By REBECCA TURNER

 

Daughter Neely Turner; Rebecca with their dog Bailey Turner; Rebecca; husband, Lee Dalco Turner; and baby girl, Emilee James (EJ) Turner

 

     When asked, “What led you to the field of nutrition?” I always respond that I find it incredibly empowering that, to some extent, you can control your health by your food and beverage choices. But starting around my junior year of college, my curiosity to learn all I could about how food affects the body slowly morphed into an obsession to control every calorie to achieve outward perfection. I no longer chose foods based on good health, but rather as leverage to gain external validation. While I looked healthy on the outside, I was held captive in body-image bondage, and it took Jesus to set me free. 

 

     When I got engaged to my now-husband of almost 14 years, I realized my pursuit for the perfect diet had morphed into disordered eating. I sobbed when I realized I’d need to eat cake in front of guests. It seems absurd, but to those who gain self-worth based on self-discipline with food, letting go of control can be crippling. There were other red flags, but that was the icing on the cake, that things needed to change. 

 

     I grew up in church. My grandfather was a pastor, and I spent Sunday nights and summers involved in youth activities. During a youth retreat in middle school, I made it official and asked Jesus into my heart. Sadly, my faith story reads like many who go off to college and leave Him behind. Looking back, I know the God-sized hole in my self-esteem was the open door Satan needed to suck me into the black hole of validating myself with diets and a scale. 

 

     The Bible tells us that Jesus never leaves or forsakes us, and as He pursued the lost sheep, God pursued me. During marathon training, I started reconnecting to sacred stillness while running alone. Running, and later weightlifting, became the catalyst I needed to respect my body for what it could do when adequately fueled, and when late-night parties were avoided. But even though God was back in my life, He still wasn’t first. My struggle for self-acceptance continued. 

 

     As with many couples, conceiving our first child wasn’t a cakewalk. So when we found out we were expecting, I was determined to put the baby’s needs before mine. I got baptized on Christmas Day 2011, and spent the rest of that pregnancy trying to fix my priorities. Without question, I am the kindest to myself, and enjoy the healthiest relationship with food, while pregnant. I’ve had the privilege of two healthy pregnancies, and both gestations were body and mind game-changers. But the world isn’t kind to postpartum moms, and it’s easy to get trapped in the idea that your body must bounce back or risk losing validation. I fell into that trap twice. 

 

     I understood Christians were to do everything, including eating and drinking, for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). But I was living a double life. I desired to worship Jesus wholeheartedly, but I used all my extra energy to chase the world’s standard of wellness. For decades, I tried to serve both masters and failed. Finally, God opened my eyes to see that food wasn’t my enemy, and that perfecting my body wasn’t His ultimate purpose for my life. Instantly, my relationship with Christ blossomed.

 

     I began to connect the dots that neither Satan nor Christ cared about my weight, but both cared because I cared. Like Paul, I had a thorn, a messenger from Satan; it was self-image for me. Today I recognize that my struggles with food and self-acceptance have always been an invitation from Jesus to lean on Him. When I am weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Even when I’m not physically pregnant, I am a carrier of the Holy Spirit, and caring for my body is a form of worship and respect to the One who resides there (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

 

     In my life today, daily prayer, paired with practicing self-compassion, has brought about inner peace and a feeling of actual wellbeing, which was missing when I was chronic dieting. As a nutritionist, I’m still in awe of the healing power of eating well and exercise, but it must be rooted in gratitude for the One who created it all. Godly wellness is a form of worship. And when old mindsets of body comparison or food anxieties arise, that’s my signal to pray and praise more, not diet harder. 

Using print, TV and radio, Rebecca Turner translates the complex world of nutrition into understandable, achievable concepts. Her most recent book release, “Enjoy Good Health: A Faith-Based Approach to Personal Wellness,” combines her food expertise with her Christian faith to help you live life healthy based on God’s Word, not the world’s standards. Purchase all her books on Amazon and connect with her online at RebeccaTurnerNutrition.com.

Pro-Life Mississippi