I used to hate so many things about my body. I know hate is a strong word, but that’s really the best word for it. I had a whole list of flaws about myself that played on repeat in my mind, eating away at me, through each and every day. I was obsessed with controlling my weight, controlling every bite that went into my mouth, and trying to change the shape and size of my body.
Looking back now, I realize how self-centered and inwardly-focused anorexia made me. How much time, energy, and effort I wasted on something that didn’t deserve that kind of attention.
Thankfully, God brought people into my life who cared about me and wanted to help me heal. Through a lot of counseling, prayer, and incredible support from my family and friends, God brought me out of this obsession and helped me develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. When I think about how much has changed in the past 4 years, it truly leaves me in awe of God’s power and grace.
But today I was struck with something I don’t think about often in terms of my recovery. Yes, I have much different habits these days. I have learned balance and moderation in the way I eat; I enjoy dessert and junk food when I want to, while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I exercise because I enjoy it, not to punish myself or compensate for something I ate the night before.
These are all huge changes for me and have given me so much more peace and joy in my life. But what struck me today is how I have actually come to LOVE my body and be THANKFUL for the way I was created. The things I used to hate and loathe about myself are things that I can now appreciate. I’m not saying I don’t still struggle with my body image. (And I think any woman who denies ever having a rough day with body image might need to be a little more honest with herself.)
I still have those days when I don’t feel very happy with the way I look. There are times when the constant bombardment from our culture to be skinny and to have a “perfect body” drags me down, and I have moments when I don’t really like my curves or my legs. And there are definitely still days when I get sucked back into the comparison trap and find myself envying another woman’s body.
But, instead of being the norm, those moments are now the exception. I no longer live in that vicious and endless dungeon of self-hatred. It doesn’t consume my thoughts like it once did. I’ve learned so much contentment and gratefulness with the way that I am built, shaped, and formed. And it definitely didn’t happen overnight.
But I remember one of the turning points: an evening in 2011, while I was living in India and thick in the throes of my anorexia. I had shut myself away in my room that night, crying and desperately wanting help but not knowing how to ask for it. I had finally begun to see what a sick disease had taken control of my mind, and I was having a brief moment of clarity as I realized how much I wanted out from these chains of addiction.
Isolated in a tiny village and away from any sort of support system, I didn’t know how I could possibly begin to break free. But in that moment, God brought a verse to my mind, and I flipped my Bible open to Psalm 139:
“I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)
I realized that night that I couldn’t possibly imagine PRAISING God for the way He had made me. Because, well, I hated the way He had made me. And that was the crux of the problem. That was the real issue behind my horrible body image. I didn’t really believe God had done “wonderfully” when He designed and created my body. In essence, I thought He had messed up. If He had really loved me, He would have given me a different shape, smaller measurements, and more attractive features.
But as I read this verse over and over again, I actually began to DESIRE to feel that same gratitude and appreciation for my body. I knew I had a long way to go, and a huge part of me wondered if it was even possible to get there, but I had a tiny glimmer of hope. Maybe, just maybe, God could heal me, and free me from the self-hate that had riddled my mind for far too long. I didn’t have a lot of faith, but I had a little. And the beauty is that God can use even the littlest seed of faith to bring His grace and power into our lives.
I wrote that verse down that night in India. I wrote it on a blank 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper, with neon markers in all different colors. I took my time writing out each word of that verse, and then I taped the paper to the back of my door. Every morning when I woke up, I would read it out loud in my empty room, and ask God in a simple sentence to help me really believe and feel the words I was saying. I asked Him to heal me, help me, and change me from the inside out.
And it didn’t happen overnight. It took time, just like any lasting, heart-change does. Shortly after that night in India, I moved back home to the States, and began my journey to recovery. That verse became one that I returned to time and again during the years that followed. And slowly, subtly, my heart and mind began to heal. God began to grow in me a heart of praise, and I started to believe the truths of this verse.
And then, a few weeks ago, it popped up in my life again, but for a much different reason. My husband and I were at the 20-week ultrasound for our little girl who is due in June. As the ultrasound tech ran the wand over my belly and the image of our little girl popped up on the screen, this familiar verse came to mind once again.
I felt tears forming in my eyes as we watched our little one kick and squirm on the screen, and the tech pointed out her strong little heart, lungs, and essential organs. We saw her tiny fingers and toes, and my heart ached with love for this precious girl we can’t wait to meet. In that moment, I praised God for how wonderfully and beautifully He has created this little baby. And that verse that has meant so much in my past has come alive again as I anticipate the future with our little girl.
I pray she will always know that she is incredibly beautiful, and that it’s got nothing to do with how she looks or what size she is. It’s a crazy world for a little girl to grow up in, and I know we can’t protect her from the pressures of the culture, and the focus it places on size and weight. But I hope she will always know that she is tremendously beautiful and beloved in our eyes, and even more importantly, in the eyes of God. Because she has been wonderfully created and designed by Him.
“You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)