Where I Am Today: Before & After Photos

November 8th, 2013 at 8:08 am
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In my 4+ years of blogging, this goes down as one of the most difficult posts I’ve written. Tears spilled over more than once as I pulled together the photos and began writing. I’ve wanted to do a before and after post for over a year, but it’s taken me a while to feel ready. I’m ready now, and so today I’m sharing part of my story with you that is deeply close to my heart.

November marks the 5 year anniversary of me being gluten-free. But so much more than just my diet has changed in 5 years. I’ve been trained and certified in holistic nutrition, I’ve published 2 cookbooks and 2 ebooks, I’ve taught dozens of cooking classes, I’ve grown to love exercise, I’ve made dozens of dear friends through blogging, I’ve been on live TV twice, I’ve become the editor of a leading gluten-free magazine. And all this because of a food sensitivity.

Talk about a blessing in disguise.

But my biggest accomplishment by far has nothing to do with magazines or TV segments. For the first time in probably more than 5 years, I feel so filled with joy. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in my life. Emotionally and mentally, I feel capable. And that is saying a lot. A whole lot.

The photo above is from about two and half years ago shortly before my nephew was born. I was at my sister’s house and we were getting ready for her baby shower. It was a happy day.

But here’s what brings me to tears. I know that inside, that girl was far from happy. I can put up a brave front. I can hide my emotions with the best of them. But several years ago during that time of my life, I was filled with fear, anxiety, physical pain, negative thoughts, and worry out the wazoo. My future was uncertain, my plans were shaky, and my confidence was near an all time low.

I’d been gluten-free for a good chunk of time, but healing still came very slowly for me. It’s amazing to think that in that photo I was actually 8-10 pounds heavier than when at my lowest weight. Scary stuff.

At the time of the photo, I was incredibly frustrated with my slow progress in gaining weight, getting healthier, and making strides toward a future that everyone told me was bright. All I could see were the obstacles and the things that were going wrong. I viewed almost everything relating to my life in a negative light.

I hated the way I looked. With everyone telling me I was too thin, all I could see was someone who was something she shouldn’t be: underweight. Shopping for clothes just plain sucked. Nearly everything was too big. Finding clothes that fit took so much energy, especially for someone like me who isn’t crazy about shopping anyways.

But I pressed on. With an overwhelming amount of support from my family, I kept taking steps forward—small though they were—and eventually weight came on a bit more easily. With new experiences, I grew more confident in myself and started to see what I was capable of. I began exercising more, which increased both my appetite and my self esteem!

Day by day, bit by bit, bite by bite, I got healthier. I attended conferences, read stacks upon stacks of books, and talked through tough situations with my ever-wise parents. I set goals. I started creating vision boards to help me tangibly see my goals every day. I stopped beating myself up over things I’d done in the past. I started moving forward.

You guys, getting well is so much more than just eating gluten-free and drinking your 8 glasses of water each day. Yes, eating a healthy allergy-friendly diet has helped me tremendously over the past 5 years. I believe that going gluten-free saved my life.

But the quality of my life didn’t change until I started getting honest with myself, taking ownership of my life choices, and stomping on my fears as often as I could. Most of all, I started believing in myself. I told myself YOU CAN. I told myself YOU WILL. That’s the thing about self esteem. External influences can boost it, but at its core, self esteem is cultivated within our own hearts, minds, and spirits. That’s why it’s called SELF esteem. Because it comes from within.

I’m not going to lie. I still struggle with self esteem. But now more than ever, I make daily efforts to affirm truth to myself.

I am loved.

I am respected.

I am dignified.

I am smart.

I do not have a spirit of fear.

I belong.

I am safe.

I live with integrity.

I am enough.

I choose faith over fear.

I care.

I live life on purpose.

Harnessing the power of positive thinking has made a huge difference in how I view my circumstances, whether they’re good or bad. So often we wire our brains to think toxic thoughts. I’m not good enough. That will never work. That’s just impossible. They’re too stubborn to change. It’s too hard. I can’t. I shouldn’t.

