How God Used One Woman’s Obesity Struggle

In this chat-style blog with Mentor Mama and Jennifer Wagner, we are going to be talking about discovering a fresh approach to moving, fueling, and loving your body. So many of us look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we are going to love the skin that we are in, but most days our inner self-critic is all we can hear. We’re constantly asking ourselves; how can I have a healthy lifestyle that will keep me motivated and inspired? Or why does it even matter how I think about my body or what is it going to take for me to be content with the way I look, even if I’m not model-thin? But there is hope! Pursuing the healthiest version of you means learning to love the reflection in the mirror.

We recently interviewed Jennifer on our podcast, and she understands this all too well. From looking at her today, you wouldn’t know that she used to weigh 336 pounds. During her 16-year health and wellness journey, she has felt the deep anguish of torment from peers and strangers. She’s let the scale dictate her moods and cried herself to sleep all because of her imperfect body. But ultimately, Jennifer realized that to overcome the overwhelming negative feelings about her body, she needed to start with her mind and let go of all the expectations of perfection that were keeping her from being the best version of herself. Let’s embark on this journey with Jennifer as your guide and learn to live a life of healthy habits and positive motivation to take care of your good body.

A little about Jennifer: she is a certified fitness instructor and successful blogger. She is passionate about challenging the way we think about health, wellness and regularly writes on the topics of healthy living and body positivity. Whether it’s hosting online webinars, speaking in churches or chatting at MOPS meetings, she is committed to helping others find hope in their journey. Jennifer lives in Virginia with her husband, Phil and their two kids.

Jennifer: Hello. Hello!

Mentor Mama: So nice to have you here. From a Coffee and Bible Time perspective, this is a topic that we can completely resonate with. For our readers that know us well, we too, especially Ashley and Taylor, and I’ve given my own testimony, we’ve all had eating disorder related struggles. And so, when you came across our email, I was so excited to talk to you and I just love your vulnerability.

Jennifer: I’m so excited to talk to you today.

Mentor Mama: The title of your new book is called Your Good Body. Can you explain what you mean by that title and specifically how you would define a “good body?”

Jennifer: I kind of feel like this is where I have to sort of spill my heart and soul all out on the table. Like in the first 60 seconds, “buckle up girls, we’re going all the way in.” My story is honestly, is that of a girl never at peace with her body. I remember in kindergarten when a little boy told me I had chipmunk cheeks, and he didn’t mean anything by it, but I assumed immediately he was calling me chubby. In that moment, I was automatically not at peace with my body. Then growing a little bit older, first grade, second grade, fifth grade, seventh grade, ninth grade— you name it. I realized I was walking through these formative years of my life in a body that was larger than the majority of the bodies that were around me, and all of these people around me were constantly reminding me that my body was too large, I was taking up too much physical space in the room, I needed to make myself smaller, I needed to get thinner, I needed to just lose the weight. And there I was, constantly not at peace with my body. So then graduating high school at 336 pounds, I had walked through so much, not just from the bullying, but just from a lot of things, and how I grew up, and different things that I had walked through. And I was tired on the inside and tired on the outside and my body ached, and my soul ached. I thought that there was something innately wrong with me because of the size of my body, and I was not at peace with my body. And so then, I did the thing that all of us who struggle with our weight want to do. I lost all this massive amount of weight­—dropped 150 plus pounds.

And here I was half my size and still not at peace with my body. That’s when I had this massive light bulb moment, where it was like, wow, Jennifer, it goes so much deeper than the size or the makeup or the composition of your body and how many pounds are on the screen of the scale when you weigh yourself. There’s so much more to you—you Jennifer— then the size of your body. And so, that’s where I become really passionate about this message. That’s my whole big, massive story in a nutshell, but intermingled in all of that, there’s a million diets that I tried and failed at, there’s all these ups and downs, and having babies and moving across the country and getting married and stressful jobs and all of the things.

And so, for me, when we talk about body image; our weight, feeling the pressure of having a certain body composition, that’s a real thing for me. It’s kind of always been a thing for me. And so now, at this point in my journey, I’ve just seen so much in terms of, when we have this mindset where we are just going through, trying to reach these goals, these fitness goals, or whatever the expectation is from the world around us, or the messages that we’re getting in the culture that we live in, in terms of how our bodies are supposed to look or function; when we constantly have this goal of attaining, whatever those standards might be, aesthetically, we can meet those standards, those goals, but then there’s always going to be another one. And so, I realized, wow, I could lose all this weight and I’m still going to want to lose more.

