Learn to Love the Skin You’re In … by Amelia

Another thought-provoking article by a wonderful writer, Amelia, at The Bottom Line:

We can’t change our skin like snakes do; so, learning to be comfortable in our own skin is vital. We have to love ourselves, or else others will find it hard to do it for us. The message about “loving our bodies” is worn out. Yet, people aren’t convinced. Maybe it’s because the message about “skinny being the only sexy,” is louder.

Numerous people struggle to love their bodies—a large percentage of them are teenagers. An article on Huffington Post states, “About 40 percent of 10 and 11-year-old girls in the U.K. want to lose weight. That number rises to 54 percent in 12 and 13-year-old girls and to a stunning 63 percent among 14 and 15-year-olds.” While boys are less concerned about body image, they’re not all exempt.

Finish this post here … 

Advertisements

Different is Good (not just at Arby’s)

I mentioned that I made a second discovery the first time I read the preface to C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce. Don’t worry, this observation is much shorter than the last one.

Most of you know that I have an eating disordered background. I don’t know if that’s the proper way to say it, but I think it makes sense. I dealt with anorexia for, at this point, more than half of my life.

One factor that frequently contributes to body dysmorphia,* is the idea that there is a perfect physical standard. All forms of media pummel our brains with visual and audial messages about an ideal body shape. Women, particularly are susceptible to these bogus rants.

Perhaps C.S. Lewis wasn’t thinking of the size of his thighs when he wrote the book, but I certainly see a reasonable application for a few of his comments.

“Even on the biological level life is not like a river but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.”

Imagine if we applied that to our bodies!
What if it’s true?
What if, the more distinct we are the better?
What if the most radical aspects of our beauty are those which define us from everyone else?
What if the most outstanding characteristics of our physical beings are those which no one else has?
What if our most celebrated potential is that our individuality can inspire, challenge and enhance the differences of others?

jayThink of it…why do we admire a blue jay? Is it not for the crisp azure of his feathers, starkly rimmed in black and white? Like God forgot to remove the tape after painting the edges of his feathers.

I appreciate a quail’s cry simply because I recognize it and he sounds like a familiar friend. I don’t wish the cardinal was the color of the sea, and I don’t wish the quail said, “Sue Smith,” instead of, “Bob White.” Their perfection is in their distinction.

I don’t love my dog, Brave, because he’s adorable, but he is adorable to me because his special, “I missed you,” tail wag is different from any other lovable mutt’s. He is precious to me because he’s unlike any other dog I’ve ever met.

Think even of a season’s grape harvest, pressed into a magnificent vintage. What makes a wine favorable? Is it not because one year’s drought deepened the flavor and another climate’s cool soil heightened the acidity?

So what if we applied Lewis’ concept to our own bodies, if as God’s creatures we believed that the farther apart we grow we increase in perfection.

“Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.”

*Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of mental illness, a somatoform disorder, wherein the affected person is concerned with body image, manifested as excessive concern about and preoccupation with a perceived defect of their physical features. Wikipedia

Resource for thought: Health at Every Size

Blind to Beautiful

This morning, walking my dog down Sydenstriker, I watched a little girl learn to use a white-tipped cane. Nine-thirty in the morning, most of her friends were in the school building she practiced in front of. An older lady stood protectively between her and the street, holding her own white-tipped cane.

Like metronomes in perfect sync, their canes scanned the sidewalk 10 inches before out of sightthem. The little girl had wild brown hair. Her profile was slight, a little beanpole dressed in a hot pink t-shirt and blue jeans. With her left hand she clung to the older woman’s shirt sleeve.

I passed them in seconds and just as quickly they passed through my thoughts and into catalogued, insignificant memory. Until this afternoon.

My husband and I sped along Braddock Road, grumbling as the golden, spring sun gave way to April showers. I was thinking about my yoga practice this morning, how I feel different, more whole after yoga than after other workouts. I like that feeling of knowing I’m alive, feeling graceful, collected and yet free at the same time. But I wondered, did I work out hard enough? I don’t feel especially fatigued or sore like I do after other workouts. Did I do enough?

These fears harken back to 15 years of pushing all my physical limits: Too little food, too much exercise. I did it all in pursuit of a goal – to look beautiful, to look competent, to look powerful, to look in control.

Recently, I read an article by one of my favorite people, Amy Dardis, referencing another of my favorite people, Esse Johnson. She spoke of knowing her body. My thoughts skipped.  How do I know my body? I do know that it can hear and feel and taste and see and touch and smell and walk and sleep and love and care and hurt and bleed and write and cook and listen and…

So why am I so much more worried about what I see than all the other things that my body is and does? Would I dare tell that little girl that she is missing the essential gift of life because she cannot see whether she is thin or beautiful or young or old?

What would happen if I didn’t worry so much about what I look like and instead, learned to focus on what I sound like, feel like, smell like? Beauty can be expressed those ways too.

