Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Kaci! I presently work full time practicing Family Medicine as a Public Health Physician Assistant. I also hold a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics. I am married and have a “fur-baby,” Tabb, who I would describe as a dog trapped inside a cat’s body! I grew up on a farm in Florida, but moved to the Alabama coast in 2007 and have lived here ever since.
Growing up, I was not what one would call a physically active kid. I enjoyed sports, but outside of the occasional city / church softball league, I never played on a team—unless you count bowling!! Point being, I wasn't an athlete. Playing sports and physical activity were just about having fun, which isn't a bad thing at all, but I didn't get exposed to the mental and physical benefits of physical training and investing in myself via routine healthy activity. My mom cooked well-rounded meals, but other than that, I ate they typical “American diet” of fast food, daily junk foods, and excessive portions. We didn’t get education in middle or high school about proper nutrition.
Middle school was a very difficult time for me. It was during that time that I gave my heart to Christ, but I didn’t attend church regularly and didn’t have an understanding of what walking with the Lord really meant. I prayed the prayer of salvation, but wasn’t discipled to know what the next steps were in my faith, so it left the door wide open for Satan to feed me lies. I was picked on routinely for my looks. This resulted in poor self-esteem and disordered view of myself and my body image. I became hyper-aware and hyper-critical of every little perceived flaw. Despite giving my life to Christ at this time, and becoming more active in church during late middle-school and high school, I never truly saw myself as “good enough” or “pretty enough” and was constantly worried about how others thought I looked. I wanted to change the way I looked and get more “in shape,” but I also didn’t really know what to do. I was focused on being thin, not healthy, strong, or muscular. I cringe to think about it now, because there is nothing more beautiful to me now than a strong female frame!
It was in college that I was first exposed to nutrition classes, and I became so excited by learning about healthier eating that I decided to major in Food and Nutrition Science. While I loved learning about the recommended health and nutrition guidelines, I still maintained a flawed view of nutrition. I was still bound by an obsessive tendency to eat for physical results, rather than in such a way that would truly nourish my body. I also engaged in unhealthy behaviors with food, not fully understanding (or wanting to admit) that they were not healthy or God’s best.
It was also in college that I became aware of the importance of physical activity, but like so many young women, it was all about the cardio and calorie burn. I wasn't ever consistent with physical activity because I didn't get the physique change I wanted and because I wasn’t doing something I enjoyed. My flawed focus was all about changing what I didn't like. Nobody ever shared weight training with me until my late 20s. It was my husband who really got me started lifting weights, as he spent the time showing me the basics. Once he did, I was hooked!! I literally spent every night at home after work reading about training and proper nutrition to fuel that training. I began to recover from restriction and other unhealthy behaviors as I replaced old habits with new behaviors that built into my goals and fed my spirit. The Lord started working on me even more as I began to surrender more control to Him, and I started to view myself in a different light. I finally found joy in training and because of that, I became consistent.
It's amazing what weights and consistency can do. Now, my focus is not on changing what I don't like (although, yes I do have goals to improve my physique), but rather on finding out what my body can do and become. The real bonus—the thing I never expected—was the positive impact it had on other areas of discipline in my life. Over time, I have experienced a complete mindset overhaul. (More on that later!)
What passage or verse in Scripture is currently influencing your walk with the Lord?
Romans 8:28 has been one that I gravitate back to time and time again. It says: “And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”
I love that this verse doesn’t state that the Lord will use my experiences for my good, and someone else’s experiences for their own good. Instead, it states that He will cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. This means that the collection of experiences we each have can work not only for the good of the individual, but also for the good of all other believers! This is so encouraging, because it means that the pain you or I might experience can be used not only for our own good, but then also multiplied for the good of others. From that perspective, the difficulties we face take on a different light. There are blessings abounding within pain, difficulty, and struggle and the joy we experience is also available for others to experience as well.
Have you struggled with your personal identity? How has God affirmed that you are His?
I mentioned the struggles that started in middle school and how it led me to be very critical of my physical appearance. Over the years, He has continued to work on the layers of flawed thinking that resulted from that time. Another thing I have struggled with is feeling the need to be “good enough.” I have never been one to have any interest in anything I knew was “wrong.” I had no interest in breaking the rules and never wanted to disappoint anyone. This doesn’t sound like a negative thing, however, the way I approached it was not how God intends for us to function when we accept His gift of grace. I ended up making my “goodness” almost an idol, as it was a source of pride. The truth (Ephesians 2:9) is that our right standing is “not by works, but by grace, lest any man should boast.” Nothing I can do can make me more pleasing to Him or less pleasing to Him, as He already sees me through the filter of Christ’s cleansing sacrifice. When I finally understood this, I was able to rest in the truth that what He thinks about me and the truth of how He feels about me matters—not what other people think about me, or even the way I view myself.
I have learned that Jesus is able to work in me, on me, and through me all at the same time—this is so powerful to truly understand. It means that I don’t have to be perfect to be of value to Him, I just have to be willing to submit to His authority, act faithfully to His promptings, and trust Him with the rest. I have also learned how important it is to view myself through His eyes, rather than through my own preconceptions about myself. Seeing myself from His perspective, rather than from my own false and limiting beliefs is what affirms my value.
