Tag Archives: Body Image

I’m More Than a Number…and So Are You!

Recently I had an experience that churned up some old emotions in me.  I couldn’t shrug it off because there was a lesson in it…but I wasn’t immediately certain what it was.

Earlier that day, I had a check-in with myself.  I don’t do this very often, but every few months I weigh myself and take measurements, just to keep myself in a healthy-but-not-obsessed place. It was one of those check-ins that ended with me sighing under my breath and declaring, WHATEVER, body!  You’re clearly running the show here!

Naturally this would also be the day that I had to do some (much-needed) clothes shopping.  Fabulous timing.  I don’t enjoy shopping for clothes because I prefer to avoid the “walk of shame.”  You know what I’m talking about.  Everything you take into the changing room doesn’t fit, and you have to rack it all or, worse yet, hand it off to a store clerk while avoiding eye contact.  And no matter our size, this happens to all of us at one time or another.

This particular day I found myself in a women’s clothing store.  I had just walked in when I saw out of the corner of my eye, a saleswoman helping a customer.  They were joking about the smaller sizes, “Who even wears (this size) anyway?”

I was flipping through a rack of dresses and suddenly felt like a fish out of water.  They’re talking about my size. Do I make eye contact with them? I didn’t feel like I could insert myself into their conversation, yet I felt them looking at me as they quickly switched subjects.

I had nothing witty to say anyway.  I was tired, hot, slightly annoyed, and simply wanted to shop quietly.  As I roamed through the racks, I encountered the saleswoman a few times.  Wow, she’s putting off an ugly vibe. In a forced voice with judgment in her eyes, she asked me if I was finding everything I needed.  I cheerfully held up a jacket that I had found and explained that I’d been searching for something like it and was happy to have finally found it.  “Oh, that’s nice,” she replied, again obligatory and patronizing.  Ok, I feel uncomfortable for being ‘me,’ but I’m going to take the high road here.  Remember the iconic store scene sequence in Pretty Woman, the first time she goes in?  I felt like that.  Be kind to her anyway.  Everyone has a story.

Yes, everyone has a story.  I wanted to say something to this woman, but didn’t want my emotions to get in the way and cause more harm than good.  All I could do was smile and keep shopping.  I found what I was looking for (and then some), paid and exchanged generic-yet-kind banter with the saleswoman and her coworker, and went on my way.

In the car, I asked myself:  What’s bugging you? If you could have a do-over, would you have handled it differently?  Is there a lesson here?

After some prayer and thought, this is what I would gently say if I could replay the scene:

No one likes being judged or shamed by their outward appearance.  Yes, I’m that particular “size” that seems out of reach, but there’s a story behind it…

First, I used to be 6 sizes bigger.  I spent lots of hours in the gym and kitchen, taking it one day at a time, merging weeks into months and years.  It didn’t happen overnight or accidentally.

Before you assume that somehow my life is easier/better/happier because of this size, look a little deeper.  I’ve struggled with insecurities, frustrations with cravings, lack of progress with my best-laid plans, hormones scoffing at my attempts to balance them, major health issues, scars from an eating/body image disorder, questioning my calling in life, pushing back fear and anxiety, doubting my effectiveness as a wife, mother, trainer, and writer.  I’m not always confident; ironically, I had a frustrating body image moment just this morning.

I’m more than what you see.  I love Jesus, yet I wrestle with temptation and not-so-nice thoughts and emotions from time to time.  I’ve tried to be perfect and have fallen flat on my face…lots.  But, I’m grateful that He loves me anyway and sees fit to rescue me from the “pits” of life.  I’m grateful that in my weakest moments, I have His strength and don’t have to rely on myself.  In fact, it’s His strength that gives me the ability to rise above my emotions in a moment like this one, and to choose love.  As a result, I’m aware that I’ve focused too much on my own perspective and that I need to take a moment to really look at you.

And you know what?  I bet you and I aren’t all that different once you get a pesky number out of the way.  We probably share some of the same struggles and insecurities because we are people first.  I promise not to judge you by your appearance and instead to see you as a child of God, who has a story, as well as real fears, dreams, needs, questions, and emotions.  I choose to see you as God sees you…with love and grace….because you are beautiful, no matter how you feel in this moment.

