Last Tuesday, I went to the second meeting of our women’s book study at church. The study I chose is Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Even though I had found peace with food back in December of 2009 and I like to think that I have healthy eating all figured out, food and body image are still a struggle for me, and have been for a while.
It started the summer after I graduated from high school. I was bored because I only worked 20 hours, my boyfriend was gone for the summer and all my friends were busy. So to pass the time, I started exercising intentionally and counting calories for the first time in my life.
I took a detour my freshman year of college, when I became a pothead and gained 20 lbs from the munchies. By my sophomore year, I was back down to my previous weight, but more obsessed about diet and exercise than ever.
After becoming a Christian the summer after my sophomore year, things got better but this struggle continued to be a roller coaster.
I tried to dethrone my idol of thinness in 2008.
I swore off counting calories in 2009.
I talked about accepting my body shape in 2010.
I thought I had discovered the solution to emotional eating in March of this year.
But here I am, still struggling. That’s why I signed up for the book study. In all the years of my dealing with this, I had never talked to another Christian woman about it. I advocate vulnerability and transparency in all areas of life. I have been very open in talking about my life before I became a Christian and the body struggles I had then. But I have always conveniently glossed over my current trials.
Because I’m ashamed. This is an ugly sin. It’s judgmental and critical and harsh and unforgiving. It makes me feel superior to some and inferior to others. I have really good days when I think, “Oh, I must be over that struggle.” And then there are bad days when I think, “I’m so fat and disgusting and I feel like a blob.” Then there are days when I wake up and feel good about what I see in the mirror but after eating a little too much at dinner, I swear to never eat again.
I have tried almost everything I can think of to conquer this demon. I’ve reminded myself of truth – that God created me this way and I’m beautiful to Him. I’ve tried to be inspired by other women who are confident in less-than-perfect figures. I’ve ditched the clothes that make me figure-conscious and instead donned clothes that I can feel comfortable in. I’ve traded in my bikini for a tankini. I’ve sworn off sweets for months at a time. I’ve sworn off having rules about eating at all.
And here I still am.
I think this book study will be good for me. I know God wants to change this area of my life (because it is nas-tay) and I have long been trying to fix it myself (like I always do). I think it will not only be good to have other women to talk to about this, but also to have a meeting every two weeks to keep my mind focused on this. And this time, I am not expecting any quick fixes. I am not expecting this problem to be solved overnight, or for me to able to remind myself of truth one morning and have my struggles vanish into thin air. This will take time. This will being reminded of truth over and over and over and over…
The truth that is helping me refocus right now came from John Piper’s sermon called Staying Married is Not About Staying in Love Part 2: Our bodies do not represent who we really are. All along, I have been operating under the purview that I am only as good as I look.
But that’s not the truth – about me or any other person. The truth is that our bodies don’t have the glory they were supposed to have. We lost that glory in the fall. These imperfect bodies remind us that God will someday give us new bodies – bodies that are perfect and beautiful and free of sin. These bodies are vessels that house our souls, which cannot be seen but are precious.
“Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4).
Trials in our lives remind us that we don’t belong on earth and someday, we will be with Christ in perfect joy. In the same way, imperfect bodies can remind us that we will be glorified one day – but not today, and not here. Instead of chasing peace and perfection on earth, I can let these trials redirect my gaze to the greater reality of heaven and a new body.
I’m sure this is just the tip of the eating/body issue iceberg so there will be more to come.
What truth helps you accept your body the way it is?