I can go from a size 28 down to a size 16, and I’ll wish I was a 12. And then I’ll get down to the 12, and I’ll wish I was a 10. And then I’ll get down to the 10, and I’ll wish I was a six. And I’ll get to the six and wish I was a two and get to the two it goes on and on. And so, nothing wrong with our changing bodies, we live in bodies that are always changing for various reasons. But what we’ve got to do is take a moment, take some time to step back and realize that the outward, external composition, aesthetic piece of our body is not the be-all, end-all. The size of our body, the makeup of our body; It’s not the be- all, end- all, and that there’s so much more to it.

When we flip that perspective from, how can I make my body good? How can I make it good enough? Will it ever be good enough? I realized in my journey, no, it’s never going to be good enough because once you reach good enough, there’s more. And so, I reached this point where I was like, okay, I’m either going to spend the rest of my days trying to fix my body and make it better, and make it smaller, or whatever—you fill in the blank for you. Or I’m going to have to change my perspective in this area and begin to see my “right now body” that I live in, as good. Because it is good! It’s amazing and incredible and intelligent, and my heart is pumping every day and my lungs are breathing, and I woke up this morning and, and there are amazing attributes of my body.

My body carries me around each day. And so, it’s just taking a look at our perspective of how we see our body, and whether we can appreciate and celebrate this body, that we have right now—today, regardless of if we ever lose another pound, if we ever build muscle in our arms or, you know, just whatever the thing is, if we never even get to that point, do we have the pause to stop and think about our bodies right now as good? And so that’s kind of what I mean about our “good bodies.” Our bodies being good right now, is not waiting until they meet a certain aesthetic, because they’re good right now.

Mentor Mama: Yes. That’s such an excellent point, and I think one that probably a lot of people just look right over or don’t even consider. I love how you’re just starting the context of all of this, is to kind of reframe your thinking.

You said you maintained this weight loss of over 150 pounds, but you say this book really isn’t about weight loss. What would you say it is about then?

Jennifer: It’s more about how much of our head space, and how much of our mind and heart, is consumed with negative thoughts about our body. I personally, throughout this massive journey of mine, I’ve changed a lot of my habits. I love a good workout. I love a green smoothie here and there. I love to have healthy habits and all of those things, and I think all of those things are very important to me, and to people for specific reasons, but I wanted us to take a look at what’s so much deeper than that, because for many years, people would see a side-by-side photo of me from 336-pound Jennifer to whatever I weigh today, Jennifer. And they would just reduce me to that— to my weight loss. And they would applaud me for this weight loss and compliment me and say, ”oh, you look so good,” or whatever, and, not slighting anybody who’s ever said that, because obviously we’ve all done that, and said those things, but I just got to this point where I was like, but there’s more to me, and I spent all those years with everyone reducing me to the size of my body, in terms of, it was too big, and that’s all they could see, and then when I lost the weight, I still felt that sting of everybody still evaluating how small I’ve gotten, or am I done, or am I going to regain the weight or whatever, and so I just wanted to paint this picture of reality that shows us that there is more to us than our bodies. A lot of times you’ll either see a body positivity mindset where everything else is out the window and we’re just going to totally love our bodies and that’s it, or you’ll see like, oh, we’re going to be healthy and that’s over here and they’re separate, and we’re going to diet and we’re going to exercise, and do all these things, and it’s totally apart from learning to accept our “right now body.” And I just wanted to say, it’s not just as easy as that. This whole-body thing— is a whole-body thing, and it’s a mind thing and a heart thing. And writing this book, I was like, no, I’m not just a weight loss story, because that’s not the reality. The reality is, that there was so much more. And so, I personally, it’s like I lost the weight, and then I began to change some of my habits because I had slipped into such a restrictive kind of dieting mentality, and so it took some time to break away from that dieting and restrictive way of thinking. And so, as I did that, I began to make peace with my body, and I realized that I was no longer just going to constantly strive for weight loss. I was going to strive for overall wellness, which does not put weight loss at the big, huge front and center of every healthy living idea out there. So, I was like, yeah, we’re going in this thing, and we’re going to look at more than just how Jennifer lost the weight.

Mentor Mama: I think for those that are reading this, I think that’s such an important element of the journey, it is much deeper and much broader than picking a diet and going on it.

Jennifer: So much so. Yes. You’re right.

Mentor Mama: That’s what I’m excited about people to read in your book. I want you to dig in a little bit deeper, you said you’ve been every size from 6 to 28, but you still felt unhappy. Tell us a little bit about your journey.

