Fearfully and Wonderfully made.. even my body?

By Heather Widmer LMHC, CAP

“Ugh… You’re supposed to look less bloated in the morning, why does my stomach look so big this morning? I knew I shouldn’t have had that snack so late last night… why can’t I just have more self-control… I wonder if it’ll help if I do some crunches and push-ups before leaving” VS “Yes! I look and feel so skinny this morning… I can see my collarbones, my hip bones are starting to come back, there’s even toning in my stomach!”

Mornings were my favorite time of the day. I’m a morning person, the mirror always appeared kinder to me in the morning. I’d made a habit of standing in front of the mirror, infatuated with staring at every part of my body. There were days my face looked less swollen, my stomach less bloated, and my arms jiggled less, even my chest looked thinner. One would ask “how can your chest look… thinner?” Well, it’s when your collarbones are pronounced and you hold your arms out so that your breast plate/ribs show. These were the thoughts entering my mind. I began to notice over time that some mornings weren’t as forgiving. I slowly started avoiding the mirror. Every look into the mirror became a war zone in my mind, a feeling of disgust in the pit of my stomach, a quick development of insecurity, a question of what to wear and an overwhelming event before the day even started.

After the fourth grade, my body took a turn for the worse (in my mind). According to my mom I just had a lot of “baby fat”. I remember at this time of my life envying the “popular” girls for their thin frames; flat stomachs, long thin legs, toned arms and not a single stretch mark in sight! Looking at them was a constant reminder that I was NOT them. All through my life I’ve been surrounded by other women who were skinnier, prettier, more popular, more loved and, in my mind, just better than me. To make matters worse, my older sister was my opposite. My curvy frame was matched with frizzy brown hair, not so perfect teeth and bushy eyebrows whereas she had a perfect body, perfect breasts, blonde hair, blue eyes and a million dollar smile. These girls, including my sister, got the attention, not only from other girls who envied them, but also from boys. I’ve never been the girl that all the guys liked and this was just one more motivation for me to become thin like my sister. It didn’t help that I was frequently teased by the boys, called names like chubby and fat, and that no one wanted to date me. The wounds from being teased about my weight haunted me causing me to choose to hold to this self perception tightly throughout many years.

I was never sure how you could still have “baby” fat in high school, but my “baby fat” lasted until I was in college. Moving down to Boca Raton for college was another reminder of not being pretty or skinny enough. I entered into surroundings that encouraged body enhancement surgeries; yet another reminder of why the body God created in our original form was not enough. I debated and contemplated for years the thought of getting breast implants to help with my “not so perky” breasts, for the purpose of fitting in, to get more attention, you name it. I spent hours researching doctors in the area, prices, recovery information, sizes and for whatever reasons could never follow through with making the appointment or actually calling, (I see now God was directing me in a different direction).

Toward the end of my undergraduate years I went to a doctor that prescribed me an appetite suppressant. Part of the physical exam was to step on the scale and get weighed in order to keep track of your results. I stood in fear as I approached the scale. There was a reason I never weighed myself! The thought of what that number could be horrified me and feelings of embarrassment consumed me before anything even happened. As I stepped on the scale for the first time in years my stomach dropped as I read the number. “140! I can’t believe I’m THIS fat!” One might be thinking 140?! I’d kill to be 140! This was the fast track to what became a strenuous diet of 600 calories a day, appetite suppressants, working out, calorie counting and food journals. I was obsessed. I restricted and wouldn’t allow myself anything outside of my daily food routine and obsessively counted every calorie I consumed and lost the weight through physical activity. Two months later, I was down to 121 pounds and surprisingly enough, did not think I was thin. I still looked in the mirror and saw the same “chubby” girl with imperfect arms and a bloated stomach. I was never satisfied although the only thing that brought me satisfaction was other people commenting on how I was “omg so skinny!” I began receiving compliments for the first time, receiving attention from guys for the first time, wearing size 2 pants for the first time in my existence and even was as thin as my sister (which had never happened in my life). I stopped taking the appetite suppressants after having a realization that I no longer needed them but still continued with the restrictive diet, exercise and calorie counting.

