I am an only child. I remember several “crazy” games I used to play to keep myself entertained. When I played video games, I always pretended that I was the sole guest on a talk show teaching people how to play. When I was outside, I would pretend I was by myself because I was a spy on a secret mission. When I was forced to clean my room, I would pretend that I was preforming in front of a large audience. When I was in the car, I would pretend I was a princess traveling in my royal carriage.
I remember the day I was riding in my “carriage” and realized I wasn’t a princess. As the sun hit my hands, my shadow on the door had beautiful long fingers. I’m not sure if you have ever realized, but every princesses on all the cartoon movies have long delicate fingers. However, my real fingers didn’t look like my shadow. They weren’t delicate at all. I was six or seven when I realized for the first time I didn’t look the way I wanted.
I have always been taller than my friends. I remember one time, in middle school, when I hugged one of my friends and she said “I wish I had a boyfriend your size”. I was mortified. In my mind, girls are supposed to be little and cute. They had long princess fingers, skinny waists and beautiful clothes. I wasn’t any of these things. In fact, I was tall, overweight and awkward.
As I got older I realized I could control the way my body looked by what I ate. I liked having control. In a world that felt like I had no control over what I did or where I went – I could control how I looked. I started eating smaller portions, and my clothes started fitting differently. The number on the scale quickly started changing.
The rush of seeing numbers drop on the scale quickly turned into an obsession. I don’t really remember making a conscious decision to stop eating, but I was going days without eating before I knew it. I liked having the control over what those numbers on the scale did. I liked that people seemed to notice me more and more as I slimmed down. My teenage body was thin, but it wasn’t enough. I needed to be littler and cuter. I started to run and restrict my food even more. I was desperate to get the body I thought I was pretty.
Then one day, it all caught up with me. I was running and nearly passed out. My mom took me to the hospital to be checked out. She was sure that something was seriously wrong with me and had no idea how much I had been hiding. I remember my Mom leaving the room and a nurse coming in and telling me that if I didn’t start eating I would die. I remember her telling me my body was slowly starting to shut down and I was slowly killing myself.
My mom and I have talked about that hospital visit and to this day, I don’t understand the memory. She doesn’t remember leaving the room, and it seems crazy that a nurse would come in when I was by myself (I was seventeen at the time) and tell me something so serious. Whatever really happened doesn’t matter, that visit was an eye opener to me.
A few days later, we were driving home from church and I told my parents I thought I had a problem. That afternoon, I ate my first full meal in days and honestly, I didn’t stop. I didn’t understand food, and what was healthy, I just knew I needed to eat. Even though I was eating, I never liked what I saw in the mirror. I still longed to have beautiful princess fingers.
I went to college and still struggled with the image in the mirror. I didn’t have a scale anymore but I still judged my body with a very critical eye. I still struggled to control what I ate. When I ate “bad food”, I would make sure to make up for it with lots of salads (or maybe a skipped meal). I was still desperate to be little and cute. I never really remember a time where I was happy in my skin.
A few months before Dan and I got married, I went on birth control and my body changed. The change in my hormones and – let’s face it – late night ice cream runs with my new husband contributed to weight gain. A few years into our marriage, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and told losing weight would help.
I knew I had to lose weight, but I didn’t want to fall into the obsessions that I had when I was younger. So my journey to understand healthy eating started. I googled everything I could about losing weight with PCOS. I read books and asked a lot of questions. I started to learn more about food and healthy alternatives. I started counting calories.
While I did lose weight, the scale still told me a story. No matter how hard I tried to feel comfortable in my skin, the scale continued to tell me something about my worth. It felt like a constant battle, lose 5 pounds and then celebrate with large bowls of ice cream. Count calories, get obsessed with counting calories, take a break and eat all the things without abandon. I carried so much shame. Other girls were little and cute, and no matter what I did, I was still the awkward girl that would never have princess fingers.
Four years ago we moved to Missouri and I decided to dive deeper into a healthy eating trend called the Whole30. This eating plan focuses on eating whole foods and eliminating sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy for thirty days. At the end of the thirty days, all the foods that were eliminated are slowly introduced back into the diet so a person can better understand the affect of food on their body.
Dan and I successfully completed a Whole4. Ha! Yes, we only made it four days before we agreed that this wasn’t the eating plan for us. While we totally failed at completing a Whole30, the program taught me so much about food.
Food was never meant to be about shame. So imagine if you eat cookies. If you’re anything like me, you probably start by saying “I ate junk today.” which quickly turns to “I am filled with junk.” which often turns to “I am junk.” So I walk around believing I am junk all because I ate a few cookies. However, eating cookies isn’t bad. Philippians 4:8 says this in the NIV translation:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Thinking “I am junk” isn’t true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. It has to go. So think of it this way, replace the word junk with cookies. “I ate cookies today”. “I am filled with cookies.” “I am cookies.” It’s funny how the entire idea changes when you replace just one word, but it’s a quick reminder to switch that shameful thought process off!! Switching my thinking has been a real eye opener to me. Cookies aren’t bad. When I eat cookies, I am not bad. Eating several cookies may make me feel bad, but feeling bad isn’t the same as being bad.
While the Whole30 helped me recognize a lot of my negative thought processes towards food, I still struggled with the story the scale told me. I was fueling my body with more whole food and understanding that I didn’t need to carry shame when I occasionally ate “junk-food”, but I still struggled with the girl I saw in the mirror. I was the awkward girl that would never have princess fingers.
A couple months ago, Dan and I made some big changes and we hid the scale. For 6 weeks I did a program called “The Faster Way to Fat Loss”. This program combines intermittent fasting with carb-cycling and working out. The entire program intimidated me and I was terrified to start, however it has become one of the most eye opening things I have ever done.
First, I learned that when I was counting calories, I was never eating enough carbohydrates, fats and protein to keep me full. When I started eating balanced meals, it’s like something in my body clicked. At the end of the six weeks, I stepped on the scale and cried when I realized I had lost almost 13 pounds. I could tell I had lost in my clothes, but I still felt so much relief when the scale confirmed that loss.
Here’s the thing, it’s never been about the actual numbers. It’s always been about the feelings tied to those numbers. Making changes and hiding that scale has helped me find freedom. Eating balanced meals has helped me rip out the shame I had been feeling for so long. While I knew intellectually food was never meant to cause us so much shame, I never got it into my heart until very recently. John 10:10 says this in the Passion translation:
A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow!
The enemy wants to steal, slaughter and destroy. One way he can steal from us is making us feel beat down because of what we choose to eat. Realizing food is meant to fuel us and keep us strong changes everything. It’s freeing to realize that I don’t have to be bound by what I see on the scale or in the mirror. Life in it’s fullness happens when I walk in freedom.
I am still an awkward girl that doesn’t have princess fingers, and I still feel like my journey to freedom with food isn’t over. I still have days that I have to work to not look at myself in the mirror with a critical eye. However, as I wrote this I realized something. The weekend that Dan and I started talking, my imperfect fingers played a big role in the reason we started talking. My lack of princess fingers opened the door for us to fall in love. One of my biggest “flaws” honestly has been one of my biggest gifts.
Friends, it’s time to stop standing in agreement with the enemy for the things we perceive as flaws and start to praise the Father for how He made us. Song of Solomon 4:1 says this in the NIV translation:
How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!
The One who created the entire universe says you and I are beautiful, who are we to disagree with Him? We need to stop wasting time on the feelings we have about our flaws and instead replace those ugly thoughts with the truth of who we are. What is true? What is noble? What is right? What is pure? What is lovely? Excellent and Praiseworthy? We are beloved and beautiful. It’s time to start walking in freedom.