Through Thick and Thin: Loving Myself Regardless of Size

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Hi, I’m Liz. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ and I struggle with food, exercise, and self-worth (among many other things).

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I have struggled with my weight since…high school…8th grade…6th grade…4th grade (I just rewrote this sentence 4 times. Each time I realized there was an event even earlier in my life in which I struggled with my weight). The fourth grade was my first memory of wishing my body was different. Nobody told me it had to be different, somehow I came to that conclusion myself. The funny thing is that in the fourth grade I thought my knees were too nobly.

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I had a friend in the sixth grade and she had these beautifully tanned legs without the bony knees. And to top it off, she was allowed to shave her legs! I remember sitting next to her and noticing how fuzzy and white my legs looked compared to hers.

Back then I wanted to be thicker, and now I am trapped in a battle between acceptance and wanting to be thinner. I won’t deny my desire to be thin, it’s very much there, and for ages I believed I needed to be thinner to be healthy.

That stupid BMI chart has wreaked havoc on my thoughts. Ever since puberty I have been a solid girl. Those nobly knees disappeared and I packed on pounds of muscle, no doubt from my intense Irish dancing practice schedule.

Irish Skipping

But somehow my height and weight didn’t match the chart and my doctors told me time and time again that I was overweight.

My mom would tell me over and over again how those charts weren’t accurate because it didn’t take muscle mass into account. But the damage was done, I had heard the label of “overweight” and I accepted it. I chose to believe a lie over truth and it has completely changed the way I live my life.

I started to compare myself to the other girls in my dance class. I would see my reflection next to theirs and become so jealous of their ability to cross their legs with knees behind knees (a guideline for Irish dancing leg positions in my school). I had no idea some of them were looking at my reflection and wishing their thighs could touch during crossed legs like mine (another guideline for Irish dancing leg positions in my school – “No gap! No Gap!”).

Comparison began to take over my life. I would compare myself to the ex-girlfriends of the guy I liked, to judge whether or not I was worthy of his attention. This comparison was mostly based on my understanding of beauty. Which, at the time was largely based on Britney Spears: skinny, busty, tan, and blond.

Over the years I would feed my sickness with the ridicule and judgments that others cast on me. I would collect their statements and use them as arguments against my beauty and worth.

“Have you been living under a rock? I swear your legs have never seen the light of day.”

“Have you ever thought of using Hydroxy Cut to help you keep off the chub?”

“College has not done your body any favors.”

“Your body type doesn’t fit with the look I want.”

“Thanks for helping me run a better mile time, Liz! I had to pick up my speed to get ahead of you because your legs were reflecting the sun into my eyes.”

All of these statements were said by people I loved and trusted at the time. I listened to these statements, but I couldn’t just hear what they said, what I heard was “you aren’t good enough the way you are.” A lot of hurt came from them, but I am realizing now that just because someone says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. And just because someone says something hurtful to me, doesn’t mean they intended it to be. And even if they did intend it to be hurtful and they did believe it, it doesn’t mean that my opinion about myself is suddenly trumped by theirs. My opinion matters too.

The problem was, my opinion became the same as theirs. I believed I wasn’t good enough the way I was.

Much of my high school, college, and adult life has been spent dieting, excercising, and tanning (both sunless and natural). ninjas

Even in my own world of Irish dancing, my Irish qualities were not acceptable. Everyone “knew” that tanned legs were more appealing to watch, so for every competition I was required to douse my legs in coats of tanner. My hair was dyed Barbie blond to match my wig, because blond, red, and black wigs stuck out the most. In theory these things would captivate the eyes of the judges and they would spend more time watching me than the other competitor. Do I blame my dance teacher for making me do these things? No way. My goal was to win and he knew how to get me there.

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But that was then and this is now. There comes a point when I need to start taking responsibility for how I live my life. I am an adult now, and I need to recognize that my opinion matters too. But what is my opinion about myself and my worth? Am I beautiful? Am I loved? Do others understand me?

Several weeks ago I attended a metabolism and training seminar by Mike Gaines from the X-Project (http://www.xprojectfrederick.com/). It was fascinating, thought provoking, and really just made a lot of sense, but it went against everything I had learned about dieting, fitness, and losing weight. The information he presented made me question every attempt I had made to lose weight and get fit. We were told that the first step to changing our lives was to ask the question “why?”

“Why am I at this seminar?”

“Why do I want what I want?” (In my case, why do I want to be thinner?)

The aim is to get to the root of your desire so you can create a goal. A goal that will actually get you where you want to go. Because if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?

