This was originally posted on my other blog, Closet Narcissist, on February 5, 2011.
In my absence from this blog, I’ve been reading and thinking and learning. Were you aware of the Health at Every Size movement? That there’s a whole community of interneters working for fat acceptance? That there are people who are actually standing up and saying, Yes, I *am* overweight, and I am also healthy and I love my body, so what of it?
This boggles me. Blows my mind. It never even *occurred* to me that there would be fat people out there — people my own size — who are not ashamed to be who they are, who aren’t hiding their bodies under layers and layers of bulky clothes, who are not just accepting of their bodies but *proud* of them, who love themselves.
And slowly, I’m becoming one of those people, too.
I wear a size 24. I have dieted and dieted for months and years at a time, I have lost and gained, and inevitably, this is the size I keep coming back to. What’s that cliche about the definition of insanity? I’m beginning to make peace with the notion that I am never going to be physically perfect — not by some arbitrary, external definition, anyway — but I am going to stop making myself insane trying to measure up — or measure down — to someone else’s ideal me.
I’m going to love and nurture and celebrate my body, not abuse and deprive it. I would never withhold food or affection or sleep from one of my children — I give them healthy food, plenty of it, and treats every now and then in moderation. I give them plenty of opportunities for fun exercise. I make sure they get plenty of sleep. I defend them when other people say cruel things to them, and I do not allow them to say cruel things about others; I teach them to treat people with dignity. I love them and snuggle them and tell them how special and wonderful they are to me, how God made them to be perfectly them.
And I am going to love myself the same way. I am God’s child, and He expects me to treat my body with healthy love, not unhealthy abuse. So I’m going to love me, all of me.
Just because I can write all of this, of course, doesn’t mean I really believe it yet. But I’m getting there. I’m working on being more mindful of what I eat, of making sure I’m getting healthy fruits and vegetables and just the occasional bit of chocolate, of paying attention to how different foods make me feel. Not bingeing, and also not denying myself when I’m hungry and my body needs fuel. I’m exercising, going to the campus gym several times a week to walk the track and listen to my iPod. Once I overcame fear of being a fat old(er) woman in a university gym full of thin perky 18-year-olds (a serious exercise in systematic desensitization), I’ve actually been enjoying it. I feel better when I’ve exercised, stronger, more energetic. I sleep better. It’s a surprising feeling, this exercising-to-feel-better instead of exercising-to-get-thin.
So I’m getting there.
I’m working hard at remembering all of this, controlling what I’m putting in, seeking out writers who are uplifting and positive about body and size and self-esteem. There seems to be an absence of Christian voices on this topic, though; I’ve only found one so far, and what I’m missing is the company of other writers who are writing about body-love from a Christian perspective.
We’re not very good at love, we Christians. Most of the time, we’re better at judgment – towards others and towards ourselves. And when it comes to body image, we pretty much fall back on two verses: the bit about gluttony, and “Your body is a temple.” And we all know there are certain things that are off limits for our temples: drinking, smoking, premarital sex, and being fat.
I was hung up on the body-as-temple image for a while. If I’m remembering right from all my years of Bible classes and Sunday schools, Solomon built a pretty freaking amazing temple to honor God — all gold and jewels and fancy statues, opulent and expensive, a place worthy of communing with the Most High God. If that temple were a human body, it would be Angelina Jolie. Is that what God wants from me? Because I can never live up to that. My body-temple is more of a shack, with shag carpets and crummy wood paneling. My body-temple belongs in a trailer park, not a palace.
But then. It’s not saying I’m supposed to build this temple of my body — it’s already built. I had no control over the construction, the materials, the workmanship. I have to trust that God built this temple of mine exactly to the specifications He wanted, out of exactly the materials He wanted, fearfully and wonderfully. I’m not the architect here — it’s just my job to keep the carpets vacuumed and the furniture dusted, to light the incense and burn the candles, to make this temple welcoming and warm, a fitting place to honor God. To nurture and love and care for this temple, not take a sledgehammer to the walls and try to make it something else.
So that’s a very lengthy summary of what I’ve been thinking about lately. What about you?