For nearly 40 years I have struggled over body image issues and feeling fat. The truth is I was a ‘bigger’ girl when I was small – for one thing I was born weighing 9 pounds 8 ounces. However, I was definitely not fat.
Not until 4th grade when they decided to weigh us during a health unit at school. That’s when I found out that I was ten pounds heavier than every other girl in the class except one. I still remember the exact number on the scale, that although being placed in the coatroom where no one could see you, the number was called out loudly enough for everyone in the class to hear. That was the day I realized I was fat.
And that belief colored everything I have done for the past 40 years. It didn’t help that my mom believed she was fat. I grew up with the smell of liver and onions cooking for dinner (thankfully just for her!) as part of her Weight Watchers program of self depreciation and deprivation. I learned that food was ‘the enemy’ and that I couldn’t be trusted not to fraternize with it.
The beliefs that, “I am fat” and “Food is the enemy” created a war with food that made it unsafe to be seen eating – especially anything sweet because clearly someone who looked like me didn’t deserve to be rewarded with a treat. That meant I had to hide my eating and I became obsessed with thinking about food.
Fast forward through the horrors of junior high as and high school as a (now legitimately) overweight teen where you feel like everyone is judging you and you have no self worth.
My first memorable diet was in high school. The ‘Beverly Hills Diet’ had just come out and I don’t remember how I selected it as my salvation. All I know is it was pretty hard to come by pineapples and papayas during a Utah winter. I did have some success but of course as soon as I stopped the stringent rules the weight came right back – with a little extra. Each successive diet had the same results – extreme deprivation rebounding into extreme overindulgence.
Let me add that the dating scene didn’t help my outlook. I had several boys tell me that I was very pretty and ‘if I would just lose a few pounds they could really like me”. Ouch!
In an incredible twist of fate (or gift from God) I was blessed to find an amazing husband who has NEVER – not once in 27 years – ever criticized my body or asked me to change for him. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to make me love myself. He didn’t need to criticize my body – I did it enough for both of us. Up and down the scale I have ranged during our marriage. However, no matter how slim I became it wasn’t good enough because I still believed, “I am fat” and therefore I felt fat and all the shame, embarrassment and self loathing that comes with that belief.
It’s been almost 19 years since I had my last baby and the diet books and failed programs have stacked up. I came to believe that my body was a punishment from God because no matter how hard I worked out or how much I deprived myself from food, I still couldn’t achieve a body I could love. Until now.
What changed? What is the magic secret? It’s actually simple and hard at the same time. You have to be willing to feel the pain of the past and let it go. It really helps to have a *guide as you do this because some things are too excruciating to acknowledge at alone. You have to clear out those negative beliefs and programs that make you believe your worth comes from a number on a scale. (The daily weigh-in that determines whether you are good or bad). You have to make peace with food. (Which I will address in part 2 of this blog). And you have to ask God to show you the truth about the amazing gift of your body. You have to actually allow yourself to imagine, feel and own what it feels like to be at your ideal weight and trust that it’s possible. You have to be willing to love yourself as you are right this minute and as you change.
Our spirit and body are interlinked. The body is essential to our spirit’s ability to learn in this life and the spirit is essential to our body’s ability to learn in this life as well. Instead of focusing on just one half of the equation (body or spirit) we need to understand that both are holy to God. Our body is not a punishment but a gift from God. If we are made in the image of God, that means that our body is endowed with holiness. As we love and accept our bodies we are accepting our divinity.
How do you feel about your body now?
*(My thanks to my guide, Kris McBride, for helping me cross the finish line at the end of a really long marathon to love my body as it is and as it changes!)