Whew!  I wish I’d really said those things.  But, I found what I was looking for (a lesson, not the jacket), and it couldn’t be more perfect for the times we are living in.  That day reminds me that we need to extend more love and grace to one another in so many contexts.  All of us.  Myself included.  And in terms of body image, women, let’s dare to look past the surface.  I’m more than a number…and so are you!

Summer’s Here: Get Over the Dread and Into that Suit!

It’s finally summer!  The long-anticipated warm weather, longer days, and relaxed schedule are upon us.  High fives all around! We made it!

An old familiar wave of dread hits me in the midst of my elation…I’m going to have to take my kids to the pool.  They are probably going to ask at LEAST once this summer.  Ugh, I need a new suit.

I’m no longer in an age and stage where I can buy something off the rack.  Swimsuit “try-on expeditions” now require extra preparation in the form of pep-talks, fasting, tantrum breaks (for me, not my kids), and built-in time to stop at MULTIPLE stores.  I usually leave empty-handed or with 3 suits that I ultimately return, begrudgingly returning to my stretched out, faded suit-of-old.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I battled a body image/eating disorder.  Summertime used to be a major trigger for me and I’ve had to do a lot of work in this area.  Here are some tips to help you to get over the dread and in to that suit:

Unpack your mindset.  Are you focusing on your faults and imperfections? Worried about peoples’ opinions? Comparing yourself to others? Whether at a “healthy” weight or way past it, wearing a swimsuit is something most of us don’t enjoy.

As our own worst critics, we tend to assume that others share our internalized attitudes and beliefs.  Here’s the deal: people don’t view us through the same lens, so let’s chill out.  Even if someone had a negative opinion, do THEY define you and give you worth? My friend, we have been given a priceless status by our Creator. No one, and no amount of cellulite, can change that.

The comparison game is dangerous, stealing our joy and distracting us from embracing life.  I wrote about this in another post, Your Body Isn’t the Enemy.

Speaking of distractions, what are you missing out on because of your mindset?  I realized that my unwillingness to put on a swimsuit and take my sons to the pool was compromising my relationship with them.  (If I had daughters, the impact could be more profound.) They aren’t going to understand that “mommy has some body image issues, and that’s why she won’t take you swimming.”  They’re kids!  They want me…not me with a six-pack.  I want to be that confident, active mom who cares more about connecting with my boys than what I look like in a swimsuit.

Focus on relationship-building instead.  Sometimes I nail this mindset and other times I need reminders. And that’s ok! (I’ll just re-read this post.)

Boost your confidence.  Set some goals that help your body feel healthy, and the mind will follow.  If you’re currently less active, start walking and moving intentionally.  Strive to eat cleaner in the summertime when fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant.  If you exercise regularly, mix it up and try a new program.  Personally, I’ve found that strength training is a huge confidence booster.  If you haven’t tried it, gradually add it to your routine.  If you’ve been dabbling in it for a while, increase your weights and challenge yourself with every workout. Perhaps running, yoga, dancing, or being able to do push-ups are your goals.  If it’s a healthy goal, go for it!

Fake it till you make it?  Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, suggests that this adage should be rephrased, “fake it till you become it.” Even though we are mentally in one place, it doesn’t have to be our destiny.  Our nonverbal behavior has a significant positive impact on our self-confidence.  Try this: put on your suit, forget the mirror, and start behaving confidently…try it at home regularly.  Pair this with positive internal dialogue to drive the point home.  If you are also implementing healthy habits (previous strategy), your self-talk could sound like this: I respect my body and am taking excellent care of it because I am worth it. I’m feeling stronger and healthier. The outside will soon reflect the inside.   

If you’re still stuck, buy an amazing suit.  Most of us feel self-conscious about our “trouble zones” because they don’t seem to change quickly enough for our liking.  The solution?  Buy a suit that addresses some of your concerns (suck-me-in-spandex is a blessing) and then get out there!  I’ve seen gorgeous swim dresses, skirts, wraps and cover-ups on the market.  There are SO many options.  Remember: you get what you pay for.  I’m not being compensated for recommending these sites, but I’ve been impressed with Swimsuits for All.  Here are 2017 coupon codes from RetailMeNot.  Honorable mentions: Modcloth and Venus.

