Jenna Petersen, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

March 17, 2021

Read about Jenna’s story

Hi there, my name is Jenna. I started the Women Eat Well blog in September 2020. I’m a young professional working in the areas of public health and holistic wellness. I am excited to share more of my personal journey in Intuitive Eating as well as my faith in Jesus Christ through this platform.

Photo of Jenna Petersen, founder of Women Eat Well
Jenna Petersen, founder of Women Eat Well.

I will start by sharing about my life and upbringing. My upbringing has shaped not only my faith in Jesus but also my relationship with food. I will insert important areas of both of these topics throughout my story.

I was planted in a home with my parents, Brian and Lisa Petersen, who also believe in Jesus and sought to follow him while raising myself, my older sister Andrea, and my younger brother Reed.

Our lives were different than most people, since we lived on an organic vegetable farm in the country and attended a Classical Christian school named Schaeffer Academy in Rochester, MN.

A sunrise at the Rochester Downton Farmer’s Market, my family’s weekly Saturday morning commitment!

My faith in Jesus started to take root while I was in elementary school, through the teaching at Autumn Ridge Church and through my teachers at Schaeffer. I recognized my sinfulness but did not openly acknowledge my need for Jesus until I was in second grade, praying with my mom the night before Christmas of that year to depend on Christ in my need for forgiveness from my sin.

My friendship with Jesus did not develop greatly until I was in middle and high school. It was deepened by difficulties with friends and strengthened by challenges on the family farm. I chose to be baptized in obedience to Jesus on July 27, 2009. A few years later, as a high school freshman, my relationship with God became more real as I began to intentionally turn away from sin, read the Bible regularly, and journal my prayers. During these years, despite growth in following God, I was still very prideful. This was most clearly exemplified in my obsession with body image and perfectionism.

Planting tomatoes on the family farm.

On my family’s farm, I worked outdoors and mostly by myself during the majority of summer days. I had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to be physically active, and a lot of time to plan what I wanted to eat. I was extremely health-focused and self-disciplined during high school. I found ways to be increasingly more active, while eating less. As a result, I could not complete two cross country running seasons due to personal injuries, which I believe only happened due to being underweight. I had to go to the doctor during my senior year of high school because I was not regularly menstruating for over 6 months. The doctor told me I would be okay if I gained about XX pounds, and said I likely did not need to be referred for more intensive eating disorder treatment. She was right. I gained some weight, and my cycle returned. My orthorexic tendencies were not enough to be diagnosed as a full-fledged eating disorder. However, I still wasn’t sure how I felt about the way that I looked. I was very critical of small self-perceived physical flaws. This pattern of body image critiquing and comparison got slightly better when I left for university studies at Iowa State, but still continued through college.

I was very excited to start my degree at ISU!

I studied Kinesiology and Health. My goal was originally to be a chiropractor. This choice made sense since the chiropractors that helped me after my injuries had vibrant businesses and I had always been interested in entrepreneurship. Also, I generally agree more with alternative medical practices than conventional ones. I wanted to own my own chiropractic practice and be able to share the truth of the Gospel with clients. As I continued in my studies, going to chiropractic school seemed less realistic because of my financial values. I did not want the financial burdens that pursing that type of business would incur. Instead, I prayed that God would direct me to a job after graduation.

A photo of Lake Laverne and the Memorial Union at Iowa State University.

Two years later, during my last semester of college, I worked for ISU Student Wellness. It was during this time that I had the opportunity to read the Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. The concepts were easy to understand but difficult to implement. I did not completely realize what I was missing in order to become an Intuitive Eater until I accepted a professional role at the University of Northern Iowa as Health Promotion Coordinator and moved to the Cedar Valley. Under the direction of my colleague Joan Thompson, a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I was able to glean a few tips from her as we talked in the office. Whether she knows it or not, she helped me realize how I was not eating intuitively just by sharing a nearby desk space and listening to her talk. I had some key lessons to embrace in Intuitive Eating, despite my longtime passions for nutrition and movement.

I began to embrace Principle 2 – Honor Your Hunger as well as Principle 8 – Respect Your Body in ways that I could powerfully articulate to others. I began to implement Principle 6 – Discover the Satisfaction Factor in ways that I had not before! I found that becoming an Intuitive Eater, instead of following the cultural myths of dieting that seemed so promising, helped me take care of my body in the ways that I knew were most glorifying to the Lord.

I knew God designed my body to biologically need food, not to starve myself. I knew He created me with the ability to choose different foods and use self-control, but I did not need to constantly be thinking about food. To obsess about everything I ate was self-centered. To think that I could manipulate the way that I looked was prideful. I knew God made me the way that I am, and I could learn to listen to my hunger and fullness cues, value the food He provided, and see myself as His creation even if I felt like I didn’t look awesome.

It’s similar to how my faith in Jesus initially started. Even though my salvation was instantaneously secured, it took me years to grow in my relationship with God after rejecting Him. Similarly, it took me years to grow in my relationship with food after dieting and overexercising. I am still learning to trust God more fully, just like some days are harder than others to trust my body’s inner wisdom in learning when to eat and when to stop. I’m learning how to joyfully work, joyfully eat, joyfully obey, and joyfully move. All of my life is for the glory of Jesus’ name.

Self-consciousness is no longer the issue that it used to be. The sins of idolatry– of my body, the food that I ate, or the exercise that I “needed” to do– are less regular and overbearing. (I consider these sins because I know that they detracted from my relationship with God in a negative way, drawing me away from delight in my Heavenly Father.) Fears about what others would think have lost their hold on me. I am leaning into Jesus for more patience in my own growth and failures.

A fundamental difference between Christianity and any other faith is that Christians declare Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection over our flaws. I declare Jesus’ perfection over my flawed life. In eating, as in all things, I am flawed. Grace flows from the Gospel, and it is freely available to each of us in our need. The Biblical worldview that I’ve embraced is so much more powerful than Intuitive Eating as a philosophical approach to food, and yet, I’m so grateful that Jesus used Intuitive Eating to strengthen and deepen my ability to enjoy, nourish, and use my body.

Now that I am a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I have the ability to share the 10 Principle of Intuitive Eating in coaching contexts. I love to incorporate Spiritual wellness, also, because all health is holistically integrated.

Maybe the path ahead will be slow for you, too. I can’t promise immediate results. I can’t promise weight loss. Ultimately, my body needed to gain weight. I now see this as a good thing, but I didn’t initially. Your story may be very different, but I can tell you that I won’t judge your weight. I won’t weigh you, and I won’t expect immediate change.

The journey will be rough at times. I am ready to support and encourage you! Contact me to sign up for a free discovery call and see if what Women Eat Well can offer would be a good fit for you.

As you can see, I’ve been there, too.

Thanks for listening to my story. Blessings to you today!

A recent photo of me, all dressed up. Inner beauty shining outward is the best kind, though!