I grew up on the same farm that was homesteaded by my pioneering relatives in the mid 1800s near Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Early on, I displayed talent in the visual arts. To say that I held a paintbrush in my hand more than a pencil is no stretch of the imagination as I painted murals in homes, schools, churches, and businesses throughout high school.
Then I attended Purdue University where a painting professor imparted to me a fiery passion for artistic excellence.
However, ever since I was six-years-old, I had struggled with a food addiction—even though no one had a clue what it was back then, including my parents.
I was especially addicted to sweets and became chubby in childhood and then anorexic in my teens. (I severely restricted food in a desperate and futile attempt to control the addiction.)
After graduating from Purdue and a brief cowboy adventure out West, my husband Kurt and I settled back in the Midwest to start a family.
In the midst of the busyness of mothering little ones, I turned to food to unwind from the days’ stresses.
By age 42, I was obese and experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath. I had a heart catheterizaton and was officially diagnosed with coronary artery disease—and by this time I had five children to raise.
I wanted to get healthy, but I had already tried every diet imaginable, and nothing worked long-term.
In fact, I always gained more weight back afterward, so I just quit trying to lose weight altogether—not realizing that food addiction was the root cause of my problem—and no amount of dieting was going to fix it.
Five years later, I was more than 100 pounds overweight and had developed pre-diabetes on top of the heart disease. I was also lethargic and becoming increasingly immobile.
My midsection had become so bloated and large that I couldn’t roll over easily in bed, fit into a pop up tent, or squeeze into the backseat of a 2-door sedan. I even broke and fell through a nylon folding chair at one of my kids’ soccer games! I was beginning to feel like a bull in a china closet.
In March 2008, just before my 47th birthday, while waiting for a prescription to be filled, I put my arm into one of those blood pressure machines that are in many pharmacy waiting areas. It registered my blood pressure at 157/94.
Whether it was accurate or not, seeing those numbers was my wake-up call. I knew that I had to change, because both of my parents had heart attacks, my dad had heart bypass surgery, and my mom and maternal grandmother had debilitating strokes.
I knew I was sitting on a ticking bomb—not a matter of “if” I would have a heart attack or stroke. . .but “when.”
My youngest child was only ten. I knew I had to make a change ASAP. But even with that motivation, the addiction to food was stronger than my desire to change. I was stuck in the cycle of digging my grave instead.
Then two days before my 47th birthday, I visited my friend Audrey’s art studio. She and I had met two years before on a university-sponsored trip to study the art renaissance of Italy and Greece. On that trip I got to see the many masterpieces I had studied in Art History years ago.
However, when I stepped into the vault of the Sistine Chapel and looked up at Michelangelo’s masterpiece, I couldn’t move.
I had studied the painting in books, but I was totally unprepared for the emotional experience of viewing it in person. No one speaks in that chapel. The silence protects vibrations from damaging the images.
From that moment onward, I felt incongruent as an artist.
I wouldn’t think of smearing mud on Michelangelo’s work, but here I was, smearing mud daily on the greatest masterpiece of all—my body.
I was desecrating it daily by the destructive food I was putting into it.
In my friend’s studio that day I had an idea: What would happen if I used food as an artistic medium? Just as a painter uses paint, or a sculptor uses metal, or a potter uses clay . . . to use food to make my body into the work of art that it was originally created to be?
The idea seemed to me like divine inspiration.
It was a catalyst moment that lit a flame deep within me, and the clarity of vision was unstoppable. Right there in her studio an art exhibit was born—an exhibit that would use food as the artistic medium and my obese body as the point of departure.
I called it Transformation.
I knew instantly that I would follow the nutritional information in Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. as my impetus for change.
Dr. Fuhrman teaches that when the body is properly nourished, cravings for unhealthy foods dissipate, and then eventually go away. I knew that if I’d get rid of the cravings for the foods that were destroying my body, I’d be able to reclaim my health.
I started on the morning of July 10, 2008 with a visit to my family physician. He ordered a blood test in order for me to have baseline numbers.
I documented my month-to-month progress online, including medical stats and images of my changing body size.
I announced the online exhibit to everyone; friends and strangers alike were following it.
Within a year, I lost 100 pounds, but more importantly, I got rid of an addiction that had been holding me back from living life to the fullest.
I also eradicated the coronary artery disease and pre-diabetes—and became athletic.
I jogged six miles most days, I bought a bike and rode for pleasure, I hiked rugged trails with my teens and even ran my first 5K. For the first time in my life, I was free from food addiction!
