Category Archives: Body image

Dear God, please don’t make me fat

If you trust God with your life, then you can trust Him with your body. And I don’t mean by going on one of those “biblical diets.”

///

In November 2014 I told my therapist that I felt like God was going to ask me to let go of something very precious to me. I feared it was my daughter. As I began the process of anorexia recovery, I realized what He was asking me to surrender was my eating disorder. In another tearful session I confessed to my counselor that I had come to a place of acceptance if God wanted my daughter, but there’s no way I could let go of anorexia. Did I really care about my eating disorder more than my daughter?

Where did I think my daughter would go if I surrendered her? To heaven, of course. She’d be cared for in the hands of God, and I trust God. But to let go of anorexia would mean risking getting fat, and that would mean everyday suffering, feeling unacceptable, ugly, imperfect. No way did I trust God with my body.

My therapist reassured me that I wasn’t a bad mother. Rather my eating disorder was telling me terrible lies and manipulating my mind.

///

Somehow we’ve gotten into the habit of placing our body trust in the hands of culture and media. God gets to have our trust and faith about life… kids, finances, marriage, decisions, tragedies, etc. When it comes to our bodies, however, we’re more like “Dear God, please don’t make me fat.” We take back the control and decide what weight we want to be, what diet we want to try, what foods we will or will not eat, and what exercise regime we’re going to use to force our body into the shape we desire. These decisions are based upon the body image expectations set by culture, which, simply put, says one must be skinny to be healthy, acceptable, beautiful, etc.  But I submit to you a new perspective:

If you believe God created you

and

You believe God has a plan for your life

and

You believe He knows you better than anyone

then

you can believe that God has given you the exact right body.

///

Because God is the creator of you and your body, you don’t need to need to take the reins to make your body different. What’s cool about God is he’s already equipped you with the ability to feed and take care of yourself without the outside influence of the world. The way you stay healthy is connecting to and listening to the body God created for you. The same way you pray and listen for God’s voice in all other areas of your life is the same way you can connect with and listen to your body.

Turn off the media, turn off the outside voices of friends and family. Be still and know the body you are in is made by God.  Remember that God doesn’t think you’re fat. Tune into that quiet space outside your thoughts yet inside your intuition and connect with your body. Start with your breath and slowly work your way down your physical self. What do you feel, what do you sense, what do you love, what do you hate, what do you hear?

I learned to connect to my body through Yoga. It’s a quiet, meditative practice that forced me to pay attention to the most fundamental parts of my physical being. I’ve learned to appreciate my feet because they hold me up through the weight of my days. I’ve learned how strong and able my arms and legs are to carry the loads life hands me (including laundry! 😀 ). I’ve learned the value of a calming, centering breath. Before, during, and after my practice I say prayers of thanks, prayers of confusion, prayers of frustration about my body. I talk to God and ask him me to teach me what is so wonderful about my body. I’ve learned how to connect with both grief and joy about my body and become vulnerable in God’s presence. I’ve learned how to listen to God through connecting with my physical body.

///

Through connection you become aware of how amazing you body is, how it communicates with you about everything from hunger, to the movement it needs, to the rest it wants, to the unprocessed emotions it needs to release. And in this process a spark of appreciation ignites that grows into a burning love for this physical body God has given you. Over time you begin to see how culture’s expectations don’t fit with your body. And it isn’t because there’s anything wrong with you; it’s culture that is wrong. I can tell you that what you already have is SO much better that what you or media could ever force your body to be.

If you believe God answers your prayers

then

give trust back to God and pray: Lord, teach me to connect with my body. Let me see, hear, and understand You through this body. Help me learn how to love myself as I am–as You see me. Let my body image bear the image which with You created me. Quiet the voices of outside influence and the doubt that fuels my body dissatisfaction. Teach me to be intuitively healthy, to enjoy food, to find the movement my body thrives in. Thank you for this body and the things it does for me and for You, even though I don’t really understand how it works. Lord, I trust you with my life and my body.   

If you trust God with your life, then you can trust God with your body.

What to do when you’re feeling fat

Fat isn’t a feeling.

I cannot count the number of times I have heard myself say and think, “Ugh. I feel fat.” This statement was usually followed by a flow of self-abusive thoughts about how undisciplined my eating habits were, how lazy I was, and how ugly I was. Then I would vow to get my lazy-ass running harder, longer, and farther and vow to cut more calories, more sugar, and more fat. I would get my act together and be healthier!

Can you relate?

///

What I’ve learned is “fat” isn’t a feeling. Sad, inadequate, depressed, embarrassed, unworthy, stupid, humiliated, grief… these are feelings. They are hard, uncomfortable emotions to feel and explore.

It’s actually easier to project hard feelings outward onto the body because we have a certain amount of control of our body. Going back on a diet or trying a brand new diet gives fresh hope that if we look better then we’ll feel better. Trying out a new exercise regimen, complete with a cute new outfit, shiny new gear, and hot new shoes gives us a buzz of excitement that suppresses the hard emotions. It’s analogous to the buzz you get when you’ve imbibed on just enough wine to make you giddy and relaxed, forgetting the woes of the day.  New diet, new gear, new workout stuff is just enough control to make you giddy and charged, forgetting the woes of the real feelings that are bubbling underneath the surface.