But I am a firm believer that when we change our thought patterns and rewire our brains to think uplifting and positive thoughts that empower us rather than drain us, our entire worlds can change almost instantly. The past 5 years have been overflowing with lessons for me. I have learned an incredible amount about not only health and how we can heal with food, but also about emotional wellness and how our physical health is so dependent on it.

No words can express how grateful I am for all that I’ve come to learn and accept. Several years ago, when that picture above was taken, I felt like I was constantly reaching and grasping for some sort of life line, some set of answers that would make everything better. I never found it.

I did not find true peace and healing until I stopped reaching and grasping and began releasing and receiving instead. I let go of the unnecessary. The negative thoughts, the struggle. I gave up the fight of trying to have all the answers and “fix” everything. I stopped trying to be everything and just started being Hallie. In the scary and tiring tumult of my health problems, I’d lost sight of her. Her laughter, her creativity, her heart for hospitality, her gentleness, her joy. It all had faded. She was gone. And only a thin shell of a frightened girl remained.

Photos like this one stir up such emotions in me. Smiles can be such spin doctors. Because inside, I know that girl was scared, doubtful, and quivering with anxiety.

I am a very blessed woman. In the past 5 years, God has transformed my life into more than I ever thought possible. Looking at old photos, I almost don’t even feel like the person in them. It’s as if there are two versions of myself, the before and the after. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude at the shape my life has taken.

What once was self hate has been replaced with self appreciation and respect. What once was low self esteem is now quiet confidence rooted in the power God gives me to face each day and each obstacle with courage. What once was a pit of sadness is now a fountain of joy that seems to grow fuller every day.

In the before photo, my nephew was about three months old. The after photo was taken this past summer when I surprised my family with an impromptu visit. I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to see his sweet face…and to see how much we’ve both grown!

If you’ve stuck with me this far, thank you. This space has been one of the constants in my life over the ups and downs of the last 5 years. I cannot thank you enough for reading, for supporting me, and for welcoming me into your life in a small but meaningful way.

I’m living proof that healing happens from the inside out. It astounds me how far I’ve come, both physically and emotionally. My life has been transformed by food, spiritual growth, and the art of letting go. I’ve gone from fearful, lonely, and confused to faithful, lively, and confident.

Last week I started what I’m calling my Life List, which is sort of my take on the Bucket List concept with things I want to do, see, or be in my lifetime. This one’s hovering near the top:

Witness a miracle.

-

Just last week, I made the decision to cross it off. What God has done in transforming my life, renewing my mind, and restoring my health is nothing short of miraculous. It may not have happened in an instant, but it happened. As I live and breathe, I truly believe that I am a walking miracle.

In many ways, I think we all are. Blessings and miracles speckle our lives like gems if we simply open our eyes to see them.

From the bottom of my heart, thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. Beautifully said Hallie.
    You are truly one-of-a-kind and an inspiration to me.
    I too was fortunate enough to witness a miracle, being there the day you took your first breath of life.
    God is so good.

    I love you

  2. Wow, Hallie!! I had no idea you were Christian. What an amazing testimony. Life really is a journey that takes us through the lows and highs. You look wonderful, healthy, and full of joy! I love it!

    Andrea

    • Andrea: Thanks for your kind words! My faith has truly gotten me through the toughest of circumstances. Without it I don’t even want to think about where I would be!

  3. Bless you and your journey!! love your attitude, you inspire me today. Thank you!

  4. Hallie, thank you so much for sharing your story. Healing is a process and often requires great strength, and you have it in spades. Congrats on your successful journey and I know many more great things will come for you!

    • Alta: So true. It’s a journey that I still feel like I’m on, it’s just a little easier these days. :) I always like the saying: “Health is journey, not a destination.”

