Body Image and Expectations

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It’s taken me a couple of weeks to write this post. I needed to make sure I was writing from my heart and not from a place of anger and frustration. Honestly, I have struggled with weight since I was in middle school. There are many factors that have played into this over the years. Some of it has been what others have said and/ or done, others have been my own choices, both positive and negative.

A few weeks back I had two encounters within a week that left me angry and in tears. The first happened in a local grocery store. A lady approached me and started to share about a weight loss program she had created and the new store she was opening on the north side of town. Sounds harmless; right? Wrong! In her spiel she told me how she lost 93 lbs on her program and she could help me “lose weight as well.” Y’all my 8 year old daughter was standing beside me through the whole thing. I was angry, embarrassed and wanted the aisle to open up and swallow me whole. Whether she intended to or not, she fat shamed me in front of my daughter and sent her the wrong message. Her words also went against the language we use as far as health and fitness go in our home. I will also say she lost a potential customer.

The second incident happened in a private, health FB page I belong to. In a post a lady bragged about how she judges people based on what’s in their buggies. She also openly admitted to judging those she passed in the grocery store, along with fighting the desire to have “honest” conversations with parents with “fat/ obese kids.” The thing that made my stomach churn more than it already was is that so many other women agreed with her. They felt she should speak up and if maybe they all spoke up, then they could in turn save the world from fat people. It was horrifying. It was a moment I couldn’t respond. I had many responses I could have typed, but I kept scrolling.

One incident was directed towards me and the other wasn’t, but both still reduced me to tear. Y’all, I am NOT a crier. It has to be bad for the tears to come. The tears partly came out of anger at their words, both spoken and typed. The other tears fell as a result of a huge wave of shame that rolled over me.

know what I need to do. I know what to eat. I know how much exercise I need. I have a minor in Human Performance. (In some colleges/ universities this is the same as Exercise Science). I also spent 9 years working in the recreation and fitness field before starting seminary. Oh yeah, the whole my body being a temple thing didn’t help any of this. Christians are experts at the whole guilt thing. Wish I could say I was kidding, but I’m not.

Total transparency here. At my heaviest, while pregnant with my youngest, I was pushing 200. At my smallest, I was in the low to mid 120’s. Most of my adult life I have fluctuated between the 2 numbers. The cycle goes like this: Exercise, eat right, maintain for a few months to a year or so. Slowly start to let diet and exercise go. Throw diet and exercise out the window, eat all of the things and send the “skinny” clothes to Goodwill. Get frustrated and start over. I know I can’t be the only one who falls into this cycle.

There were times when I was at my heaviest I was good with being “the fat girl.” I know how to play this role. I know what’s expected. Then when I’ve lost the weight and can wear what I call “cute clothes” I love looking at pictures of myself and feel proud that I am no longer the “fat girl” in the group. It’s fun to be the “cute one.” It’s fun to have people comment on how wonderful you look.

This is what one of my seminary professors would call “stinkin’ thinkin’.” How much of what society says plays into this particular tape in our head? How many times do we pick up magazines and see what is expected of women? Most of the women’s, fitness and running magazines show women with 6 pack abs and cut arms. Their thighs don’t touch. They are considered beautiful.  There are so many diets, exercise routines, pills and shakes to choose from that should make this whole healthy and skinny thing easy. I’m here to tell you it’s anything but. All of our bodies are different. What works for one person may not work for another person. This fact can add to our frustration. As I look at all of the media around me and options and opinions it’s no wonder eating disorders are so rampant and starting earlier and earlier in our kids.

When I look at what it means to truly be healthy and comfortable in your own skin, it’s not about a number on a scale. It’s not about the number on the tag of your clothes. It’s about being able to go about your daily life and not being winded by tasks. It’s about being able to chase your kids around the backyard or the park and not feel like you’re going to need someone to hand you an oxygen mask. It’s about being able to sit through a sermon on your body being a temple without praying the Lord will look at all of the other good things in your life and letting this one thing slide. It’s being able to go out to eat with your husband or your friends and not worry others are judging you because of what you ordered. It’s about being confident to go buy new jeans or a dress without having a meltdown in the dressing room. (We all get a pass on swim suit shopping because that’s a whole other monster).  It’s about being able to look in the mirror and be content with who you are.

The crazy thing is I can give you the whole paragraph above, but I can’t tell you how to get there. I’d be a multimillionaire if I could. We all have different backgrounds. We all have different issues we’ve overcome or are working to overcome. Our hurts and hangups are different. I don’t have any of the answers. The only thing I can tell you is to be kind to others. Don’t judge their appearances because you have no idea what they may be walking. Watch what you say in the presence of your daughters, nieces and other special little girls in your life. Don’t teach them the same unhealthy thought patterns you have. Most of all be kind to yourself. Seek and ask for help when needed. Find an accountability partner if possible. While this will sound like the correct Christian thing to say, pray the Lord will help you in this area. We can’t do it in our own strength. While they are health issues the lead to issues with weight, many times it boils down to an issue in our own hearts. Only HE can deliver and redeem whatever that issue may be.

In the meantime, I’m here whether you need an ear to listen or an invitation to come join me in the gym. We can do this together.

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A Lot Like Moses

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Hey y’all. It has been way too long since I put up a new post. Confession, I have been living in fear of just about everything. The fear has been so bad that I have not even been able to write. I love writing, but my fear prevented me from writing. The fear also sent me into hiding. I don’t mean I have refused to leave the safety of my house, but I have not reached out to friends and basically stopped doing some of the things I love like hitting the greenway and the gym. The Lord is slowly bringing me out on the other side of this, but it’s a process.

This is the last blog post I started back in March, but never finished and hit publish. I have edited part of it because some of the timelines have changed.

