Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.
Hey, friends. Welcome to the Connected Mom podcast, where we have real conversations about motherhood, helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host, and I have with me today my amazing co host, Sarah, who is still very much in the thick of the mothering journey. She has a nine year old and a six year old. Welcome, Sarah.
It's crazy to think that I have a nine year old as of, like, three days from now, so it's pretty fun.
That is great.
I'm totally in the thick of it, becky and every topic that we discuss hits home. So what are we talking about today?
Hey, today's topic, it hits me personally. Okay. So we're talking about weight and dieting and all the things involved with that embody image. And I know in my own personal life, I wrote a continual merry ground of dieting, I mean, for as far back as I can remember. And that had a deep impact on my kids, particularly on my girls. And so as we dive into this topic today, we are really going to get into it. Mama's. So please grab a notebook so you can take notes, and you may want to contact our guest. So let me introduce our guest to you. I met our guest a couple of months ago, I guess. Laura. Uh, her name is Laura Akuna, and she is a speaker, author, bible teacher, and coach. She has served as a women's ministries leader for over 22 years. She's a graduate of Liberty University. She earned a degree in Christian counseling and a minor in Biblical studies. She's the co founder of Sisters in Faith Ministries, a nonprofit ministry to women in the Damascus, Maryland area. Married to path, the two are parents of three sons and one daughter in love and their first time grandparents, which hey, congratulations, because that's the dessert at the end of a very long journey. Laura. But Laura has written a devotional called Still Becoming Hope and Healing for the Diet Weary Soul. Welcome.
thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here and I'm really excited to talk to some mamas.
Yeah, we're excited to have you here. So, Laura, before we get into the book, tell us a little bit about your story, because behind every book, there's always a story. So tell us yours.
Well, my story on this subject anyway, started when I was eleven years old. And that's why this topic is really applicable to young moms who are raising girls especially, but boys, too. When I was eleven years old, I entered the 7th grade at 5ft tall and £100. And by the time I left the 9th grade, I weighed well over £200. I literally gained £100 in about a year and a half.
It was like a bomb went off and everything changed. Everything changed.
Okay, so explain that to us because £100 is a lot in a short period of time. How does that happen?
Well, you know, it was 1970, the Dark Ages, so we didn't know what we know now. So after a lot of excavating of my life, a lot of therapy, a lot of help, a lot of prayer, um, a lot of just pondering and taking, uh, apart the pieces of my story, I believe that, um, some depression, some anxiety, some good old fashioned Add all came into play. But back then, no one knew, really. We knew a little bit, but we didn't know what we know now. And so I turned to food for comfort. I turned to food as my safe place, and I've learned that that was reasonable for me to do at the time because I was a child and I didn't have other choices.
So many, um, of us, when life feels hard, we may reach for that chocolate cake because we think what's more comforting than a little chocolate cake or a little hot chocolate on a cold day? But it can result when we keep going to that for comfort. It can result then in a hunger in our souls that's really not met by who it should be met from. On the other end of the extreme, you have a lot of people who go to dieting to regain control, right? But God is the only blessed controller of all things. So most women, I find, are stuck in this pendulum someplace, right? They either are running continually to chocolate, to ice cream, to whatever, or they're constantly talking about getting in shape. I mean, as we're recording this, you listeners need to know it's right? At the beginning of 2023, what do you think the top New Year's resolution is for most people? Uh, if you asked if you did a poll, it would be, oh, I'm going to lose £30, or I'm going to lose £10, or I'm going to lose £20, or whatever, right? But we've as a culture become obsessed with body image, with weight, with weight loss, with weight gain, with the whole thing. And so it's fascinating to talk with you today, Laura. Uh, and thank you for sharing your story.
I would like to say, just briefly about the eleven year old me, is that everyone panicked. It was so out of the blue. It was so not like me. I was a tiny little girl and blew up and people didn't recognize me. Uh uh, it was just everyone went into a panic and no one knew what to do. So what they did was they took me to Weight Watchers, and that was such, um, a confusing, scary thing for me. And then what happened was the weight just kept piling on. And so I guess if I was going to say anything to Moms, if you have a girl who's starting to go through puberty and she's quite naturally putting on some weight don't panic. Don't panic. Just let her go through her thing, keep an eye on her, and make sure she's eating well. But no panic. Often as moms, we project our own body image issues onto our children, and we panic, and it just makes it worse. We tend to do it, but we do.