Not seeing what you like?  Get creative!  I couldn’t find any swimsuit bottoms like my favorite exercise shorts, so I bought a second pair and used them as a suit.  I have a muscular upper body; many of the tops on the market make me look like an adolescent boy, so I Googled sports bras and found something cute that could double as a swim top.  I’m also “thigh-strong,” so I often opt for skirts or shorts.

If you’re tempted to sit on the sidelines this summer, I truly hope that you’ll give these strategies a try.  Don’t miss out on life, my friend.  It’s time to behave your way to a healthier you…mentally, relationally, and physically.  Get into that suit!

Your Body Isn’t the Enemy

Have you ever been frustrated with your body for not cooperating with your most disciplined attempts to get into shape? Do you feel like you are fighting an uphill battle with your body?

Back in my “obsessed” days, I desperately wanted a runner’s physique.  I assumed that if I ran A LOT, I would naturally acquire it.  It was all I could think about, and I punished my body for years in an attempt to get there.

On one particular trip to my running store to buy new shoes, the salesperson made a remark about my “strong muscular legs” and how I was a “body-builder type.”  All I heard in that moment was that I did not have the coveted runner’s physique that I had been beating myself up to achieve.  Instant deflation.  I was a runner, darnit!  What did he say about my legs?  Why can’t my legs be small runner’s twigs?  That’s it!  I’m not buying anything from this guy…wait, those shoes are SUPER CUTE and comfy…must have them!

I was stuck in a rut of focusing on the negative –what I wasn’t– instead of embracing the positive: what I could do, my strengths and gifts, and my uniqueness.  I interpreted the salesperson’s casual compliment as a value statement, and it didn’t align with what I valued at that time in my life (a certain look).

Months later, as I worked through my body image issues, I often reflected on this event. It had been flagged in my psyche as a game-changer because it forced me to examine my priorities and self-image. It was time to unpack this.

Here is what I had to understand in order to move forward:

Whether we like it or not, genetics dictates how our bodies respond to exercise. We can help it along with a clean diet and the best blend of cardio and strength training for our unique metabolism, but the rest is up to Mother Nature. My genetics make it easy to build muscle, but no matter how hard I try, I will never be a thin runner-gazelle-type.

I was trying to override my unique design in order to attain “perfection,” and I saw my body as the obstacle, rather than an instrument, to my “success.” I treated it as the enemy, and at times actually hated my body for not delivering the results that I desperately wanted.

Ready to make a change, I intentionally chose to work with my body rather than against it. I began to respect it as a gift and left no room for feelings of self-hatred. I tapped into my genetics by lifting weights more often, focusing on building overall strength, and challenging myself with balance exercises – an entirely different level of strength training. This refreshing new mindset made exercise more fun and celebratory, rather than a punishment. I was experiencing success in a brand-new way!

I wasn’t finished yet. I had to address my habit of comparing myself to others, which resulted in my unrealistic body image expectations. Many of us are guilty of comparison, and we tend to go a step further by measuring our worst, most hidden faults against the polished and edited triumphs that others put forward. This is never helpful, but I regularly fell into this trap.

This story of comparison in the Bible gave me much-needed perspective. In John 21: 20-22, there is a conversation between the resurrected Jesus and Peter: Jesus said, (I’m paraphrasing) “Peter, you are going to be crucified one day, but follow me.” Peter responded, “Well, what will happen to John?”  Jesus said, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow me!”

Peter was comparing himself to John, and the dose of truth was that Peter’s purpose was independent of John’s.  Unique.  God-given.  Jesus told Peter not to lose sight of his own unique story and to stay the course.  Essentially, he needed to stop comparing his life path to John’s and get busy working on his own journey.