Do I speak gently and joyfully, encouraging others and laughing at the lighter things and praying for the harder things?
Do I smell fresh and delicious to my husband?
Do I feel strong and capable?
Do my hands feel comforting to mourners?
Does my voice sound like praise?
I never smell Amber Romance, or Santa Fe perfume without melting into sweet thoughts of my mother.
I can’t contain the joy in my heart when I hear my niece tell me that a duck says, “Kack, kack”.

So why is what I look like so much more significant to me that all the other aspect of who I am? I wonder.

No More Strip Search

At Remuda, weigh-in day involved a strip search. Every fold of clothing, baggy sweatshirt or rubber soled shoe held potential. Girls at The Ranch were receiving treatment for eating disorders. And a girl with an eating disorder is nothing if not sneaky. I learned the tricks of the trade from more experienced friends.

Wear a water bra.
Drink tons of water within an hour of weigh-in.
Some had managed to hide books in the pockets of their hoodies.
Stuff your pockets.
Put sand in your shoes.

But the staff caught on, and hence forth, weigh-in day began with a strip search. Susan, the kindest nurse I remember, always turned her back while I undressed. When I was ready, she stepped close and slid the indicator down the bar. Did I mentioned that everyone weighed backwards? Some of us tried to count the clicks as the indicator slid.

Susan was sharp. She noticed the clench of a thigh, and if I tried to sneak a toe off the front edge of the platform. “Stand still.” After the traumatic, twice-weekly event, a small clump of nervous girls trudged back to our rooms to get dressed and then head to breakfast.

Before I got sick, I only vaguely knew my weight. Who cared? Occasionally, after swim team practice, I stepped on the scale and just as quickly forget the number.

When I left Remuda and progressed through aftercare, I terminated my relationship with the scale. I don’t own one. I refuse to look at them, staring straight ahead when I pass one in the gym locker room. Until yesterday, I couldn’t tell you within five pounds what I weighed. I only knew that my clothes still fit (and I think I look sexy). I can honestly tell you that I like my thighs, my stomach, my arms. I am proud of my strength. I can even knockout more than the minimum number of pull-ups for a female marine!

So what’s the big deal?

Yesterday, the nurse at the doctor’s office weighed me. There was no fanfare, no strip search, no one aware of my discomfort with the scale. Quite casually, she pointed in the direction of that frightful piece of equipment and turned her back to make notes. Hesitantly, I lined my toes up on the outline of a foot. I tried to stare straight ahead, but my eyes fell on the digital number when it beeped. Oh.

I weigh as much as I did before the eating disorder.

The shadow of belief that I am still skinny disappeared in the light of the glowing scale display. Normal. Is that OK? Am I ready to be normal? The naked truth is that I hadn’t realized that a sliver of my identity was still lodged in a belief that it’s better to be too thin that too fat, and that I was on the ‘good’ side.

Truthfully, I think I am ready. I didn’t do a crazy, compensatory workout this morning. I still enjoyed a beer with my husband last night. I have to admit, the new knowledge has continued to linger in my consciousness.

But, yes, I can handle the truth. I personally know the Creator of this good body and I trust Him to direct me in how to care for it and to show me what size He wants it to be.

Body

Swirling around Body, are passions.

Tangled, unrelated, cruel, indulgent.

I swing at her with fury intent

To finally destroy, she who causes so much angst.

But failing that to destroy and remove her

I work to decorate what insists on remaining.

Add color, trim hair, paint nails, whittle her curves, diminish her shape.

Manipulate and stuff this awkward piece into a somewhat acceptable mold.

Passion, anger, hostility, frustration, discouraged.

On a warpath to find what will force her submission.

What has she done to me? What pain has she caused? What is her crime?

Like an abused child, she shies from the deviance and plots of my mind.

I see her crawl to a corner and hide.

Jesus, save me from myself!

I wrote this poem recently, drawing from old emotions and new. I wonder, other women, do you feel at odds with your own body sometimes? What do you do?

Thank you to Promising Poets for this award!

Mirror, Mirror… Am I Ugly?

I admit, it’s sickening and addicting at the same time. “Am I Ugly?”

There’s a new trend in self-loathing: Ask the world, via the internet if you are ugly or fat. 

When I began my battle with anorexia, the conversation resembled Snow White, “Mirror, mirror on the wall…” Believe me, the mirror alone was convincing enough. My own reflection defeated me. It was painful enough to compare myself to my own sisters whom I believed were prettier, smarter, more likable. Imagining the stares of strangers on the street critiquing my body – too thin, too fat, plain, boring, stupid – lies I concocted in my own head replayed like broken records in my mind. It didn’t take a world-wide community to persuade me that I was unlovable and evoke behaviors that nearly killed me.

I did covert jumping jacks in the bathroom after midnight. I counted, tallied, re-counted, calculated, re-counted, looked up and recounted every calorie consumed or burned. The image of my own face seemed burned into my retina every moment I was in public. I imagined what others saw when they looked at me. My emotions swung from suicidal over my failures as a person, to jubilant and haughty that I was thinner or more self-disciplined than those around me.

