Katie Farrell almost sparkles with health. It’s hard to believe this passionate, joyful woman ever struggled with a serious eating disorder. Secure in her faith, she has found a path to health and balance through turning to the Lord. “I finally made the choice to give God control of my weight, and it was then that I saw the most dramatic and beautiful changes in my weight, health and life in general,” she says.
Katie’s road to a positive relationship with food and her body eventually led her back to the kitchen. She began to experiment with nutritious foods—replacing unhealthy ingredients and developing her own recipes. A busy labor and delivery nurse, she focused on easy and delicious meals she and husband Sean could share. “A huge part of my healing was learning to find the right balance,” she says. “So I started to really have fun with cooking—I realized how freeing it was to enjoy food.”
When Sean, a graphic designer, saw how much passion she had for sharing her newfound pleasure in food, he set up a simple website and DashingDish.com was born. Katie concocted shakes, fashioned lasagnas and designed healthy desserts. “They are totally God-inspired recipes,” she says. “It’s all about finding a proper balance. I feel like God has given me a creative ability to take what seems to be ‘bad’ food and make it healthy, enjoyable and fun.”
Soon after starting the website, Katie began to feel that God was guiding her to share her story on disordered eating. When she added her testimony to the “about” page, things exploded. Emails flooded in from women around the world with similar struggles. “You can imagine—I mean people just don’t talk about eating disorders. It’s such an embarrassing thing, so if people can find refuge through the Internet, it’s almost a little bit safer.” She emailed back and forth with hundreds, guiding them in their recovery and sharing her faith in the Lord.
At 14, Katie was a normal, shy adolescent who enjoyed food and took little notice of her body. One day a boy approached her in the lunchroom holding a sketch of an enormous girl. The prankster said, “I just want you to know this is what you look like.” Bizarre as it was, that thoughtlessly sketched picture distorted her reality. Katie concluded that he must be right. She looked in the mirror—no more than 110 pounds at the time—and saw a fat girl.
She didn’t tell anyone about the picture. Not her parents or her two sisters. Instead, she set out to fix the problem. She said to herself, “Well, if I’m fat then I might as well not eat.” Eventually her mother noticed her diminishing weight. That initiated a round of visits to counselors, therapists and doctors, none of whom helped. “I really don’t understand,” she told a friend. “My mom thinks I have a problem because I’m not eating, but I’m really not hungry.” A registered nurse today, Katie now understands that she had forced her body into starvation mode.
A few years later, her family moved to a new town and she gained some confidence. Her appetite grew and her food choices expanded. But instead of starving herself, she began to purge the “bad” foods she ate. During college, her sisters confronted her. “We know what you’re doing,” they said. She was mortified, filled with shame. “After they called me out, that was the end. I had no desire to do it ever again.” But Katie was still in bondage to her distorted body image. She began to devote herself to exercise—compulsive workouts to “pay” for eating. She would devour a brownie, then punish herself with a three-hour workout.
At 22, she was a stressed and anxious nursing student. One morning, as she flipped through television channels while eating a quick breakfast, a preacher flashed onto the screen.
“Do you know that God wants you whole and well and healthy and healed in every area of your life?” he asked. “It’s not His will for you to be in any kind of bondage or any kind of addiction or secrecy or shame.”
His words pierced her bubble of denial. God wanted her whole and well. But she knew she wasn’t well.
Over the next year, Katie fell in love with Jesus. She grew up in a loving Christian home, but now she was developing a personal relationship of her own. “I started learning to take the Word of God and transform my mind with it,” she said. “That’s when everything changed.” She carried her Bible everywhere, reading passages on breaks and during lunch. She jotted down verses that spoke truth of her identity in Christ, and posted them in her car, on her mirror, in her room. She used them to compose a prayer that she prays daily, even now.
Katie has found that true healthy living can’t be achieved except through a balance of physical and spiritual elements. “You can’t do it the way God intended without combining the two,” she says. “That’s what I really hope to teach people—God has freedom for you, but it takes an actual effort of running to Him, renewing your mind and surrendering that control.”
It’s this message that she shares with the women who visit her website. With her background in healthcare, interest in the latest research and personal story, she has become a trusted source of ideas and support. Women are attracted to her growing library of recipes, her fitness advice, her depth of knowledge about eating disorders and her genuine passion for turning to the Lord in all circumstances.
