Flashback to 2011 (28 years old)

My husband Elijah slept as I slipped out of bed. Softly I closed the bedroom door and stepped into our kitchen. My heart pounded in anticipation. My forbidden lover and I would soon be reunited. . .food awaited me. In public, I ate healthy. But now that everyone was asleep, I could indulge in my favorite treats! No one would know about my secret affair.

 I stuffed handfuls of Ruffles potato chips, sour cream and onion flavored, into my mouth. Then came the ice cream. I consumed huge spoonfuls of chocolate moose tracks, straight from the carton, barely breathing between bites. My stomach began to protest, but I didn’t want to stop eating yet. I still had the peanut butter! Creamy, delicious mouthfuls of it. I knew that since each bite had 100 calories, each bite would need an hour of cardio to burn off. I’d better eat fast then before I changed my mind. Then came milk chocolate baking chips poured straight from the bag into my mouth. After that, big bowls of white rice covered with melted shredded cheese, alternated with handfuls of roasted walnuts. I began to feel nauseous from all the food. That’s when I really picked up the pace and started eating anything… it didn’t matter what. Jam, trail mix, muffins, pudding, slices of bread, leftover spaghetti. Crumbs and pieces of food fell onto my pajamas. Finally I reached the point where my protesting, groaning stomach couldn’t take anymore.

 Then in pain, and feeling sick, ashamed, and regretful, I made my way back into the bedroom in tears. There was so much food inside of me, I physically felt like throwing up. I couldn’t even get comfortable in the bed. I wanted to cry.  Elijah loved and cared for me. I had a good job, a safe home, a family who cared about me, yet why did I do this to myself? I thought of the workout video I had planned to do the next day and was filled with despair. It wouldn’t even burn off a fraction of the calories I had just consumed.  A wave of nausea from all the food rolled over me. I’ll never do this again, I vowed.

But I did do it again. For nearly 20 years, it was the same story. I had started when I was 15 and continued until I was 33.

This story isn’t about my decades-long love affair with food. It’s about what happened after June of 2016 when I accepted Jesus and allowed His unconditional love and grace to pour into my life. After that, I never made myself sick with food again. I also maintained a 50 pound weight loss.

Fast forward a few more years. Though I was overall healthy, in the last few months, I had been dreading my workouts. I continued to eat well and stick to my fitness routine, but the happiness in exercise was gone. I felt exhausted at the end of my workouts.

 Then I met Shea, a Christian fitness coach of Joyfully His Fitness. Her mission statement is “Joyfully serving women in their health and fitness journey for His glory.”

 When I began following Shea’s fitness program in June of 2019, my mindset shifted. Through Shea’s mentoring and coaching, I began to re-learn that my body is God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I had read these words before, but it was only after meeting Shea and having her as my personal cheerleader and prayer warrior that the words really hit home.

Shea approaches workouts with an attitude of happiness. “Exercising should be FUN!” she told me. “We should find joy in taking care of our bodies and being able to follow where God is calling us.”

Knowing that I had her and the other team members in her crew cheering me on, I found renewed happiness in my workout routine. As I laced up my tennis shoes in preparation for my morning cardio, the words came into my mind, Thank you God for my health. At the end of the session, sweaty and proud, I felt exhilarated. I remembered Shea’s words: “Taking care of our bodies is an act of worship and a way to show gratitude for the bodies God has entrusted us with.” I found myself having more energy during the day. “You’re glowing!” Elijah told me.

I wanted to inspire other women the way Shea had inspired me. After praying and asking God for guidance, I joined Shea’s team as a fellow Christian fitness coach, with a client base of my own.

I pray God works through me to help women break free from any dieting and body image issues, helping them achieve their fitness goals, while keeping Christ at the center, praising God for the salvation and grace He has given us.

I reflect on my past history of being overweight and secret binge night eating. God used this story to show His amazing grace and redemptive power.

“He heals the brokenhearted; and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

My past tells about my present healing and reminds me how far God has brought me.

When I was overweight, God also revealed the true nature of those with pure hearts. My husband dated me and loved me when I was at my heaviest. In college, other students in our inner circle made fun of him for dating “that fat girl.” Elijah didn’t care what they said. He cared about me. Elijah is a physical manifestation of God’s unconditional love. Elijah embodies Samel 16:7: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

This story also shows the pure hearts of my parents. Mom and Dad: Thank you for taking me to church and loving me and never giving up on me, even when I turned away from God. You saved my soul. Though I may have complained about going to church, I still heard the words of the Bible and learned how to pray. Even though I turned away from God in my own ignorance, the messages still came through because God is that powerful, and in 2016, I could no longer deny Him!

Now, through my life, I aim to inspire women to focus our energy on our living God, and to use food and exercise as ways to fuel our bodies to carry out His work and purpose He has created us for. I will live out discipleship and minister to other women through something I am passionate about because I have lived through it. My life will point to Christ and finding freedom in Him.

What happened to that overweight girl, potato chip crumbs stuck to her pajamas, crying in pain from too much food, ashamed and alone? Jesus loved her too, and  transformed her into someone who could empathize with others in their pain and show them new life and purpose in His salvation.

God pulled me from the ashes and turned my pain into beauty. I worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24), holding nothing back, in the way I serve and love others.

Carly Wilsonis dedicated to helping others live in the love of Jesus and the truth of the Bible. She thanks God for the gift of her husband Elijah, who supports and encourages her in ministries, including writing biographies through Story Terrace.  They live in Texas and enjoy volunteering, going to Bible Study, and spending time with friends at the river. You can follow Carly on Instagram @gracelifefitness and Shea @joyfullyhisfitness.