Becca Friend: Changed Heart Yields a Changed Body
Meet Becca Friend, a 38 year old wife and mother of three.
Several years ago, God began a remarkable transformation in Becca’s life – one that I witnessed as we worked alongside each other in ministry.
Her story is one to which most can relate. It’s a story about the heart and the body – and how very connected the two are. It’s a story that carries promise for lasting change.
So make yourself comfortable, open your heart, and let hope rise as you encounter her words…
I never was the tiny girl. I was the one shopping for larges and extra-larges every year when we went back to school. Weight was a struggle for me from an early age.
I wasn’t athletic growing up, and money was the biggest concern in my family’s food choices. We were on a budget. So the question was usually “What’s the cheapest way we can we eat?” rather than “How healthy is our food?” When we did eat healthier meals, they were usually followed by desserts. For a treat, my parents would take advantage of $1 taco nights and all sorts of sales and coupons so that my sisters and I could eat out. These splurges always centered around stretching a dollar as far as it could go.
Somewhere along the way as I was coming of age, I stopped growing taller yet continued to gain weight. “That’s just the way you’re made,” I would hear sometimes. “You’re thick-boned.” I knew my weight had concerned my mom for quite a while though. I remember being introduced to Diet Coke [what was perceived as a healthy option] when I was still in elementary school. In our limited understanding, it was an effort to pursue a healthier weight for me.
There were times through the years that I would try to control my weight using pills and crash diets. It would “work” for a while; I would lose weight, drop sizes, and feel great. Then I would go back to my exact same patterns. …And the weight came right back.
I got into the pageant world for a while during my teenage years. I lost a lot of weight during this season, but in an unhealthy way. I was trying so hard to control my body and others’ perception of me. I remember physically shaking at times because of how caffeinated my diet pills were. Thankfully, I never went down the road of binging and purging. Rather, it was an ongoing roller coaster of gaining control for a brief time and then losing it again. I was the classic “yo-yo dieter” and experienced a lot of health issues because of it.
For years, this cycle continued. I went into every single “diet” as a short-term fix. If I’ll just focus for four weeks, I’ll get to the size I want to be, I would tell myself. So then I focused for the required amount of time, attained my desired size, and immediately went back to all of my old ways.
I rode this roller coaster into marriage and motherhood, too. And for most of this painful journey, I had been walking with the Lord. My faith had really become my own at the age of eighteen when I rededicated my life. But God had done so much in my life that somewhere along the way, I came to a silent conclusion in my heart that I couldn’t ask Him for anything else.
My long-established history of ups and downs with food teamed up with my constant need to please and put others first, intensifying my struggle. I fell easily into the familiar pattern of feeding my family in the cheapest ways possible, keeping the ever-important budget as the chief goal. Looking back, I see that there was a false dichotomy in my mind: you either eat healthy or you eat on a budget. There’s no way to do both. I know now that this is not true.
As my sons were growing, I began learning more about organic foods and gained more understanding of what healthy eating really is. So I slowly started making changes. I began buying healthier foods, but only for the boys. There was still a big disconnect concerning myself. I was willing to spend more money on better meals and snacks for them, but I still ate off of the dollar menu everywhere we went.
Then in the spring of 2011, I hit a wall. Physically, spiritually… in every way. My weight had reached an all time high, and I felt completely out of control. My husband was very concerned about me. He wanted me to be able to fully enjoy raising our sons, and at this point, I wasn’t coming close to enjoying it. Things like bike-riding and hiking were non-existent in our lives. Physically, I simply couldn’t do those things. I weighed over 220 pounds. At 5’3” this was alarming.
I knew something had to change. God, I can’t go on like this. I was at the end of my rope and had no idea how to change. I had tried every fad diet known to man was so weary of the roller coaster.
Around this time, I began encountering people who were training with a man from our church, Carroll Dawkins. These were normal, everyday people [not intimidating fitness enthusiasts] who were managing to survive boot camps with this man. It intrigued me.
Meanwhile, I was hitting the wall harder and harder. Things were coming to a head in a big way. I wasn’t connecting with my kids the way I used to. And I felt completely unworthy. Unworthy as a wife. Unworthy as a mom. Unworthy as a human being. I felt like I was failing on every level – my family, my home, everywhere I looked.
On the outside, it would have been easy to miss what was going on with me. I kept going through the motions, but I was walking through intense darkness.
One night, I came to the Lord in desperation: God, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t fake it. I can’t make it work. I need you to show me what to do. I can’t go on like this. I want permanent change.
I knew the only way this time was going to be different was if I got help from someone else. I knew what was stirring in me was a drastic, forever change. I wasn’t looking for a quick-fix anymore. I knew my entire lifestyle needed to change.
That desperate prayer was about one week before my 34th birthday.
I decided that maybe Carroll was the person to help me. So on my birthday, June 2, I went to his gym and signed up for membership. It was very important to me that I went on my actual birthday because I knew it was marking a turning point in my life. I was scared and excited at the same time. It felt great to have a plan, yet there was a very real sense of risk. What if I die?! What if Carroll’s training kills me??!
The next week I went to work out for the first time. And two weeks later, Carroll began training me. It started an entirely new journey in my life.