Are we any different? I wasn’t. I was looking at others around me, comparing their talents, abilities, success, “perfection” in appearance, and it kept me from embracing my God-given gifts and His plan for my life. Comparison had hindered me more than I realized. This is what I learned: The more time we spend comparing ourselves to others or focusing on what we aren’t, the less energy we have to embrace our unique strengths and purpose in life.

In the end, I realized that my body was never the enemy…it was actually comparison!  Time-wasting, life-distracting, joy-stealing comparison.

Is this you? What can you do today to shift your focus off of others and onto your own unique strengths and purpose?

What if Being Fit Isn’t What You Think?

When I hit my 40th birthday one year ago, I wasn’t thrilled at first.  I had been through the wringer with my health and part of me mused:  is this as good as it gets?  Have I peaked?  Am I past my prime?  Many of us can get hung up by a milestone birthday.  Then I realized that I have gained some wisdom over the years, and am truly grateful for my journey.

I certainly haven’t arrived at my destination, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.  I spent too many years trying to cram myself into a fitness mold that was just…wrong.  If I could take my 20 or 30-something self by the shoulders, I would gently (or perhaps rather emphatically) share these pearls of wisdom:

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Stretching, yoga, and recovery days are not optional.  All of these aspects provide valuable pieces to the fitness puzzle.  Yoga is beneficial for stress relief, flexibility, strength, balance, weight loss, metabolism, injury prevention, athletic performance…the list goes on and on.  Recovery days (and weeks) are essential to help our muscles recover and for the metabolism to reset.  Pushing the body day in, day out with little rest WILL result in injury, and the metabolism will respond by slowing down.  If God rested on the 7th day, why shouldn’t we?

You don’t have to kill yourself in the gym every day.  I used to think that the only way that I could be fit was to spend at least 1-2 hours, working as hard as I can, drenched in sweat every day.  This mentality will lead to exhaustion and a broken metabolism.  Our bodies weren’t designed for a constant barrage of intense exercise.  More of a good thing is actually, well, bad.  True fitness comes from the right mix of endurance (cardio), strength, flexibility, and balance for YOUR BODY.  Read more about avoiding a one-dimensional approach to fitness here.

It doesn’t pay to use exercise as an insurance policy against poor food choices.  We’ve all done it, haven’t we?  A pizza and a brownie sundae get the best of us and we vow to work it off by doing an extra-long session in the gym or tacking on more miles to our run.  There is no way to work off all of those extra calories in a single session, and psychologically it sets you up to view exercise as punishment.  Before you know it, exercise becomes a dreaded, rather than celebrated, activity.  To cultivate a healthier relationship with food and exercise, strive for eating whole foods at least 80% of the time, and learn to view exercise as a tool to achieve overall health and to age gracefully.

Comparing your body to others is like buying clothing off of the rack without looking at the tag.  Most people would never purchase clothes until they have some key information:  size, cost, brand, fabric, how it looks when tried on, etc.  Yet we often ignore critical factors (i.e., genetics, individual health status, strengths, struggles, and life circumstances) when comparing ourselves to others.

Each person is unique, with their own strengths and challenges.  When we compare ourselves to others, we are taking away from our own potential and giftedness.  God created you to be you, so strive to be the healthiest version of yourself that you can be.  Just. Stop. Comparing.

Don’t miss out on life because you are afraid to:  put on a swimsuit, learn something new, or get out of your comfort zone.  Life is too short.  Enough said.

God doesn’t care if you have a 6-pack.  There are no “best abs” awards being given out at the end of our lives, but there are rewards that matter more.  True fitness isn’t about achieving a certain “look.”  Constantly focusing on this piece will leave you frustrated and unfulfilled…and possibly extremely bored with eating broccoli and salmon for every meal.  Rather, ask yourself what you will be able to do in life if you are healthy and fit.  This is your “why.”  It’s a goal that is more than yourself:  playing/keeping up with children and grandchildren, energy to live life to its fullest with our loved ones, being able to go on mission trips, serving others, to name a few.  Personally, my favorite motto is being “fit to serve.”  When I am fit and healthy, it enables me to love and serve those in need around me (my family included).  The eternal rewards from this philosophy are far greater than sporting some killer abs.