Jennifer: I feel like for me, when I was 336 pounds and with just feeling so tired on the inside, tired on the outside, I realized I needed to make some changes, and wasn’t sure how, but as I embarked on my wellness journey, like this was years ago, I reached this breaking point, this moment of complete desperation. I actually remember the night before I started my weight loss journey, my wellness journey, which at the time was more focused on weight loss. I don’t know what it was about that day, but I walked into my little, tiny apartment after working all day at the little bookstore that I worked at, and I walked in the door and I closed the door behind me and I just dropped my bag, and I remember just leaning against the door and just having this sigh, and it was such a heavy feeling. I don’t know what it was that made me feel this way, but that day I just felt the weight— of my weight— on my shoulders. I was like, I’m tired of carrying this burden of my weight, and now I realize there was so much more to it than I carried extra weight. There’s so, so much more. And we can unpack that, but I was so tired of carrying that burden and I was desperate to feel better and to conquer this thing and not be so overly consumed by the negative thoughts about myself. And so, I walked a few steps further and I was in my bedroom, and I just walked a few steps further and just fell on the bed and I threw my arm over my forehead, and I just began to weep; I just began to cry. And if you’re someone who’s reading this right now, and you’ve battled this weight, and you’ve had weight stigma, and things people have said to you about your weight that have caused you to feel badly about your body or yourself in general, you understand that feeling. I just want to validate that for someone who has walked through this struggle. I just remember crying and, in that moment, laying in that bed, I just thought of all of these words that had been spoken to me throughout all of these years. It was just such a deep hurt inside of my heart. And so, if you are reading this and you have walked through something like that, I just want to validate that, and that of what you’ve walked through, because that’s really, really, really, really hard.

And I want to say right now also, while I have a second, that there’s more to you than your weight, and there’s more to you than your body, and your body is amazing at the size and composition that it is right now, but there is more to you than your body. What ended up happening was, I cried myself to sleep that night and I woke up the next morning and sometimes things just feel a little different in the morning after you’ve had some sleep. And I remember the sun coming through the window and I got up out of bed, and I remember the night before where I had cried myself to sleep and just absolute deep sadness. But I was quickly like, “never mind,” I don’t want to think about that, and I began that day. Things looked a little bit different, and I started slowly going on my journey toward wellness after that and got some guidance and help and all those things. But even through all of, what happens is, when you’re really focused on weight loss, and I think anybody, anywhere in your journey, if you’ve focused on weight loss specifically, or changing the composition of your body, what happens is, you get really focused on your body. And so that’s one of the reasons we can become really critical of our bodies is because we’re focusing so much on the changes and because our bodies are really intelligent and they’re fighting for their own natural set point weight, and their own natural composition. We might be working toward, working toward, working toward, whatever goal for whatever reason, but our bodies are kind of fighting, because they’re like, I have a specific composition that I want to be at.

We can tend to work so hard to change it that we get really critical of our bodies. And so, when I say I’ve been every size from 6 to 28 and I still felt like my body wasn’t good enough; what I kind of think was happening throughout that very long journey is, I was just really focused on making my body good enough. That was a big thing for me. Like it, just needed to be good enough. And if I could just get it good enough, then I would never have to think about this again. And I just desperately never wanted to think about this again, and here I am thinking about it, here I am having a book written about it, so that didn’t go away. It changed a little bit.

I was so focused on that so much for so long, and when we do that, when we focus on changing our bodies for so long, it really does make sense that we become more critical of our bodies. And so that’s where I realized even having lost the weight, I still worked for a few years after losing the weight to try to lose more weight. And my body was like, “no, Jennifer, we’re not losing one more pound. You can do all the things; you can eat like a rabbit, you can drink a green smoothie every day, but we’re not losing another pound. So sorry.” And so, that was another thing that made me stop and think. I think that’s one of the initial parts of this journey for someone becoming more at peace with their body is just recognizing how much of our heart and mind are consumed with negative thoughts, because here’s the thing: I actually was going through my everyday life for a few years before I realized just how much my mind was filled with angst about my body.

I remember sitting at my little desk in our teeny tiny apartment and I just had this random light bulb moment. And I was like, wow, I spend a lot of my day thinking about my body, and not in a good way, in a really, really sad and negative way. And that was years after having lost the weight. I think that’s one of the initial things that’s part of the whole process, is just realizing how much time are we spending thinking about our bodies in a negative way, how many negative thoughts are popping up in our mind as we go about our day, because a lot of times we can just not even realize it. But once we realize it, well, then we can go from there. Then there are things that we can do to sort of rewrite that narrative. But one of the first things that we can do is, again, just be like, okay, I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning and I’m going to just spend tomorrow, not only (tomorrow), but I’m going to use tomorrow to recognize my thought life and my heart dialogue concerning my body and see how much of that is filled with negative thoughts.