  5. I’ve been loving your posts for awhile now and never commented. But this one is so wonderful, I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed it and that you have been a blessing to me. You are my “go-to girl” for great recipes that are good for me and for inspiration about everyday life. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hallie–I enjoy your blog, I love your recipes and one of these days I’m going to sneak away from the family to attend your cooking classes at the Coop!

    You are an old soul in the body of a young person–a body that it sounds like you can finally feel comfortable in. I’m truly happy for you!

    Thanks for being so inspirational!!

  7. Hallie, thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspirational journey…it touched me and I know you will give many people hope!

    • Linda: Wow, thank you! I’ve found inspiration and hope through so many avenues over the years, a big one being blogs and bloggers. I knew it was the right time to share my own story. :)

  8. Hallie this is a beautiful and inspirational post. I love it almost as much as I love you! Sharing this will help so many people. I love the direction you’ve been going lately with your videos and posts like this. I agree, health is about so much more than choosing to live gluten-free. It’s about body, mind, and spirit. xoxo
    ps How sweet is your Daddy?

  9. You know, I was struggling holding it together through your post, but then I read your sweet Dad’s comment above and lost it. You are such an inspiration, Hallie! Thank you for sharing your story with all of us.
    Hugs,
    Megan

    • Megan: Aw, thank you! I have the best parents in the world. They’ve put up with a lot from me over the years…but it has made us stronger. Thanks for reading! :)

  10. Hallie, thanks for being vulnerable and honest! You will help many with this post, no doubt. I thought of 2 Corinthians 5:17 as I read it – “in Christ, the old life has gone; a new life has begun!” Praise God for His power in transforming lives!

  11. Diane Fuchs said on November 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was beautifully written and very inspirational! Love your recipes, books, and blog!

  12. Teresa Fischer said on November 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Halie,
    You know when I saw the first picture you posted, my first thought was how cute you looked, and I’m sorry that you were suffering inside. I’ve kept my diet along the lines of organic and natural for the most part since around 1988, so changes have come quickly for me since going gluten free. Within a week or two of going gluten/grain free, chronic depression that I had had since 1985 left, and even though I’ve had ups and downs, that daily waking up with sadness is gone. I never want to go back to that. I believe that wheat was originally created a good food for us, but the wheat we commonly have today is not. I had to smile just a little because although your subsequent pictures show you looking frail, you still look lovely in them. I have had the opposite problem of always fighting overweight, and having clothes not fit on shopping trips because I’m too big around for what I’m trying on. Just in the past couple of months, I think I may have stumbled on a large part of the answer. I am on a program to lower my histamine levels, and finally the weight is also starting to drop. As you say, coming to a place where one is at a healthy weight and able to enjoy life is a good place. I wish you all the best and am so glad that you’ve come to the place you’re at now.

    • Teresa: Thank you so much for sharing! Weight is such a crazy thing. Whether we have to lose it or gain it, it’s hard either way. I’m glad you’re beginning to make some progress in your own journey. All the best to you!

  13. Jennifer Di Luccia said on November 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Beautiful post. I absolutely love your blog and share it often with friends. I may have to take one of your cooking classes one of these days. Be well!

  14. This is such an encouraging post. I love the happy energy you exude in your blog. Blessings!

  15. You are absolutely correct that you are a walking miracle. I have had to walk a similar path to emotional healing from childhood abuse, which included healing from an eating disorder. I admire you for walking through this difficult time instead of running from it, and for having the courage to share it with us. My life is so different now as a result of facing and dealing with my issues, and I’m glad that your is, too. Sharing our experiences is very important because you never know whom you empower through your sharing. I hope your life continues to get even better. You deserve it. May God continue to bless you greatly.

  16. Beautifully written! Your story is the opposite of mine – I gained so much weight from my wheat allergy/addiction. I feel your joy while reading your words and I’m so happy you have found yourself and a wonderful career as well.

    • SherriS.: Thank you. It’s such a blessing that my struggles led me to my career choice. I don’t think I would have gotten into all of this had it not been for what I went through. :)

  17. Gee, those quotes look awfully familiar.

    So glad that you have experienced this healing. Keep up the good work!