Eventually, the art exhibit went viral and inspired individuals from all over the world.
Throughout the year I was losing weight, I had joined Dr. Fuhrman’s member center—an online support community of individuals following Eat to Live—including a section where members could ask Dr. Fuhrman questions and interact with him.
At the one-year milestone, Dr. Fuhrman asked if I could write 500 words about my favorite vegetable. He wanted to post it on his blog. So I wrote about romaine lettuce.
His readers enjoyed it, so he asked if I could write another one related to my weight-loss journey. So I did . . . and again, his readers enjoyed it. This continued on for three more months.
What started out as a simple writing on a blog snowballed into writing a weekly post for the next four years! The impact of my writings reached thousands of readers. Then, Dr. Fuhrman invited me to speak at his health retreats and getaways as well as TV, including The Dr. Oz Show.
Ten days after the taping of The Dr. Oz Show, my 21-year-old son died by suicide on Memorial Day 2012; the show aired to millions of viewers two days before the funeral.
After the initial shock wore off, I experienced symptoms of PTSD: fitful nights of sleep, uncontrollable crying spells, intestinal disturbances, fear of things I had never been afraid of before. In the midst of it, I continued to write weekly blog posts.
By the end of that summer, I wanted to prove my resilience, so I started traveling and speaking again at health retreats and in churches. . .
. . .until I hit a wall eighteen months later.
I couldn’t function. My world turned dark. I was exhausted and my legs felt like bags of sand. I couldn’t even brush my teeth on some days. I lost all desire to carry on.
Apathy set in and I didn’t even care about my health anymore.
Needless to say, I gained some weight back; and with each pound my anxiety skyrocketed. I felt ashamed of my lack of self-control—not realizing I was running away from processing the trauma and grief.
Eventually, I landed in the ER with a panic attack.
Since then, I’ve added more tools to my recovery journey. Eating high-nutrient food again was important, but I also added support groups, grief counseling, increased prayer support, meditation, massage, and I made a good night’s sleep a top priority.
The “bereavement fat” I had gained is slowly coming off, the weight of complicated grief has lifted, my broken heart has healed, and I am now genuinely happy to be alive again.
Now, I am able to encourage anyone who is suffering from trauma or profound loss of any kind—that there is hope.
With proper care, broken and traumatized hearts can heal. Recovery is possible.
Today, I am an alumna of the Nutritiarian Education Institute where I’ve completed the certificate programs in Basic Nutrition and The Science of the Nutritarian Diet. I combine practical, no-nonsense tips with easy to understand science in order to help others escape the addictive grip of the Standard American Diet.
I’ve also raised five children in the Midwest, so I understand the challenges of switching to a healthy lifestyle in the midst a culture bent on eating disease-promoting and addictive food. And, as the result of my son's death, I am now passionate about helping others recover from relapse as well.
I continue to pursue artistic excellence--although I’m no longer painting murals. I work primarily in the mediums of oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings. . .and crafting words, of course.
I recently wrote a self-help book providing the necessary inspiration, education, and practical tips for anyone who wants to escape food addiction and reclaim health: young, old, fit, or obese. Food addiction is no respecter of a person’s age, ethnicity, or level of fitness.
I wrote Starved to Obesity because I wish there had been a book such as it when I was a kid. It would have been helpful to me and to those in my circles of influence. . .and would’ve saved me and my then- and future family many years of pain and suffering.
I understand the agony, and it is now my passion to help others get free.
And if you don’t struggle with food addiction, be very thankful. Share this book with those who do, because it’s the key that will unlock their prison doors!
Release date is April 16, 2019. Pre-orders are now available on Amazon
Bachelor of Arts with Distinction; Fine Arts
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Certificate completion of Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Rich (NDPR) Nutrition:
Basics of Nutrition and The Science of the Nutritarian Diet
Nutritarian Education Institute
Phi Kappa Phi Honorary Society; Purdue University
New York art critic, April Kingsley Art Award; figure drawing
Outstanding Educator Award; The National Scholastics Art and Writing Awards
I’m an expressionist painter. Paint and its particular characteristics are more important to me than what they may represent.
I do sometimes use recognizable motifs such as flowers or landscapes that have sentimental value to me as points of departure, but painting a mirrored likeness does not interest me.
Instead, I produce works of art through the careful placement of colors, shapes, lines, patterns, brushstrokes, and even the puddles of pigments that form when the various liquids dry.
When these elements flow together to make visible an image that has never been seen before, I become fully alive and touch for a fleeting moment the glory of the majestic beyond this life.