Mentor Mama: Have you ever done any journaling or writing things down? Probably if you wrote them all down, you’d be overwhelmed. Like if you had a positive and a negative column, like, wait, this is off balance here.

Jennifer: Absolutely. You know, I have never taken the time to just write down those negative thoughts as they come. I’ve written down positive counterparts. I wrote down, it was one of the first things I did, was to write down, because especially if you’ve walked through, like that bullying that I walked through for so long, it takes time to rewrite that. When I realized I need to be at peace with my body and this is going to take effort, it wasn’t like a magical like, “oh, I’ve had this realization, and now I’m just choosing to love my body.” It’s usually not ever that easy. But in those beginning stages, I thought, well, I can’t just stop the negative thought from popping into my head. It’s going to come because of so many reasons, but what I can do is recognize when a self-negative thought pops into my brain, and I can kind of grab it, figuratively, and maybe try replacing it with one that’s a little more kind. And so, I wrote down some more kind statements about myself and my body, so that, when a negative thought popped in, I could kind of counteract it a little bit with something a little bit kinder and more compassionate.

Mentor Mama: That’s so important. Just kind of retraining the brain to think positively. Do you have like a definition, or what does it mean to love your body well?

Jennifer: Back to the starting point, you know, and I think it’s kind of a loose term. That’s a wonderful question because I don’t even think all of us are necessarily ready. There are some things that we have walked through, some of us have walked through, that are so deep and so hurtful that, you’re sitting there going, “Jennifer, I hear what you’re saying, I get it, but like loving my body is a really tall ask for me.” It just depends. Like not all of us are ready to just dive into, “okay, great, I love my body now.” I don’t necessarily have one definition or explanation of loving our bodies well, but I will say this, I think that when we recognize that we are in angst about our body just too much more than we want to be, and we want to counteract that, we’ve got to take note of where we are, and validate how we feel about our body. You may have a disability and it limits you, and that limitation makes you angry about your body or even resentful toward your body, well, let’s take a second to honor your story and what you’ve walked through, and validate that challenge and that feeling that you have about your body. I think it could be anything that you’ve walked through, or wherever you are in your journey with your body, recognizing where you are, and if you’re at that place where you’re like, “I just don’t know if jumping into loving my body is just what I can do right now.” Well, maybe we can take a step back. Maybe you’re in a place where your first goal is more of a body confidence. Maybe just being a little more confident in your body, and maybe that’s a tall ask. And so, in that instance, we’re like, “okay, let’s take it back another step back, maybe that’s too much right now.” Maybe right now we look at more of a neutrality about our body. And so, we’re leaning into, not necessarily, like overdosing on love for our body, but also not hating our body. We’re going to become a little bit more neutral, and as we do that, we give ourselves some time to sit in that for a little bit and then move forward. But maybe that’s the first goal. Maybe you’re at a place where you just want to learn to accept your body as it is, so that when you are journeying toward the healthiest version of yourself, it’s from a place of true health, and it’s not from a place of, I need to fix my body or I need to make it smaller or X, Y, Z, fill in the blank.

I think it’s really looking at where you are right now, and seeing where you can be, and all of that, because loving our body is not just this self-infatuated, out of balance, like, “oh, I’m just going to love my body, and be overly infatuated with myself and put myself on a pedestal and forget about all my health goals. It definitely does not mean that, and so, loving our body is this, all-encompassing way of, it’s almost like in my mind, having an approach of grace and compassion about our bodies. So often we think we need to hate ourselves into submission so that we can follow the diet or follow the plan or lose the weight or whatever, and we’re so hard on ourselves. I think if we shift that a little bit and give ourselves some grace and compassion to love our bodies well, we’ll see that it’s not just this, “I’m going to look in the mirror and love it.” It’s, “I’m going to appreciate that I have this body, I’m going to realize that this is the body that I’m going to live in for the rest of my life on earth.” And I think, when we do those things and we see that, okay, I’m living in this body for the rest of my life, maybe I should at least appreciate it or take care of it in a way that I feel energized or find that good relationship with the girl in the mirror. So, I just think it’s just all encompassing.

