A Weighty Matter

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Sometime last year I blogged on the subject of body image. I had an epiphany regarding my own self-image, and since that time stopped weighing myself on a daily basis, and cast the scales into the outer darkness (the garage). Which is probably just as well, because since that time I got pregnant, was very ill, had a baby, and stacked on the pounds. I’m one of those blessed creatures that can’t lose weight while breastfeeding, so the not-so-small matter of an extra 30 pounds has given me a perfect opportunity to put some of my new-found resolutions to the test.

Let me just paint you the picture of how things are right now: I’m a couple of sizes bigger than I’ve ever been, the post-hormonal hair loss left me with a couple of receeding/baldy patches, my feet have widened to the extent that I can’t fit into some of my favourite shoes, and my giant feedy boobs are giving me continued migraines. Physically, it’s pretty much up there with my worst case scenario. This is what I spent countless hours exercising and counting calories to avoid. And here it is.

I would love to be able to say that I haven’t given the whole situ a passing thought, but let’s be honest, there have been tears. BUT…the really cool thing, is that I am more and more genuinely discovering that IT DOESN’T MATTER. What I look like is not one teeny bit related to how valuable I am. NOT ONE BIT. I realise I’m shouting here, but you see, from the youngest of ages it’s drummed into us just how much it does matter. It’s been a battle, albeit miraculously not a massive one, but still a battle to get to this place. So, I will shout.

The essence of who God has made me to be is wonderful. Full stop. This beauty, which we all possess, is not linked in any small way to our physical appearance. There is no ‘but’ (although there may well be a butt 😉).

We are trained by our culture to think that attractive physical appearance is imperative from the youngest of ages (hello, Barbie?). Not only are we taught that it’s important, but it’s been given a moral status. That shame I feel with weight gain? The relief and confidence that comes with weight-loss? It’s all a total sham. And before I get a barrage of comments regarding the importance of health, let me just say, I know. Health is definitely important. Health of all sorts is important; emotional, relational, mental and spiritual health are all very important. Can I just ask you this? When was the last time you saw a before/after post about a rocky relationship that has healed? Or a viral post about a spiritual awakening? No? It’s because it’s not about health; it’s ideals spawned in marketing meetings the world-over designed to keep us self-monitoring our acceptability (and adjusting with the appropriate product as needed to fit in). It’s way out of kilter.

What can we do about this? Well, for me, it’s a commitment to place appearance in its proper place; something that is nice, but not terribly important. Instead of relentless commenting on other people’s appearance as small-talk, it’s saying things like, “Gosh, it’s so lovely to see you”, or “What I love about you is that your presence lights up the room”. It’s about being confident going to a party just as I am, and not feeling the need to explain to the world that I know I’ve gained weight, and there’s not a whole lot I can do about it right now.

Measuring value by appearance needs to stop. It’s just not important. No buts.

Deb xx

Brave and Beautiful

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I have this love affair with British shows – Downton Abbey, the Poirot and Miss Marple movies, and more recently, Call the Midwife. It follows the stories of midwives in post WII East London. They somehow manage to make what was surely a pretty grim era look very cosy. Which is why I love it. Cup of tea love? In a recent episode Sister Mary Cynthia is assisting a labouring Gypsy woman toward the end of her childbearing years. The woman tells the nun that she’s too exhausted and can’t push anymore, to which the sister replies, “This is a brave, beautiful body…it knows the way, and so do you.”

Powerful. And true. I instantly welled up. Because I think of how my beautiful, brave body grew a sweet precious human, and bears the stretch and knife marks of that journey. And I think of how my amazing husband’s brave, beautiful body carries the train tracks of having survived being impaled. And how my little Judah’s brave, beautiful body endured two years of stomach acid burning his wee oesophagus.

Then I consider the times I have thrown my brave, beautiful body under the bus. Not literally. But the times I have compared it to another’s brave, beautiful body. The moments I have shamed it for not fitting in with a societal ideal. Instances that I have punished it by exercising while sick, or under-eating, or over-eating.

I was talking with a friend recently that is recovering from a battle with anorexia. She said that when it comes to general chit-chat about body image, she simply refuses to play in that sandbox. I love that. I have been endeavouring to do the same. I would like to nourish my body with food that it needs, and take care of it with exercise and rest. And I would like my motivation to be that God gave me this brave, beautiful body to take care of. The thing that gets so mixy in all this however is that the eating well and exercise can also represent an ulterior motive; a way that I can control my acceptability in the world.

My value is solely because God made me and Jesus loves me. I desperately want to live out of this reality.

My good friend Joseph sent me some books on theology and culture recently. I am about five pages into the first book. And I have had my dictionary out about five hundred times. But what I have learned so far is that we all have ‘liturgies’ (or common practices) in everyday life that are teaching our hearts what they should desire. Reflecting on this, I had a total moment. I’ve had this ritual everyday for years and years – as long as I can remember. I get the scales out and weigh myself before my shower. Every. Single. Day. It’s a very effective way to monitor how acceptable I will be in the world today. And it’s a total sham.

If I am to live in the truth that my value is not dependent on my external world, then my liturgical practices need a tune-up. So this morning the scales are gone (to the garage – I was going to throw them out, but I got them at the thrift store and they’re really funky, plus super handy when weighing luggage before a flight…). There will still be battles, but it’s a healthy start.

So here’s to not measuring my worth by a set of numbers. Here’s to letting my little bloaty belly just be. Here’s to appreciating this brave, beautiful body.

Love you guys,
Deb x