I 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.