Yeah. Hey, Sarah, I want to give you a turn to dive in here, but before you do, I have to say something here.
Um my mother has since passed away, so I can say this. Uh, but I was raised in a home where weight was talked about all the time. It was all these mixed messages, don't get too fat, but here's intimate's coffee cake, and why aren't you eating enough? But don't put on weight. And I remember there was one summer in my high school year where I was taking a life saving course, and my parents came to visit me at that camp. And the first words out of my mouth were out of my mother's mouth, was that I had gained weight. And I remember even when I was homesick as a young teen and my older sister was homesick as a teen, and I was told to watch what she ate. And so there were all these crazy messages, right? So I came to adulthood on a continual diet. Then you fast forward. I had a teenage daughter who crashed of an eating disorder. And all the counselors said, becky, you've got to get a grip on your eating issues because you have modeled this to a tee for your daughter. And I didn't think I had an eating disorder. I just thought I'm really disciplined. And that's a cool, godly characteristic. It's amazing the stories we tell ourselves. But the bottom line was, whenever I felt out of control, I knew what I could do and I knew I could lose weight. And that felt so good to me, you know? So it was like this continual pendulum, so but we have to be careful what we're modeling for our kids, because we don't want the girls particularly to grow up thinking to be a woman means I continually am going to be on a diet.
Oh, yeah. And also, I think a lot of moms I hear this from women all the time, they're afraid to seek help for their daughter, who may be on the brink of an eating disorder because she says, I'm going to get blamed for it. The mom always gets blamed. I hear this all the time. But if we could instead not fear that and look at it with curiosity and say, okay, you know what? There's grace for that.
If I grew up, um, and I did just like you, Becky, with people monitoring themselves all the time. My grandmother drank Metrocal out of a tin can and sweet these, um, little squares of caramels called AIDS to suppress her appetite. Um, I remember when she was very elderly. And near the end of her life, she was bedridden. And we went to see her and she was so tiny. And my mother said, oh my goodness, she finally lost all her weight. I mean, that's what my mother said. I was 16. Yeah, imagine what that did to my head. I thought, oh my gosh, you have to wait that long. And my mom meant, well, there's nothing other than losing goodwill to try to help me. But the messages that we can inadvertently give can be damaging. But we can't fear going there, right? Because we well alongside our child. That's God's grace.
We can apologize to our kids. Like, I remember the night that I got down on my knees next to my daughter's bed and I said, honey, can you forgive me? I am so sorry for what I've modeled for you. And she did. And it's something you have to continue even as you become a grandmother, to monitor what you're saying about body image, what you're saying about weight. It's so easy as a woman to look in the mirror and think, uh, this is not what I want to look like, or this is not how I want to feel. Or, oh, I don't want to have dessert because I'm going to put on £5. Or the opposite, give me all the cake because I'm frazzled and panicked. And so we have to keep a guard on ourselves as mamas. And yet there's beauty to being authentic with your kids and to sharing. These are my struggles. And home is a place of grace. And so just like you have struggles, I have struggles. But together we're going to seek God's grace to heal the broken places of our lives.
Laura. My heart breaks for that eleven year old you, because obviously there was so much going on, not just the eating. So can we go a step further, though, into disordered eating? I know that that's a whole other piece besides or with dieting culture. So can you kind of help us understand what that means and maybe even share another piece of your story?
M, sure. Um, yeah, sure. Um, so when I was a little girl, basically what was known of eating disorders was bulimia or anorexia. You were either starving yourself or you were throwing up. Well, I didn't do either of those things. Never really did. I borderline starved myself along the way. I'd restrict my calories down to 350 a day or something, but I never got trapped in that cycle, thank God. But no one knew about disordered eating, which is the number one eating disorder in our country, because you don't have to be skinny or overweight to have disordered eating. It's any way we play games with food, any way we use it in ways that, um, it's not intended for it's intended to nourish us. It's intended for pleasure, but we're not going to overdo it with the pleasure part or the comfort part. And we're not going to become obsessed with the nourishment part. We want balance. That's where freedom lies, is in balance. So, um, much to my surprise, as I went on this journey myself, I knew many women who were quite overweight by the culture standards, who were pretty free from disordered eating. They just weren't fully healed yet. And women who were, by world standards, trimmed, fit and looking great, couldn't eat a potato without having a panic attack. So it covers a broad description, I guess, of how we use food in ways it's not intended for.