This would have been a great practice back when I was in competitive dancing. When I asked myself “why did I dance?” It was for two reasons: 1.) The pure joy of self-expression and 2.) To prove my worth. I thought winning would prove that I was worth something, but when I won with legs that didn’t look like my own, and hair that didn’t look like my own, winning felt more like tricking the judges into thinking I was something I’m wasn’t. The only thing it proved to me was that the real Liz wasn’t enough. (I know I didn’t win just because of tanned legs and blonde hair, but those things became so important that sometimes it felt like it). Not being enough in the one thing I felt I was good at, really sucked out the joy of dancing. Instead of re-evaluating my goals and desires, I gave up and I left the dancing world, hoping my issues would disappear with it.

But now I am older and wiser, so I don’t live that way… chyea….I wish. It has come to my attention that in the area of weight and pastiness I am still very much the old version of myself. I may have come a long way in other areas, but in this area I have yet to dig deep and find the root of my issues.

So back to this metabolism and training seminar; I went and started to question whether I was giving my body the right type of fuel for what I wanted it to do (I won’t go into details, but if you are interested check out the site. Mike is super awesome and clearly cares a lot about what he does.). I started to make some changes in my diet, without asking my “whys” and without setting my goals. I had some vague ideas of what I wanted to happen, but I never asked myself “why”. (BTW this is the first thing Mike said you must do, but I skipped it.)

A couple days ago (almost a month after adding more protein to my diet) I had a slight emotional breakdown. I had gained 7lbs. and a total of 3 inches. Fear gripped me: “This was wrong, this was all wrong, this isn’t what I wanted!”

Then I realized something. I didn’t even know what I wanted. I had not established the “what’s” and the “why’s”. All I had established was the how. Which is just crazy! How can you know how to do something if you don’t know what it is you want to do and why you want to do it? I sent a quick message to Mike with my fears, and he confirmed the flaw in my thinking. If I want to see results, I need to know what results I am looking for and working towards. And I need to evaluate my goals to make sure they are healthy, measurable, and achievable.

So, I went back to the first step, which was to ask myself why I went to the seminar in the first place and why do I do what I do?

Why do I want to lose weight?

Why do I want to be healthy?

Why do I do yoga?

Why do I count calories?

Why do I freak out when I “mess up” my diet by eating a bowl of ice cream?

Why do I feel so guilty for eating 6 cupcakes in one sitting that I force myself to run 6 miles afterwards? (Yes, that actually happened. Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that. But hey, what’s the point of a blog if you aren’t going to be honest, right?)

and,

Why the hell did I eat those 6 cupcakes in one sitting anyway?

So many “whys” and each new “why” presented itself with more “whys”. I knew my years of yo-yo dieting were a result of so much more than just a desire to lose weight, or to be healthy, but for years I avoided digging deeper for fear of what I would find.  I thank God for the Celebrate Recovery Program (http://www.celebraterecovery.com/), because it was with the use of my recovery tools that I was able to really look at these questions without fear of condemnation. I had the tools to dig, the unconditional love of Christ, and the support of others to help me handle whatever I found.

After hours of reflection, inventory, and prayer I was finally able to admit some things to myself:

-I want to be thinner because I have a fear of being rejected and abandoned for being the size I am. (I am my greatest offender. I have rejected myself for years because of my size, coloring, etc.)

-I want to be healthier so I can continue to do and progress in the things that I enjoy: yoga, housework, painting, etc.

– I want to be beautiful because I want others to love me, desire my presence, boast about me, and recognize my worth.  

Not all of these things are worthy or good, but the fat and skinny of the situation is that I want to be accepted and to enjoy life. Those things are not conditional to my size or skin color.

But just because I have some clarity on why I do what I do, doesn’t mean I am cured from all bitter feelings towards my body. This is why I need to set some goals, so I can work on accepting myself and enjoying life.

  1. Love myself no matter what

This may be a minute by minute goal. But now that I have a clear desire, and I know it is healthy and good, I can now begin to establish the “how”. I know that God loves me, but I have a hard time believing it because I have held fast to the bad things that others have said about me. What better way to fight lies than with truth?

  • Identify who has been there for me through thick and thin (get it?)
  • Place bible verses around my house that remind me of my worth and preciousness to God
  • Ask God what He loves about me

I have also set myself some more concrete and measurable goals as well. Goals that will remind me about the importance of giving my body the fuel it needs to be healthy.

