I warn you right now… This is about eating disorders and body image. If that is triggering to you in any way, please stop reading now! I’m going to get very real about some of my struggles. Sorry for the ramble, but I need to process all my thoughts…
I have always struggled with my body image. I’ve always been slightly disorderly in my eating. At various points in my life, I’ve prided myself on surviving on 500 or so calories a day, prided myself on skipping meals and fasting for extended periods of time, only to turn around and binge eat later, eating garbage to fuel my starving body. Over the years, I’ve wrecked my metabolism and now it’s finally caught up with me.
The tricky thing is that I’ve never been skinny enough to have my disorderly eating taken seriously—by myself or by others. I’ve never been underweight, so clearly it was nothing to worry about. I always wanted to lose 5lbs, maybe 10lbs, and always had the wiggle room to do that as a normal size girl. Nobody questioned it. I wasn’t overweight, but I still wanted to lose weight. Doesn’t everybody?
Well, now I’m overweight. Legitimately.
I remember when I thought I was overweight in high school, about 50 lbs ago. At that time, when I was living on Diet Coke and lies that I had eaten when nobody was watching, I had no idea how it felt to carry this much weight on my smaller frame. It’s pretty miserable. I can’t sleep at night because I can’t get comfortable. I don’t love how I look, but I hate how I FEEL most of all. Clothes don’t fit, positions I used to sit in don’t fit. My engagement ring only fits in cold weather. I hate this.
When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, destroying my metabolism and making it so much harder for future Emily to lose weight effectively, I was surrounded by people who were always trying to be thinner. Such is the nature of the performance world, we always strive after an unattainable perfection. And I was exactly the same, trying to shrink my already thin body. I developed this idea that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t thin enough. There was always something that could be better. My curves were too curvy and therefore I was too fat. Even at my lowest weight, I saw myself as obese.
Now we live in a body positivity movement. On the one hand, it’s amazing! After feeling culture tell me that I wasn’t enough because of a preconceived notion that anything above a size 2 was chunky, it’s liberating to be able to slip into a size 10 pair of jeans and know that my worth isn’t dependant on my size. But on the other hand, when I say I want to lose weight, I’m told that I’m fat shaming myself and others of my size, and that I’m already perfect the way I am. I’m not being negative, I’m not trying to shame myself or others. I just don’t feel good!
I know that, no matter how I look, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I also know that this is the only body I have. I know that God has a lot of work for me to do. So I want to take care of this body as best I can. Full disclosure, my BMI says I’m obese right now. I’d like to lose a good 30lbs. Not to look like the girl from high school, not to fat shame, but to be a good steward of this body.
I struggle with the reflection in the mirror. I struggle to love my body and want to take care of it, when I want to punish myself for letting myself gain all this weight. I struggle with the sudden urge to just love myself as I am, to give up on health, and just say, “Screw it, my husband still thinks I’m attractive! I can eat whatever I want!” And I really struggle with how to frame health for my daughters.
Right now, for some reason, my girls think I’m the prettiest woman in the world. I’m trying desperately to not say things like “I’m fat” or “I’m ugly” in front of them because they want to be like me when they grow up. And oh I do NOT want to hear my beautiful daughters speaking as unkindly about themselves as I do about myself! I’m trying to teach them that food is important and fuel for the body, that “diet” isn’t about losing weight or gaining weight, but about how to beat fuel our minds and bodies. And it’s hard.
Losing weight is hard. Reframing my thinking is hard. I have such an “all or nothing” brain sometimes. A diet program suggest eating 1200 calories a day, I instantly only want to eat 1000. A program says to eat smaller meals, I want to eat no meals. I have to reprogram my brain to not punish my body, but treat it well. But not to go off on a “treat yo’self” binge that includes ice cream and kettle corn and wine all in one night.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am a steward of this body that God has blessed me with. And I just want to take care of it well. I want my body to work and feel good so that I can be the best wife, mother, and servant of the Lord I can be. It seems silly and vain to ask for prayer as I struggle through these eating issues, but that’s where I am!