Enter YouTube. What if you gave nearly everyone on planet earth the opportunity to confirm your private fears? What if 1,200 people thought it was their business to shape your self image. Apparently, a new community has evolved, one where youth, especially those 11-13, invite the world to either affirm them or destroy them.

I don’t know what to make of this. It is disturbing no matter how you look at it. Kids come home at night to hide in their bedrooms with their cellphone cameras, critically slicing and dicing themselves and then splicing the images into videos for world-wide publication. How narcissistic. Why do we believe that everyone cares what we look like?

Or, from the other angle, why do these kids believe they need everyone’s approval? And who are the self-appointed evaluators who believe their looks are superior enough to warrant criticism of another person?

As  much as I would like to sweeten this story by promising all little girls that they are indeed beautiful, I can’t. Obviously all our talk about “beauty being on the inside,” doesn’t really have much impact.

Maybe we need to be reminded that the Bible didn’t tell us anything about Jesus appearance. The only verse that borders on description says, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53:2

To this day, I’m not convinced that I am beautiful. There was no turning point in my recovery from anorexia when I suddenly saw my internal beauty, or began to admire my eyes, appreciate my hair or be content with my figure. But I can suddenly, almost surprisingly tell you that I FEEL beautiful. Even in the morning, when I am praying and tears streak down my unwashed face and bed-head tresses drape around my ears – I feel beautiful. Somehow, someway – heavier than I have been in 15 years, I FEEL BEAUTIFUL. Oh to share that. Oh that Jesus would present himself to these little ones and express His beauty from their hearts, through their eyes and expressions and ultimately through their words and key strokes. That God would be glorified by the beauty He created in each of them.

It’s Personal

I am quite skilled at containing two opinions in my own head and lobbying for dissenting convictions.

For many years, I hosted the little red devil on my left shoulder and the gleaming, screaming angel on my right.Simultaneously, they fed me suggestions. For a moment my head would cock to the right, imperceptibly to my acquaintances, then shift slightly to the left. My whole body would lean into one persuasion or the next, convinced of polar viewpoints, to the marrow of my bones with each new thought.

In the heat of an eating disorder, I couldn’t tell up from down as my very life hung in the balance. I often walked away from conversations unable to recall what someone had confided me; too consumed by the disagreement raging in my mind.

A counselor once told me to write out the dialogue. Maybe, if I could present the arguments to myself logically, on a page, then I could choose the merits of each opinion and come to a composite truth.

“You’re fat and ugly. You’re worthless and dispensable. In your sick obsession with anorexia, you’re a liability to your family. 

Talent? Don’t kid yourself. Did you see your sister? She’s capable of ten times what you can do.”

“Precious One! Don’t listen to that lie! You are a child of God. Eat, Dear One. God created you for His good purpose and He has promised to care for you physically as much as spiritually. You trust Jesus with eternity, you can trust Him with your weight today.”

“Your workout barely counted this morning. Three miles? Are you kidding me?”

“Rest, Child of God. Be still and know that God and cares for you intimately. He made you and knows your body inside out.”

The wrestling between my ears was agonizing. The war seethed, leaving my body a ravaged battle field and my mind wounded by fear. What ends a war? Only a victory. Peace is never found in the middle ground, the center of the battlefield, or in this case in my mind. So I simply gave up.

I don’t mean that I relinquished my life and succumbed to the death knell of self-starvation, depression and skewed pride. I quit searching for my own form of truth, a combination of the voices in my head. I quit trying to make peace between two mortal enemies.

Satan paints a pretty picture. He is the master of disguise. Genesis tells us that when Satan directed Eve’s gaze to the forbidden fruit, “it looked good to her.” Just like Eve, I can be convinced that his arguments make sense. Sometimes God’s law seems harsh and tolerance of sin seems like the easiest option.

“So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good. I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being. However, I see a different standard at work throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body. What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body?”

What to do? I’m exhausted. I’m not strong enough to get it right, to banish sinful behaviors or stand up for truth one more time. I am in good company. The apostle Paul understood this internal argument. But he didn’t tell me to suck it up, tighten my belt, or try harder. He simply told me, let the best man win.

“I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me!”

Romans 7:21-25a

Borderline Racy… and Plus Size?

For those of you who know my  soapbox is body image and cultural lie of skinny perfection – this is a must read. Click the picture to read the story. The link below is borderline racy… and these are plus size models. Really? Do you want to ostracize these gorgeous women under the label of “second string” beauties?

 

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/01/11/new-magazine-editorial-highlights-shocking-differences-between-plus-size-and/?intcmp=obnetwork

Sunny Sea Gold’s Story

Most of you know my story by now. If you don’t, please read these 2 posts and it will help to fill in the gaps. God Is Going to Give Up On Me and Guest Post on Carole’s Blog. 

Then, enjoy this story. It is a compelling story published in Redbook magazine. Sunny tells how even loving family members can introduce us to terrible fears and longterm bad habits and contagious pain. Sunny’s story has a bright ending, though. She has chose to ignore cultural norms and to raise her daughters with a fearless view toward their bodies.

Sunny Sea Gold: I Was Fat In A Thin Family