Picture it. The seventies. A teenager dressed in bell bottoms, canvas sneakers, and a fringe vest over an embroidered, peasant blouse. Blue eyeshadow from lash line to brow, black mascara from the familiar pink and green tube, and rouge as folks in my little town called blush in those days. Lip gloss, never lipstick. For some strange reason that I’ve long since forgotten, I found lipstick to be highly embarrassing. Teenagers are a strange lot.
Of course, this was before my mom found out I was wearing make-up to school and threw it all away, including that pretty blue compact I loved so much. Anyway. Up in my bedroom myself-as-a-teen diddy-bopped and danced around to Neil Sedaka and The Captain and Tennille on an all-white Emerson record player. Yes, there was a time, however brief, when I preferred pop over rock.
I was a skinny-minnie in those days, short and thin, with long brown hair cut into the popular shag. That was around the time that I discovered I could gain attention by making people laugh. It was all over after that. Not only did funny get me the attention I craved, but loud and slightly obnoxious worked as well. Around this time, my sister gave me a trio of humorous postcards that I’d laughed over and loudly coveted since the first time I saw them on her wall. Not picture postcards, mind you, but plain-white, with phrases in black type.
“You can never be too rich or too thin.”
“The only thing we have to fear is fat itself.”
“Thin may be in, but fat is where it’s at.”
Two sides of the same
coin chocolate bar. All three represented the sentiment of modern times, depending on what size pants you wore. Ridiculous statements, really, but we fell for it and haven’t been able to shake ‘em since. For years these postcards hung on bulletin boards wherever I lived, declaring their message even as clothing and hair trends evolved into and, thank you Jesus, out of the eighties and nineties.
After I got saved I took them down and put them away in a johnny-come-lately sort of effort to accept myself as I am. This was, unfortunately, a day late and a dollar short. I’ve spent my whole life wishing I were skinnier, even when I was in fabulous shape in my twenties and thirties, and certainly after I started gaining that ubiquitous ten pounds a year.
I carried extra weight around for a long time, but the pounds really packed on when I stopped working four or five years ago to stay home and care full-time for my mom who has Alzheimer’s. Now, not only am I fat, I’m obese. I’ve never hit 200 pounds, thank our merciful God, but when you’re not quite 5′ 3″ anything over 140 pounds is highly unattractive. My BMI, or body mass index, is above 30, making me officially obese.
How did this happen? Simple. Habitually overeating and under-exercising. Why did this happen? Again, simple. Sin. I chose to go my own way to calm my fears and comfort my heart instead of trusting God in the storm. Okay, that’s actually complex.
Somewhere along the line I learned that stuffing myself made me feel better, albeit temporarily. I got lazy, indulging more and more in recliner-time and less and less on the elliptical until I didn’t bother getting on it at all. After a while, any effort I made didn’t seem to make much difference, munch-munch, so why bother?
At first I noticed that people, men and women alike, no longer gave me a second glance. “I’m older now’, reasoned my self-deceived heart, ‘besides, I hide it well.” I thought nobody noticed how fat I really was because I covered it all with dark, loose-fitting clothes designed to blend me into the background. This from me, who traditionally used every means possible to gain attention. I called them classic clothes. Truth calls them fat clothes. My friends acted co-dependently, telling me, “You’re not fat” and I pretended to believe it.
Then one day and the next and the next, I caught a glimpse of myself in several store windows and doors.
People, I want to lose weight. I want to be healthy again. I want to look and feel good. And God willing, I want to still be hiking when I’m in my seventies.
Why am I telling you all this? It’s very simple. I’m going to change. From the inside out, I’m going to move more and eat less. I’m going to find my comfort and joy and satisfaction in God alone so that food no longer has a hold over me. How do I know that I’ll make it? That this time, things will be different? I’ll tell you – God has a plan and He’s behind me one hundred percent.
God cares about my eating habits, not because he prefers skinny people and not so I can make myself feel better, but because He loves me and longs to bring me close. It’s about spiritual hunger, because that is what is behind all the stuffing. It’s about satisfying my needs with God and not food. The same could be said for those who seek satisfaction in shopping, drinking, or drugs.
I’ve started reading Made To Crave by Lysa Terkeurst, an incredibly helpful book for those with ears to hear. God is daily revealing truth to my soul by His Word. For the first time in my life, I’m talking about losing weight out loud. Before, I was too embarrassed to acknowledge my guilt and shame before others. But this time is different.
This time, I know I’m truly relying on God’s strength, being faithful to be obedient, however imperfectly. I would never have written these words before the whole world (or at least my limited reader base) if I did not possess confidence. I am becoming a better steward of this body He gave me. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Let me urge you, as you stand in the storm before your particular mountain, to seek God who allows these areas in our life to become bogged down so that he may bring us through them to higher ground.
“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 4:17-21).
After all, people:
The only thing we have to fear is God himself.