I'll never forget the Sunday morning I met Amy & John Wagner. The church where we attend, Life Assembly, had been in existence only a couple of years and was packed! My husband and I decided to move to the balcony so guests would have a first-floor seat. A new family made their way up the steep stairway to sit beside us in that cramped, little balcony and it wasn't long until God began to have a private dialog with John's heart. As he moved down the stairway, my hubby was there to pray with him while Amy's tears streamed down her cheeks. It's my pleasure to introduce to you my friend (and weight-training coach), Amy Wagner!
Amy in high school at 118 lbs
Growing up, in high school, I always thought I was fat. I thought, “I would be really cute if I could lose a couple of pounds”. Looking around at the other girls and being envious of their thin legs and size 2 jeans, I wondered why I couldn’t be like them. Of course, that is the perspective of a 17 year-old after finding the circa 1988 box of Dexatrim in her father’s medicine cabinet. I wore size 7 jeans and I wasn’t fat at all. In fact, I weighed less than 120 pounds at any given time. I thought I was fat. I was an active teenager. I was out, I was social, I was always moving, walking around the neighborhood with friends, always going to parties, going to the mall. I was not one to sit in front of the television all the time, I wasn’t home a lot. I was a cheerleader and in the color guard. I wasn’t an “athlete”, but I was involved in aerobics and dance. I danced a lot. I wasn’t a “lazy” teenager.
Today, I look at my daughter, at 16 years old and 130 pounds who is absolutely
1994, 7 mos after my
divorce my lowest weight at 116 lbs
beautiful with a figure that most women would hate her for, and she weighs 10 pounds more than I did at that age. In high school, I would live off of pop and an ice cream sandwich for lunch. I ate dinner but I didn’t eat breakfast. I didn’t feel like I was starving myself, but I was being very cautious of how much I ate. It wasn’t about what I ate or when I ate, it was all about how much I put in my body. The less I put in my body, the less fat I had. Again, this is coming from a naïve, uninformed 17 year old point of view not knowing how the body works or what it needs. The fact is, it’s exactly about what you put in your body and when, and the balance of it all.
1995, right after I met John,
approx 120 lbs.
As I got older, in my marriage and having kids I gained weight with pregnancies. When I had my first and second child, I was married to a man in the military. He was fit, doing physical training every day as required. Like any woman would, I felt self-conscience about my body after giving birth. I was in my early 20’s and concerned about how I looked because, throughout life, my self-talk made my weight and looks top priority. It had always been a concern so pregnancy weight only magnified and complicated it. Rather than offering words of encouragement and comfort such as “Honey, you are beautiful no matter what, don’t worry, the weight will come off," or "What can I do to help?” my husband would offer words like, “Why don’t you just get up and exercise," and "Why don’t you stop eating?” It was true, why didn’t I stop eating? All the self-doubt started the [negative] self-talk. “You will never be small. You will have to do something drastic."
It was, then, believe it or not, I started researching Bulimia. The Pro-Anna websites
portrayed it as an almost glamorous lifestyle. You could eat whatever you wanted to, just go throw it up, and, then, go back for seconds. So, I actually did research (I still can’t believe it) on the foods to eat, how much to eat, what to do, how to do it. Then, I practiced. It was like some people teaching themselves how to play ball. You watch, you
1995, John and I with
Andrew and Bree
approx 120 lbs
learn, you take notes, and then… you practice. You do it until you get it right, and that’s exactly what I did. I would eat something like ice cream or pudding, something soft and, then, I would go to the bathroom, get my toothbrush and stick it down my throat. I know, I know it’s gross.
The first time it was hard….it was vomit. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t glamorous. But, I did it AND I.FELT.ACCOMPLISHED. So I would do it again, then I would go eat something else and go back, repeating the process all day. It got to the point that I was going through this cycle, sometimes more than 20 times a day. I called it bulimia but I don’t know if that’s what it was…technically. I fit somewhere in between bulimia and anorexia, because I didn’t binge and I didn’t starve myself. I just chose not to keep whatever it was that I ate, when I ate. I would exercise like a c-r-a-z-y person. I was a young stay-at-home mom with no family, no friends, in a strange place by myself with two children under the age of 3. It’s all I had to do. I ran in place, did push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks and aerobic videos between the Barney and Power Ranger episodes. This is what consumed my day. It was my hobby and the thing that kept me occupied.
1999, at 130 lbs. During a
separation from John
The marriage ended, but I continued on with this process I was subjecting my body to for years. I lost maybe 15-20 pounds from the time I started to the time we separated, within a 1 ½ year span. However, by the time my youngest turned two, 6 months later, I was down a total of 40 pounds and was thinner than I had ever been at 116 pounds. At first, people told me how great I looked, but those comments soon turned to how I looked sick and asking if I was ok. This only gave me motivation to continue, because what they saw as being sick, I saw as 5 more pounds that I needed to loose.