I love that, Laura. Um, and I think behind disordered eating is really disordered thinking. And so our thinking about food, uh, our thinking about control, our thinking about body image, it really begins there. And it gets disordered. And let's face it, we're living in a culture where we're bombarded all the time with disordered thinking. Um, and sometimes we don't really even recognize that, right? So we can get obsessed then with these disordered lies and then the enemy comes at us because the enemy always knows where our weaknesses are, right? So he comes to steal, kill and destroy. So you have disordered thinking and, uh, it can easily result in disordered eating. And so what would you say? How does a mama out there listening right now, how does she change her thinking?
There's only one way, in my opinion, um, to change your thinking, and that's to line your thinking up with the word of God. And you must be in the word of God for yourself. You must have your Bible open and steal some time at the soccer game, or when you get out of the shower real quick, or whenever. It doesn't have to be some candle lit herbal tea, comfortable chair, quiet time. But we must steal some time away to have our Bible open and to not only read God's word, but to listen to what he's saying to us through His Word. And then it's work. It's work, it's discipline. But it's such a graceful journey. It's not hard. We just start applying God's word to our lives. We start to line up what we think about ourselves. Mhm with God, and I will say this, for most of my life, I thought the voice of shame was God.
Okay, talk about that. How would you define the voice of shame and what part shame plays in our weight journey?
It was everything. And it was the first thing that had to go. It had to go. Okay, so early on, the voice of shame said to me, you've blown it. You're eleven years old and you've blown it. I had a plan for your life, Laura, but I can't work with you. I can't work with somebody who weighs £200. So here's plan B and do it the way you can. Good luck. M. That's really what I thought. I knew the Lord from a very young age. And I really did believe he had a plan for me, but I believe he took it away, m, because I gained all that weight. And the aftermath of all that, um, I believe that until probably I was in well into my forty s. Yeah. And that was around the time that I started really going to women's Bible studies that were safe applying God's word to my life for growth and change, became committed to becoming spiritual and emotionally mature. And that's when I started to recognize the voice of God, which sounded nothing like that. Nothing.
Shame is such a journey. I mean, shame had a huge part in my own journey and my own story as well. And in my home in which I grew up, people were very much shamed and made fun of if they gained weight. So you carry all those messages into adulthood and I remember coming to grips, uh, again with the fact like, wow, my thinking is really disordered here. I've got some messed up thinking about my body. And for me, I know Psalm 139 was a key passage, you know, and just really dwelling in. I'm fearfully and wonderfully made. I may not look like some supermodel out there, I might not be whatever, but I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And my body is the sanctuary of the Holy Ghost. And I had to rewrite that script in my head so that I could help my daughters rewrite that script in their head. You know what verses have played a key part in your own healing, Laura?
Uh, so many. I mean, the devotional 31 days and all of my favorite scriptures are in there, but, um, Romans twelve two, um, don't be conformed to the thinking of this world, but be transformed, um, by the renewing of your mind. And, um, it is all about what we think. If we think that our work, uh, comes from what we look like, we're in trouble, we're in trouble. And that disqualifies a whole group of people uh huh. That can't lose weight, or can't get taller, or can't get skinnier, or can't walk, or can't do only leaves worth for a certain select few. Yeah. And that is not our God. That is not our God.
No, I agree. Not at all. So, Laura, I feel like it's always that the enemy loves that tricky balance of like, taking care of ourselves, right. Having a good relationship with food, and also maybe not being obsessed and having this disordered thinking. So I'm, uh, trying to figure out how to frame this question for.
What are some red flags? Maybe that's a question. What are some red flags that you would say should kind of alert us if that thinking is really getting disoriented from what God really thinks about us. You've shared about the shame, but is there anything else that really pops up as you think about your story that might help Moms catch this a little quicker right as it's happening in their life.
