We are a complexity, us women. I AM a woman and I barely understand myself. How can I love my body and love cake so much? *dramatic sigh*
So where is the middle ground? Absolutely, 100% we were fearfully and wonderfully made, created in the image of God. Therefore, we are to love our bodies and care for them to the best of our ability. I believe radical acceptance and desiring change meet in the middle when you embrace your body AND commit to being your best self. Here’s what I mean. You may think of radical acceptance as finding a way to love yourself and your appearance without making any adjustments to better yourself aesthetically. What radical acceptance means is that you are “acknowledging reality.” Rather than saying “this isn’t fair” or “why me?” we acknowledge that the series of choices we have made (or ones that have been made for us) have brought us to the exact place you are sitting today. Whether you love yourself and feel confident in the body you have OR you are struggling with what you see, struggling with food addiction or depression, I hope this helps to shed light on the reasons for our struggle and a HOPE for what can be.
There are certain things we cannot change about our bodies… Oh, actually.. one MAJOR thing: GENETICS. So, YES! You better get to accepting your body, because it’s the only one ya got this side of heaven. This is what I mean about accepting and loving your body. No matter what I ever do regarding my nutrition plan or workouts, I’m stuck (in a good way) with what I have. I will NEVER be the ultra-thin supermodel (Well, at least not the healthy version of me) And truth be told, that’s not my goal! My goal is to 1) acknowledge my body type–what it is and what it isn’t 2) find the best way to care for it and 3) find and maintain the size and shape I was CREATED to be. Absolute truth: NOT ONCE in the Bible does it mention the “right size or shape” This is unique to every individual and up to our genetics and our own discretion. However, living in our personal optimal “shape” is both a physical AND spiritual discipline.
Growing up, I was always active. I never dieted and ate literally anything and everything. My body started changing the most in college (good ol’ freshman 15). I guess you can’t eat Quizno’s and In ‘n Out Burger everyday and expect to be a fitness model. Sure, my weight fluctuated, but I was never unhappy. But somewhere along the way, I just chose to have no master over my personal disciplines regarding food. I didn’t want anyone to tell me what I could or couldn’t eat. I spoke negatively of counting calories as it sounded like too much work or too obsessive. I gave in to gluttony and worked out for punishment, trying to reverse my wrongs. All the while, my identity was in Jesus so body image, to me, was futile. I considered it to be vanity to care too much about my appearance. I was secure and my body was ok. It wasn’t amazing, it was just ok. And I was ok with that.
Fast forward to 2016, married 7 years and two babies later. Now there are NEW characteristics about my body that I must accept. Stretch marks everywhere, loose skin in my lower abs, scars on my stomach from an emergency gall bladder surgery, visible veins, cellulite, shall I go on? How depressing 😂 These things, I don’t have control over. I must accept them, embrace them, and move on to caring about more important things. However, there are things that I do have control over. I can choose discipline and boundaries with food and exercise. I can be rigid with my goals or loose with my goals, but whatever I choose to do, I must accept the outcome. For example, it would be insane for me to be loose with my nutrition plan and expect outstanding results. It would also be insane for me to refuse to stop and pray and then wonder why I feel so far from God. We must walk with realistic expectations.
Allow me to be frank for a minute. Frank, as in straightforward, not Frank, as in a man. If you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, there are a few underlining reasons.
1) An identity crisis. You have officially placed too much value and worth into your shell. You are placing your identity in what you look like over who you are. When we become secure in our true identity, we can find the hope and confidence to find balance again, both spiritually AND physically.
2) Natural change. A pregnancy, post pregnancy, age or just plain gravity can really wreck a girl. If you have been blessed to experience pregnancy, it is both amazing and confusing. It’s amazing to know what your body is capable of while confusing because we struggle with a changing body. There are stages where we look bloated, like we just ate 10 Thanksgiving dinners and like we are about to explode. Not to mention what our bodies look like for months after giving birth. Yikes. Add nursing babies and gravity to the mix and you have one heck of a body image nightmare. 😉
3) Self-pity. You feel bad for yourself for not looking exactly how you want to look. Self-pity comes from pride: the belief that you ought to be or deserve to be better than you are, or better than someone else. Living with self-pity, we stay under a cloud of discontent and continue to eat your feelings.. Which is how you got here in the first place. Self-pity is a direct bi-product of comparison, depression and an unclear view of who you are to God.
If you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, talk about it. Be honest about your frustrations, your shortcomings and even your addictions. Maybe even confess how you have turned to food for comfort more often than turning to God. Next, be open to change. Ask yourself what steps you need to take to become more disciplined. What habits do you need break? You will never change your life until you change something you do DAILY. Be faithful on the little things and change will come.
Let me be honest here. Whether you choose to embrace yourself and accept your body as it is or move forward with desired change, we must not forget the most important aspect of security: your identity. If you attempt to love your body in this culture today apart from knowing the truth of who Jesus is and why you were created, you will never be able to truly love your body. If you go to the extreme, attempting to perfect your physical body, or compete in a fitness competition because you believe you won’t be happy until you look a certain way, you will be disappointed. I hope this isn’t a newsflash to you, but it isn’t physical appearance, money, success, career status, cars, husbands or kids that make us truly happy. Those are all good things, blessings given to us by God to ENJOY our lives, but they are not the source of joy. Hear me out, desiring to look your best is not wrong by any means, it’s a good thing! It just will leave you empty if you don’t have a more solid identity rooted in your Creator.
What changed for me? Education. My lifestyle is not much different than it was in the past 10-15 years. I can still eat at Quiznos and In ‘n Out (my favorite), I just know how to make it fit into my plan! Sure, I took up Crossfit, but I have ALWAYS worked out. Crossfit is not the magic component I have been missing. I simply discovered that I had been deceived about food. I would eat LESS to lose weight, but didn’t know that was actually working against me for so long. As soon as I learned what my body needed to start changing, it was a totally new ballgame. I’ve started eating a TON more and a wider VARIETY of foods I have been afraid of in the past. I want this discovery and education for anyone that has been frustrated with “doing all the right things” and never seeing results. My change has not come from any type of drastic moves, just being committed to staying in the boundaries. If you haven’t already, check out my articles on MACRO TRACKING and REVERSE DIETING (aka metabolic rehab)
Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you. (Hosea 10:12 NIV)
In summary, as if I haven’t pounded it enough, I believe true freedom is not having NO master, it’s choosing the RIGHT one.
Your master should not be food. Your master should not be comfort. Your master should not be your goal weight or perfection. Your master should not be your job. Your master should be your Creator, the One who cares for you and loves you more deeply than your can even fathom. He gives us boundaries not to take away our joy, but to shower it on us.
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22 NIV)