Generally, I wouldn’t share this type of information, but today I’m making an exception.
On the morning of February 16th I weighed 153 pounds. That morning also marked the 35th anniversary of my birth and to me, the scale’s numeric answer seemed ominous in its similarly. (I’d also recently been measured for height and had gone from my normal 5’2 to 5’3….which, taken all together, means I should probably hustle over to the nearest convenience store and play the Powerball with variants of 5 and 3….or some other activity equally suitable for so many mathematically portentous signs and symbols : )
Regardless of numerical coincidence, the number left me feeling super depressed. As I stepped off the scale I even muttered, “Happy Birthday Liz. You are so fat.”
At this point, I’ll acknowledge that the number 153 probably resonates with you differently than it did with me. Too you, it could represent a dream or a disaster. You might feel judgmental or you might feel vindicated. You may sympathize or you may feel ashamed for me. Perhaps you feel incredulous or perhaps you think, “yeah, that’s about right.” And some of you, no doubt, are thinking that I am being way too free with personal data and that I should stick with blog posts about God, Jesus and the Bible : )
My point is that your response to this very mundane number comes from your personal experience and personal bias. For me, the number itself didn’t cause my self-deprecating comment, it was my beliefs about that number which convinced me that birthday cake and ice cream should be avoided this year . . . and possibly banned from my life forever.
153 is a pretty high number for me. Three babies and the requisite post-baby body that followed each each gave me plenty of weight gain/loss practice (as well as lots of lingering stretch marks.) Those times were tough. But this previous year has been tougher. Last December (right after I’d successfully worked off the last of my pregnancy weight from Meg), I developed some type of digestive problem that has since caused my weight to fluctuate between 5-15 pounds on what seems a totally erratic basis. My doctor gave me a suggested diagnosis and made some medical suggestions which worked…erratically. A nutritionist friend made some dietary suggestions which worked…erratically. I have also done a lot of personal research and tried some lifestyle changes that worked…you guessed it, erratically. I count calories and exercise more consistently now than ever before, (not that I do anything crazy since I really, truly hate anything aerobic in nature, but I mean, this year I actually bought a treadmill…and use it! I’ve even run for a full 10 minutes and didn’t pass out), but it’s been one whole year and I still don’t have a solid diagnosis and my weight is still stubbornly unpredictable. I’m not looking for svelte and toned Liz here, just the normal, not-too-athletically-inclined-but-can-fit-into-my-regular-jeans Liz.
It’s been extremely frustrating.
But what’s been more troubling to me is that my mind has become increasingly fixated on that stupid little red number that shines with such irritating brightness every morning when I step on the scale. I think about my weight nearly every day. I worry. I wonder. I research. And I then I worry some more.
I know that this mental trend has got to stop so I’ve been doing some good, hard, honest thinking about this topic since my birthday. And I’ve come to a few conclusions that I’d like to present to you.
First, like anything in life, these unwelcome extra pounds are under the sovereign control of my heavenly father. He could crank up my metabolism and melt those pounds right off if he chose to do so. But he hasn’t. He also hasn’t given me a clear answer as to why I can’t seem to “fix” the situation. So I must conclude that he wants me to live in this personally uncomfortable condition for the foreseeable future. Will I trust that God might be using my weight issues as a trial to test the authenticity of my faith? 2 Peter 1:7 says that the genuineness of faith is more precious than gold. So in my case, is it more precious than than a particular number on the scale or that particular dress hanging in my closet that I wish I could wear again?
Second, I must remind myself than the physical part of me, though important, is not what determines my identity. Sometimes I wonder if, had I been through a traumatic experience that dramatically altered my appearance, I’d have an easier (more spiritually motivated) time adjusting than I have to my current weight. I’ve seen that kind of faith from others who make that adjustment look easy. But no, God didn’t give me something big and obvious to accept. He gave me fifteen pounds, which are hardly dramatic and probably not even that noticeable to the people around me. But I notice it constantly, and I shouldn’t. If nothing else, the process of ageing is going to eventually change my appearance! The apostle Paul said that our outward body is in the process of wasting away (1 Cor 4:16) and the apostle Peter told believing woman not to focus all their attention on the physical appearance (1 Peter 3:3-4) because it fades (as opposed to the unfading of the inner spirit). The truth is that a younger me never really worried about my looks, and thus, never really thought about these verses. At the time, I felt like I could (literally) have my cake and eat it too! I could be cute AND spiritual! But sadly, those college days are past and now there are days when I have to choose between focusing on outward appearance or spiritual appearance. You’d be surprised how tempting it is to yell at my kids because they interrupt a yoga session or keep me from getting to the treadmill one day. Sadly, I don’t get nearly so upset if I’m not able to converse with God or make it out to my bible study group. Priorities are a mirror. And sometimes I need to be ok with the extra pounds (and, let’s face it, the extra wrinkles and reduced muscle tone) if it means that a godlier Liz is looking back at me.
So what do I think moving forward?
Here it is, my current weight problem (and I do consider it a problem because of its inconsistency and because I still have those pesky digestive issues) is a reflection of this broken world. This body that I have fails, both because some unknown problem is plaguing me and because of normal (broken) aging trends. With that in mind and God’s grace in heart, I will fight this brokenness by putting my faith in God’s value system and not by engaging in more faithless research, worry and depression. That is, I will remain as healthy as possible (at Paul’s suggestion, I am ditching the scale and using the same Air Force guidelines that he uses to stay healthy…which means that I’ll have to learn to run at least a mile and half without dying ; ) without letting my physical appearance take priority over much more important things like relating to God and other people with love.
So yeah, I’m carrying around some extra weight these days, but hopefully I can drop all the extra mental baggage that accompanies it. I want God to help me to live in the freedom and light of my Christ-bought identity—stretch marks, muffin tops and all.
Here are a few other blog posts that we’ve written about a Christian’s understanding of body image and attractiveness (and how it can affect your marriage), if that’s something you like to read more about.
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