Well, I really don’t know how to start this. I don’t know how to dress this up and make it sound all beautiful and poetic. Use the words cryptic or agonizing, maybe?
Maybe another reason I don’t know how to start this is because it’s drilled into my brain that this is so cliché. That so many thousands of others have shared their stories and-heck!-what’s one more to deal with?
I suppose just because thousands are struggling with this doesn’t mean it isn’t any less important.
Yeah, I’m talking about body image.
My little (clandestine) story begins at age thirteen-almost-fourteen, sweeping up the dust and crumbs in my kitchen. I remember my hand gripping the counter as my mom said it.
“You’re getting overweight.”
Everything froze. I looked down at my stomach. Sure enough, it pooched out a little bit. That was a bad thing.
“I’m telling you this because I don’t want you struggling with weight and food for the rest of your life.”
My hand still gripped the counter as I rested the broom on a nearby stool, still avoiding my mom’s eyes.
“oh-kay,” I mumbled.
Inside, a thousand and one things tumbled around and around. Logically, I understood exactly what she was saying. Food had become an idol in my life, and I was eating and eating without listening to my body. But at the same time, dark lies rooted themselves in the truth and I dared listen to them.
No boy will ever, ever want you.
What friend would want to hang out with a fat girl?
Later that day, I curled up in a ball behind my bed and sobbed. I remember furiously writing in my journal and wanting to scream.
Ever since that day, the devil found a way into my soul. He teased me with food, the promise of sweet and saltiness to give me pleasure, which I happily indulged in. Then he would mock me with my lack of self-control, and point out the softness of my body. Your stomach rolls. Your thighs are thick. And I would cry, because I wanted food and I wanted skinny and I wanted love and acceptance and to be done with this agony.
Fast-forward a year and a half. I had lost over twenty pounds. Some might say, “Wow! That’s amazing! What’s your secret?”
Sin. Lust for acceptance. Trying to find my worth outside of Christ.
I got to a point where I looked sick. My mom began worrying about me. “You don’t look healthy, Keels,” she told me one day as I was reading on the couch. She paused. “I hope I didn’t bring this on.” Her eyes were big and glassy.
I shook my head. “No, it’s not you. It’s not your fault.” I averted my eyes. “It’s all me.”
And the funny thing is, at that point, I still felt big and soft and anything but skinny. I kept encouraging a smaller and smaller number on the scale, but in the process I was neglecting all the relationships God gave me: my family, friends, and Jesus himself. My body and weight and food became my central focus from my waking moment to the time I went to bed.
I’m ashamed to say that. I wasted so many precious hours by running from God and running from Truth and running from God’s love and distancing myself from the special people in my life.
Yet, I prayed over and over for God to free me. I would set goals, like “I’m not going to weigh myself any more” and “I’m not going to criticize my body in the mirror”, only to break those goals in the next 24 hours.
I was in my parents’ bathroom (where the scale is) stripping off my clothes to weigh myself. But I felt this heavy, heavy ache settle on my heart and I began weeping. This is not what Jesus wants for me. I could feel his sadness and disapproval for what I was doing.
And by God’s sweet, sweet grace, he has rescued me. I cannot say I am completely in the light yet: I still wrestle with fat-talk and seeing other (real) girls and becoming discontent or envious. But He is so good, so much greater than my sin, and he is carrying me out of the darkness and into the light.
Since that day when I looked “unhealthy”, I have gained a lot of my weight back. Sometimes I ask God, “Why did you bring me through that dark time, when I practically lost weight and gained it back?”
Stupid question, right? The answer is so obvious.
To change you on the inside, my daughter. To show you that the world’s standards are unachievable, and they will tax you until you are dead inside. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I’ve really struggled about whether or not I should post this on the internet, for several reasons.
1. Every one has already read/heard about body image struggle stories, why read another?
2. What if boys read this?
3. What if girls read this?
4. What if anyone reads this, and they judge me?
But I truly believe with all my heart that spilling some of my ugliest parts will somehow illuminate God’s grace and faithfulness. I think Jerry Bridges gives the illustration of how our sin is like those dark, velvet cloths that shine diamonds. God’s grace is like that diamond. Our black cloth (our sin and ugliness) is that cloth.
I also have come to the conclusion that I am resting on God alone, living for Him alone, so that whoever stumbles across this little post on the ugliness of my heart will see God’s grace. They can laugh at me, judge me, slap labels on me: but I am resting in the beautiful love of Christ.
And one more thing: I hope this encourages those who also struggle with body image or food (or both). I hope this shines a ray of light on Christ and how he is 200% able to powerfully lift you out of your black situation. He is so, so good. Please trust in him, and don’t grovel and waste your life and waste your beautiful energy.
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:9