Up until the last year or so, I’ve always wanted to be someone else. I’ve been overweight since I was in pre-school, and even though I could run non-stop as a little kid, I still put on the weight.
Throughout my life, I’ve been in and out of the gym, and went through a million diet changes with some positive results but little weight loss. I’ve struggled with an aching and incessant desire to be smaller and more attractive since I was 8. I always knew I was different – I wasn’t just a head taller than everyone, I was also 50 pounds heavier.
In the last dozen years or so, I have shed and re-gained 100 pounds on several occasions. I have taken the pills, cut my calories dangerously low, and done everything I could to be who I thought I wanted to be. It was personal torture. I couldn’t enjoy a meal for fear of gaining an ounce. I was unhealthier during those times of weight loss and control than I ever was before. Since reaching adulthood, the pull to be someone else has slowly faded, but I can still hear the insecure voice of a girl who has always stood out because of her size.
Last fall, after having heart palpitations due to a prescribed diet pill, I decided that enough was enough. My goals and my views of myself would have to change. Through the body positive movement and the support of others, I was learning to accept myself. I was beginning to understand that I could truly be beautiful at any size. Girls that shared my dress size were getting modeling contracts and magazine covers. My excuse that society needed me to be thin was stripped away, and I had to come face to face with my own self-hatred. I was the biggest critic of myself, and the enemy used that to tear me apart year after year. This feeling had no place in my life anymore. I deserved a break from the pressure and a moment to relish the gorgeous temple God gave me. He didn’t mistakenly give me a cathedral instead of a chapel. I was always meant for this. I knew that now. Changes could be made, renovations to a holy structure, but they would be made in care, respect, and preservation.
Looking at myself in the mirror, I wondered where one goes after they start to love themselves. Is it a betrayal to love the girl in the reflection but still strive for change? I didn’t know. I was just falling in love with who I was. It was tough to build back the motivation to confront the numbers on the scale, but my approach was so different now.
The next shift in my health journey began just this year. As a wife and a mother, I was becoming very aware of our little family’s influence on each other. We knew we had to make better choices with our health; we couldn’t lead him down the path we had taken, so we sought another, healthier road we could all follow. We took on a challenge to cut all processed food, sugar, grains, and a host of other things out of our diet for a month, so we could cleanse our lives from these things to which we had truly become prisoners. I want to say that we rocked it and didn’t make a mistake, but that wouldn’t sound quite right for my quirky little family anyway. We had our hiccups, but, even with the “failures,” a family epiphany came forth. We couldn’t be the people and the parents God needed us to be, while living that life of convenience and terrible food. Lack of energy, absence of nutrients, and shame of poor decisions was keeping us unmotivated and just plain tired. I may have laid the weight of societal expectations at God’s feet, but I had simply replaced it with the oppression of a diet that did nothing but slowly kill my body, my drive, and my zeal for God’s plan.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
The main thing I learned from my life and the discovery of self-acceptance was that any healthy journey has to start from a place of love. We can’t lose weight, eat a mountain of carrots, or sweat buckets at a spin class for someone else. External motivation is not fully effective without the knowledge that God knew and still created us with imperfections. Even though we do need to care for our temples, God’s love and plan for us isn’t dependent on our size or our shape. We are beautiful children in His eyes, and that is where our heart for ourselves should stay – in his hands where he continually whispers words of encouragement.
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 John 1:2 (NIV)
Take care of yourselves. Live beautiful lives. Stay healthy so you can chase your kids or puppies around until the fireflies chase you inside. Give yourselves a chance to live the best life possible. Always remember to act in love. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Never forget.