contest sponsored by our station called “The Total Fitness Challenge.” My heart reeled—not from excitement, but from fear! I knew this would be a great challenge for our listeners, but I just couldn’t see myself enduring another weight loss program, only to fail once again. Not only for me, but I also felt that I would lead our listeners—some who were very close friends of mine—down a path of failure. I couldn’t, wouldn’t, and had no desire to publicly humiliate myself.
I went into this contest kicking and screaming. My on-air confident personality did not match my desire to change my weight, even though it was a big issue in my life. So I decided to simply go through the motions of the contest. I allowed fear to layer over my inner-most, beautiful, fearfully and wonderfully made self for years, and the thought of leading people to lose weight in a month’s time was a daunting task. But I forced myself to go with the crazy idea and set out to try it again. I thought, Hey, it’s only a month. This will soon be a distant memory. The worst that could happen is I would add another failure to my list.
Before I knew it, a small competitive spirit rose within me to not only participate, but also contribute to the real challenge that laid ahead. Of course, being at my all-time heaviest weight—244 pounds—probably had something to do with my change of attitude. Now I had my own troop of accountability that was looking to me to lead them even when I didn’t know how to lead myself.
As we entered the contest, Brent, my co-host, threw out another challenge: to encourage my team with some exercise goals. I didn’t like the idea or him for suggesting it. Moreover, I hated myself for even agreeing to participate. Again, I battled, How can I lead listeners to lose weight and get fit? I was so messed up spiritually, physically, and emotionally with all my self-condemnation that I couldn’t see a way out of this pit for me, let alone others.
Let’s just get this over with, I told myself. Deep down, I really wanted to make a go of this for the show. For the sake of my team, I dug deep and even researched some verses God had brought to my mind, which empowered me to believe that this time could be the real deal. By all appearances, it looked like I was succeeding . . . and loving it. But the reality was, I was still faking it—still living under a disguise to gain attention and approval. By the end of the month-long contest, I had lost 15 pounds! With a little motivation, I decided to see how much more I could lose. Those 15 fifteen pounds kick-started my hope and whispered that I might not be a huge piece of chopped liver after all. With my many unsuccessful tries, my “loser” mentality was slowly disappearing.
The Fasting Challenge
It wasn’t until another 15 pounds dropped off did losing weight become my reality. Just a few weeks after the radio contest ended, I was sitting in church on the third row, third seat in. I’ll never forget the place where things changed for me —I call it the seat of transformation. That particular Sunday, our pastor challenged the entire church to a three-day fast.
Now, he wasn’t talking your average, run-of-the-mill, miss a meal a day fast; oh no, he was serious! He included anything that was hindering our walk with the Lord like food, T.V., social media, activities, etc. His intention was for us to discover what we loved more than God. I knew at that moment what God was doing. He was challenging me to a food fast so I could set my heart right before Him. But I wasn’t in agreement . . . at all! The first thing I said to God was,
Wait, God. Surely, you don’t want me to give up food for three whole days! Haven’t I already given up enough of that already?
Then God responded with a question for me, “Janelle, do you love Me more than food?”
I guess I do, God. – me
“Okay, then let’s see.” – God.
By now, it’s no surprise that food was a big stronghold in my life. My sin of gluttony was seriously sinister. My sweet tooth had deceived and trapped my wounded heart. So, I knew these three days would be hard… make that, miserable… no, make that unbearable! As I sat in my “wilderness” seat, I was heavier spiritually than I could ever remember. I felt so hopeless and so alone so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I cried out to Jesus, asking for the strength to do this. Thankfully, He heard my cry, and granted me with what I needed to survive: His amazing grace.
In the end, I made it through the three-day fast! It was one of the hardest things I ever did, but one of the most rewarding. During those three very long days, God revealed some things to me, about me, that helped change my life. Here are few:
- I was deceived. Just like Eve in the Garden, my desires were misdirected, mostly to my number one source of comfort: food!
