Inspiring Women: Madi Wenger

Inspiring Women & Their Relationship With Food

Disclaimer:The information provided by these women is for information purposes only and is not advice given directly from me. Eating lifestyles that work for them may not work the same way for you. If you have, or ever have had issues with food, these answers may be triggering. This is a space for women to bravely share their story. If this is in any way triggering to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for support.

In this blog series, I ask women from my life questions pertaining to their relationship with food and how it affects their eating lifestyle. They share their individual dietary struggles and how to overcome them. They also give their honest opinion about diet culture, Health At Every Size (HAES) movement, and how to practice intuitive eating. Each of these women are inspiring to me and I hope that you can also be inspired by their stories and ways of practicing mindful eating habits.

Madi is a fellow Penn State alumnus with a B.S. in Film-Video Studies. Madi is a very talented film-maker, loves books, and loves Jesus. Madi is a staff member of Disciplemakers Christian Fellowship college ministry, helping college students pursue a relationship with Jesus by making disciples.  Madi is an awesome friend and anyone that knows her loves her because she is so sweet! Madi states, “Eating in moderation has freed me from viewing food as a master and has helped me to lose weight and honor God with my eating habits.[sic]” Read more to about how Madi has learned to eat in moderation and enjoy food!

“For so long I thought that being ‘healthy’ meant that I needed to lose weight. And I know now that the goal shouldn’t be just losing weight, but primarily seeking to live a healthy life.” – Madi Wenger

What has been you biggest dietary struggle and how have you overcome it?

For most of my life, I have been enslaved to food, looking to it for comfort, satisfaction, and joy. Honestly, food is amazing, but it is not fully satisfying. Before college, I had no awareness of moderate eating or what that looked like. I ate what I wanted to eat, when I wanted to eat it, no matter how it would affect me. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college when I found myself dreaming about a piece of cheesecake during one of my classes that I realized that I had a problem. I was addicted to food. I am a Christian, and that year I started realizing how enslaved I was to food, and the Bible talks about how Christians are set free from slavery to sin, and I was definitely enslaved to the sin of gluttony. The more I realized how enslaved I was to food, the more it disgusted me. I started taking a course on a Biblical perspective of weight loss, and it radically changed my view of eating, food, and honoring God with my body and what I put in my mouth. My biggest takeaway from that course was that the key to healthy weight loss is that eating in moderation and that we should not vilify foods. While eating moderately, I started losing weight. My relationship with food was a lot healthier, and I no longer felt enslaved to food.
However, after college I started struggling with food again, and it has taken a while for me to figure out how to eat moderately when I no longer had my food prepared for me by campus dining. I have gained weight, but over the past few months, I feel like I’m starting to see progress in eating moderately again and viewing food in a healthy way.

Explain your current eating patterns. How have they influenced your overall quality of life?

Honestly, right now my current eating pattern is just trying to eat in moderation and to eat mindfully. That means that if I want a cookie, I can have a cookie.  I have found  a helpful budget that works for me, and it gives me a helpful boundary for eating moderately while also freeing me from feeling like I can’t eat certain foods. I know what a good calorie range is to fuel my body but to also lose weight in a healthy and steady way.

Do you believe that restrictive dieting at an early age leads to disordered eating? How so?

The only restrictive dieting I have struggled with is trying to cut carbs or sweets during certain seasons of my life. While cutting these things at times have helped me to lose weight, it definitely tricked my brain to want them because I couldn’t have them. I have learned that a more moderate approach towards these things is healthy, meaning bread and sweets are okay in moderation.

What is your opinion on the diet culture and how do you think it has influenced society?

Diet culture has influenced our society more than we care to admit or realize. It has created a culture in which we view certain foods as evil or wrong. First it was fats, and now it’s carbs. The answer isn’t villainizing food. Now, if you have a food allergy or an intolerance or if certain foods affect you in harmful ways, that is a different story.

What does intuitive eating mean to you and how do you practice it daily?

Honestly, when you struggle with food addiction, intuitive eating is hard, because it is hard for me to feel full, but I definitely feel hungry. I’ve learned to be more mindful when I am eating, and to ask myself before eating if I actually am hungry. It is harder for me to know when I am full, but having a calorie budget each day gives me a healthy indicator of when I need to stop eating as I learn more about feeling full.

What is your opinion on the “Health at Every Size” (HAES) movement? How has this changed your view on health, beauty and nutrition?

I really appreciate the Health At Every Size movement. For so long I thought that being “healthy” meant that I just needed to lose weight. And I know now that the goal shouldn’t be just losing weight, but primarily seeking to live a healthy life. I think that’s why eating in moderation has been so helpful for me, because it does lead to weight loss (which will help me to be more healthy). When we equate health mainly with weight, we do ourselves a lot of harm.

Explain how your current eating patterns have changed your overall health and well-being.

Viewing food as something to be enjoyed moderately has  freed me from the pressure and stress of feeling like I need to cut things out of my diet or that I can’t cook things with butter or eat carbs or enjoy sweets. That is hogwash. Every time I struggle with food or gain weight, it’s because I’m viewing food as my master and not eating in moderation. But food is not my master. Eating in moderation has freed me from viewing food as a master and has helped me to lose weight and honor God with my eating habits.

Share some tips on what you do when eating out at a restaurant.

I’ll keep saying it, but moderation is key. It is okay to have a meal out or to have dessert or appetizers or sweets, but just do so in moderation. If it helps you to cut your portions in half as soon as your food arrives, by all means, ask for a to-go box and cut it in half. Or even consider sharing with someone while you’re out. My husband and I will sometimes share meals, especially if it’s somewhere that I might be tempted to eat more than I should.

What advice would you give to someone dealing with similar health/food issues?

There is always hope. For me, I struggled with feeling enslaved to food for most of my life, but there is always hope for freedom. Eating moderately is hard work, but it brings freedom. Food does not have to enslave you. Trust me, it will never satisfy. So enjoy it as a good gift from God, but in moderation. Also, remember that you reap what you sow. If you sow eating moderately, you will reap in terms of healthy eating and increasing health in your life.

What is your “food philosophy” that you strongly believe in?

I guess my food philosophy would be “It’s all about moderation.” But also that progress is better than perfection. If you mess up and eat too much, there is always hope. You can always try again tomorrow and work towards progress.
“Food is a good gift enjoyed in moderation.”

What is your favorite food/recipe that you enjoy making?

This might sound weird, but one of my new favorite recipes is making french dip sandwiches. I don’t have a specific recipe, but you can find one online.

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