2009-2010, appx 200 lbs
I continued this eating/purging pattern until 2003, when I replaced this compulsion with alcohol and occasional drug use. I didn’t eat, I drank beer. I lost all sense of who I was and didn’t care about anything, including my weight. I was distracted with John’s drama and had been put on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics due to hallucinations and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Although it doesn’t seem like God was here, He had to have been. No one stops purging after 9 years without treatment…but I did. Looking back, it didn’t happen overnight. It was a process that happened over time. I would go several days then think, “I haven’t vomited in 3 days.” It just eventually passed away from my daily routine. I was still messed up, which is a whole different subject, but it was a personality evolution that God would use for good. God was working on me.
@ my heaviest - 203 lbs
It was in 2005, my husband, John, experienced his encounter with Jesus and was transformed into a new creature. He didn’t completely change overnight, but almost. He never touched drugs again, from marijuana to cocaine, he was divinely delivered as was the family through the transformation. I had smoked for 10 years and I was divinely healed. It was as if someone said, “You’ve done this on your own for so long….and how has that been working for you?” and, then, stepped in and started doing it the right way.
We got happy with Jesus! We began focusing our lives on other things, and, we started eating. There were no more drugs, there were no more cigarettes and there was no more beer. This meant no more replacement for nutrition. We were going to lunch with our new friends, having people over for cookouts and going to social events which we all know are mostly food festival extravaganzas. It was not a conscious decision to eat, it just happened. I ate without really even thinking about it and I had never done that before. So, as you can imagine, it didn’t take long to start gaining weight. Over the span of the next 6 years, I went from weighing 120-130 pounds to, at my heaviest, weighing in at 203 pounds. It’s hard to say and harder to admit that this was me.
I was 203 pounds in July of 2011. On Facebook, as I was most of my home time (either
5 mo into my weight loss
approx 180-190 lbs
in the bed or on the couch), looking at pictures of some high school friends and classmates, I was noticing a few of them in weightlifting competitions looking buff, healthy, 40-something and looking A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I began really seeing myself for what I had allowed myself to become, what I had accepted to be suitable, standard, comfortable. I was one of those average 50 million Americans that all those people over -seas talked about. I had been fooling myself and looking over the fact that I wasn’t just happily plump…I was fat. I was just lazy and fat. I was mushy and unhealthy, old and miserable in my skin. I couldn’t move without breathing heavy. I had moved into the completely opposite direction and settled into an immobile lifestyle. I received an invite to a reunion that a classmate was organizing for a small group of friends. I wanted to go to see all my friends, but I couldn’t do it. I was so self-conscience of my looks and my presentation in high school, and they knew it. To see me the way I allowed myself to get, I was completely embarrassed. I didn’t want them to see me that way so I didn’t go. I missed out on a lot because of my weight and my own feelings toward myself. That is when I actually decided that this was not going to work for me any longer. I was not going to let this be good enough. I had no energy and nothing to offer. I would have liked to participate in activities that we had at church, but it took too much effort and was exhausting. I was going nowhere good fast.
Unbeknownst to me, at the same time, John was feeling the same way. He was feeling fat
Summer 2012 - 148 lbs
After weight loss of 60 lbs
and lazy and useless because of his energy level. He would come in from work and sit in the recliner and stay there until bedtime. He had difficulty getting up to mow the yard or anything requiring effort. So, we decided to change our patterns. It was a paradigm shift in our mindset that took place. People say these changes occur over much time, but this did not. This change happened when we chose to change.
It took about a week to get on the track to health. We were both so motivated to make the necessary changes that once we got going, we didn’t even think about it. The desire for unhealthy foods, the cravings were just not there after a few days. The less sugar, the less carbs, the less starch we ate, the less we wanted or craved until it wasn’t even a passing thought. I know God was working with us. I know He played a part because people can’t make that shift by themselves. The flesh rules and without that divine work of God in your life, those kinds of shifts in mindset and motivation don’t happen. It doesn’t happen like it did with us without divine intervention.
At that moment we decided to, I wouldn’t even call it a diet, we chose a lifestyle change, in July of 2011. We cut out all processed foods, all starches, all sugars, all carbs, fast foods and frozen foods. We didn’t go out to eat. We fixed everything ourselves. We ate and we exercised. It seems harsh and drastic, but that is what we needed. We committed to an hour each day of exercise, 6 days a week. Between changing our habits in July 2011, to February 2012, I lost 50 pounds. I don’t want to make this seem like a piece of cake (hmmm…) or that I got results in the first few days because I didn’t. However, I did ‘feel’ results in the first few days just from the difference in the quality of food I was putting in my body.
