Since my senior year of high school, I have struggled with my weight, body image, and eating habits. Growing up, I was a naturally thin child. I didn’t watch what I ate because I just didn’t think about it. I ate what and how much I wanted and stopped when I was full. It was very simple. I was always a little conscious about my stomach–my biological makeup just deposits more fat there than other places of my body. When I was on danceline in high school, a lot of the girls on my team practiced in just their sports bras. I always wore a shirt. I was always concerned about my stomach at the beach.
But my senior year, one of my good friends starting eating only salads and lost a lot of weight. She didn’t look gross but she was thin. Then my boyfriend at the time went away for the whole summer to be a camp counselor. I didn’t have much going on since I was only working part-time at a drugstore/gift shop. So I started counting calories and exercising everyday (I had never intentionally exercised in highschool but had danceline practice 3 days a week and performances on the weekend). I lost some weight but when I got to college, everything went out the window.
My freshman year of college was characterized mostly by weed and munchies. My roommate Hope and I ate so much food when we got the munchies that sometimes we felt like we couldn’t breathe, we were so full. I never exercised (unless you count walking to class). Needless to say, I gained about 20 pounds, which put me at 155. About the middle of second semester, I decided I wanted to stop eating so much and start exercising (my lifestyle had become unenjoyable). That summer, I started running outside. At first, I could only run one pathetic block. By the fall, I could run 3 miles (on the treadmill).
My sophomore year was when my calorie-counting obsession really took off. I still was smoking weed so I still got the munchies. But during the day, I limited my calories to about 1,200. I went to bed so hungry sometimes that I couldn’t sleep because of the hunger pangs. How I ever did that, I have no idea. I ran on the treadmill at the Rec Center, often admonishing myself for a binge the night before due to weed. I lost all the weight that I had gained my freshman year. My desire to be thin became an obsession and was spurred on by the attention I got from guys.
The next summer, I studied abroad in Venezuela for a month and a half. Pretty much all the food I ate over there went straight through me. So I lost some more weight–getting down to 125. I have realized in the past couple years that for me, that weight is only maintainable when my food ends up in the toilet 30 minutes after I eat it. And that is not a fun life. In Venezuela, I became a Christian. But there were other issues more urgent than my body image–things like sex, alcohol and drugs. So it took a backseat.
I still clung to my idol of thinness throughout my junior year of college, even though the rest of my life changed dramatically. I stopped having sex. I stopped drinking and partying. I finally stopped smoking weed. My binges did not exist anymore but there were still days when I only ate 800 calories out of a desire to be thin. Finally, I recognized in my desire to be thin a desire to be sexy and get attention from guys.
My senior year, I let up on my physical regimen. I felt happy with my weight and treated myself to high-calorie food often. I worked at Noodles and Company the fall of my senior year. Between eating their food and not exercising much, I gained about 10 pounds. None of my pants fit anymore and I felt like a fat blob. I started exercising again and eating healthy. Some of the weight came off but I stayed around 145 for that whole summer.
When I got back from Summer Beach Project (in Myrtle Beach), I started running again. My roommates decided that they were going to train for a 10-mile race, so I joined them. Running was good for me. It kept me on schedule and I really enjoyed it. Because of my increase in appetite, I didn’t lose much weight. But I was in the best shape of my life.
Then, the day before New Year’s Eve, Travis proposed. With the biggest day of my life finally on the calendar, I started eating sensibly. I passed up dessert at my workplace and didn’t eat when I wasn’t hungry–even when people brought free food into work. I abstained from Doughnut Monday. I kept running and weight training as much as I could. And on our wedding day, I was very pleased with how I looked.
I started counting calories again the summer after Travis and I got married. He was gone for 2 weeks in Ghana, Africa, and I passed the time without him (much like that summer before college) by counting calories and exercising. I didn’t lose any weight.
Then we moved to Colorado at the end of August. We hiked a lot when we first got out here and I stopped counting calories. I kept running, though the altitude and hills made running even 2 miles a challenge. I listened to my body’s hunger cues and ate healthy foods. We bought a scale in mid-October and lo and behold, I had lost 10 pounds!
Over the holidays, I ate sensibly and didn’t stuff myself. When I got back to CO, I weighed myself and I had actually lost a pound! But soon after that, I started counting calories again. It started off as an education tool–to get an idea of how many calories I was eating every day. But it became an idol. I was pursuing eating healthy and exercising for my own glory–to lose weight and look good. God didn’t factor into the equation at all.
I went back to MN for my grandpa’s funeral and ate way too much while I was there. I was feeling fat and disappointed in myself but Lindsay, my brother’s girlfriend, told me I looked great and like I had been running a lot, so that made me feel better. But now I have gotten to the point that I don’t want to continue this crazy cycle.
I am sick of eating and exercising and the fear of getting fat (and conversely, the desire to be thin) ruling my life. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me but I will not be enslaved by anything.” I will not be enslaved by my desire to be thin!! As I was reading the Word last night, I saw that my desire to take care of my body should come out of a desire to glorify God in everything I do (1 Cor. 10:31) and to treat my body like the temple of the Holy Spirit that it is (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
I have this vision for my life of eating: that I would be so satisfied in God that food would be a secondary pleasure (rightly so). Overeating is a small attempt at filling a void–being so consumed with physical pleasure that reason is trumped and impulse reigns. Often, my decisions regarding food are made according to my fleshly desires, not my Spirit. But Romans 13:14 says “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” So I am waging war against my idol of thinness. I am no longer counting calories and I am seeking to be mindful of God’s glory–and seeking to not be mindful of my own–when eating and exercising. I will listen to my body and treat it with respect. After all, it is a holy temple. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, I will not starve or gorge my body but I will give it what it needs. And I will echo the words of my Savior in Proverbs 4:7–“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”