- The root was exposed. The source of my constant need for approval, which I battled my entire life, was exposed. No matter what I tried or how much food I ate, nothing could never fill the hole left in my heart.
- I loved food too much. Wow, what a revelation! I was much more than a “foodie”—I was addicted to food. It was an idol in my life that I used as a coping mechanism instead of faith in Christ.
- I didn’t love God as much I thought. Ouch! Every Christian says that they love God, but my number one love was food. My heart really did long for Him, but I had succumbed to the fear and approval of man instead of walking in the authority of Christ.
- I needed an overhaul. It became painfully clear that my appearance and image according to people’s opinion, or my constant fear of man would never make me the person that God designed me to be. God had to redesign my heart. I needed to put my heart and mind and soul on the surgeon’s table and let Him do His work.
Making God a Priority
Those three days were a wakeup call. My spiritual alarm clock went off and thankfully, I answered! Changes had to be made. I had to return to my obedience to Him. He, once again, had to be my first priority in life. Everything else would fall into place.
Here’s something that might be a shocker to you. Great things happen when you put God first in your life! Okay, maybe that’s not an earth-shaking revelation, but how many times do we need to be reminded of this simple yet powerful truth? Here’s even better news. Jesus defeated our emotions—the confessed and unconfessed—taking their weight when He died on the cross! All the shame, guilt, rejection, and every other negative residue of sin is erased . . . for good! Knowing and believing this fact not only sets us free from patterns of wrong thinking, but also allows us to see our real identity—the person God created us to be.
Identity in Christ
Now that I have been set free from the bondage of labels and food addictions, His approval is my identity — EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don’t have to research, re-evaluate, re-examine my place in His giant heart of love for me. I am His daughter and my assignment is to broadcast the light that He has placed in my heart. I don’t have to hide behind my inadequacies or silly labels anymore! It’s one thing to know how the freedom of having our identity in Christ adds to our life, but it’s a whole new level of living when you’re free and liberated from the sin that used to hold you back. No more chains!!!
Everything I do NOW is all for Him. Sure, I need reminders from time to time just like you. But when it comes down to it, I have been redeemed, forgiven and bought with a price (the blood of Christ) and I know that has kept me safe and secure in a place close to Him. The desires to please Him in the area of nutrition and fitness is my top priority.
Caring for my Body
I give my time to care for the house that He dwells in because it’s important to maintain a balanced life of good choices. I enjoy walking in obedience to the freedom that truly liberates. And my tastes have changed. It’s all about your perspective! My appetite for righteousness overrides my flesh. As I fill my daily emotional needs with the Lord, my fleshy emotions/appetites are dimmed when it comes to wants versus desires. I know too much about what God wants FOR my life, and it pleases me to keep going towards His best plan for me! It’s exciting to think that He has a plan that INCLUDES us as believers.
My change isn’t a means to an end anymore. It’s a discipline of freedom and forgiveness, grace for my past, and letting go of who I wasn’t to have ALL my needs met in the Person of Jesus. It’s about what you are filling your life with. As I say, God can’t fill what’s already full. Thought-provoking to say the least. The Lord has not only delivered me from the strongholds of my past, but has also healed me from the inside out.
People, I LOVED READING THIS. I literally could not find the words when I first read it because I was so inspired and moved by how God worked a miracle in her life. Janelle, I am so thankful that you were willing to be open and vulnerable by sharing your testimony!! If you’d like to contact Janelle, send her an email with your thoughts here.
If you’re battling with self-image, read this post or if you feel like sharing your own testimony, fill out the contact form below and let’s chat. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Hanha Hobson is an author, speaker, and the founder of Transparency Ministries. From published devotionals to empowerment workshops, she will stop at nothing to see women encounter God and she is passionate about teaching and equipping them to live a life of freedom. When she is not encouraging others or writing her heart out, she enjoys watching Grey’s Anatomy, eating Chickfila, and connecting with friends on Instagram. Come say hi!