If you asked me who I most relate to in the Bible, I would answer with Jonah, Peter and the task driven Martha. Our church is currently reading through the F260 reading plan and back in March we finished up reading about the life of Moses. While I grew up hearing and reading stories about Moses, I never really made any connections to my personal life until now. Ok, well, maybe I haven’t killed and Egyptian solider, nor have I seen a burning bush, but there are several other ways in which I can relate to Moses.

After Moses killed the soldier he fled into the wilderness to basically start life over. He walked away from a life of prestige and comfort. What he didn’t realizing by running off to hide is that we can never hide from the LORD. We often think we can hide, but reality is that He knows where we are at all times. When the Lord decided to confront Moses, it was in a way Moses knew it was really the LORD. I can’t imagine staring at a burning bush and hearing the LORD saying “Take off your sandals for the place you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). I can’t even begin to imagine what Moses was thinking as all of this is unfolding before him. I think most of us have had moments where the LORD made it clear as to what He was saying to us, maybe not like this, but still clear.

Then we hear Moses say “But God” for the first time. Y’all he says this multiple times throughout the remainder of his life. If I am honest, this past year has been a year of me saying the exact same thing. You see I know there is something specific the LORD has called me to, BUT I don’t feel qualified to do nor do I really think anyone else would want to hear what I have to say. I feel like it’s time for the dream He gave me in college to come true, but I am terrified to step out on faith and do it. For me, the LORD typically uses people as my “burning bush” moments. I have 3 people in my life who have encouraged me like crazy in the past year. Several months ago I was basically called out because there is something I typically do and this person noticed I hadn’t done it in a while. The next day a sweet note was written about me and the same area was addressed. I mean seriously, how many times does the LORD have to put people in my path to get the message across. Y’all, I am great at saying “But LORD.” I think like Moses, there is truly a feeling of inadequacy and fear involved. I don’t see it as a rebellious spirit and not wanting to obey, but more being afraid to take that step of faith.

Because Moses liked to say “But God” so frequently, Moses was reminded that he had Aaron. Every person needs at least one Aaron in their lives. I have a couple I would consider to be the Aarons in my life. Some of the people in the paragraph above fit into that category. An Aaron keeps us grounded and is by our side. In modern day terms, these people would be considered our “tribe.” My tribe is amazing and has walked through the mountain tops and valleys of my life. They have been there when I have admitted that I was having a “But LORD” moment. They’ve held my up my arms. They have prayed with me and over me. My tribe is small, but exactly what I need it to be. Even though they have not always been able to prevent me from having Moses moments, they have been there to help pick up the pieces or encourage me to follow the LORD’s leading in my life.

As I continued to read through the story of Moses, there are many times when I really feel like he rolled his eyes at the Israelites until his eyes hurt. The people he was leading were really ungrateful and complained a great deal of the time. They forgot he had led them away from slavery in Egypt, but because they were so ungrateful and disobedient, even after experiencing the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14: 15-31). While I have never led a group that large, we all have those people in our lives who rub us the wrong way. They are never happy. You can point out all of the positives the LORD has done for them and it’s just never good enough. Admit it, you have that person’s name at the forefront of your mind. I struggle to be around people who are like this. I can also imagine that sarcasm was a favorite form of conversation for Moses. I have often joked sarcasm is unappreciated spiritual gift and something more people should understand and appreciate, but I digress.

While my temper has definitely cooled over the years, I can see and relate to this trait in Moses. There are 3 times when I see that Moses really lost his cool. First, he killed the Egyptian soldier (Exodus 2:12). Second he broke the original stone tablets which held the 10 Commandments. (Exodus 32). Then, there are several more eye roll moments. Just before they are to finally head into the Promised Land, the LORD tells Moses to speak to the rock an water will appear, but Moses, being frustrated strikes the rock twice (Numbers 20: 1-13). While I believe there are healthy ways of letting out anger and frustration, going against the LORD is not something I recommend. Even when anger isn’t physically taken out on someone or something, it can still cause issues when done verbally. While I wish I was the quiet type, I’m not. Like the meme says “I always mean what I say, I just don’t always mean to say it out loud.” This is where my temper and my love of sarcasm can cause issues. There are also days where the greenway gets to feel my anger. Last summer I had an issue that brought my blood to beyond boiling point, so I laced up my running shoes and hit the greenway. During this run I knocked a full minute off of my mile. By the time I returned home I was drenched in sweat. Running or other physical activity is something I would highly encourage when you are angry and that way others around won’t feel the affects.

All throughout Moses’ story you can see how he has gained favor with the LORD. About the time you think the people are going to be destroyed Moses displays his faith and the people are saved. Several times throughout his story, you read about how his face “shone” because he had spent so much time in the LORD’s presence. This is a trait I would love to have. When I take my final breath on this earth and step into eternity with the LORD, this is what I want said about me.

I am grateful the LORD takes us good, bad and ugly. I’m grateful He sees through the mess, the doubts, the fears and the “But Lord” moments in our life. I’m grateful for a Savior who leads me and allows me to be used. I’m grateful He looks at me and calls me “Redeemed” and “Worthy.” I have grown to love the story of Moses because he a sarcastic hot mess and the LORD still used him to lead and the relationship Moses had with the LORD was sweet.

I have had many Moses moments in my life and will more than likely to continue to have them. If you haven’t read his story, you need to. I pray the Lord will continue to use me in spite of me. I also pray that I will find the courage to continue to write. If you are one who actually follows me on this blog, please feel free to say something if you notice it’s been a while since I’ve posted. My goal is to get back on track with my blog and my book. I’m as much a work in process as they are. It’s ok if you are as well.