One of my favorite things about the Freedom Stories series is getting to know the hearts of sisters in Christ from all over the country (and a few from Canada!). I’m recognizing that no two stories are the same, but something amazing happens when we open up vulnerably and share about how Christ transforms our lives. Even though Jana is from Kansas, we’ve never met in real life and our struggles look different, I’m so thankful that I connected with her through this project. I think you’ll love her transparency and the chance to cheer her on in what God is doing in her life.
Here is Jana’s Freedom Story.
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Jana! I’m so glad to have you here. Before we get into your story, I want to know some of the fun stuff! Tell me about where you’re from, what you love to do, and anything else that will give us a little slice into your life!
I’ve lived in Kansas my entire life, and I grew up a part-time farm girl. We lived in town, but spent Sunday afternoons and much of the summer on my grandparents farm. It’s where I learned to love being outdoors, food as God made it, spending time with family, and barnyard kittens.
I have book ADD. So many books I start! But I’ve actually finished 44 so far this year.
For 30 years, I was a graphic designer, and the last 10 or so, a web designer. I loved it, for most of that time. Now, I’m teaching a class about finding your food freedom, based on a workbook I’m writing week by week as we go. I love it — I found what I want to be when I grow up!
I love that! I’m so impressed by your 44 books and the career path you’ve found. So, Galatians 5:1 is a key verse for our FREEDOM STORIES. It says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Therefore, do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” What was the old yoke you were living under? What was that slavery like for you?
That was the first verse I had students memorize in the class I’m teaching!
At first I thought my enslavement was to food, but I realized that, really, the yoke I was under was giving in to discouragement, and letting that keep me stuck. This particular discouragement was about being at an unhealthy weight, and looking at my past failures at any lasting success, thinking that the future could only hold more of the same. (But I experienced a similar hopelessness in other areas, too, unwilling to try things that seemed too hard or scary, like speaking in public, or sharing my writing where it might be criticized.)
The weight discouragement included not feeling like it was “me” I saw in the mirror, or in pictures of myself. It included struggling to keep up with family and friends on a very easy hike through Colorado fields — something I love to do! And behind all that was the fear that I might end up like my mom: with type 2 diabetes and, eventually, Alzheimer’s. (Having type 2 diabetes, which can be controlled by diet, greatly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s.)
What were some of the old narratives you absorbed when you were in that place?
It’s hopeless. You’ve always failed in the past, so you’ll just keep on failing. You’re too weak and lazy to change.
I can relate to so many of those, Jana. What was the turning point for you? Was there a rock bottom or a point that you realized that you couldn’t live like that any longer?
Looking at pictures of myself in my sister’s wedding, which took place on my 50th birthday. I thought, “I’m too young to look that old and tired.” Plus, I was wearing a maternity top — and I hadn’t been pregnant for 20 years.
So what happened next? What actions did you take? Did you connect with community or find new Truths that helped you find freedom?
It took another year and a half for me to make concrete steps. I think I instinctively knew I couldn’t do it on my own, and that I would probably need some kind of professional help, but I felt both ashamed to ask for help, and like I wasn’t worth the money it would cost to hire that kind of help.
The gift that propelled me to action was my daughter getting engaged. I thought, “I don’t want to look old and tired in another set of wedding pics!” — and I also felt like I could justify the expense of a personal trainer, if I called it “wedding expenses.” Understand: this wasn’t my husband saying we couldn’t spend money on that — it was all me and my not valuing my self care.
I found a personal trainer who specialized in treating middle-aged people who just wanted to get healthy. (What I did not need was someone pressuring me to run a marathon!) I remember the night I found his website, with people whose “before” pictures looked just like me. I cried from relief, released by the spark of hope I was feeling for the first time in ages.
It wasn’t the personal trainer who brought me food freedom, but the success I had there — the discovery that I could do things beyond what I imagined my limits to be, and finding joy in my newfound strength and energy. This propelled me to change in other ways, too.
During one particularly challenging session, my trainer taught me some lessons about weight training. “In order for your muscles to grow,” he explained, “you have to push them to the point of failure. But I’ll be right here to catch the weight when it falls.”