Surround yourself with people who encourage and inspire, and then pay it forward:  I have the privilege of spending time with people in all stages of their fitness journeys.  One thing that is crucial to achieving personal goals is having the following people in your life:  those who are ahead of you, who teach and inspire you; those who are in the trenches doing life with you; and those who you can encourage.  Being fit is hard to achieve and sustain alone; the journey is far sweeter when you share it with others.

I don’t know where you are today, but maybe you need permission to redefine fitness for yourself.  I encourage you to do so!  Life is too short.  Are there any points mentioned above that resonate with you?  Perhaps you have been prompted to consider some of your own.  Please feel free to share below!

Put the Scale in its Place!

dsc08399The only time I have a good relationship with the scale is when I don’t get on it…or when it’s broken…or “lost.”  (I’ve gone so far as to have my husband hide it from me.)  Inevitably, I find that stupid scale again and the dance begins, especially when I know that I’ll be going to the doctor in the near future.  Why can’t doctor’s offices measure us another way, perhaps assessing our desire instead?

The assessment could go something like this.  You say:  I really want to have a certain number on the scale.

The scale readout says:  That’s the correct answer.  It’s yours!  You are now the proud owner of ‘X’ pounds!

I digress a bit.  Seriously, how do we deal with this?  We can’t stop going to the doctor.

I suppose we could choose not to look at the number on the scale.  I found myself in an Urgent Care Clinic on my 40th birthday and I told the nurse, “Hey, it’s my 40th birthday, so I really don’t want to know what the number is.  I’m not about to let it ruin my Fabulous-at-40-Vibe.”  While that tactic was just fine in the moment, making a regular habit of not looking at the number still gave the scale some degree of power over me.

It’s time to put the scale in its place, which requires a deliberate mental shift.

Here’s the thing:  the number on the scale is merely a data point, amidst many other data points that comprise a picture of our health.  We tend to put way too much emphasis on this ONE point, and we lose sight of the bigger picture, sometimes at the expense of other more important numbers.  Other data that make up our health pictures include:  waist circumference, body composition, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar A1C, inflammatory markers, strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and just plain HOW WE FEEL.  Truly, these data points give us far more information than the number on a scale.  In my own life, there have been times when I was “overweight” or at my “ideal weight” and was quite unhealthy in both scenarios.  Obsessing about a number is flat-out dangerous.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) studies people who have lost 30+ pounds and have kept it off for more than a year.  They have found that participants who weigh themselves daily are the most successful at keeping the weight off.  I’ve been a participant in NWCR’s database for many years; I lost 55 pounds more than a decade ago.  Did weighing daily help me keep the weight off?  Sure.  But it came with a hefty price:  a very unhealthy relationship with the scale, food, and exercise.  Very unhealthy.  Yes I weighed every day, not at the suggestion of NWCR (they make no recommendations to their participants), but due to my own desperate need for control and an obsession to reach some arbitrary “ideal” weight.  That number on the scale dictated my mood for the day, my sense of security and control, and my self-worth.  It even affected my personal relationships, AND my health took a nose dive.  That is a stiff price to pay just to be a certain weight or size!  I came out of the experience just plain angry that a small piece of equipment had such power over me.

Let me illustrate something that I hope will forever change your relationship with the scale.  Below are two pictures of me at different times in my life, but the number on the scale was nearly the same.  In the first one, I’m holding one of my nephews who is now 17 years old.  I weighed 145 pounds and was a size 12.  The second picture is me today, at 142 pounds, and a size 4-6.

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This difference is explained by body composition.  Muscle weighs more than fat, but takes up less space.  (I’m a big fan of lifting heavy things, but I’ll save that for another post.)  Muscle mass also makes the traditional BMI (Body Mass Index) irrelevant, because BMI does not account for lean mass.  It only accounts for total weight.  Therefore, I can’t put much stock in the recommended weight range for my height.  The number on the scale tells us very little about what’s going on in our bodies!

