When I was 13, I decided I was done being chubby. That reputation was old and undesirable, so I went on a diet. Honestly, when I look back, it was pretty impressive. Although it was fraught with insecurities and choices that would affect me for the next 30 years (yikes), I lost at least 10 pounds and really looked like a different girl.
I got out Mom’s exercise videos and did them regularly. I cut out articles from magazines about sit-ups and squats, daily following the suggestions. I ate basically nothing. All this I remember with detail, but something I had forgotten came up yesterday. Talking with a friend about how our childhood determines our current body image, I remembered that I would cut pictures of sexy women in bikinis from magazines as inspiration. Since I was embarrassed and nervous about what Mom would say if I put them on my wall, I taped them to the inside of my closet door. Every time I got dressed, those skinny women were reminding me of what I wanted.
To this day, my brain still follows the same pathway…I see a sexy girl in a bikini and I think, “that’s what I want; that’s the goal.”
This thought is so ingrained in me that I rarely question it. Of course, that’s the goal, right? Isn’t that how everyone feels? It was interesting to realize some of my friends don’t feel that way. Their brains don’t take that same pathway.
Wait…I don’t have to believe that? That might not be true?
This is super relieving.
I can look at a beautiful body and….just think it’s beautiful?! I don’t have to compare it to my own?! Or, feel like that’s the goal, or covet it? Mind-blowing.
Obviously, this will take discipline and training of my mind. This will mean replacing the old story with a new one; replacing the old desires with new ones.
I have lots of friends with “perfect” figures. And all of them would argue that theirs is not. And none of them are happier than me because of their shape. If they are happier than me, I can promise you it’s for some other reason.
I want to scream from the top of the beach, “Being thin and sexy will not make you happier!” And, really, it’s just for me. I need to hear it. I need to believe it.
Because truly, happiness can only come fully and deeply from “God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” (I Tim 6:17)
When I lost all that weight when I was 13, was I happier? Well, I was proud of myself and impressed I could do something I set my mind to. (That’s a good thing!) But, I was hungry most of the time, a bit obsessed, and no, not actually happier at the core of who I was. Because I didn’t change. Only the shell of me was different- this thing we call a body was transformed. But, I was still insecure and envious. I still held the (false) belief that being thin would make me happier.
I remember when I decided to let myself be less strict with my food the next year. I felt this amazing freedom and happiness. Ahhh, to enjoy food! But, the true root of the issue was not resolved and I continued to yo-yo between diets and freedom (therefore gaining and losing the same 10 pounds over and over).
I can’t say my mind has completely developed a new pathway when I see skin-baring women at my beach. But, I am disciplining myself to believe something new. And, it’s getting easier! My first thought might be envy, but my second thought is, “that won’t make me happier.” Oh, thank you, God! This is life-changing. This is freedom.
And, I know I need to replace those old desires with new ones. My new desire is to have deep fulfillment in a God who loves me and accepts me just as I am. And, I do believe that. Just not all the time. Yet.
What causes you to believe something that is not true about your body? What influences you to struggle most with your self-image?