February. For some of us, new diets are becoming a struggle and frustration is growing. We're reminded by the pretty faces staring back at us from magazine covers that summer will be here in the blink of an eye. Just when I feel pressure to look my best, I remember that you might be experiencing the exact same thing. I sent this love message to you for the first time three years ago, so internet kin, it's time for a body image revisit...
I've circled this island in my kitchen no less than fifty-two times and I swear, there's NOTHING to eat in this place. I'm tired, irritated, and after putting the boys to bed, I cleaned the you-know-what off the side of the toilets and tile flooring. The stool overflowed again. Some days there isn’t enough Clorox in the world to accomplish the super feats of Mom. It’s only 8pm. I drag like a weary, homemaking soldier headed home from battle and want nothing more than to settle into the respite of my comfy, tan couch.
I deserve a treat.
That’s what my mind whispers in the conversation I’m having in my head with “other me." I argue with her more often than I care to admit. Sugar. Ugh, I crave something sweet...
I stop to peruse the pantry and eventually settle on some God-forsaken manufactured substance that doesn’t exist in nature; believing that if I chew slowly and deliberately, the frustration will melt away...
Fast-forward 12 hours. I'm in class at the gym. I'm running. I'm jumping. I'm lifting better than I ever have before and I think I might have a chance at the Olympics (if only trying hard could get me on the team). I study the familiar form of my body in the mirror and I can’t help but to compare myself to the other twenty or so women’s reflections on either side of me. I internally hate on every jiggly bit I observe failing to defy gravity as I jump. I sigh hard, not just in effort, but in remembrance of the compromise to my diet I'd made the night before. Guilt settles in like an old familiar foe.
That used to be my M.O., my pattern of self-defeat, but I had to get a grip. I'd relied on a crutch called, treat, to win the day when I already had a Coach standing on the sidelines. Hands on His hips and clipboard in hand, He waited patiently for me to huddle up for the winning game plan. I had no clue what I was doing. I was playing the game all wrong. I ate in response to emotion and exercised for the exact same reason.
It occurred to me in a moment of exhausted clarity, that both the eating and the exercise were products of the same problem: a lack of self-acceptance and an unhealthy disregard of my body's abilities. The hardest part of being a food junkie is that calories are required of us to live. Unbridled, they're a 24-7 temptation. We need help outside of our own willpower and there's no shame in asking for it.
I don’t know what your journey has looked like, but I'll lay out the truth about mine. I personally needed to address my issue spiritually, so first and foremost, I prayed. I asked God to forgive me for trying to make food my hero. I asked Him to show me specifically the times of the day and life stressors that exposed my weakness to eating, regardless of hunger cues.
Secondly, I joined a community of people wanting to nurture their bodies with proper nutrition and exercise. I became accountable to them and checked in regularly. They prayed for me and I for them. I was so encouraged by their stories of rejuvenation, that I chose discipline until mine became a similar victory. Holy Spirit obliterated destructive patterns as He affirmed my worth through the Word, even when I was adamant about making it all about my appearance.
Finally, I made a plan and stuck to it. I acknowledged that food addiction was real. I admitted that, while eating the meal sitting in front of me, I'd wonder what the next one would be and whether or not I'd be able to make it until then without a snack. My plan was well-rounded and realistic - denying myself little in regard to types of food, but portioning all of it responsibly. There was no more "dieting." Food misuse comes in all body shapes and sizes, so it was of the utmost importance to acknowledge the motive behind the eating. I worked toward one small goal at a time so that I wasn't overwhelmed.
When all is said and done, I want to make my Father proud of what I accomplish in this skin and by His strength. This body He gave me, it nurtured and welcomed two beautiful boys into the world. It sings and serves. Its heart beats in love. It's strong and it's healthy. Gratitude.
The truth is, these bones and muscle are nothing more than a “well-worn, just right” T-shirt, clinging to the soul eternal. I'll age and the sleeves will rip and fray. My body will collect stains, it'll stretch out, and grow wrinkly from wear. And on that final marvelous day, I'll realize that I'll never want again. I'll shrug off this skin as if it's laundry day - spirit skipping in forward motion, confident and full of gratitude for all the years of protection it provided.
Love your bodies. Care for them. Encourage one another and above all else, be kind. Let’s see food for what it is and certainly for what it's not. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus who reminds us, we're complete in Him, lacking nothing.
Just the way we are.
With you and for you,
Questions to "chew" on:
1. Are there times when you're likely to succumb to bad habits rather than exercising self-control?
2. Have you admitted to God that sometimes you rely on food, TV, clothes, relationships, the computer, etc. more than Him?
3. Who in your life isn't afraid to tell you the truth regarding your health? Ask them for help and encouragement.
Photo Credit: David Straight
Believer. Wife. Mom. Writer. Marriage and Family Therapist. Accidental Speaker. Crossfitter and Total Book Nerd.
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