Cramming 14 Years of Struggle into a Tiny Blog is Hard
Thirty-one grams of sugar in a Milky Way, and just like that my 7th grade self put it back on the shelf in the school snack shop. That same year, I remember being measured for a costume for our upcoming dinner theater and feeling embarrassed when she pulled the tape measure around my waist, wishing I was the same size as the 8th grade girl I idolized. It was the same year I was invited to my first guy-girl pool party at the above-mentioned 8th grade girl’s house. Almost everyone there was in the 8th grade so you can imagine I felt pretty special. Unlike the other girls though, I did not wear a two-piece. This had nothing to do with modesty but was rather a decision to not draw attention to what I felt like was a chubby figure.
dinner theater, 7th grade
All through high school, I was playing sports, particularly volleyball, and staying active. I was surrounded, though, primarily by my sister, who is basically an undiscovered model, and all of my girlfriends who happened to all be petit. I was that girl who actually liked wearing a uniform because it gave me an excuse to not wear jeans. I think I was the only teenager on planet Earth to not enjoy jeans. When my mom finally insisted we go jean shopping because I was going off to college and the other kids would beat me up if I wore my uniform, I ended up sitting in the dressing room crying because I knew I would hate what I saw in the mirror.
I used to wish I had an eating disorder so I would lose weight. My sister is naturally thin, but she also has several food allergies. Before knowing what the issue was, she would often get sick after eating, and she lost a bunch of weight. I saw first hand how hard this was on both her and my parents, but I still semi-wished it on myself. If you know me though, you know I love good food—I love to cook it, and I love to eat it. I just needed to learn how to love food and love myself at the same time. This is hard, yes?
College is probably when I began to realize the way I thought about myself was a problem. I never gained the “freshman-15” because my two roommates & I were all equally concerned about working off the cookies we had baked and eaten the night before. It was like a secret competition—we shared a pantry, a fridge, and knew where each other was at all times, so we knew who had eaten the least and worked out the hardest every day.
Does anyone else notice that Hollywood likes to make us think really pretty girls eat junk food all the time? I’m a fan of Friends, but every time I see Rachel or Monica eating pizza or ice cream, I think, “They don’t eat that in real life!” Or take Gilmore Girls— I love Lorelai, but I don’t buy for a second that she gorges herself on donuts and french fries all day long. If only.
Blake & I started dating when I was 19, and as we began sharing more with each other, I confessed how I felt about my body. I needed him to know why I didn’t always take his compliments well, and I knew he would handle the information with grace. There was such relief in confiding in someone. Before him, I never really told anyone about my body issues. It certainly wasn’t happening with a girlfriend. It would have turned into a conversation of comparison, which is never healthy or healing for anyone, or it would have been seen as an attempt to fish for compliments. Finding someone to tell is crucial.
It all just continues to get more irritating to me. When do girls start playing the comparison game? At what age do we begin going into a room and immediately knowing who is skinnier and who is bigger? Who has longer legs or a prettier face? When do we start playing this game where everyone loses every single time?
I talk with Jesus about this problem often. He has given me a healthy, strong body, but I feel so ungrateful sometimes. I have known this is not simply a “size” issue but is rooted as an emotional and spiritual issue. My day always feels more satisfying when I begin it with a conversation with Jesus and carry it throughout the day. I am more positive, handle conflict more wisely, & make smarter decisions in general. When body stuff is bogging me down, it’s pretty amazing the peace I feel when I talk with Him about it. I do pray for the self-control to choose foods my body needs, but I also pray for something much more important— to not find identity in my body. At this point in my life, turning this over to Jesus has to be a daily priority.
When Blake & I got engaged shortly after graduating, I began keeping a food journal and writing down every single thing I put in my mouth to keep me accountable and help me feel good for the big day. Blake was against this, but I had read somewhere that Carrie Underwood did this, so I thought it was a smart idea. I don’t know that I was every satisfied. I do, however, remember one of those nights eating a lot of cheese (I love cheese almost as much as I love people) and then laying on my bed so angry with myself wondering why I couldn’t just have more self-control.
