For the last 15 years I have been helping people fight addictions (drugs and alcohol). This has been important because I quit using them myself 20 years ago. I have been able to show them that there is peace and happiness without drugs. But I couldn’t find peace and happiness for myself with my food.
Ice Age Trail in Frederic, WI - November 2016 Ladies Retreat
So let’s go back to 6 years ago. I had been struggling with stomach problems for as long as I can remember. I had lots of problems with cramping, diarrhea and constipation. I was always tired, never slept well, had no energy but plenty of aches and pains. I was diagnosed with IBS and depression, so I thought that I would have to live with it the rest of my life.
I finally had had enough, so I made a call to a holistic healthcare provider. That day in 2010 was the beginning of a new journey. She informed me that I was gluten intolerant and that I should stay away from it. So I went home and started pulling things out of my cupboards – it was almost bare by the time I finished. Gluten intolerance means more than just cutting out bread - many processed foods, from marinades, to soups, to processed lunch meats all had to go. Eating in restaurants can be tricky, but I’m learning. The amazing thing is that I started feeling better within a week! My stomach problems were gone; I was full of energy and was feeling amazing.
Through this life change I learned so much. But it only lasted for a short time. I had nutrition knowledge but I was getting so frustrated and had so much hidden shame. When I was around people I would share all my knowledge, but when I was by myself, I would stuff myself with chips and junk food. I was never full. I was hiding and lying to everyone. I began thinking about food all the time; I didn’t know what to do. I started going to OA meetings (Overeaters Anonymous) but there they gave me too much grace. I am a black or white person most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, OA people were a great group of people, and we were all there for the same reason, but I just couldn’t get honest with myself or them about my food issues.
Now, let’s jump to November 15, 2015. On that day, my son took his life.
Obviously, immediately my life was turned upside down. I had no idea what to do. I reached out to my church family and my AA family, but for some reason, I hid from my OA friends. I know that if I saw them I would lie about my eating habits and I didn’t want to do that. After a year of this behavior, I finally had had enough and reached out for more help with my eating, because once again it was totally out of control. By this time I was eating everything again including binge eating junk food.
Earlier this fall, I decided to get in touch with a nutritionist. I found one in Woodbury, MN and was all set to go. Then, out of nowhere, I got a message from Amy Sotis, owner of Luminaries Retreat – I am not actually sure how she got my name. But, I must have commented on the Luminaries page when I was desperate. I am so thankful she reached out to me - I cancelled my other appointment and met with her 3 times for one-on-one nutrition coaching. I felt very comfortable with her and I could be honest. We talked a lot about things I already knew but she helped me formulate an appropriate plan I could follow. First off, rather than focusing on the specifics of what to eat/what not to eat, she helped me see I needed to begin healing my relationship with food - seeing it as a blessing, rather than something that has a negative hold on my life.
Remember, I’ve been down this road many times, but this time, it felt different. I know that God has His hand in it this time. Amy talked about the upcoming Ladies Retreat she was going to have in November… I decided to go. One of the best decisions I have ever made.
On my way there, I had to ask myself – “am I going to be honest this time and give it all to God, so I could find the peace and happiness that I shared about to so many others?” My answer was YES.
Gandy Dancer Trail in Frederic, WI - November 2016 Ladies Retreat
I learned so much more that weekend and found out that I had strength I didn’t even know I had. On the three day retreat we ate very well but didn’t have any junk food all weekend - I actually felt full for the first time in a long time. I also met some very nice women who are helping me stay accountable with my future goals. It’s been two weeks now and I haven’t fallen off the wagon yet!
Morning workout class at Oak Forest Center - November 2016 Ladies Retreat
The daily schedule was a morning workout led by enthusiastic group fitness instructors, a teaching session by Amy on nutrition, health, and wellness topics, an outdoor activity such as hiking or mountain biking in the afternoon, additional seminars, meals/snacks interspersed throughout the day, and relaxation/socializing time with the other women. We tried some new drinks and snacks (kefir, wheat grass/green drinks, protein smoothies, kombucha, veggies and hummus) but meals were salads, meats, grains, veggies - nothing out of the ordinary but nourishing and fresh.
Guest Speaker at the Ladies Retreat
Amy has been very good about checking in with all of us and I am planning on working with her on a monthly basis.
So if anyone is looking for a way to change your eating habits and learn more about what your body needs, don’t wait along as I did to reach out for help. Amy is awesome and great to work with. There is another Luminaries Ladies-only Retreat at Oak Forest in February and I would recommend you give it a try – there is something for everyone, wherever you are at with your health, weight, or eating habits. The lodging there is beautiful, comfortable, and the location is picturesque – quiet, relaxing, and in the woods.