I suppose it started in 5th grade when two immature boys started calling me "ghetto butt" and saying I would cause an earthquake when I walked. At least that's the first time I remember feeling self-conscious about my body. I should note that I was not at all overweight, but sometimes there is just nothing more harsh than an 11 year old boy. Fast forward 5 years......I'm 14 years old and making myself throw up in the bathroom at a Pizza Hut because I feel so guilty for allowing myself to indulge in pizza with my friends when I am clearly so fat. It's lunchtime at school and once again I am eating nothing. If people see me eating they might judge me because I need to lose weight. Maybe skipping lunch will help me with that need to be thinner. Maybe if I just deny myself enough times I'll finally be thin and attractive enough. Maybe I can fit into that alluring size zero. And here's the kicker......I weighed 115 pounds soaking wet. Thankfully I grew up and moved on and got past those eating issues by the grace of God and with the help of people who loved me. However, there was something deep inside that would surface time and again throughout young adulthood.
Fast forward 18 years......I just gave birth to my FOURTH child. Despite my determination at the outset to "not gain much weight this time", the nausea and cravings and just straight hunger have left me with a 45-50 pound weight gain by the time I birth this child. And I hate it. Four weeks out from giving birth I start dieting. Three (exhausting) months after giving birth I am still up about 25 pounds from my "pre-pregnancy weight" and I can't stand it. I despise looking in the mirror. I despise getting dressed to leave the house. I feel like a failure for allowing myself to gain so much weight in the first place. I am sooooo discouraged that the weight won't come off. Am I doomed to this weight forever? After a couple of weeks more of dieting and not losing any weight I step on my scale for my weekly "weigh-in" and there is no change. My heart sinks and that depressed feeling sets in, but this time something different happens. The Holy Spirit speaks to me and I hear within myself two simple words "STOP IT." Stop torturing yourself. Stop eating so little that you are shaky in an attempt to lose weight while you are also feeding another human. Stop hating yourself because you don't look like you did when you were 20 years old. Stop comparing yourself to every single woman you know. Stop obsessing over a number. Over the past couple of weeks since that moment I have wrestled with many thoughts and had an awakening that I've been waiting for since I was that insecure 10 year old girl on the playground.
Sisters, it is time. It is time to TAKE IT BACK. It is time to TAKE BACK the definition of beauty from our upside-down, sex-crazed, appearance-obsessed culture. It is time to TAKE BACK our thoughts about ourselves from the grasp of Satan and call this what it is. It. Is. Sin. It's ugly and it is destroying us. And for me (and probably many of you) it is time to TAKE BACK every vile, negative word I have ever uttered about my body in the presence of my Lord God who gave me this body. Father, please forgive me for being so unabashedly ungrateful that I would curse the healthy, capable body that You have blessed me with.
When I look in the mirror and see my flabby belly, I will refuse to hate it. I will instead give thanks to my God for the four beautiful children He created within my womb. When I see thighs that are bigger than they once were, I will praise Him that I can walk. When I hold my baby and nurse her, I will thank God that He made my body so amazingly that I can sustain not only myself but also this beautiful child. I won't waste another minute being worried that people can tell that my pants are being held together by a hair tie or that my coat is way too tight when I zip it. Because contrary to what the world says, IT DOESN'T MATTER!
Let me just interject here that I am in no way advocating an unhealthy lifestyle. I wholeheartedly believe in caring for the bodies God has blessed us with by eating healthy foods and exercising. But that should be done so that we feel great and are healthy, not so that we fit an image in our minds that is a combination of our past selves and every unrealistic image we have ever seen.
I fear that I am rambling here, but this is where it gets very real for me: I WILL NOT pass this obsession on to my two daughters. I cannot do it. They will have a whole world to fight that tells them they are nothing more than a body shape and a pretty face, and I will not contribute to that fight! I wish I could TAKE BACK every word I have uttered about my body in front of my six year old, but going forward she will not hear negative body talk from her mother. And if you hear me say a negative word about my body I give you permission to call me out. Do I still hope to lose weight? Sure, because my weight before was more healthy for my height, but I will not hate myself until I reach a certain number. I will not weigh in every week and ride the emotional roller coaster of disappointment or excitement based on that little number. I will enjoy my baby and my other three amazing children and my wonderful husband who has never ever said one negative word about my appearance. I will enjoy my friends and family without being uncomfortable in my own skin. I will worship God with my church family without worrying that someone might look at me and think I've "let myself go". I will run into someone I haven't seen in a few years and not try to hide so that they won't see my "postpartum body". I will live life fully!
Sisters, can we please stop this? Can we stop doing this to ourselves and to each other? Can we stop raving over each other's weight loss or cute outfits and instead praise each other for our kindness, creativity, intelligence, servant hearts, commitment to family, and the like? Can we TAKE BACK beauty? Please? I am finding out that great joy can come from refusing to be ungrateful. Great freedom comes from really not caring what anyone else thinks about your skin without make up or your hair without washing. Great peace comes in thanking God for every little bit of what He has blessed YOU with. So please, please join me in this journey. Please love yourself right where you are. Because, for the record, I think you're beautiful!