  18. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Thank you for sharing your story! :)

  20. Hallie, what a beautiful post. It’s filled with such honesty, gratitude, and generosity of spirit. Beautiful. .. just like you! I am so glad you’re where you want to be right now, and can only imagine where you are headed! Thanks for being such an inspiration. Big hugs to you. xo

  21. Hi Hallie,

    I also have never commented before on your site. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love reading your posts and printing out your wonderful recipes. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with us. Miracles don’t usually happen overnight.

    • Amy: Thank you for commenting! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes. And you’re so right. Some of the greatest miracles take time and patience. :)

  22. Susan in Salida said on November 9, 2013 at 8:31 am

    You are very blessed to have this journey at such a young age. It might not have felt like a blessing as you stepped through the physical and mental healing, but compared to those of us who stumbled through these same issues at an older age, you can share your full gifts with the world through the rest of your life!

    Best of wishes going forward.

  23. I’ve followed you on pinterest for awhile but have just recently found your blog and Facebook page, after making the decision to transition to a gluten free/dairy free lifestyle. I got “Pure Kitchen” in the mail and have bought “Crazy for Kale” and “Gluten Free & Dairy Free” for my Kindle app, all this week.
    I love your posts, and this one was beautiful! Your dad sounds a lot like my dad. ;)
    Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing your story. You have touched so many!

  24. Oh my sweet Hallie! Thanks for sharing your story. I remember how excited I was when I met you in Naperville at the GF Expo. We talked for a few minutes and it was a real pleasure for me to meet you. I love your recipes and was excited to help with testing some of them before they made it to your book. I do not have health issues, no gluten intolerance, etc. However, I enjoy eating good healthy foods. I read your posts every day. As you can see by anything that I post, it’s all about God. He is my everything. Just know that he has your life all planned out for you!! He had a purpose for you to take this particular journey in this order. God bless you!

    • Karen: Yes, I remember meeting you. I love that the Lord is at the center of all you do. Very inspiring and such a good encouragement to anyone (including me!) who needs to be reminded of His handiwork in all things. :)

  25. Hallie,
    This post prompted me to think about where I have been to where I am now in regards to my own health. It was good for me to do. My health journey has been long, but I am so thankful for the story the Lord is writing along the way…..it has made me who I am.
    You are blessed to have parents like yours!
    Very snowy here this morning in SW WI!! Loving the splendor of the God’s creation.
    Stephanie

  26. You are such a sweet inspiration Hallie, and a wonderful person for sharing your journey.

  27. What a beautiful and brave post, Hallie. The last decade has been about opening into grace and health for me, too, so I can relate. Much love your way!

  28. Thank you so much for sharing this, Hallie. Beautiful.
    I am currently struggling with my health journey, and the very slow progress. This was timely for me, and I am sure it will help even more as I process how I can focus on healing, while still letting go…
    I am so pleased you have found greater health through these past five years! I agree, areas of health all intertwine, and need attention.

  29. God Bless You Hallie! I am in a very similar situation that you were 5 years ago….your testimony gives me hope…I can and will do this and with God all things are possible! Thanks for being a ray of sunshine and for your words of wisdom!

  30. deidre mcgannon said on March 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Hallie,
    I loved hearing your story of transformation. God did a miracle in my daughter’s life using the power of proper nutrition and supplements. I also struggled with being underweight due to a gluten sensitivity. Ive gained almost 10 pounds and feel so much better about the way I look. Most people dont understand the struggle of being “underweight” so your story encouraged me, on many levels. May God continue to work in your life and use you for His glory!

  31. Thank you Hallie, you are such an inspiration, I have written out my own positive affirmations and I am going to read them to myself everyday, such a good idea.

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About me

I'm Hallie Klecker, a professional recipe developer, author, and passionate gluten-free foodie. As a certified holistic nutrition educator, my goal is to inspire others to live a balanced, nourished life through eating well and living pure—one bite at a time. Learn more.