As I trained, God began speaking to me. He unearthed things I had been believing about myself that weren’t true. One of those hidden lies was that I was unworthy. The church culture I had been part of from an early age was one that fostered a lingering sense of unworthiness. While there is truth in saying that our salvation is undeserved, the enemy often twists this with lies so that even after we come to Christ and are made new, we still see ourselves as the wretched person we were before. God brought such clarity to this twisted notion of unworthiness for me.
He showed me that every time I called myself ‘unworthy’, I was saying that Jesus had died for nothing. I finally saw that He had deemed me worthy of dying for – so who was I to disagree with Him? This dramatically shifted the way I saw myself and even the way I saw other people. My heart was suddenly broken for how many of those in Christ are living under this cloud of unworthiness.
You see this outer shell, the Lord told me, but I see something in you worth saving. We just have to get to it.
Weeks and months passed as I kept pursuing daily exercise, weekly training, and better eating. And tied inextricably to my new physical routine was the deep work God was doing in my heart. Layer by layer, He was breaking encumbrances off of me: lies I had believed about myself, cruel words that had been spoken over me, wounds from the past… And every time another one was discarded, pounds fell off with it.
Don’t misunderstand, though: I worked very hard. There is no way around exercise and healthier eating. But the Lord’s momentum was upon my physical effort because the real change was happening inside my heart.
Nine months after that landmark moment of signing up for the gym membership, I was seventy pounds lighter and had a freer heart than I could have ever imagined.
Now, almost five years later, I am a woman who enjoys bike-riding, hiking, and all that comes with being a healthy weight. I look back at 2011 with deep gratitude. I am thankful for the desperation that led me to seek change. Thankful for the courage God gave me to enter the unfamiliar world of gym membership and personal training. Thankful for the worth He has spoken over me. Thankful for His grace that has brought lasting change.
By that same grace, I will never go back to the way things were. There’s nothing to go back to.
Becca’s counsel for those desiring this kind of change:
People often ask me what I did to lose those seventy pounds. And I usually sense an unspoken hope that I have a convenient pill or fad diet to let them in on. But the truth is, I have no easy secrets to offer. Losing the weight was part of an entire lifestyle and heart change that required very hard work. As in, five to six days a week of exercise. As in, permanently changing the way I ate. There are no shortcuts. But the long road to healing leads to lifelong change.
Listen to the Lord and do the one thing He is telling you to do. This whole health journey first started as a seed a year earlier when I was on a fast with my church. He had me give up Diet Coke [my go-to comfort that I consumed in large amounts every day]…and not just for the fast, but for good. Looking back, I see that He did this to show me that tremendous change is possible. It was a seed that sprouted in a huge way the next year when I knew my lifestyle needed to change. Small steps can lead to huge change. There is no need to feel as if you have to change your entire diet at once.
In the beginning, it was very helpful for me to look at my gym time as a non-negotiable appointment. So if someone asked me to do something during that window of time, I had to say ‘no’. Exercising had to become as essential to my day as dropping the boys off at school or going to work. This helped to establish exercise as an integral part of my life. Now, years later, I do not have to be as regimented. Exercise is such an engrained part of my life that I have much more flexibility in getting it done.
Speaking of flexibility, I’ve also learned to adjust my exercise to each new season of life. For example, two of my sons have football practice every day now. Because I am spending so much time at the football field these days [and therefore have less time to make it to the gym], I have utilized their practices as a time to walk. By walking around the field, I can still see what my sons are up to and fit in daily exercise at the same time.
Reaching out for help has been key for me, too. I’ve learned that to get where I want to go physically, I have to get around people who are already there. I know God sent Carroll into my life to empower me to go to a place I had never been. Even this past summer, I realized that my body was plateauing and I didn’t know what to do about it. So I reached out to Carroll for help. Lifestyle change is not a one-time experience. It is ongoing and will often require our asking for help.
“She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.”
A Look at Becca’s Story Through the Kingdom Lens:
Becca’s transformation demonstrates the connection between our spiritual and physical conditions. Our visible behaviors are telling of our hidden, spiritual realities. With every layer of her heart that was peeled away, weight fell off too. This is no coincidence. The way we steward our physical existence (our body, our home, our resources) is a reflection of our inner life. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). Everything we do flows from the condition of our hearts.
Friends, Becca’s story invites us to evaluate our lives and, hand in hand with Jesus, explore our places of chaos. There is a reason, Beloved, why you can barely walk through your home for the mess. There is a reason why you keep indulging with food, knowing you’re going to loathe yourself afterward. There is a reason why you’ve stopped caring about your appearance. Why you avoid pictures. Why you hate mirrors. Why you can’t sustain friendships. Why your spending is out of control.
Some place in your heart has been shut off from Love. Shut off from His healing presence. Shut off from His safe acceptance. It’s time that this door be unlocked and opened. That you invite the Father into this reclusive, terrified part of yourself. There is nothing to fear.
Let His love seep into the parched places until it becomes a river. Sure, it’ll bring tears. Probably lots of them. But rejoice in them: They are evidence of something dead coming to life. Follow Him and be willing to go as deep as He desires. And as your heart is made whole, watch and see as the visible pieces of your life start reflecting His goodness.
Thank you, Becca, for letting Him heal your heart –
and for allowing the life of Jesus to be revealed in your body (II Cor 4:10).
Michael Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” echoes this promise of lasting change. Our dust really can be made beautiful when we lay it at His feet. Let that hope wash over you as you listen…