I’ve struggled with body image issues and being significantly overweight since about grade 4. When classmates started to notice (and care) that I was heavy, I started to get made fun of for it. Kids can be mean. They said things no one should have to hear, and even wrote things on bathroom walls for me to find during breaks between high school classes.
In high school, I was not completely certain how I was supposed to handle being bullied, but I was utterly frustrated with the way I was being treated, and so I started a pattern of disordered eating and thinking. Rather than confront those feelings or tell anyone about them, I listened to a little voice inside my head which said, “If they’re gonna make fun of you for being fat, they might as well at least be telling the truth, because right now they aren’t.” So I started eating all the time, in secret because it was embarrassing, but it felt necessary. I made excuses, telling myself and others things like “I’ll never be a size 6 anyway, so what difference does it make?” As if the fact that I might not be as small as someone else gave me license to just eat.
I hit a point in teacher’s college where, at 250 pounds, I hated every inch of my body. I was thoroughly convinced that no man could love me at that size, and that I was doomed to be single and alone, sad and fat…. forever. So I ate some more. After my first year of teaching, I got so tired of myself that I decided to do something about it — to stop wallowing in how mad I was and fix it, but I relied solely on my own strength. I obsessively controlled every calorie, whether taken in or burned, and I let disordered thinking rule. I lost a lot of weight — so much that many of my friends were adamant that I needed to stop, but I kept saying “20 more pounds.” I know now that they were right, but all I saw was fat. Gradually, I stopped trying so hard, saved mostly by not having had control over my food choices while I volunteered at a camp for a summer, but then I re-gained a lot.
Courage — the recognition that I was my own worst enemy, and that no excuse would get me what I wanted. I’ve recently realized that I don’t want to be skinny, because I’ve been skinny and it didn’t make me happier, or more confident. What I want now is to be healthy in a way that glorifies my Creator, and shows that all things are possible with Christ (Phil. 4:13). In Christ, I can get past years of disastrous food habits and disordered thinking patterns. Courage is, instead of saying “I want to lose weight, but I just like food too much…” believing that I was made for a better existence than this by Someone who loves me very much.
I was cleaning out my closets not long ago, and to my shock, I found three size six shirts. It was motivational for me, but not as motivational as a recent conversation with a dear friend, where I was explaining my struggle with all of this, and she told me “I guess I’ve never really noticed, you’re always just Laura to me.” How profound. A love that went beyond what we could see and found who I really was. It shook me out of my bad attitude.
Now I need to say something really, truly important here…… size 6 DOES NOT MATTER. I think there’s a lot of courage in accepting that, too. No “number” matters, whether it’s a scale or a clothing tag. What matters is being healthy, whatever that looks like for you. Beauty isn’t in your numbers. Beauty for me means being healthy and fit for God’s glory, because my body is made for more than wallowing. If God calls me to go do something that’s hard, I want to be ready to go. I don’t want to have to wait a year to “get in shape.”
So for me, courage has been recognizing that I am my own worst enemy, and that I am going to need my Saviour’s help, along with the support and accountability of my friends, to conquer this area in my life. For me, courage is starting a plan, and sticking to it. Courage is writing this story out in and of itself, because a lot of this is hard stuff. Courage is accepting that beauty isn’t in numbers, and that the approval of humans is not important. Am I scared? There’s the temptation to be… What if I fail? What if I wind up right back where I started, AGAIN!? But I know from reading 1 John 4:18 that perfect love (God’s love) casts out all fear. I know I don’t have to be afraid because I know that my Father loves me.
What I have learned from looking back, and what I will learn from looking ahead, is that when I rely on the strength of my Father to do something, I know He’ll never leave me, and that He’ll be with me through the whole process. I just need to keep focused on Him, and not me. Someone please remind me of this while I’m having huge regrets about starting kickboxing classes…….
Finally, I am in no way suggesting that any of what I’ve just told you about how I struggled was healthy. If you feel like you can resonate with any of that, please go talk to someone — like a doctor. I should have gone and talked to a doctor. Years ago.
If you’d like to follow along with this journey (and other random ramblings) with me, join me where I normally blog, at thisblogisepic.wordpress.com. I’d love to have you read with me.
Photo and design credit: Olive Chan