In her website devotionals, Katie shares the practical Bible-based steps she used as she turned to God to free herself from her unhealthy body image. “Renewing my mind was the thing that freed me from eating disorders and bondage to food and exercise,” Katie says. “It was only renewing my mind with the word of God that transformed me from the inside out.”
Katie cautions that renewal is not an overnight process. “You can’t be lazy about it,” she says. “If you’re in any kind of bondage, you’ve spent years, months, weeks or hours thinking lies in your heart. The word of God has much to say about who you are, and unless you renew yourself and your mind with the word of God, you can’t truly break free. It will only be a matter of time until you’ll go back.”
Katie began her journey by turning to the Bible, asking the Lord to show her the scriptures that would “teach me who I am.” They leapt off the page and spoke to her heart. “I could really tell they were for me.” She wrote them down in a Word document and then put them into her own words. Then she wrote out a prayer.
“I said, ‘Okay Lord, this is your prayer. This is what you say is true about me.’” Every morning she would get up, setting her alarm early if she was especially busy, and spend time with Him, often turning on worship music to help keep her focus on the Lord.
“Ask the Holy Spirit to help you,” advises Katie. “The Bible says He is our counselor, who gives us eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to understand.”
As she turned faithfully to the Lord day by day, immersing herself in the Word, Katie was freed from the bondage that had held her for so many years.
Today, she continues to start her days in prayer and meditation, using journaling around one or more verses of Scripture. “Spend time putting the truth in your heart. God has transformed me from the inside out. He will do the same for you.
Stepping Out in Faith
In August 2011, Katie gave up her position as a labor and delivery nurse to pursue her growing website as a full-time business. She offers low-cost memberships to those who want full access to recipes, workouts and devotionals, updated regularly. Free memberships are available to those who cannot afford to pay. She designs meal plans with complete grocery lists for purchase.
The most individualized feature on DashingDish.com is health coaching. Katie develops a four-week food, workout and devotional plan based on the client’s needs. “I took everyday practical things that I use in my own life to maintain a healthy balance, and I put them into programs for people to use,” she says.
Dashing Dish is part business and part ministry. “I feel like it really is a little bit of both,” she says. “My true heart is to help people, because God doesn’t want them in bondage to anything. I have found that everything comes down to one principle: The more you seek Him, the more you have a revelation of His great love for you … He is just a prayer away.”
Katie’s Advice For those with Eating Disorders
1. Recognize signs of trouble
Are you concerned that you or someone you love has an eating disorder? If a person is secretive or controlling about some aspect of their eating, there may be a problem.
2. Tell somebody
This is the first thing Katie recommends to her members struggling with an eating disorder. Satan loses power when we bring struggles into the light.
3. Ask God for a revelation of His love
As it says in 1 John, perfect love drives out fear. Katie was afraid no one would love her if she gained weight, but when she experienced God’s love her fears vanished.
4. Transform your mind with God’s Word
Learn who Christ says you are. After years of wrestling with eating disorders and destructive thoughts, Katie couldn’t get a whole new mind-set overnight. It was the daily commitment to read and study God’s Word that renewed her mind.
5. Realize that in Christ you can be free
Mainstream knowledge says people with eating disorders can experience remission but will never be fully cured. Katie disagrees. “With the Lord, everything that’s impossible in this world is possible through Christ.” It is possible to experience full recovery. “I’m living proof of that.”
Katie’s Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cakes
Makes 12 servings
Nonstick cooking spray
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/8 cup low-fat milk (or milk substitute of choice)
4 egg whites (½ cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest or ½ teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup protein powder
½ cup fiber-enriched stevia baking blend*
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
* I use NuNaturals MoreFiber Stevia Baking Blend, available online.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 4 mini bundt pans (or 12 muffin tins) with nonstick cooking spray.
Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until oats are ground and smooth batter forms. Divide batter evenly between bundt cake pans or muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for mini bundt pans (18 to 20 minutes for muffins) or until light golden brown on top and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
Remove from oven; cool 5 minutes on wire rack before removing from pan. Store in airtight container or resealable plastic bag at room temperature or freeze in moisture-proof container or freezer bags.