John was my accountability and partner in crime. It’s so, so, SO important to have this in the journey of weight loss. There were many times I just didn’t feel like working out and he would drag me kicking and screaming. And I would hate him. But, 5 minutes into the workout, I would feel good, I was in it, I would be so happy AND. I. FELT. ACCOMPLISHED.
With John, Bree and Lexi
After my weight loss
It’s only an hour out of my day. What would I be doing with that hour? Trolling on Facebook…that’s what I would have been doing. If I hadn’t had a workout buddy, someone to motivate me, holding me accountable for my actions, I may not have gotten through it, pushed myself to get the results that I did. It went in the other direction also. I was John’s accountability and pushed him. We worked together as a team, kind of Big Brother style. John was a cook for 12 years so I did the shopping and he kept me on track with eating. If left up to me, I would have fallen back into old patterns of, just don’t eat. He was food-driven, it was (and is) very important to him, so he kept my intake on track.
So, as you see, it was a conscience choice, a decision that we followed through with, we worked at, we supported each other in and pushed, when necessary. There is a strong importance in accountability and partnership. I point out a need for a personal trainer, a friend, a spouse, anyone that will keep you on track to reach your goal. We need someone that can walk along side us, understand the importance of what we are trying to accomplish and what are goals are.
The best part is that I got extremely close to God through the process, because of the need to have support, the need to have someone telling me that it was worth it and that the lies and self-talk I’ve known to be my reality, my truth throughout my life were all lies from the enemy who wants me to be less than my best. I had given the enemy so much room to play in my life that he had convinced and deceived me into believing that I was never good enough. No matter what I did, those things would never make me pleasing enough to others or be what I thought I was supposed to be.
I leaned on God’s strength and His scriptures through the process when I needed to be reminded I was perfect in God’s eyes and I didn’t have to be anything other than what He tells me I am, which is His daughter. This makes me good enough. Losing weight, at this point, wasn’t about what I looked like. My appearance was only a sidebar to being useful in the kingdom, having the energy to play with the kids I taught at church or push a cart full of groceries to a needy family or volunteer to man a booth for a community outreach. God took the lies and turned them into motivation to change for Him and His purpose for me. He changed my thoughts about myself and, although I still occasionally struggle with those visions of myself in the mirror. He has made it bearable and given me the knowledge that I don’t have to be perfect. He tells me that I belong to Him, not Satan, and I can believe Him rather than the lies I’ve been fed in the past.
Weight still off 150 lbs
I have kept the weight off for almost 2 years. I am in maintenance mode now, which is a nice benefit for all of the hard work. The “work” doesn’t have to last forever. There is peace and rest on the horizon. Once you reach your goal, you can relax A LITTLE. I now work out 5-6 days a week because I enjoy it, not because I have to. When I want a bowl of ice cream, I eat it with no guilt. However, unlike before, I don’t have any desire to eat the entire carton. I love a good salad. I like grapes. I can play tag with the kids at church through the entire class period without having to sit down and catch my breath. I have more energy than I could have ever imagined.
People have said that I am an inspiration to others. I don’t see it that way. I see that I had a problem. I trusted God with my life and He took my mushed up, messed up brain and untwisted it. He left a mind that could focus and work through the pain, distractions, lies, cravings, and give me the desire to want to be my best for Him. I gave it to God and He gave back 10-fold. It’s a true partnership.
The key to doing anything worthwhile is to do it for the right reasons. God will always help you through a situation when your motives are pure. There is a choice to be made…a decision. The mind is a powerful thing. It can work with you or it can work against you. When your mind is made up, you can accomplish some AMAZING things.
Find something that works for you. My eating habits may not work for you. Your neighbor’s workout may not work for you. I like to strength train, meaning I lift weights. You may like to run or walk or ZUMBA!!! Find something that fits your life and your interests and do it. Leave the excuses in the past with all the other lies that the enemy has told you. People spend time on what they love. If you don’t like your workout, you will not stick to it.
FOOD is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. No matter how much you work out, if you are still eating sugar, you will NOT lose weight. You have to change your eating habits to be healthy. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that you can exercise for 30 minutes a day just so you can eat the cake. This is not the mindset you want to stick with. Most of all, remember you have a friend next to you anytime you feel defeated, weak, tired, hungry or in pain. God can remove all of the self-doubt and the “I’m not pretty, I’m not good enough, I can’t do it, I don’t want to, I , I, I, I….” Ask Him. Trust Him. Give it to Him. And, if you need a push, call me. I’ll help you fight.
These are some of my favorite scriptures that I rested on during times of struggle and when I needed reassurance:
Psalm 107:9. For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.
Isaiah 40:31. Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
Romans 14:17. ...for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Philippians 1:6. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 12:11. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
3 John 1:2. Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
(Amy & John have three kids and make their home in Nashville, TN. Presently, she is studying for her Behavioral Counselor's license.)