So, the next time you step on that blasted scale (because let’s face it, you probably still will, but hopefully with a deliberate mental shift), remember this:  it’s just a number that tells you almost nothing, one tiny piece among many bigger pieces of the puzzle.  At the end of your life, there is no medal for achieving or maintaining a certain weight.  Consider spending more time and effort on the other data points mentioned earlier.  You will be in a much healthier place, and able to live life to its fullest.

Why should such an insignificant number have so much power over us?

Let’s put the scale where it belongs.

Hope is a 4-Letter Word

hopeRecently, I saw a documentary film that followed women with eating disorders who were in an inpatient treatment facility.  It deeply impacted me.  I was stunned to discover that 1 in 7 women with anorexia will actually die from the illness.

As I watched these women wrestle with their issues, I could relate on a less intense level:  the anxiety over eating certain foods, the compulsion to “undo” whatever was eaten, viewing their body as the enemy, the paradoxical (though false) comfort and security that they felt when they were entrenched in their rituals, the addiction to the cycle and its emotions, the desperate desire to be free, and the fear of giving up control.  It became apparent to me that I was rescued LONG before my eating disorder was able to get such a strong hold on me.

When I finished watching the film, my heart cried out to God in a prayer of thanksgiving for my rescue, yet I was utterly devastated for these women.  They had been pushed beyond their tipping points.  Some didn’t even want to be there, didn’t want to get better.  There were other women who desperately wanted to get better, while others systematically sabotaged their own success time and time again.  What a sad existence.  This might have been me.  I am grateful that I didn’t get to a point where I was in the dance of extremes between wanting to recover and sabotaging my recovery.  I believe that I stopped short of this stage because I still had a working knowledge that I was a child of God, and still somewhere deep down I had a love and respect for my body.  Though it was hidden under the surface, I still wanted to be a good steward of God’s temple:  my body.  That wasn’t lost…yet.  There was still a glimmer of hope for me.

What breaks my heart is that these women had no hope.  At the end of the film, none of them had found recovery, and one woman died.  Did she know Christ?  He sure wasn’t included in the womens’ treatment plans.  My sorrow gave way to anger when I saw that these women were given no tangible hope.  They had nothing to stand on apart from their own strength which, I can say from experience, is guaranteed to fail.  I would still be in bondage today and on the path to the fates of the women in this documentary if it weren’t for my faith.

Is there something in your life that you have tried to overcome on your own?  Maybe it’s worry, envy, anger, or selfishness.  Or perhaps you struggle with insecurity, depression, anxiety, or addiction.  No matter what “stuff” you have—and everyone has some—in Jesus we can overcome it all.

One of my favorite verses of the Bible is John 16:33; Jesus says:  In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.  Because I have put my faith in Jesus, I share in this victory!  Another verse, 1 John 5:4-5, was a lifeline for me:  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world –our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  The world, and every difficult thing that comes with it, CAN be overcome.  Wow, I needed that kind of hope in my darkest, bleakest moments.  And perhaps you need it today.

Many things in this world promise us healing and hope, but I have found that HOPE is merely a 4-letter word, unless you have Jesus.

The Pants

jeans-hipster-urban-will-milneI used to loathe shopping for clothes, especially pants.  When I was overweight, a trip to the department store’s dressing room was an event that moved me to tears and ended with a vow to never shop for clothes again.  Surely sweat pants will come back in fashion soon!  Nothing fit properly, or if something fit, it didn’t look flattering.  How could all 7 of these pairs of jeans NOT fit?  What is WRONG with fashion these days?!  The experience would culminate in my own personal walk of shame as I exited the dressing room area, handing the attendant ALL of the clothes that I had taken back with me, having to say, “None of these work for me.”  Even more humiliating: being asked by the attendant, “Did any of these work for you?”  With head hung low and avoiding eye contact, I could barely contain my disgust while uttering the word ‘no.’

In stark contrast was my experience after losing nearly 60 pounds.  Shopping was a blast! Everything fit and looked great, with the exception of the occasional article that wasn’t true to size or was cut differently.  I was faced with a slightly different issue: whittle down this pile of clothing into what I need and what I can afford.  I must admit that I really liked this new experience; it was euphoric.  See that cute pair of pants?  Let’s try it on!  They look fantastic!  Put them in the “keep” pile!  Next pair, please!

