Originally I was going to write today about mentoring because it's National Mentoring Month but that's just going to wait till next week. This blog is something I wrote last Thursday after having quite a few revelations about loving the body God gave us. This isn't a hard article to write, but it's definitely a season I'm in right now so it's very raw and real, but I know in order for it to inspire others, I can't wait for it to go into a book "someday." Here goes...
So last week I had a therapy appointment where we talked about weight. Being out east over Christmas where I grew up made the old insecurity surface a little and I wanted to get to the root of it.
For those of you that haven't followed my blog or read my book, I was not a skinny kid. I was that kid who always struggled with my weight. I was on so many diets to fix the surface starting at age 8 that I can't keep track. No matter how hard I worked on the surface, the weight came back on. I felt shame every time it happened.
Eventually, I got worn down from diets. So I took up running and became fanatical about everything I put in my body on top of the running. Of course the weight dropped off. But it didn't fix the inside. Around the age of 23 when I was working at the White House, I joined a Weight Watchers group one last time because I felt like I was in good shape and wanted to get some more of the weight off. (I felt good). Then I found out that I was still 20 pounds from goal weight and was happy and wanted to just get lifetime. They said no, more weight to lose. I walked away.
For years before recovery, every time I'd go see my family, I'd crash diet so I could "look skinny." This time thank God, I didn't have to do that. But it didn't mean the fear of other people's judgement didn't come up, because this time I wasn't in my "stick" phase. There was a difference this time though - I was relying on God's strength in my weakness (physical, mental and emotional).
So I told my therapist about this picture from our visit to Philadelphia over Christmas. Now if you've ever struggled with your weight, eating disorder, disordered eating, or body dysmorphia you know that we always see ourselves different than anyone else. No matter what our size we see an extreme. Whatever you see, I see something entirely worse. haha
I'm in my comfy clothes and slippers about to get in a packed car with my husband and two teenagers...for ten hours. It's not glamour day.
But somehow of all the pictures we took that day, this was the one I focused on. Not only that, I zoomed in and screenshot a close-up. Real nice. What I didn't realize at the time was that doing that saved it in my brain as a way to beat myself up for not being good enough. As my therapist and I discussed the image, I got to the feeling within. Disgust. Really? That's not very nice Meredith.
As an outside observer who finally got that out, I asked myself this: Do I not know I am a child of God?
A few other pictures came to memory. There was the one from the South Bend Tribune with a literal full page spread of me running. I told her, "that was the one that sent me to treatment." That voice, "You are still fat, still a failure," had overpowered me then and today it would not. Thank God.
I told her about two other images from when I was maybe 13? On one of my thin tracks during my years of dieting, for years I'd see those pictures when I went home wondering why I couldn't ever get back to that. (Yup, just about pre-mid puberty me, right.) Both of those images haunted me for so long and thankfully we were taking that power away in the moment.
Flash forward. I'm 38 years old now. I wonder now what was the great appeal of being skinny? And isn't it all relative to each person? As we dove deeper I realized I had a belief. "Well, skinny people are successful in life." (Wow) Everyone wants what they have, but not me. (It is amazing what you find when you get beneath the surface.)
What's funny is this article titled, "Why We Need to Stop Perpetuating the Weight-Loss Myth" by Liz Black came across my news feed shortly after this session and she commented on the shame that came up for her with Oprah's commercial. DITTO!
Same for me.
After reading the article, I felt more fired up to spread the message that we need to embrace how our bodies are made more than ever. I saw the comments on my page and the author's page and thought - we are NOT alone in this.
So I say today, who gets to say you are not okay at this moment WHATEVER your weight? Who gets to decide that? And who are we giving all our power to stand tall (weight and ALL) away to?
Why have we let the world of weight-loss and those who carry "less" weight make us believe we are "less-than" human beings because we carry some weight?
If you aren't on WW today or don't want to be, what was your experience? Did you see that and think, "Ew! That is so not the answer to being my best self!"