One of the things that was revolutionary to me was, um, I was at a women's conference that First Place for Health went, uh, put on called Restore.
That's a real organization, by the way.
Best place for health.
Continue. It is. I speak for them often and now, and they invited me to come as a participant several years ago, right after my father died. They said, just come and be. And so it was life changing. It was for women who have disordered eating. But the speaker, um, Gary Mitchell, was on the stage, and she looked at it, all of us, and she said, how much brain space are you giving to this obsession with food and body image and what you look like and whether people saw you last time when you were skinny or had you gained weight and your gank. Everything is every menu, every time you cook, every time. And I sat there and I thought, oh my goodness, I had no idea. She said, you are limiting the things that God wants to do, the things he wants you to think about. And I didn't even know what that meant, but now I do. M so can you imagine what that does to a family, to a marriage, a poor man that you're married? M to? I think my dear husband, who has been with me through thick and thin. He's been so graceful every minute of the 39 years. But I put him through some stuff, sure. Uh, my children, social events, anything where before we do anything, we start running down some list in our head, what am I going to eat when I get there? What are people going to think I'm going to look like? Mhm can I fit into my clothes? Mhm it's a tape that just plays and plays in place. That would be a red flag, because God wants us free. Mhm so the question in the beginning of the year that we all type into Google is, how can I lose weight? But the question should be, how can I get free? Because a free woman will take really good care of herself.
Yeah. Mhm so how would you describe freedom then? For our.
Mamas? For me, freedom is being a big girl, being a grown up girl who makes wise, thoughtful, measured, not panicked decisions about how she's going to treat her body, how she's going to feed herself. There's no rules. Mhm there's no rules. There isn't I mean, there's not one thing that everybody should eat. There's not one thing that everybody should do. God will instruct you. Your body will tell you what it means once you reconnect and start listening to it again. Because dieting takes that voice away. So that's another step we have to take. But, um, I would say the freedom is the ability to just be free, just to walk freely and make your own measured choices. When I come into January 1, that now, after 50 years of not doing it in freedom, I say to myself, what do I want to do this year? I think I need to walk more. I think I want to start strength training, which I'm going to do on a first place, uh, retreat in a couple of weeks. So I don't go, I've got to lift weights because I'm getting old and my bones are going to break or whatever. No, I'm doing it because it's the right thing for me.
Mhm HM. I do. And I love what you said about the beginning of the year and typing into Google and, um, just listening to you, I realize for me, I'm so thankful for the freedom I have now, you know, because when I come to the beginning of the year, it's like, Lord, what do you have for me this year? You know, and how can I enjoy your presence more? You know, and things like that. Because it's no longer about, oh, how can I lose £10? It's like no. Ah, uh, I do need to take care of my body. I need to go for the physical. I've done that. You follow up with all the things, but, you know, it's more like, Lord, I want more of you. I love the way Jesus says, blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. And I just love that because ultimately, he is the only one that can satisfy those deep places of our heart, those deep places of ache and longing. And when he satisfies, that food becomes far less of an issue because we're enjoying God's presence and we find more joy in life and he's the one that's satisfying us. I really love that. Um, and so, Laura, what advice would you give our mamas about just some practical steps? Like, you know, okay, so maybe there's a mama listening out there and she's like, all right, I have gained, you know, £50 since having kids and I just can't lose it. Or we have mamas out there thinking, I'm addicted to dieting and I can't give it up. Uh, I'm sure our mamas are all over the spectrum listening to this. So what advice would you give them? What practical steps can they do to get started with reordering their.