I think loving our body is like this whole journey, so I can’t really fit it into like one sentence. I think it’s this journey that we go on to just be more at peace with our body. I think, for someone like me, I was so overly consumed with the negativity of my body, that it caused me to not go out and live my life in any capacity to the extent and the fullness that I could, because I would shrink back, and I would feel inadequate just because of my body. And I got to the point where I thought, okay, if I wasn’t so consumed with my body, how could my life look different in terms of how could I go out and make a difference in the world and be a blessing to people around me, or inspire others or encourage others, if I wasn’t so focused on me? And we think of that in terms of just being infatuated it with ourselves, but for some of us, it’s the total opposite. We’re consumed with “me,” but in a negative way. And so, I thought if I wasn’t so consumed with myself and all of these negative thoughts about myself, how much would that free up my heart to extend myself to the people around me that I love so very much?

Mentor Mama: You know, it’s really just the fact that we need to go back and see what God says about us, that He knit us together in our mother’s womb. I think about the intricacy of just one part of our body, the human eye or the heart, or understanding how God made the human body so miraculously and nothing that humans can create ourselves can even come close. We can’t breathe life, so it’s all of that combined together. Your message is very different from the diet culture or body positivity that are pervasive in our culture today. If you had to overall summarize your message that you want people to understand, what would that be?

Jennifer: The words “right now” pop into my brain when I think about it. The relationship I want us to have with our bodies, I just want us to know that right now our bodies are good. And I think that seeing them that way can bring so much freedom in our lives. And when we just begin to see our body, right now, as good, it can undergird a complete shift in so many areas of our lives, including our wellness. Even this being at peace with bodies can help those of us who are trying to untie our health habits from a dieting mentality. Well, hey, learning to be at peace with our body is a great thing that can come along with that.

And so, for me, I just think that we can take the time to appreciate this body that we live in and not be so hard on ourselves and not be so pressured by the messages around us or the expectations that we ourselves have for ourselves. We can learn to see our bodies as good. And so, that to me is, is the message that I’m trying to get out. There are so many amazing voices that are coming and paving the way for us to talk about seeing our bodies in a positive light. I’m so thankful for that, but for me, this is where I am. I can only speak from my story. And so, for me, and for my story and for what I’ve walked through, that’s what I want us to get. That’s what I strive for in myself is just getting to the place where we see our bodies as good, so that the angst about our bodies and the expectations that we have about our bodies, doesn’t take up so much space in our mind and heart so that we can then go out and live our lives to the fullest and be a blessing to the people around us.

Mentor Mama: Absolutely. Even that shift, I think there’s like positive endorphins or something that happens when you are thinking about others and serving others, that happens along with that. So, tell us a little bit about your experience with the diet culture. How do you think the diet culture has actually harmed our views of our body?

Jennifer: So, dieting, just to reduce it to real simple terms, anything that would be labeled as dieting is restrictive kind of eating that places weight loss at the front and center goal for everything that we do as far as eating and exercise. So, if right now I am hungry and I go to the kitchen and I am on a diet and I’ve got the dieting mentality, I’m going to ask myself questions like, “how many calories can I have for this? Is this good or bad? Is this going to fit within my macros?” or whatever, and so that is very much a dieting mentality, whereas not a dieting mentality, you become really in tune with your body and what your body needs, what makes you feel energized, what makes you feel well, how your body responds to certain foods and you get really comfortable with listening to your body’s cues.

So that’s not a dieting mentality. And so those two are very different perspectives. Dieting mentality, in terms of exercise, it’s like, I’m going to punish myself for what I ate yesterday or what I’m going to eat later on, or I’m going to spend hours in the gym because I feel like I have to, and, it’s very focused on the composition, the aesthetics of our body, rather than moving in a way that feels good and feels enjoyable and even breaking a sweat or getting breathless or pushing ourselves really hard to crush a hard workout, you know, if that’s what we like, the mentality behind it is just totally different. And so, when you ask what my experience is with dieting—I’ve tried all the diets. I have been on them, and they have been a major part of my life, and the dieting world in general is just overwhelming. And so, for me, it’s been a real freeing experience to begin to get away from that dieting mentality. Even after I had lost the weight and I had it off for a few years, what I realized is that I was still in that dieting mentality, even if I wasn’t necessarily losing any weight or anything. I still reduced every decision to a scientific equation as to whether or not I could lose more weight. And even though my body was like, “no, we’re not losing anymore,” I still had that restrictive mentality crossing off certain foods or saying that sugar is bad, and I need to never eat sugar again, or just whatever, I had that dieting mentality. And so, getting away from that and getting really in tune with my body and learning my body’s cues. because our bodies are always giving us cues and signals for what they need; thirst, rest, hunger or whatever— you name it— I need more water, I need movement, I need some fresh air, our bodies are always giving us cues and signals, but if we’ve been in a dieting mentality for a really long time, we actually learn to ignore those signals, and we make all of our decisions again based on whatever diet we might be following. So, getting away from that dieting mentality, getting in tune with my body and what my body is telling me that it needs, has been absolutely amazing and freeing. At first it was really hard, because I was focused on a dieting mentality for so long, and the whole world around us feels like it’s always telling us to do the dieting stuff, and so, for me, as I begin to get in tune with my body and fuel my body in ways that make my body feel good, and move my body in ways that make my body feel good, it took away that big flashy word— weight loss— from the front and center of my mindset. When I put weight loss and getting smaller finally to a back burner, or not really being a goal, I began to be more at peace with my body. And so, that’s why I said earlier, like this whole-body thing is like a whole thing. And so, that’s been my experience with dieting. I’ve done all the diets. That’s a huge part of my story and becoming freer in that area of my life. I’m just so appreciative of that.