In 2010 my ex-boyfriend and then best friend passed away from a drug overdose. I had lost my best friend, the one person I loved more than anyone. I had spent my relationship with my ex trying to help him get better. Obviously, it hadn’t worked and my efforts failed; although I know today I have no control over another person. A few months after he passed away I began dating a friend of his who was a sweet Christian man but had unhealthy behaviors and struggles of his own. During that relationship I developed the habit of binging on ice-cream and purging. Binging and purging provided me the sense of feeling “in control”, and this was the one thing I knew I had slight control over; my weight but only for a moment because once it was over the feelings of shame and guilt consumed me. I deeply avoided the feelings of guilt, grief, depression and sadness. Binging allowed me to eat however much I wanted while the purging allowed me to feel I had control over the weight, and ultimately feel better for a brief moment.

I kept this a secret from everyone in my life, except my boyfriend at the time who turned it around and shamed me, or so I felt at the time, for my behavior. Never once did I feel the need to turn to Christ and ask him to take my obsession with weight or my body away. I was in denial, nothing was wrong with me. I certainly did not realize how consumed by my own thoughts I was and that I was a prisoner in my own body. Not a day went by that I didn’t hate something about myself, refuse to accept a compliment, over regulate my eating or pick my body apart. The only moments I reached out to God were in prayers asking him to help me be thinner. The insanity of it all is that no one would ever have looked at me and considered me “overweight” by any means, but my mind was convinced and still plays tricks on me to this day. I continued to see myself at the weight I had once been. I cringed when my “skinny” friends called themselves fat but then told me I wasn’t. Instead of realizing they were prone to insecurities just as I was, I had feelings of resentment, anger and annoyance instead.

After undergraduate school I entered a master’s program for counseling and found myself encouraging and uplifting other women, especially young women. I’ve heard stories and struggles of these women and young girls hating themselves, hating their bodies, hating the way they looked, finding their worth in men and their appearance, not thinking they were good enough and certainly not seeing themselves as Christ sees them. I embraced helping these women work on gaining self-love and confidence and embracing and accepting themselves and their bodies. I developed a passion for empowering these women to see how truly beautiful they were, not only on the outside but also within. Time passed by, however, and I began to feel like a fake. Here I was acting like I had it “all together” yet I still picked myself apart on a daily basis, failing to practice what I preached. I finally came to a point where I felt Christ telling me that its time to let go. It’s time to surrender the pain, surrender the thoughts, surrender the control and begin loving myself completely. As I sit here writing this, tears fill my eyes understanding how it feels to finally be free, free from the bondage of self, free from the constant agonizing, free from the enemies grasp on my mind and trying to convince me I’m not enough.

Insecurity with my body image has caused plenty of damage to my life over the years. On top of constant battles within heart/mind/soul, it caused jealousy of other women, paranoia in relationships, unnecessary emotional turmoil in relationships, and above all else, it caused a spiritual disconnect from Christ. It was impossible to see myself the way Christ sees me and as Psalms 139 says that I’m “fearfully and wonderfully made”. I was not able to believe this truth. How is it that I could believe some parts of the Word, but not all? If I’m a believer in Christ, and a believer in His truth and His Word, then believing whole-heartedly in all that the Word says INCLUDING the positive is what you and I need to do. Of course, some days are better than others; every day can be an inner battle of negativity that we either choose to believe or not, but that battle does not have to belong to us. Today I have a choice to surrender those thoughts to the Lord and not carry the insecurities of my past or present. I have a choice to see myself as a beautiful, perfect child of our Lord Jesus Christ, the same Lord that paid the ultimate sacrifice of love by dying in the cross for ME (and you); the same Christ Jesus that knows my hearts every desire and listens to my every need and prayer. He loves me, yes! Christ loves me and he loves me whether I’m “skinny”, “fat”, “bloated” or whatever self-perception I maintain. He loves me all the time. As I came to accept and embrace this truth, my journey to accepting and loving me began; and it is quite a beautiful journey.

Today my heart is still filled with the desire for women to see themselves as Christ views them; to see themselves as a flawless creation of our Heavenly Father, the Creator of this world, and the King of the universe. Set apart, never duplicated, never to be replaced. We, yes myself included, are heirs to the throne, sons and daughters of the King. We, and our bodies are a part of us, were created in His image.