WARNING: Fat pictures of me inside! I must say from the start, knowing this is a sensitive subject for women, that this article is more about having a skinny heart than having a skinny “bod”. I’ve hesitated for a long time writing about this only because I didn’t want to be the “poster child” for weight loss. However, when you give everything to Jesus (every part of your life and heart) and He decides it’s time to give testimony to what He has done, well it becomes more about Him and less about me. So please read my story that way. Please read my story through the lenses of His grace and His tremendous love for you. I pray you share in the revelation of your great worth and value to the Father.
My mom and dad were divorced when I was five months old, and for many years my relationship with my dad was that of many phone calls and mini-vacations to where ever it was that he was living at the time. Having many little girl friends whose parents were divorced and never saw or heard of one of their parents again, I always felt like the lucky one who knew my daddy loved me even if we didn’t know each other very well. I would get calls all the time seeing how I was doing in school, ballet or other extra-curricular activities, and reminders to have my Mom send the most recent pictures of me (so he wouldn’t miss a stage). As I got older, maybe 11 years old and on, a new question was thrown into the mix. The first time “it” was asked during a routine phone call from my father, who would have never intentionally wanted to wound my self image. I didn’t really catch it, but only slightly noticed it’s strangeness.
“Hi Sweetheart! How are you? … How much do you weigh?”
Well, when weight wasn’t a problem, so what if he asked, because everything was fine. For many years I was at a weight I was comfortable with, and if I put on a few pounds, especially around the holidays, I simply wouldn’t want to take his calls. At the time my reasoning wasn’t clear, all I knew were feelings of not wanting to disappoint him or reveal that any part of my life was out of control. Except that by the time I was around 17 years old my life was nothing less than out of control, and there I was standing on the steps of his front door a whole, proud 99 pounds strung out on drugs. It didn’t take but a few moments for him to say, “Oh baby, you are way too skinny!” I wanted to SCREAM! Is it ever going to be enough!? You see trying to live your life living up to others’ expectations is an insatiable quest. They forget what they say as soon as they say it, yet you make it the very borders and boundaries in which you live your life looking to meet those expectations and find approval. It’s the picture of the hamster in the wheel, he is running but he is not going anywhere, there is no destination to all his work. There were many times I thought I am so close to hitting the mark (NOT just in this scenario but in many circumstances in my life where I looked to find worth from meeting other’s expectations), but the expectations were like a mirage in the desert the closer I got to it … the image shifted. It was discouraging to say the least and a bit torturous to my mind and emotions. After several failures, not knowing what else to do I’d hop right back into that hamster wheel and run my little heart out for worth and approval.
I made Jesus Lord of my life at 19 years old and spent the next couple years getting my life together, and even went on to Bible College. Some healing (like being delivered from drug addiction) came quickly, while other healing (like changing the way I think and bad relational habits) took a little more time and revelation. My dad would still call with his same questions. I felt like I had a handle on my weight and could always answer his question with the acceptable, “I’m fine,” or “I’m great!” My ‘handle’, however, consisted of getting a ride to the closest health food store to get a bottle of Acceleration (pills with the caffeine equivalent of five cups of coffee plus Ephedra, now banned by the FDA) when I felt the scale was tipping toward an unacceptable number. These pills helped me take control of my weight by suppressing my appetite and increasing my energy. This off and on cycle kept me in the place I called, “I’m fine,” … well for a couple of years at least.
I met my husband at Bible college and married shortly after we graduated. Then, something happened that was bigger than binge diets or herbal diet pills could ever help. Eight months into my marriage I started putting on weight uncontrollably. It didn’t matter what I did, I kept piling on the pounds. I was walking and climbing hills in five-mile hikes every day and not eating past seven p.m. I was drinking lots of water and trying every quick weight loss trick until I was only eating two meals a day and depressed because … well I wasn’t ‘fine’. NO, this was way past FINE! At our one-year anniversary I had gone from a size nothing to a size 10. This 5’1 gal couldn’t see me in the mirror anymore. I went to the doctor to discover I had developed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which slowed down my metabolism and left me facing infertility about the time we wanted to start having babies. So, next came added weight from all the infertility drugs that I was taking so we could have a baby. What I thought would be a very happy time in my life was one that was full of pain, discouragement, and loss of identity. I had done everything I could do in my own strength and failed. Then in my already over-weight state … two pink lines.