Mentor Mama: You know, I would add to that to kind of being educated on good healthy foods and giving yourself an opportunity to grow. What I mean by that is, I grew up in a household where there was no focus on healthy eating, if you will, from the standpoint of, you should have fruits and vegetables, and I really thought I didn’t like a lot of those things, and over time, as I introduced myself and trying them over and over again, I’ve learned to love them. I think initially, it’s okay if you’re like, “the thought of having to eat healthy food is repulsive to me.” It was for me too initially. And over time, just to know that God has given us so many wonderful foods, to work well with promoting our body, the right chemistry and makeup to make sure that it works so well functionally, and the food industry has also engineered a lot of foods too, to make them the opposite. Like we want to eat them, but they’re not necessarily giving us good nutrition.

Tell someone who’s reading this, but they’re just really feeling stuck in their health journey, what would you say to someone who’s experiencing this diet fatigue and how can they experience a more holistic approach to their wellness? That’s inclusive more than just weight loss.

Jennifer: I would say, start to get curious about your body, and start to get curious about your habits in terms of what motivates you. If you feel like you’re stuck, like you’ve been in this dieting hamster wheel for as long as you can remember off and on and in dieting cycles, I will say before you go on that next diet, give yourself a break and some time. And during that time, get curious about your body and what signals your body is sending you and what your body needs. Because one of the strongest indicators of weight gain is dieting, so it’s actually counteractive, if you look at it from a dieting standpoint, and so if you are somebody who’s like, “I just cannot do this diet thing for one more day, but I don’t want to just ‘let myself go’, what do I do?” I would say, start getting curious. Start really tuning into your body, start making peace with food and giving yourself permission to explore what foods you like. You know, what foods you’re thinking are forbidden that you just cannot eat. And then finally, when you finally allow yourself to have something that you like, you feel out of control that’s because you’ve restricted it for a long time. And so getting really curious about those types of things and how your body is responding to foods and what these patterns might be that you have with food and exercise, and whether those are aligning more with a desperation for weight loss, whether it’s because you feel like you have to, or you want to, or your doctor said, or whatever, it might be just getting curious about that and looking at what is driving those decisions so that you can maybe then see, okay, I wonder without judgment, I wonder what it would look like, if when I was hungry, I went and nourished my body with gentleness, but ate something that I also enjoyed. Maybe today I would love, love a salad, but maybe tomorrow that’s not what I want for lunch. I don’t necessarily have to have the salad every single day for lunch because that’s what diet culture has told me. But getting curious about all of those things, making peace with food, giving yourself permission to eat the foods that you enjoy, which I know feels scary, again because of that feeling of, oh my gosh, if you tell me I can have permission to eat, I’m just going to go crazy. I understand that. So, get really curious about that and how restrictive or dieting mentalities lead to that feeling of out of control. And so, then you can begin to approach eating from a standpoint of not just nourishment. Nourishment is a gigantic piece, because we feel better when we’re well nourished, but we sometimes cross those in a way that we slip right back into diet culture, and that’s not the goal. That’s when we can get to this place where we can nourish our bodies, but also eat the foods that we enjoy and be at peace. Like, finally, it’s pizza night and we’re trying to enjoy pizza, but we’re restricting up here (in our minds). We’re telling ourselves I shouldn’t eat this, I shouldn’t eat this, I shouldn’t eat this, and then what happens is we go out of control. Right? So, getting really curious about that, giving yourself permission to eat, taking a very non-judgmental approach to yourself as you’re learning your body, it’s almost like you’ve got to completely relearn your body because we were all born with this ability to use our intuition for like when we’re hungry and stuff like, okay, go with me here, if a baby is hungry, what does the baby do? The baby cries. If the baby cries, what does the parent do? The parent feeds it. The parent doesn’t say, “are you sure you should be eating that?”, “how much do you need?”, “maybe you should do this healthy modification instead.” No, the parent just feeds the baby. And then what happens when the babies had enough? The baby stops eating. So, we’re born with that, but as we go throughout life and we pick up on these rules and restrictions, then we kind of move away from that, but we can get back to it as we begin to get curious about our body and that can really help us to journey toward the healthiest version of ourselves, but in a way, that’s not excruciating like dieting.