Unfortunately, the buzz wears off. And the feelings you were trying to ignore are still heavy and growing worse. The diet is hard, the exercise sucks, and the shine of the new workout stuff grows dull;  you blame yourself for not being disciplined enough and motivated enough. Another diet failed. Unworthiness, sadness, frustration, take over. You feel fat. Again.

///

When you’re feeling fat remember fat isn’t a feeling. Find a space where you can sit in silence and stillness. Close your eyes and identify actual emotions. You’re likely feeling more than one. For me I was often feeling unworthy, embarrassed, and stupid. Through therapy and practice I learned to just sit in those feelings and feel them. I cried. I raged in anger. I went to bed (even if it was 10:30 in the morning.) I wrote in my journal. I prayed. Once I spent an entire day lying on my living room floor in front of the fireplace. I didn’t get up until my kids came home from school. And I felt so much better!

Feelings have to be acknowledged and felt at the roots in order for self-love and body satisfaction to grow. You’ll be amazed how much grace you’ll have for your body when you aren’t using your body to suppress emotions.

May you find peace and love within yourself this week, my friends.

What does fat mean to you?

I was asked this exact question in therapy once. The fear I had around “being fat” was consuming my thoughts and behaviors; I was doing everything I could think of to “not be fat.”

My therapist asked “What does fat mean to you?” The only answer I could come up with was “big.” I didn’t want to be big. Over the course of many weeks we unpacked my fear of fat, and in that process I discovered an uncomfortable truth:

I judged fat people.

Culture is good at communicating that a large body is a bad body. If you are fat then you are lazy, unhealthy, gross, unreliable, undesirable, not disciplined in your eating habits, shouldn’t wear certain clothing, and should change your lifestyle in order lose weight.

I didn’t want to be gross and undesirable; I didn’t want to be thought of lazy and undisciplined. This is what fat actually meant to me.

///

Those who know me well wouldn’t describe me as a judgmental person, and I try hard not to be. Yet in this area I was judging harshly without even realizing I was doing it. I was judging strangers, friends, and family as unhealthy, unhappy, and undisciplined. It was a humbling and healing truth to learn about myself.  Now that I had this understanding, I could see a little deeper into my eating disorder and the anxiety around my food and clothing choices, my social interactions, and my strict exercise regimens. I was seeing myself and fearing myself as that which I was judging harshly about others, and I was starving myself to death to avoid being what I had so irrationally feared.

For example, I would have changed my mind about an outfit believing that I looked fat in it…maybe my arms looked big or my stomach didn’t look flat. I would change simply because I judged myself as looking terrible because I had seen someone else in an outfit where her arms looked big or her stomach swelled out, thus judging her as needing to change her outfit. Body checking others led me to body check myself.  All I was seeing was bodies and body parts rather than knowing the people who lived inside the body shapes.

///

We do this kind of judging as a culture, don’t we? There’s an expectation that larger bodies shouldn’t be in bikinis because what? It’s gross? No one wants to see exposed fat? Several brands of jeans have pants that “slim you down” because what? It’s not okay to show off the shape of your booty and thighs? Folks who live in larger bodies shouldn’t be eating “that cheeseburger.” Why? Because those people are fat and cheeseburgers are fattening and they should be eating a salad instead? Larger bodied people should be on diets to slim down because why? They’d be so much healthier?  (Note: Many folks in larger bodies are healthier than many of us in smaller ones. Health isn’t determined body size!)

Over time we believe the judgements about “fat people” and the expectations of what their lifestyles should be; we begin to apply those judgements and expectations to ourselves.

  • Summer’s coming and my body is so gross right now. I need to lose weight so I can wear a swimsuit.
  • I was so bad today eating those fries. I should have had the salad. I need to lose like 10 pounds. I should do a boot camp.
  • Oh my gosh I can see my rolls in this shirt. Ugh. I can’t wear this.
  • I gained six pounds this month. I am SO addicted to sugar. I need to cleanse and drop some weight.

These feelings suck, but instead of processing why we feel bad, we just avoid the feelings by going on diets, changing our clothes, regimenting exercise. We agonize over menus, ignore hunger signals, dread shopping, and become hyper-aware and anxious about calories, fats, and sugar. The bad feelings don’t actually go away. Anxiety, guilt, and shame around our bodies are constant because the messaging about “fat bodies” is constant. Our sucky feelings just grow because it’s impossible to achieve cultural expectations, thus leaving us constantly unsatisfied with ourselves.

The first step toward body satisfaction is to deeply understand what fat means to you and to notice (honestly) how culture’s messaging about fat is affecting how you view others in larger bodies and thus judging yourself in your own body. This is not an easy, quick, or comfortable step because it requires deep inner work. Body satisfaction doesn’t come from diets; it comes from deep inner work.

So, what does fat mean to you?

///

 

Like this article? Learn more from my free guide 4 Healthy Habits that are Hurting You

God doesn’t think you’re fat

God doesn’t think you’re fat.