Thinking? The first thing I would say is to understand what you've just said, which is, only God can fix what he's created. Mhm? No diet can. Your husband can't, your children can't. It's not fair to expect anyone to fix you. Mhm uh, only God can do that. And so that's where we go. And the first thing again, is shame. It is insidious and debilitating and paralyzing. And so what I ask women to do is just put the dieting down. If you can, it's free country. You don't have to. But if you can, I don't want any legalism in that book. It's still journey. Um, but lay it down for 31 days and just follow God. Process your feelings with him. When you feel like you want to go, um, you know, go right to the fridge, you know, sit down for a minute. Just sit down, take a salad, take a pause, ponder, think, pray, and ask God to help you understand why you're feeling the way you are. You have to do that over and over again. Some women, like myself, are going to need some treatment. I went into therapy with a doctor who specialized in disordered eating. That's where the book came from, is everything that I've learned along the way. And there's no shame in that. And I would recommend someone who really does work with women like us if you need someone who really knows what they're doing. And, um, sometimes general therapy is not really, um, appropriate for women who struggle with disordered eating. And then the other thing I would do is I would just be committed to replacing what God calls me with the things, the names, the shamers calling me. It's so important.
Yeah, I love that. I think, um, another step that I would offer our listeners is think about the messages that you received growing up about weight and dieting. And maybe write those messages down and then go to the word of God and say, but what does God tell me? This is what God says about me. And write those messages down because often there's just a huge chasm there. And I love what you said about therapy, Laura, because, hey, mama's, listen. Lean in and listen right now. There is absolutely no shame in going to a Christian therapist. I did it for years. Laura has done it. Um, I know many other Godly Christian women that have sat down with a Christian therapist. They're there to help you. And you can find somebody that can help you walk through this. It's interesting because the Book of Proverbs says that there's wisdom in many counselors, and yet some of us have believed the lie that to be a Christian means I don't need to go for any therapy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. So consider whether that's what you need and then take some steps towards freedom. Maybe those steps are tiny. Maybe if you're struggling with continual dieting, maybe the first step for you is to throw out your bathroom scale. If you're struggling with overweight and continually running to the fridge for comfort, ask for an accountability partner. Lean into your girlfriends and pray together, because most girlfriends are not going to judge you for whichever place you fall on this scale. They're going to be in it with you and willing to pray with you. And most of all, go to the Lord every morning and say, lord Jesus, you are the bread of life. You are the only one who can satisfy me. And I bring all of my longings before you. And I praise you in advance that you will satisfy me. Well, we are almost out of time here, Laura. But Laura, tell us, uh, real quick about your 31 day devotional and what women can expect out of that.
Yeah, it's 31 days. There's the scripture, one or two every day. There's a soul fitness strengthening your core exercise, which is a journal prompt. So, for instance, one of the days is what you described, um, Becky is to, um, write down all the names that the shamers called you and replace them. I have a little chart and everything where you fill in what the word of God says about you. Um, so there's a lot of that talking about your miraculous body and the good things that it does. And, um, we go into finding your voice and all those kinds of things. It's not just about food, it's about how we feel about ourselves all the way around, aging, all of that. So, um, it's 31 days. Um, and it's available on Amazon, on my website, and wherever books are sold.
I love that. Laura, I am so thankful that you've been able to join us today. I think this message is really important for mamas, whether you're raising girls or whether you're raising boys. I have a good friend whose son had it disordered eating. And so it's a topic we need to address and take a look at. And so thank you for joining us today. Laura, before we do the final close out, would you just pray for our mamas, Laura, and pray that God will meet them wherever they are in this journey?
Yes, I'd be happy to. Let's pray. Dear Lord, Heavenly Father, I lift up the moms who are listening to this podcast today. And Father, I just want her to know that her body is miraculous, that her body has created life, and she's not supposed to be skinny after she gives birth, Lord, that her body is amazing and it does what it's supposed to do. Lord, give her patience as, um, she moves forward and not beat herself up, but just marvel in the miraculous body that you have given her. And Lord, I pray for the marriages, I pray for the children. And Lord, I pray that for any woman listening to this right now, that if anything has resonated with her, that she would come to you immediately and surrender this issue to you. Lord, help her to turn away from what the world says and toward what you say in your precious name.
Hey, friends, I just want to thank you for joining us today on the Connected Mom podcast. I want to invite you to join us next week. And hey, would you download the episode and maybe share this episode with a friend? Because I think this was such an important topic and I'm guessing that a lot of your friends are dealing with this. Issue in some place in their life. So feel free to share this episode. You will find Laura's book and how to contact her in the show notes. We'd love to invite you be able to do that. And we're looking forward to joining you next week on the Connected Mom podcast. Thanks for joining us.