Mentor Mama: Yeah. I think excruciating is a good word that describes dieting when you’ve done it for a long time. You talk about three guiding principles for your health journey. So, move your body, fuel your body and love your body. So, can you just unpack those a little bit more for us?

Jennifer: Those really just go right along with what we’ve talked about as far as the motivation behind what we’re doing. So, we’re looking at how we can eat food that we enjoy from a variety of food groups, not being restrictive or rigid, or beating ourselves up for enjoying whatever, a bowl of ice cream or whatever it might be. So that’s kind of fueling our bodies, nourishing our bodies, and I don’t mean, okay, let’s fuel our bodies and let’s only see food as fuel and that’s how we get through life. I actually think that there’s a lot more to food. Food is communal, it is memories that you reminisce on. Think about the holidays, when you sit down to a Thanksgiving meal and, your favorite things, they make you reminisce of holidays in the past times maybe, or you know, how food can make you think about things in the past. So, there are memories tied to it. There’s enjoyment to it. There are all kinds of things. And so, when I say food as fuel, I’m saying food as all of these things, but not a restrictive mind-set.

Moving our bodies is learning to embrace movement rather than taking rigid exercise and workouts that look like somebody else’s and making ourselves feel like we need to do what the other person did. Or, you know, if you’re not a runner, if you hate running— don’t run. You don’t have to do running. You can find something else that you enjoy.

You might love heavy lifting, or you might be a mom in a really busy season of life, and you need to just work in some squats while you’re waiting for the water to boil while you’re cooking mac and cheese, or some stretching in the evening while you’re watching TV with the kiddos or whatever. It’s finding ways to move your body in ways that work for you, that you enjoy, so that it can be sustainable and actually be enjoyable.

And then, loving our bodies is of course what we talked about throughout the day. But those three main things moving, fueling, and loving, have been the biggest pillars of my weight loss story, and my body story, and my health journey, and all of those things. It’s those three main pillars that I’ve had to switch perspectives in: moving, fueling, and loving my body.

Mentor Mama: As a Christian, your journey has included a faith element to it. What role has God played in your journey?

Jennifer: I think about Ephesians 3:21—I think is what it is. I think about how He works whenever there’s a transformation. It says, I wish I had it right here in with me, you’ll have to look it up. It talks about how the Lord works through us and how He doesn’t do it—Go look it up in the Message translation when you have time—He doesn’t do it by pushing us around, He does it deeply and gently. His Spirit working within us, so, when I look at my big, long journey in this area of my life, I so clearly see how He was holding my hand, even when I didn’t realize it and walking me toward freedom. Oh, it just gets me every time, freedom in this area of my life.

It’s like I was all the way over here, and He was going to get me to here, where I am today, but He didn’t just jump me over there or push me, no, His Spirit, deeply and gently, He guided me toward where I am today. There are so many ways that He has just made Himself so known in this journey of mine, but that’s one of the most powerful things is that I know that always, today and years ago, when I was sitting in that high school classroom and the girl was making fun of me and the kids in the class were laughing, He was there and He’s been there every single time when I’ve stepped on the scale and shed a couple tears stepping off of this scale, He was there. He was there was in kindergarten and the boy talked about my chipmunk cheeks.