You think you are.

The world may think you are–judge-y strangers, your doctor, your friends, your spouse, your kids. Whether they say it to your face or not, you can feel the judgement.

The shame, despair, and frustration sink deeply into you. These are sucky feelings; I had them too. I tried working them out for miles on a run or emptying my diet of calories hoping those feelings would empty out too. Maybe a detox would cleanse the heaviness on my body and my heart. If only I were lighter then I would be happier. Do you tell yourself that too?

We fret and feel bad because we live in a culture where we’re categorized as fat or skinny based on the size and shape of our bodies. Judgement of who or what we are is based off which category we’re in:

Fat= bad: unhealthy, not beautiful, lazy, not marketable, not profitable, not worth it.

Skinny= good: healthy, beautiful, motivated, marketable, profitable, worth it.

Our world is cruelly black and white when it comes to body judgement and, subsequently, personal judgement based on body-looks.

We’re left to live from the posture of– If I feel fat, then I must be fat and that’s bad. I need to… I should… Why can’t I just… I’m so bad… I got to be better…

///

It’s easy to forget you don’t belong to the world;  you belong to God. 

God doesn’t think you’re fat.

He doesn’t think you’re fat because fat doesn’t exist to God. Skinny isn’t a thing; it’s unknown to God. Body size, shape, and image have no connection to beauty or personal value. None of these things are real.

But YOU are very real to God.

He cares only about one thing–your heart. Your heart is where your value lives. Right now, you’re hurting and frustrated and stressing out about food, how your clothes don’t fit, and why you can’t just stick to your diet. Your heart is flooded with feelings of shame, guilt, and sadness about your body; those feelings have washed away the truth about your value.

God isn’t asking you to lose weight. He’s not asking you to exercise more. Jesus isn’t telling you give up bread (or wine!) or detox from sugar. The Holy Spirit isn’t asking you to go on a diet or be more disciplined in your health regimen. The world is 100%, absolutely, most definitely telling you these things. But God is not.

All God wants is you as you are right now. There are no judgments, no categories, no expectations for you. God doesn’t think you’re fat, sweet friend.

Rest in this truth today.

///

Did you find this post encouraging? I invite you to receive this guide I wrote for you called 4 Healthy Habits that are Hurting You. 

Resolution revolution

It’s time for a New Year’s resolution revolution when it comes to body image and fitness. I’m already seeing the propaganda pump for diet programs and gyms, which are all basically subliminal messages telling you that you’re fat, you eat like shit, and you’ll be more valuable if sculpt your unhealthy self into a shiny new healthier you.

I call bull.

I am all for a healthy self, but not the way our culture defines health. Culture defines healthy as having a skinny, rockin’ bod that lives on protein and leafy greens. I define health as being connected with my body right now, listening and responding to what it’s asking for. No judgement. No restriction. No shame.

Of course I didn’t (couldn’t) do this without some help, without some guidance from someone who’s learned how to be connected and continually practices staying so. But I’ll get back to this in a minute.

///

Let this be the year that:

  • Instead of striving for the body you’ve always wanted, learn to love the body you live in today.
  • Instead of regimenting calories on diets and depriving yourself of food,  eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full. Eat the foods you like and try new foods; don’t eat foods you don’t enjoy.
  • Instead of focusing on losing weight, focus on reconnecting with your body.
  • Instead of jerking yourself around in the gym, be gentle with your body; show compassion to yourself by moving in a way that you enjoy.
  • Instead of scolding yourself into motivation with harsh and judgmental words, encourage yourself with kind words and positive perspectives.
  • Instead of listening to the noise of media, culture, and societal expectations, immerse yourself in quiet meditative practices.

///

Unplugging from the negativity of self-judgment (grounded in the external world) and reconnecting with your body (grounded internally in self-love) takes practice. It isn’t intuitive. I’m speaking from experience, and I’ve spent all of 2016 practicing with the guidance of Yoga with Adriene. WAIT… don’t click away.

If “yoga” got you all deflated, please understand that Adriene isn’t the twist-yourself-into-a-pretzel kind of instructor. Her mantra is “find what feels good.” She constantly guides her viewers to forget what they think they know about yoga and encourages focus on sensation over shape.  But the best aspect about her teaching is it’s rooted in connection and self-love. She’s 100% counter-cultural and that’s what I love about her.

I don’t do yoga for the workout. I do yoga for connection, meditation, and practice of self-love. The yoga mat is where I’ve learned to connect with my body and God; to speak kindness to myself; to learn how to breathe; to slow down; to be thankful for my body; to notice what my body can do (as opposed to what it can’t or what I wish it would).

///

This is the year for a resolution revolution. This is the year for reconnection. You choose how this looks for you, okay? Don’t listen to the media. Heck, don’t even listen to me. Reach inward and listen.

Peace and love for 2017, dear friends.

**If you’re interested in checking out Yoga with Adriene, I just signed up for her new Revolution series starting January 1. It’s free and all online, so you practice at your own pace, in your own space, and on your own schedule. It’s for all levels, all body types, all genders… so don’t be scared to try if you’ve never done it before.