Through the unconditional love of my husband who never said a word about my weight, who said to me, “You are so beautiful,” with the same look he said it to me when I was 75 lbs. lighter and the utter excitement of motherhood, I was able to accept my added weight gain during my pregnancy. The idea that life was living in me and something we (my husband and I) made together would be born and take us from an ‘us’ to a ‘family’ rocked my world. Our first baby came, and we loved him and doted on his every move (which is usually the case with the first-born). I had always wanted my children close together, so now add two more children born with fertility drugs about 20 months apart from each other.
So at this point, I am a mother of three and getting my head out the fog, but can’t see my toes. All the lies came back like a flood. I felt like I failed my husband by the way I looked. I was believing lies that I couldn’t be loved if I was over-weight, I was less worthy of attention than those who were cute and small, and that my voice had lost it’s sound. And I admit, I had some pretty grand pity parties in my hopelessness. It was like, hand me another piece of cheesecake, I am so far gone what does it really matter anyway. I’d walk straight to the fridge right after nursing a baby and putting him down for a nap and eat ice-cream right out of the carton until it was gone. It felt great in the moment, but felt like crap and shame 30 minutes later!
Finally the lie surfaced as I was bawling my eyes out to God, and then I heard it …
“Hi Sweetheart! How are you? How much do you weigh?”
All I could answer to God in my sobs was, “God, I am NOT ok, I’m so NOT fine. I don’t know what to do at this point. I feel like it’s impossible … I’m too far-gone. I feel ugly. I don’t feel lovable … I can’t even love myself like this … how can any one else love me?”
Then the gentle whispers of God came and diminished the lies I had believed …
“But I love you and I made you beautiful. Your beauty is always inside first. Whatever is inside will surely make it’s way out.
You are more than you think you are.
You are stronger than you think you are.
You’ve got “the stuff” to conquer this.
Trust me. Trust who I say you are, not who you say you are and NOT who they say you are.
You are mine and you won’t do it alone … I’ll be with you.
I’ll hold your hand. When you let me lead it feels like dancing … dance with me until the dance is victory.”
This wasn’t just one day of God’s voice, I went back to include some of the things He said to me in that season of choosing to believe who He said I was and then living like I believed Him. I had to literally look in the mirror and tell myself, I am not what I weigh, I AM more than what I think and much stronger than I think I am. I had to reach down and take hold of the stuff He said was in me, and then hold my head up high. The thing about choosing to try to lose weight when you have a long way to go is not looking at the whole goal but breaking it down into smaller goals. That’s what I did. I identify with and encourage anyone I see making strides in weight loss because I KNOW that it takes what feels like a million good choices a day for a lot of days.
Before pounds came off my body, pounds dropped off my heart as I changed my perspective to believe, when I was at my heaviest, that I was beautiful even if I never lost the weight. The weight didn’t define me or keep me from my calling. It didn’t hold me back from some special blessing for skinny people. My confidence is in him not in numbers on scale, and I had to decide that numbers would not define what beautiful looks like on me. It took months of losing weight for me which included exercise, counting calories and healthy eating choices. It also meant the choice to lay down extreme fad diet tricks and using diet aids. I could not have done it if my heart didn’t believe I was worthy and valuable to Him and to the kingdom at every weight I was as I was losing those 75 lbs.
I don’t perceive to know where anyone is with their weight or worth but I do know that lies are always trying to attach themselves to us through the events of our lives. Trying to meet expectations that we think promise us approval, leave us worn out and tired. All we need to do is ask the Holy Spirit what the truth is about our hurt, and He has a way of speaking truth right to it. People and what they say, whether they mean it or not, isn’t where the battle is. It’s in our hearts.
I ask you to touch every place in our hearts that needs your voice of truth. Let truth be the healing we’ve been longing for. Show us areas where we’ve gotten into the routine of trying to meet expectations for approval and where we’ve agreed with lies about our worth. Give us skinny hearts as we unload the pounds of a weighty heart at your feet and take on the lightness of your great love for us. For those who have struggled with their weight their whole lives, Lord, speak to their hearts that their weight is NOT their worth. Today is the day to be who You’ve said we are! Help us to see and walk in Your truth!