I don’t think I kept up with the food journal all the way through our six and a half month engagement—it was ruining me.
People were so full of compliments during that time, too—
You are going to make such a beautiful bride. You look so tiny.I wish I had as much self-control as you.
I would harbor these words for about twenty minutes, and then I would hear the same old lies—
Your baby cheeks make your face look fat. Don’t smile so big.Your legs are huge. That’s what everybody sees when they look at you. Your bridesmaids are prettier and thinner than you. Why can’t you look more like her?
Marriage came, and it was and still is the best. It certainly didn’t heal my image issues, though (not that I expected it to). Waves of eating well and not eating well came. Different types of workouts were tried—Pilates, yoga, group classes, Crossfit, personal training. Sometimes I felt good, and sometimes I didn’t. I had finally decided to try out a one-day juice cleanse. I had done a lot of research and found a place in Austin that looked good. My sister lived there so I asked her to pick it up and bring it with her on her upcoming visit. Just a couple of days later, I scored a big positive on a pregnancy test. Don’t get me wrong—Blake & I were hoping for a baby soon (hence the pregnancy test), and we were beyond excited! But that definitely put a halt on my cleansing plans. I’ll admit there were times I felt insecure about my body during pregnancy, but there was something so much greater happening during that season. My baby girl was growing inside of me, and I got to be her home for 41 weeks and 6 days.
Six weeks post-delivery, I was back to my original weight and ran a 10K to celebrate. You can buy my book, How the Jogging Stroller Changed my Life on Amazon for $16.99. Ha, I’m totally kidding. Collins is almost six months old, & I’m still not back to my pre-pregnancy body. Sometimes I’m okay with that, and sometimes I’m not. I’m trying to practice patience and remember that much like growing a human, this too is a process.
I do think I’m eating healthier than I have ever eaten. I used to be so engrossed in “nutrition” facts, where now I’m much more concerned with the actual ingredients I’m putting in my body and now passing on to my daughter. And maybe that’s the whole reason for this hard journey—discovering true health. I don’t know that I would have taken an interest in reading about food and how our bodies respond to what we eat if it had not once been for unhealthy motives.
It’s still a struggle on many days, and I understand that it may be something I deal with for a long time—but I handle the struggle differently now (or at least I try really hard to), and that is the whole point. Looking back through some old journals, I found a few verses that have helped me when I struggle in this area:
“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10)
This goes for Jesus and my husband. This reminds me I am desired—not based on what I eat for lunch or how my pants fit. I am desired for my heart, and that is where my identity lies. The same goes for you.
“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.” (Psalm 43:3-4)
If I stop thinking about whatever I’m struggling with and just sit and meditate on God being my joy, my problems will often shrink very quickly. My mind is refocused, and the voices of condemnation are silenced.
“With (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3:9)
So often, I focus on thinking and speaking well of others because I know it’s how Jesus wants us to see and speak to people. What I often seem to forget though is God created me, too. He formed my body very specifically and intentionally. He uses it as a vessel to house a soul designed to love Him and love His people. A soul that focuses on imperfections and criticizes isn’t full of love. That isn’t my design, and it isn’t yours. We were made to bring joy—both to Jesus and people. We can’t do this well if we don’t love ourselves.
There is so much more to unfold in this topic. Coming up soon is a letter I’m writing to Collins about loving who she is and treating her body well so that maybe she can avoid some of this sadness down the road. I’m sorry for writing the longest blog ever. If you’re still reading, I applaud and thank you. Maybe I need to write a book instead of a blog. If I do, I promise it will not be called How the Jogging Stroller Changed my Life. There’s a chance it could be called, Letting Kale into Your Life, Cheese Me Please, or Get Your Hands off My Ghee.