The need to change my image started when it does for most little girls, in adolescence. I never was considered the “pretty” girl, more like the tall, thick chick that was bigger than most teenage boys at the time. I distinctly remember a high school boyfriend comparing my thighs to tree trunks which always stuck with me. I would cycle in & out of bad habits such as starving myself & diet pills because there seemed like no other way to reach perfection. Eventually, learning to achieve goals with physical fitness, I dropped those options & became obsessed with going to the gym. See that girl right there? Yep, that’s me! A total of 119 lbs & 0% percent body fat at the age of 26. Crazy right?! At that time anyone could say I was in my prime health, or so I thought.
The Price Of Perfection
The person in that photo for 4 years straight ate less than 1200 calories then exercised for 3 hours a day. You would think all my life’s problems were solved because I had reached a #fitbod most people dream of. In all honesty, despite the smiles in selfies, taking a look closer, you can see my heart was broken. Healthwise I had no fat in result my menstrual stopped coming which is NO Bueno for any woman. Dealing with a thyroid condition from childhood my already fragile immune system was worse. If someone even sneezed near me, I’d be sick for weeks. All I thought about was hitting the treadmill & seeing how many calories I could burn. During those years I did have relationships, but they suffered dearly. Romantically the insecurities of my self-image were rampant & friends would get frustrated with me choosing to go to an extra spin class over hanging out. Devoting time to only the outside when in reality it was the inside that needed healing & reprogramming. My confirmation of self-worth came from fitting into the smallest size possible rather than finding it in Jesus. I was empty.
Shedding The Weight
Being a skinny mini was also my way of having control. When I moved back home regardless of my efforts in trying to keep slender God had a lesson planned that he wanted me to learn. All the time spent working out suddenly stopped showing results. My body began to basically go haywire & instead of losing weight it actually started piling on no matter how many steps were climbed on the stair climber. For me, this was one of my biggest fears that I’d begin gaining pounds & it wouldn’t ever stop. In a panic, I went back to my old high-intensity routines along with trying every diet invented in the attempt to save my identity. Out of frustration, the only answer was to lift heavier, run faster, & push harder only to see the numbers on the scale continue to go up. The more I strived for gains, the more physical things continued to spiral out of control. My thyroid & hormones were off balance changing my metabolism. My relationship with eating became utterly distorted. There would be days that food would be used as a punishment or reward which only led to emotional & binge eating.
The self-control was gone, my fit girl image was gone. Numb with shame I stopped putting on makeup & even dressing up (I LOVE clothes btw). It took almost two years to realize what God was doing, why would he make losing weight so difficult? Instead of focusing on my appearance he was directing me to shed the spiritual weight heavy in my heart so healing could start.
“My old self-has been crucified with Christ it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Self Image to Self Acceptance
Self-acceptance I guess is the prominent theme here, but there’s a little more to it. When committing your life to Christ the transforming of your old self to the new is a never-ending process. Just like sprints or kickboxing that improve endurance, there is such a thing as the endurance of the spirit too. God needed me to refocus my attention from seeking worldly acceptance to receiving the peace that my heavenly father loves me no matter my appearance. Instead of heading straight to the gym first thing in the morning I had to make more of an effort to spend time in the presence of the Lord. Replacing those regular extra cardio hours with devotions, prayer, & worship. In those moments he answered many questions & prepared me for upcoming mission trips.
God always has a reason for all things for good even though wrapping my head around being heavier is still a struggle I deal with. A recent doctors visit proved that my body now (20 lbs heavier between muscle & a little more to love) is perfectly fit for my age of 29. Along with much faith that God has me in his hands together doctors and I are working on finding the underlying issues why I still haven’t had a cycle within two years. Besides my preexisting thyroid condition if I were still underweight, it would be damaging & most of all it would be a risk factor when the day comes for me to have children. Since being a mom would be the greatest gift EVER I wouldn’t want to jeopardize that in any way proving that God definitely knows best.
“He chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.”
– Ephesians 1:11
The Balance Of Body & Spirit
Now, don’t think I entirely tossed physical activity to the curb. It is biblical that we must take care of earthly bodies for it houses our spirit. Thankfully I finally got cleared to start more challenging workouts, but that doesn’t mean I can go back to 2 days every day. Balance is everything, as the yogis, say “mind, body, spirit” they all coincide with one another. My outlook changed to food is fuel, it is not something to overly indulge in or fear the calories. What you put into your body will show on outside as well. That doesn’t mean to never eat a piece of cake again. It’s just finding the middle ground of self-control & treating yo’ self. Also when it comes to health yes it is something to be mindful of, in reality, God wants us healthier & fit more than ourselves. With that understanding, we have to trust in how the Lord made our bodies. They know exactly what the need when they need it.
Changing The Image
While in El Salvador it became more apparent to obtain a healthier mentality concerning body image not only for my own sake but also those around me. Out of a team of 25, there were 18 girls younger than me, I felt the responsibility to set an example. It broke my heart to hear ladies expressing their complaints about physical flaws when all I saw was beauty in each one of them. The Lord had convicted me of continually tearing my self down in front of others and asked me to raise up positive, encouraging conversations highlighting his most precious creations. It also dawned on me that when it came to ministering it didn’t matter what I looked like. God uses all kinds of people to reach the unloved. When it comes to serving the kingdom we cannot base our effects on our appearance or abilities. As long as we are willing, he can work through anyone with a heart for Jesus.
In truth am I pleased with the reflection in the mirror? Not all the time but every day is a decision to be healthy, gracious, and loving to myself for I am made in HIS image. It has also become a habit in speaking only LIFE over every woman I encounter. We need to change conversations & lift our sisters up. God made each one of us to walk in confidence, we can’t allow the lies of self-image get in the way anymore. Once we see beyond what the world solely focuses on which is the exterior then only will God open our eyes to understand the magnificent vision he created us to be.
“For we are Gods masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Keep the peace & be blessed!