What is your favorite go-to meal to make for your family and why?
The recipe I make the most often is the Dashing Dish Crockpot White Queso Chicken Chili! I love that it is made in the crockpot—you just dump the ingredients and it does the work! It is also super versatile. I have changed out the meat for different variations. Sometimes I use ground beef, other times I use chicken breast just as the recipe calls for, and it turns out delicious every time. I have also learned that if you drain the ingredients of all liquid very well and use ground meat, it turns out like a chili dip!
You are a Physician Assistant and hold advanced certifications in Nutrition. How has your education and your background led to an interest in guiding others on their journey to health?
My educational and personal background has led me to integrate my passions for health, wellness, nutrition, fitness, growth mindset, and (yummy!) food. As I mentioned, when I started weight training, I also began to look for (and even develop some of my own) healthy recipes that would not only meet my training goals, but would also be enjoyable to eat. I believe that it is good to get excited about eating when food is healthy and delicious. It was then that I came across the Dashing Dish site. I became a member of the Dashing Dish site over 5 years ago, initially because I LOVED the recipes, but also because I resonated with the way Katie used her platform to minister to others and help them understand what healthy is from God’s perspective. It is about mind, body, and spirit, and unless you cultivate all three, you will never have a well-balanced mindset on what living healthy actually entails.
I remember thinking, “I would love to do something like what Katie does!” Who would have thought that I would later be helping Katie with the very ministry that served to inspire me in the beginning phases of my healthy journey? I love how the Lord has worked behind the scenes for several years in preparation for me to serve Katie and the members of the Dashing Dish community!
In today’s society, there are so many definitions of health. What does being healthy look like to you?
I am learning that “healthy” looks a little bit differently for everyone. To me, it is about maintaining habits and disciplines that keep us feeling our best physically, mentally, and spiritually, and about being intentional to pursue growth. I believe that healthy things grow (Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:15) and I also believe that healthy things reproduce, or replicate. For me, this means that we are called to help others learn how to find their “healthy.”
As I became more intentional about my fitness goals and more mindful of the nutritional value of what I choose to eat, it required practicing a great deal of discipline, but I thoroughly enjoy the ongoing process. Things really started to change in my life when I decided to dive head first into weight lifting. When I got serious enough to dedicate the time and effort required to pursue my training goals, I was rewarded with progress—a kind of progress that I had never really experienced before. It was exciting to realize that I was capable of creating the kind of results I wanted. With that realization came a new confidence that I didn’t expect, but I also noticed something else I didn’t expect―the way that these disciplines that I was practicing seemed to be spilling over into other areas of my life…
Slowly, I found myself gaining traction in, and even overcoming some strongholds and major areas of weakness that I never would have expected to conquer through the avenue in which I did. It was the discipline of physical training that was the catalyst to overcome disordered eating, pay off 6 figures of debt, maintain daily time in the Word of God, and invest wholeheartedly in my relationship with the Lord (just to name a few). Now that I realize the potential value in consistent action, I can be intentional about the application moving forward. I realized that if I was so successful even when I wasn’t aware of the power within the habits I was building, how much more potential there was now that I was aware! It changed the way I viewed myself and my ability to learn, grow, and change for the better. A growth-oriented, positive mindset now matters to me as much as―if not more than―my physical training. It has been the one factor that influenced everything else. I want others to experience this for themselves, too. I am eager to help guide others on this path.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start eating healthy and exercising, but doesn’t know where to start?
- Just make one small change. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to do everything all at once. Look at this as a life-long process of learning and growing. Many people start with the mindset that they have to do everything exactly right, or it won’t make a difference or be “good enough.” This sets us up for failure, because we will never live up to perfection, and unmet expectations will leave you feeling badly about yourself. Give yourself grace for the process of learning. Start small with a manageable change. Get that down, and build upon it. Just focus on one thing at a time.
- Celebrate small wins and small changes. Big things are accomplished one small win at a time. When you celebrate the little things, you are reminding yourself that every step matters.
- View your journey of healthy eating and exercise the same way you would when you practice any new undertaking in life. Expect the process to go something like this: try, observe, use the feedback to pivot, and then continue on. Use the information as a tool to course correct for what works best for you, rather than as evidence that you failed. When you look at it from the perspective that you either win or learn, then you never lose!
- Use the power of habits to your advantage. The more automated you can make things, the better. Habits are the secret weapon to success.
- Attach healthy habits to your identity, rather than using an external motivator like an aesthetic goal. When it comes to your healthy behavior practices, tell yourself: “this is who I am” and “this is what I do” and “I am the type of person that (…does XYZ).” We are more likely to follow through when we link our choices to our identity.
- Catch negative thought processes and learn to change them to positive ones. You are always listening to yourself, whether you know it or not. Internal dialog matters.
Complete the phrases: Jesus is __________. I am ___________.
Jesus is: the Vine. I am: the branch. (John 15:1-16).
It is who I am in Him that allows me to bear good fruit. I must stay connected to Him in order to do so.
"You did not choose me. I chose you. And I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit—fruit that will last." John 15:16a
Thank you for taking the time to read a bit about me! I am looking forward to getting to know you all more through Dashing Dish and the Dashing Dish Online Community!!