“Who’s the whale?”
“You’re SO biigggg!”
“But you have such a pretty face…”
and my favorite,
“Do you have any idea what it does to a man to have to crawl into bed next to a woman who looks like you – you’re disgusting”
“I deserve a beautiful wife, but I got stuck with you.” (No, this was not my current husband.)
Yes, I have heard all of these and more over the course of my lifelong battle with fat. It’s not that I’ve been fat all my life, I just thought I was and so, the battle began…when I was 10.
Name a weight loss program and I have tried it and failed. I have lost and regained the same 20, 30…80 pounds over and over again – each time gaining just a bit more. I have starved, purged and over-exercised.
I finally turned to self-injury once it became clear that my body would forever betray me and rebel against my unspoken, ever-secret and dangerous desire to be lovely. I have felt hopeless.
Last night, while my husband is out of town at a men’s retreat, I decided it as a good time to watch the documentary, “Embrace.” It’s the story of a woman, Taryn Brumfitt, and her journey toward body acceptance. She dared to share photos of her soft, feminine, post-kids, naked body with the world and became a sensation.
*just as an aside, the movie does contain non-sexualized nudity
It’s pretty telling that I only watched the movie when Kevin was gone. I haven’t shared all the gory details of my body-hatred with him – he would say the wrong thing – everything is the wrong thing.
I do not want the size of my body to become a topic of conversation…ever. Yes, I see the irony that this post creates.
“Your body is so disgusting. Talking about it is off limits!” I tell myself.
So, I made a bowl of popcorn (my medication of choice – a precaution – I knew the movie was going to be hard on my heart) and watched woman after woman share her testimony of body-shame and heart-healing. Some stories were sad. Some were uplifting. Ultimately, when the movie ended, I was fired up, angry, and determined to embrace the body I have and stop shaming myself every 5-10 seconds of the day.
Yes, every 5-10 seconds, I remind myself that I’m too big. It’s exhausting.
For Heaven’s sake, isn’t 40+ years of self-hatred enough?
“Yes, enough is enough, I will love and accept the body I am in.”
Yay, me! I made the decision and that was that.
Clearly, a celebratory glass of wine and a stint in the jacuzzi were in order.
I went upstairs to change into my bathing suit when it happened.
“Fat shit!” “Whale!” “You’re SO biiggggg!”
Yes, that was my self-hating self-talk popping up again. All of those messages flooded to the surface – they were coming from inside my own head now, not from others. Not from bystanders. Not from strangers, but from inside my own head.
I clearly do not embrace the body have – not yet.
WHERE THINGS STAND
For the past three months, I have been gaining 2-4 pounds per week for seemingly no reason. After a lifetime of dieting, I’ve mostly staying in the same 20 pound range (but never where I wanted to be). Today, my weight is careening out of control. I have gained a total of 40 pounds in the last six months.
It hurts my heart to acknowledge this.
Just four years ago, I was able to walk the distance of a half-marathon. I was able to participate in the Biggest Loser Off-road Challenge (an actual 3.5 mile segment of the Spartan Race). Sister, that was hard, but I did it!
Today, I lose my breath walking up the stairs and everthing in my body hurts. Ironically, I hated my body then and I still hate it now. I mean, I hated it when I was 20 and thin – what could there possibly be to love about it now?
I don’t know what’s going on physically, but I do know the road to self-acceptance is going to entail some getting healthy.
Yes, I have a doctor’s appointment set up to get some blood tests done to find out why I’m gaining so rapidly. I haven’t made any lifestyle changes so something weird is going on.
My doctor has a 20-year long directive from me, “Stop telling me I need to lose weight because every time you do I gain 5 pounds.”
Shame makes me gain weight.
I’ll rescind the directive so we can get to the bottom of things.
In the meantime, I’m going to try to do better. Even though something inside me is broken, both my thoughts and metabolism (I guess) and I’m sure menopause and hormonal shifts aren’t helping one bit, these are some ways I’m going to start shifting from self-hatred to self-acceptance.
A PLAN FOR SELF-ACCEPTANCE
As I scroll through the photos on my computer, I am shocked by the sheer volume of “before” photos I have stored in various folders. All of them shout out to me, “You are not enough!” “You are not good enough!” “You are not thin enough!” “You are fat, ugly, disgusting!” “How can you be a psychotherapist and not have your own act together?”
“You are not lovely.”
The constant taking of before pictures is just another way I abuse my heart by telling myself all the things I don’t want to hear. So, I’m not going to take any more before pictures. The end. Done.
Like I said before, my self-talk is out of control. I find it so hard to catch myself and rein in my thoughts, but I’m going to be intentional with my thoughts. From now on, every negative thought must be countered with a positive one. At least I can attempt to cancel one out with the other.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1,2 ESV
Science shows that affirmations actually work. I used to think that speaking or writing affirmations was just hokey – remember Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live? “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough and, doggoneit, people like me!” Yes, Stuart was on to something. Our brains are malleable and can be rewired with our thoughts. Practicing affirmations serves to form new pathways in the brain – positively impacting thoughts and brain activity – thereby propelling us toward our goals. I am going to create a list of 10 affirmations and read them aloud every day.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 ESV
My tendancy is to start the day with “you don’t deserve….” and simply push through to get things done without taking me-time – because I haven’t earned it. Well, that changes now. I am committing to self-care; feeding myself well (clean eating most days with a night out once a week). caring for my body by developing a routine for skin care and dry brushing, and spluring on a manicure/pedicure once a month.
While this may seem like just mundane self-care to many people, I am not good this so it is a big stretch for me.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19,20 ESV
I know myself well enough that if I commit to “x” number of hours working out, I will become obsessed. So, I’m putting away my tools of obsession; the calorie counters; the scale (!) and the step monitors and simply letting go of performance based outcomes. I am just going to start moving more. More….that’s all I can promise and that has to be good enough.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13
My husband knows how to play. And he knows how to laugh…seriously, he laughs more loudly, more frequently and more authentically than anyone I know.
I, on the other hand, tend toward the serious end of the spectrum…I’m an artist, everything is serious and meaningful, important and deep. I also tend toward being a workaholic. So, I am going to incorporate more intentional playtime. I’ve already booked a girl’s weekend and I can’t wait!
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11 ESV
EMBRACE THE BODY YOU
Ultimately, I am letting go of what I can’t control, doing what I can and getting rid of the word hate. I would love it if you would do the same.
Dear friend, my heart hurts for you and for all of us who have been fed a lie and then use that lie to hurt ourselves further.
We can’t control the ways our bodies have been injured, first by others and then by ourselves. And we can’t control the words spoken over us in the past.
What we can control is our mindset today and the words we speak to ourselves from now on.
If you’re struggling with similar wounds and a similar response to your changing body, please, won’t you be kind to yourself? Make a plan, write it down, and work through the process – move from pretending to embrace a body you hate to truly just caring for your own heart.
The rest will fall into place…for both of us.
“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.” Proverbs 11:17 ESV
You are beautiful. You are precious. You are enough.
You are the crown of creation. You are a daughter of the King.
You are lovely.
P.S. Just as I need to remind myself sometimes, please remember that you are loved.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
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