Weight Watchers of old, how much time did we spend growing up on the scale at the meetings? How many times did we sit there hearing people share their victory weight-loss, feeling ashamed because we hadn't lost a pound? How many of us know today we were just trying to fix on the outside - our pain on the inside? How many of us wish someone had just seen our pain on the insides then?
But then again, how many of us know that we wouldn't be who we are today, knowing that diets weren't the answer then and they aren't now? Truly, we wouldn't know they don't work if we hadn't done them so many times. That's a good thing.
Do we have to be healthy for ourselves? Yes. We need to eat well, exercise, get sleep and all that good stuff - but a goal weight doesn't have to be attached to it. We can be healthy to just BE healthy and live our best lives. Maybe if we did it more for God and less for what society is telling us to do, we might have a little more peace about it. Maybe if we thought about it more in the terms of being healthy for life, rather than skinny for Facebook we'd feel better about it.
Maybe if we looked in the mirror and said, "I love you," instead of avoiding it or criticizing ourselves - we might feel better about ourselves.
Maybe if we stopped giving everyone else the right to tell us we're fat and embraced our size, we'd not give so much power to the haters. Brenee Brown talks about Teddy Roosevelt's quote, "The Man in the Arena" in a talk here. She reminds us that unless someone is in the arena with us (and gets the struggle) they don't get to have a say. If we seek support or help, yes. But they don't get an automatic vote because they say it. We have to know in our hearts that is someone else judging something they don't know. That's someone else judging us from the outside. That's someone else's fear of weight themselves. That's their stuff, not ours. And really, don't we have enough insecurities around weight to navigate before we give power away to someone else's issues with it? Think about the last time someone else sized you up or worse, said something about your weight to your face - were you immediately defeated? It's hard not to be. But they aren't in the arena. They don't get the walk, so they don't get to talk. Even if they HAVE been in that arena, we each have our own story in that arena. No one has it "right."
Today, I am finally coming to the place of embracing my body as God created me to be. I've got my Dad's broad face, a tummy with rolls (I said it!) and hips. My husband reminds me that I have a great butt and it's helped me judge myself less. lol I do not judge myself by a number on the scale or the back of my pants. I'm also learning to look and the mirror and say, "You are beautiful" instead of looking at my distorted view of a picture.
I am not living today for the approval of man, especially not the ones who don't get this weight struggle. They don't get a vote because they haven't been in the arena. God gives me power where I am weak and I am weak when it comes to wanting to be thin or thinking I have to be. But only God gets to say I'm worthy because I am HIS. NO ONE else gets to tie my worth to my weight; not even me.
We are not LESS than because we carry it. So look us up and down if you want because in your eyes we're "big." Say what you want to yourself or to someone else but you do not get a vote when it comes to our weight. NO more. We're taking our personal power back, and don't need Oprah to tell us where to find it. We already know with God we've got what we need and in HIS time and HIS care we will be GIVEN the power to be strengthened by the Spirit in our body. We CAN leave the results to Him.
We will not be the victims of that weight-attacking voice in our head. We will not be the victim of the world's attachment of good enough to thin. We will strive to love ourselves EXACTLY as we are right now - COMPLETELY loved by the God who created us. Thank you LORD!
And seriously - if you are constantly trying to lose weight or going on diets - please consider the message you are sending to the next generation. Do you want that daughter or young girl you influence in your life to believe that she has to get her body right to be good enough for the world? Wouldn't you want them to know they are loved just as they are?
The Reflection for You
I have decided not to do a video today because my words were better expressed in writing and this woman did a much better job of getting the message across in her Ted Talk than I can right now. So take a few minutes to watch it when you can. It is GOOD.
Listen to these two songs below too. The first one I just heard, made me choke up and the second is for you to share either with that little girl in your life, or that little girl you need to forgive - in you.
Last, but not least for those who want to devote some time in the Word about this...