  1. Do a handstand for 10 seconds or more
  2. Do 3 chin-ups

Since I have started fueling my body (instead of depriving it) I have:

Increased my handstand time by 2 seconds.

handstand 3 secs

Handstand 5 seconds

Increased my chin-ups from 0 to 2!

Chin Ups

And bonus, I have more energy to enjoy my runs, my yoga practice, and my circuit training. And you know that 2pm energy crash? I no longer have it.

And yet, I continue to struggle with the weight gain and increased inches around my thighs, stomach, and lower back. For some reason I have transformed goal number one “Love myself no matter what” into “get skinny so I love myself”. Why is my love of self conditional? Why is this such a big deal for me? Why am I so scared of getting bigger? Does my size outweigh (hehe) my other two goals? I am well on my way to attaining those goals, why have they suddenly become less important to me the moment I put on weight?

Does putting on weight mean I won’t attain goal number one? Well, no, in reality (as much as I hate it) this weight gain and increased inches is probably the best thing for me in regards to achieving goal number one. If I suddenly started to drop inches when I started this, it would be easy to love myself regardless of size, because I would be at a “more desirable size” in my mind. It’s easy to love the loveable, its way more difficult to love the undesirable. But why is it so difficult for me to handle this? Why am I not ok with this? Why is this stirring up so many uncomfortable feelings?

I had to get to the bottom of all these answers, or at least some of them. I hate feeling so needy, and I can tell I am pushing it onto my husband. I am sick of putting all this pressure on my husband to make me feel worthy and accepted. Sometimes I wonder if he feels like what he has to offer isn’t enough because I can’t seem to accept love.

So, since I am in recovery, I did what people in recovery do, I inventoried my fears about getting fat.

Wow, the things that came out of that. I’m not going to post that, are you crazy? There are some things too personal, even for me, to post. But like I said before, I am scared of rejection and abandonment. This discovery prompted me to look at the facts instead of my feelings:

  • The other day I wrote down different words that God says that I am. None of those were dependent on size.IMG_0796
  • For Valentine’s Day, Dean made me a list of reasons why he loves me. So far, none of them have been in regards to my size.IMG_1004
  • My true friends have been with me through thick and thin (get it?). Some even from 87lbs (in middle school) to 155lbs. None of them have rejected me or even changed the way they have treated me because of my size.
  •  154944_474333219554_7109153_n1779852_10152228379789555_742261027_n

So why can’t I focus on these things?

Because I am not accepting myself. Because I don’t think I’m worthy of love when I am 155lbs. That is the reality of this situation. When I say it, I clearly see the lie. When I write it out, it is so clear to me how flawed my thinking has been for years.

I will not accomplish Goal number 1 by transforming my body into something more pleasing to me. I will only succeed if I transform by the renewal of my mind. My physical body doesn’t need to change. My mind need only see my physical body differently.

Through my journey in Celebrate Recovery, God has revealed to me some of the root causes of my low self-worth. (I won’t go into those details now, however, I am currently working on my testimony, if I ever finish and you want to hear it, come to Celebrate Recovery with me!) I have seen the root causes, made amends for the things I have done, and I am starting to forgive others for what they have done to me. But now is my chance to make some decisions. It is my chance to live differently. It is my chance to ask God how He wants to renew my mind. And it is my chance to live a new life with the truth I now hold in my heart. But I have to choose to leave behind my old ways.

“Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.” Mark 10:50

Finally, let me say this:

I am loved. I am beautiful. I am understood. I am enough. I am all these things without doing anything. You are all those things too! But how do I go from knowing this, to believing this, to living this, and finally, feeling this?

I have to be willing to let go of the lies I have believed, I have to be willing to let go of the hurt I have felt, and I have to be willing to forgive those who have hurt me (even myself). I have to do this so I am not blinded by resentment and pain, so I can see the truth: I am loved. I am beautiful. I am understood. I am enough.551793_743932366810_715234138_n

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3 thoughts on “Through Thick and Thin: Loving Myself Regardless of Size

  1. Ok somehow I completely missed the fact that we had Michael Gaines in common…..slight duh / senior / blond moment on my part 🙂

    This is an awesome post!

    • Haha, it was actually in his seminar that I heard about your story. I was so excited that you were still in the area! It also made me realize how “small town” our area can be. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Melissa

    I remember seeing you and Dean the first time I left the house after having Sky and thinking geez… you and Shaina look so great. What happened to me. You aren’t alone in your struggle. And congrats on the decision to adopt, that is wonderful. I am adopted, and recently met my birth mom. The whole thing is incredible and you will be awesome and goofy and wonderful parents!

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