Then, I got greedy, but not in the way one would think.  It wasn’t about buying more clothes.  Rather, it was about pushing the size envelope.  How low could I go?  It was intoxicating for this once size 16-18 gal to find herself in size 4s and the occasional extra small.  Even more satisfying was the feeling of loose size 4 pants or jeans.  At some point there was a transfer of this being “just a size” to this being my identity, security, and measure of worth.  If I could just stay in this “loose 4 state,” life would be grand.  I could feel attractive, peaceful, worthy, useful, and smart.

Unfortunately, this mind game with clothes would be impossible to continue without some major sacrifice to my health.  I had conveniently ignored the fact that I had achieved this “smallest-size-ever euphoria” through starvation and over-exercising.  The only way that I could stay in that size (and subsequently keep my security, my value and my peace) was to eat less than 1000 calories/day, run at least 25 miles/week, and have several long weight-lifting sessions per week, leaving no room for being sick.  I further abused my body by intense exercise during illness.  Taking a day off was never an option; maintaining my smallest size and my sanity depended on it.

There was a point when those smallest-size-ever pants began to haunt me.  I had grown to really love this one particular pair of khakis.  While wearing them, I felt slim and attractive and in control of my body.  But, there were days when they didn’t fit right, or started to get too tight in the thighs.  What is going on?  Have I eaten any bad foods lately?  Is it “that” time of the month?  Where is my calendar?!  As much as I was attached to these pants, I also felt betrayed by them.  They had become my new nemesis, and had replaced the scale.   I recognized those old familiar feelings, just like when I would step on the scale and the number wasn’t what it “should” have been (OR, complete security in discovering that the number was just what I wanted).  The feelings had merely transferred to a new source.  I had the same battle going on within me to fit into these pants as I did to see a certain number on the scale.  Those moments alone in my walk-in closet, standing in front of the mirror, sucking in my stomach, and doing deep squats in those pants were a ritual for me.  It had so much power over my day, my emotions, and my self-worth.  (As an aside, I have to believe that I’m not the only one who does deep squats in my pants after they’ve been washed in hopes to loosen them up a bit!)

Now, fast-forward through my realization that I had a disorder and my “comin’ to Jesus” experience that set me on the path to recovery.  I had successfully removed the scale from my life, and found balance in eating and exercise.  By applying God’s truths about my body and its physiology, I was finally healing my body from the inside out.  I had found a respect for my body and was committed to being a good steward of the only body I would ever have this side of heaven.  I was the healthiest that I had been in a very long time, yet the size demon was still lurking.

I had to come to terms with the fact that some of my pants, including my precious size 4s, really did not fit.  All of my constructs about my identity in this worldly “size” now must be challenged. Where should my identity lie?  How does any of my worth and security and peace change if I am a size bigger?  Why am I so afraid to let go of this size?  Doesn’t it make sense that the only way that I could maintain this size was by being unhealthy; and now that I am healthy the size might no longer fit?  I was so afraid to let go of those pants, but they needed to go.  I had to honestly answer these questions before I could let go.

The bottom line is that I was believing lies about my worth and these pants were tied to my identity in a very wrong way.  Sadly, I had been placing my personal value in these khaki pants instead of the hands of my creator.  It may sound odd, but I believe that these pants had become an idol in my life.  Psalm 115 talks about how men can put their faith in idols that can’t speak, see, hear, smell, or feel, instead of God.  That is precisely what I had done.  There are many things in this world that compete with God for our attention and our allegiance.  The awesome truth is that He has done, and continues to do, infinitely more for us than the things of this world that quietly become our “idols.”  I knew that these pants were doing me no favors.  It was time to put my trust in the One who gives me my true worth, and it was time to start seeing myself as God sees me.  I am:  loved, gifted, forgiven, called, chosen, accepted, secure, significant, created with a purpose, and empowered.  A silly pair of pants can’t promise me any of these things.

So did I get rid of the pants?  You bet I did!  I had to replace this fickle, fragile, and false idol with the stable, strong, and sure promises of God.