He was there with the rough upbringing and growing up in poverty; He was there. He was there and He’s always been there. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been really hard in some instances, but He was there, and He is here, and He’s always been working, and it’s like this specific thing for me has been a thorn in my side, if you will, but His grace is so sufficient. Even though I have wrestled with Him, and I have said, “God, take the whole struggle away or take the weight away,” depending on where I was in my journey, that depended on what the prayer was at the time. But no matter what, no matter where I have found myself in the journey, He has always been there, whether I acknowledged Him, whether I didn’t realize He was there, whether I felt alone or not, He was always there, and even though this has been the thorn in my flesh, that thing in my side, that never has seemed to just go away from me, His grace has been sufficient, and He says, “before I even formed you in your mother’s womb, I put you together, and I called you and I loved you, and I had a holy plan for your life, a holy plan for you.” And so, as I make my way forward in this, in this thing, in this whole-body thing, whatever it looks like today, I can see how He has taken me by the hand, and He has walked with me and He is committed to my freedom in whatever area has me in bondage, He’s committed to my freedom, but He does it—not by pushing me around—but by working deeply and gently within me.

Mentor Mama: That’s beautiful, Jennifer. And by God’s grace, as you said, when we’re willing to relinquish this type of a challenge and put it in God’s hands and entrust the walk with Him, He will come alongside you and He’ll be there every step of the way. And I just want to encourage our readers that, at Coffee and Bible Time, we really try to help people delight in God’s word, and when you’re in your Bible on a regular basis, and you’re studying the Psalms or any part of the Bible, you can learn to incorporate these passages into your heart and your life, and so that as you’re going through things, we all have thorns in our sides, God’s word, which is sharper than a two-edge sword, is right there along with the us.

I would like you to tell our audience, if you will, one last thing, how can they find out more about you and your book?

Jennifer: I would say, first of all, come hang with me on Instagram. I’m over there, easy to find—Jennifer Taylor Wagner is my Instagram handle. Come find me—come hang out with me over there. Go to my website,, one of those two places you’re sure to find me. I would love to hear from you.

Mentor Mama: Awesome. And I will also put a link to Jennifer’s book here.

Before we go, I want to ask you about some of your favorite Bible study tools. What Bible do you use and what translation is it?

Jennifer: I love The Message translation, so that one just comes alive to me. I am obsessed with it, so I have the Bible on my phone and I also, have on my person, a tangible big Message Bible also, that I absolutely love.

Mentor Mama: Yes, it does really bring it to life for sure. Do you have any favorite journaling supplies or anything that you use to enhance your Bible study experience?

Jennifer: I do, I just placed an order for a journaling Message Bible, so I’m so thrilled to try this. Like I’ve seen people use them and I love making notes in my Bible and underlining and just writing down a little bit of what’s speaking to me in that moment when I read that scripture, maybe I’ve read it a thousand times, I love that, so I’m very excited. I don’t have it in hand yet though, but I placed an order for one. But I always keep a journal, so those are my two big things, like, I’ve got my tangible Bible and a journal. Every one of my journals for the past few years, has been a dot journal instead of a journal with lines. I don’t know what it is, but that’s my favorite thing, is getting a dot journal and then jotting all my stuff down in there.

Mentor Mama: Oh yeah. Those are fun.

Jennifer: Yeah. I love it, so that’s kind of what I’m obsessed with.

Mentor Mama: One last question. What’s your favorite app or website for Bible study tools?

Jennifer: Probably my go-to is the YouVersion app on my phone. It’s the Bible app, but it also has devotions inside the app. Actually, by the time this is posted, there’s probably a devotional that I’ve written on that app, so go check that out. But that’s my favorite one because I like the devotional plans on there because you can do, for example, the devotional that I wrote is like a seven-day plan, so you can make your way through whatever you might be dealing with at that moment. So, the one I wrote is, Body Image God’s Way. So you can go look that up, but also, what I like about that app is the Verse of the Day, because let’s be real, life gets busy sometimes, and if something happens and life’s just real busy and I’m like, “oh wow, I haven’t had time to sit and read my Bible and do you my journal,” and all that stuff, I like to just open up the app real quick and right there on that front screen, it’s got the Verse of the Day, and I’ll just read it and be like, “okay, I can at least kind of meditate on this as I’m going about my busy day until I can go sit down and read my Bible and do all the things.”

Mentor Mama: Absolutely. And you know, what else they do with that Verse of the Day, is they have beautiful illustrations, like several different illustrations and beautiful fonts, so you can, I think you can, even save it as your background, if you wanted to, if one of those really touched you. Thank you so much, that’s a great suggestion for our readers.

Thank you so much for being here today to share your life transformation story on a much deeper level. I know it’s going to be so encouraging for people out there that may be struggling similarly. My prayers go out to you and your family and thank you. Thank you again for being here and for our readers, don’t forget to head over to the Coffee and Bible Time website for our prayer journals that will help guide and document your prayer life at

Thank you for joining us on this chat-style blog today. We love you all have a blessed day.

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