Today I woke up “feeling fat”. I know intellectually that fat isn’t a feeling, that I am in fact not fat, and that every feeling of fat that is ever laid on my heart comes straight from the enemy. I know that I am not a size and that I am a child of God. I know all of these things, yet I am constantly having to take thoughts captive about my body and covering them with the truth of God. If I am being completely honest with myself, it is often times a daily struggle. It’s exhausting, but I know it’s worth it to fight. I’m not saying it for attention or for my friends and family to feel sorry for me…a lot of times I genuinely feel that way. Luckily, I am learning more and more each day that feelings are so fleeting. Even though body image and self-esteem are still struggles for me, I have seen a lot of victory in Jesus. Together, as sisters in Christ, I want to invite you to join me in fighting against the lies of the enemy and to claim the identity that truly belongs to us: beloved, loved, cherished, beautiful, unique, & created by the God of the Universe.
I need to share this part of my story because I know that there are many girls and grown women who are reading this that struggle with guilt, shame, and regret in regards to their bodies. If you could magically change something about your weight, height, BMI, body shape, hair, eyes, legs, arms, hips, butt, or stomach….would you? Do you feel remorse when you look into the mirror and you don’t like what you see? Do you fixate on certain features of your body that you wish you could cover up, or better yet, completely get rid of?
I’ve been there…..many days I am still there. I used to think that I was one of the only people who really struggled with my body, but God has clearly showed me that almost every daughter of His goes through some of the same things that I do, even without having an eating disorder. I am not alone, & you are not alone. We are in this together.
Our culture has done a very nice job at using weight gain as an indicator of our worth. If we gain weight we are lazy, we are unhealthy, we are gross, and we aren’t pretty. If we aren’t a size 0 or 2 we are fat. Billions of dollars are spend each year on gym memberships, weight loss pills & shakes, diets, “It works!” wraps, cosmetic surgery, personal trainers, and “skinny” Pinterest recipes, all of which promise us that we will be skinny….guaranteed. Oh and if we are skinny we will be happy, successful, pretty, loved, satisfied, and popular. If we attain our ideal goal weight we will have our lives together…or so we are told.
Since late middle school or early high school I have struggled with the irrational desire to become “skinnier”. Growing up I knew that I wasn’t fat, but I did feel like I definitely had areas of my body that needed improvement. I knew that I could be smaller if I really put in all of the hard work. To me, skinny meant healthy, pretty, athletic, popular, successful, & everything in between. I believed the lies I heard on TV and read in magazines. My view was distorted…big time. In recovery I have become familiar with the term, “Body Dysmorphic Disorder”, which is characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.¹ I have always been really uncomfortable wearing jeans, shorts, or anything that remotely reveals by true body shape. I tried disguise my shape and only wore clothes that were baggy and/or too big. I compared my body to other girls’ bodies constantly. I exercised excessively, avoided mirrors, and did everything in my power to change the body shape that God intended for me to have. In the first month or so of recovery, I really really tried to recover from my eating disorder while still restricting calories, eating small amounts of food, and overexercising. I really didn’t understand why I couldn’t gain any weight. I didn’t think about the fact that running 2 miles and eating mostly salads just wasn’t gonna cut it in recovery.
Thankfully, the Lord woke me up real quickly through the mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual pain I was experiencing. It was unbearable…I knew that I needed to change. Even though there was nothing inside of me that wanted to change, I knew that I needed to do so in order to get my life back. Thankfully, I am now medically stable and at a healthy weight. I have regained the ability to concentrate, laugh, love, and live.
As wonderful as all of this has been, there is no debating the fact that it couldn’t have happened without gaining weight. When I decided that I needed to give everything I had to my recovery, my body naturally started to gain weight. My weight began to reach the place that God intended it to be. This is a very, very good thing. I knew it was a good thing…and yet I still felt uneasy…I still do feel uneasy. I don’t know many people who would love the idea of voluntarily gaining weight. I didn’t like it, but I knew that I needed to gain weight, so I did. I cut back on exercising and ate more energy-dense food and slowly everything began to fall into place. While all of this was happening, I began to feel really self-conscious about my body. I often complained to my therapist and nutritionist that I felt guilty after eating because some of my clothes were now too tight, and some of my other clothes were no longer baggy on me and they actually fit. I didn’t feel like I deserved to eat because I could feel more fat on my body than I could a few months ago. Having fat on my body meant that I could afford to not eat for days and I would still survive. The problem is that there is a big difference between just surviving and actually living. Each day I am fighting to not just survive, but to live life to the fullest.
One day my RD, Reba was reviewing my food logs and asked me why I kept feeling so much guilt and shame when eating. I explained to her that my clothes were fitting differently and tighter. She quickly responded by saying, “The clothes that you could only fit into because of your eating disorder are your sick clothes. You need to get rid of them as soon as possible.” Woah. Alright….that seemed a bit harsh and extreme to me. Those clothes that were from the children’s section, that were a size 0, that my body was never intended to fit into…those were not my sick clothes. Those were my skinny clothes, otherwise known as my pretty clothes. If I couldn’t fit into them than my life really, truly was going to go downhill. I thought that her and my therapist were conspiring to make me gain extra weight just to make sure that I wouldn’t be underweight. I thought they wanted me to get fat. I was angry and annoyed at the suggestion, and I really didn’t understand why she used such a harsh term…There was no way I was going to spend money on new jeans & sports bras…those things aren’t cheap! I told myself that I would just keep stretching out the clothes and that I should try to wear them as long as possible. After a few more weeks of trying to squeeze into clothes that no longer fit me, I was beginning to realize that Reba was right, and that I wasn’t going to make any more process in recovery by wasting my time trying to fit into clothes that were never meant to fit me in the first place.
I began the process of “separating from my skinny clothes” at the end of July. I thought it was going to be hard, but it honestly ended up being so freeing. It feels so nice to be able to wear clothes that actually fit me and don’t hide me. It pained me, but I did have to spend a chunk of cash on my new wardrobe. To me, the money was worth it to take another step in the right direction for recovery. My “skinny clothes” are now out of my life, and I can’t help but feel a sense of freedom.
All of this being said….it’s hard being a girl. We have to fight the good fight against the enemy. We have to make war on satan himself and not our bodies. I can’t do this alone, and neither can you. I want to invite you to lock arms with me and join me in prayer as we work towards developing biblical self-esteem each day. Here is my prayer:
“Father God, I thank you so much for your love for us. You love us all more than our tiny brains will ever be able to comprehend. Your love is never-failing, unrelenting, constant, fierce, and jealous. God we thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross so that we may have reconciliation and life with you through Him. God I praise you that the cross carries all of the burdens of this world that we were never meant to carry. God we come before you and confess that we have often spent too much time worrying about our bodies rather than your kingdom. The enemy has implanted lies in our heads that we have believed for a very long time. Lord we have many wounds, scars, and broken places in our hearts that need to be healed. Lord I lift up every sister of mine that struggles with loving her body. Lord I confess that this has been a battle I have been fighting for a long time and I am ready to make peace. I pray that you would wrap your arms us and constantly remind us that our worth is found in you, not in a size. Lord awaken our affections for you. I pray that you would be at the forefront of our hearts and minds so that we don’t have time to spend worrying about something that we can’t control. Lord please constantly remind us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that we are your masterpiece, that you created us, and that we are perfect just the way we are. We love you Jesus and we are thanking you in advance for what you are going to do in the next few weeks, months, and years in our lives. You are our healer and we believe that you will set us free from bondage. We love you Father. It’s in your healing name that we pray…amen.”