I immediately saw the spiritual parallel. Pushing myself to try things I know are beyond my own strength in other areas of life is exactly what grows my faith! If I only work within what I already know I can do, where is the room for growth, and dependence on God? And God is my “spotter:” He’s always there to pick up what I can’t carry.
I love that spiritual parallel and the analogy of God as our “spotter.” That’s so helpful! Will you tell me about your life of freedom? What does it look like for you now?
My weight loss eventually led me to find a way of eating that greatly diminished the cravings I battled, and increased my overall health and energy. Because I know this is what keeps me feeling great, I eat really healthy all the time — with small, thought-through splurges from time to time. I don’t feel deprived at all. I’m freed from foods that enslave me, and freed to enjoy lots of really delicious food, guilt-free.
I now know that it’s okay to be weak, as long as I bring it to God and ask for His strength. I no longer talk to myself in demeaning terms like “lazy” and “weak.” Well, almost never!
Also, now I get to teach other women about what I’ve learned! I love watching God use my words to help them see all the ways they don’t realize they’re stuck: how certain foods keep them addicted; how they talk to themselves in hopeless, demeaning ways; how much God loves them as they are, but how He desires to fill them and their lives with good, healthy, enjoyable food and experiences!
Do you still wrestle with those old struggles? What do you do on those days to fight for your freedom?
While I feel the food battle is 99% won, I still struggle with the exercise side of the equation. I had experienced a major overhaul in my attitude and habits regarding exercise that was unbroken from 2014 through 2016. Then, in 2017, I suffered a series of illnesses that forced me to quit all exercise for several months in order to allow my body to recover and heal. I’m still struggling with getting that rebooted. But the difference now is that I don’t consider giving up an option. I’m going to keep getting back up on that horse.
And writing this has made me realize that I may be trying to do too much on my own power, and probably need to start leaning on God more heavily here. So, yeah: I’m still fully human!
Haha! It’s good when we can see that in ourselves! Keeps us humble 😉 Are there any key scriptures, quotes, books or other resources that have been helpful for you on your journey into freedom?
A key scripture for me is Psalm 107:8 & 9 which says, “Give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love… for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (NIV) I needed to replace my old idea that, if I gave up my comfort foods, I would be giving up comfort: I would be living a deprived life. What I learned is that God wants me to be comforted, but He wants to give me comfort Himself! And He has lots of ways to do that. It’s okay to enjoy food, when it has the proper place and boundaries.
I collect quotes, so it’s dangerous to ask me that! (I have a closet for them.) But a couple favorites are…
“Feelings of failure are based on the assumption that now is the only time that counts.” – I’ve lost the author’s name.
“That which is denied cannot be healed.” – Brennan Manning
Barb Raveling’s The Renewing of the Mind Project was instrumental in helping me change the way I thought about not just eating, but self-discipline and self-talk in general. She also has a book called I Deserve a Donut, focused specifically on food, but in both books, she provides the reader with a list of questions to journal about, and scripture to meditate on, on a variety of topics that keep us stuck in bad habits or prevent us from starting good ones.
Also key for me: not trying to be a lone ranger. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. But also: that helping others is a great way to keep my lessons fresh and important to me.
And last, because I’m a big believer that gratitude lists help us remain present and fight our battles, tell me 3 things you’re grateful for right now. 🙂
I’m thankful for my present health. (Nothing like being stuck on a couch for months to make you appreciate being able to walk through the neighborhood.)
I’m thankful that my mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s is over, and she’s healed and Home. (Three years now.)
I’m thankful for bacon! 🙂
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Jana Snyder is a teacher, encourager, and food freedom guru.
She says, “I’m just a real person looking for real answers.” In 2007, seeking hope for her own health issues and that of family members, Jana began a deep dive into medical literature regarding food and health. What she learned revealed a connection between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, between diabetes and processed food, and between processed food and why food has such a hold over us. This knowledge lit a fire in her: a passion to help others find food freedom from the addictive foods that jeopardize their health, and steal away time with their loved ones.
She microblogs frequently in two places on Instagram: @jana.reallife and @jana.realfood. She also publishes easy, healthy recipes — as well as info about what to eat and why we eat — at ohthatstasty.com
She lives in Wichita KS with her husband of 35 years, and a big dog in a small package. She can be found teaching at her church; encouraging women online and over tea; and in her kitchen, doing dishes.