(If you can see me up there in the jean shirt on the far right, that was when I was at my lowest weight.)
Today: This is me!
It feels like yesterday. I spent countless time browsing through a forum and every other post about “losing weight”, “anorexia”, “body image”, “being fat”, or “eating too much yesterday” and feeling lousy.
And that is where it all started… Well. Actually, that isn’t exactly where it began.
In December of 2009 I joined the ranks of juvenile teens turned athlete. I was a stationary cyclist. I was starting to ‘get in shape,’ something that would quickly take me into a painful journey.
I was happy with with my new take on life, my new reform, my fit n’ healthy attitude.
Yet, I live in a culture that is absolutely obsessed with body, fitness, and food. I readily succumbed to the draw and became sucked into the ideal weight, the healthy diets, the amount of miles ran, and new ways to lose weight and “tone up.”
It was really very subtle, as I think it almost always is. Over 6 months, I also got into running and counting my calories. I became not just good, but great at what I thought was ‘self-control’. In the end, it was really a form of rigid restriction and an ungrateful spirit for the variety and good food and body that God had given me.
I wasn’t happy. I was always ‘fat.’ I was never thin enough. I weighed myself 10+ times per day, and if my weight varied by a pound, I would cry and lay on the floor of the bathroom, angry at myself for messing up.
I wasn’t very obvious about it either. I prided myself about being a subtle child. I wasn’t going to eat 1/2 an ounce of chicken and 2 tbsp. of peanut butter a day so everybody would think I was anorexic. I wanted it to be a slow burn, a change that only I knew could happen.
The saddest part about an eating disorder is that it hurts no one as much as it does yourself and those closest to you. You are purposefully and knowingly destroying the body God gave you, and it now even gives me shame to think about it in that way.
The breaking point came just a few weeks before a trail race I was planning to do with my brother. My dad sat me down and gently confronted me on my habitual posts and obsessive internet searches on losing weight, weight loss tips, etcetra…
The journey went through so many highs and lows even after this. Travel was especially difficult, as I was tempted to focus more and more on food, controlling my food when I couldn’t control the uncertainty of my environment. I would be so concerned about gaining weight on ‘vacation’ that I would determinedly go to bed just a bit ‘hungry’ in order to stave off that ‘possibility.’ My mind was so focused on my body, that I failed to trust God with my future, trying to rely on my own ‘self-control’ to make it through. That failed miserably.
(March 2011, London. It was an absolutely amazing trip, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else. However I was still very controlled and driven by food and exercise at this point)
As time went on, I tried to bury the fact that I needed to gain weight under exercising harder. I ran a marathon. I did a triathlon.
Picture Credit: My brother! You were the best spectator! 🙂
I smiled and laughed a lot, but this mindset, this idol always dogged my heels, especially at social events or when people pulled out the ice cream to share. I watched how much food the other girls took, and I tried not to take more, even when I was often so hungry.
I also had very long hippy hair. 😀 I had absolutely ‘zero’ sense of style back then.
Even though I realized that food was no longer something I wanted to restrict, I was still trying to fill the void with exercising it all off. I was ‘sadly militant’ about the calories going in and out of my body. I looked healthy, but inside I was still struggling, still fighting, still broken.
And last year, after almost 6 or 7 years, God gave me a hard turn-around. Like the loving Heavenly Father that He is, He wasn’t going to put me down a path, without picking me up and setting me in the right direction, convicting me of my idols, and showing me that He was and is truly the answer to my emptiness.
Then I could truly smile. Then I could miss a workout and not go to bed in a cold sweat thinking about the calories I could have burned.
This is my smile with my beautiful sister after playing for hours in the snow. I now love just moving for the sake of moving. And I have come to enjoy, again, the days of being a couch potato, laying around for hours reading books and eating popcorn.
This led me to ask myself this big question.
What was coming first in my life?
For me at that time it was my body and my food. All I could think about was what I was going to make for my next meal or do for my next workout. All I could mull over was the calories in vs. calories out in my body. My identity was determined, in my mind, not by being a child of Christ, but by the number on the scale.
Have I completely put this all behind me?
I would be lying to say, “No.”
Eating issues and body idolatry don’t give up easily. They hang on for dear life. It took forever for me to even conscience eating a piece of cookie dough without tallying it into the calorie intake for the day. It took forever for me to be okay with missing a workout, and I still struggle with letting go of my workouts in favor of something more important such as spending more time in the Word, my spiritual food, spending more time with my family, and reaching out to others.
I stand in the mirror and say, “I’m fat,” and then my heart instantly drops with the conviction that when I constantly belittle and criticize the body and the body shape that God has given me, I am not struggling with self-esteem but God-esteem.
I didn’t need help thinking of myself more. I needed to reminded to think of Jesus. I found my worth in Him, my healing, my joy in His fullness. This verse especially speaks right to the very heart of what I learned along the way.
Psalm 96:4-9 says, “For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
Jesus is filling me day by day. The beauty of His grace, His salvation, and His love have purged my idols of body and food. In Him, I have found there is true beauty.
I want this blog to be the chronicle of me continuing to walk this journey in glory to my Father, Creator, and Friend, of sharing my struggles and victories, of resting in God’s love, and of glorying in His amazing gifts like:
And I could go forever, so I will stop there, and you can think of some of the things you’re grateful for! 🙂
The sun will shine again. Even when you are in dark despair, look to the Son of God who saves you from your brokenness. He was broken for us, so we might see the light of His glorious face!