My relationship with food has always been a focus. I remember going on my first diet at the tender age of 10 years old and the person who influenced me the most to do this was in my home. She was someone I looked up to and highly esteemed.
I also remember being told I was overweight by my physician and that my family needed to monitor my eating. They then replaced my after school snacks with healthier options and informed my after school child care faculty this new regimen. Although I’m sure the intent behind their efforts came from a good place (they only wanted me to be healthy) I still remember feeling different from my peers, and even somewhat ostracized. Normally if we finished our milk with our meal we could have a second. Now I could no longer have seconds, but others could.
Middle school was full of dieting. Weight was an issue for the woman who had the greatest influence on me. Then in school I was surrounded by my more slender, caucasian peers. By sixth grade I had developed my first eating disorder. Anorexia. It didn’t start out that way. Like any addiction it was a gradual progression. I watched shows that depicted the women I wanted to look like. I went to school and was surrounded by these types of girls. And then in my home, my petite and lighter-complected influences were a constant reminder that I was not them. I was dark, and “bigger”.
The only thing that brought me out of anorexia before it really complicated my health was my grandmother, my biggest influence. She said, “You have to eat, this isn’t healthy.” Thankfully that’s all it took. I started eating again, but the poor self image and insecurities with my body had already been deeply rooted. My first bout with an eating disorder would not be my last.
Part of the reason this was the case was my own distorted self image. But the other reason was the attention and affirmation I received from outside influences. All of a sudden after losing weight in the 6th grade, the popular boy I had had a crush on was flirting with me. People wanted to be my friend., and I grew in confidence. This all happened from losing weight. The problem was, my confidence was superficial. It was predicated on something as flighty as my physical appearance, not on the internal value I had as a person. But at 11 years old who has that type of deep rooted confidence? Even as an adult we can still struggle…
To make things even more interesting, middle school was socially rough. In elementary school we were all friends, then in junior high people started clicking up. I found myself on the outs and while going through puberty, I was experiencing bullying and rejection. My home life was also a wreck during that time. Reading became my consistent outlet and books were my best friends.
High school was better socially but again I fell into my old habits of feeling that my weight was the precursor for self confidence. My junior year I found myself enthralled within the grasp of another eating disorder, this time it was Bulimia. My family tried to help me, taking me to counseling and talking to me about it. I only lied and said I would stop, but I didn’t. They didn’t realize the seeds were so deeply planted that I could not simply stop because they wanted me to, or even that I wanted to. I was experiencing a sense of control over myself when I couldn’t control my external environment. And again, I was getting a lot of attention. I was now “fly”.
It wasn’t until my college years that I was able to be free from Bulimia. It was a supernatural experience where I didn’t have to go to counseling or through a long drawn out process. It was God. He was showing me my identity and purpose, neither of which had anything to do with my weight. I was finding my worth, and I wanted to treat myself accordingly, so no more vomiting.
I did put on a lot of weight as a result and my highest weight in college was 185lbs (I am 5′ 4″). I was a size 18 but I don’t remember even being too upset about it because I was so in love with God. I was experiencing a happiness I never had before. Nothing else seemed to matter.
After college I got my weight down to around 165lbs. I was very active and got into running. I was maintaining a healthy size 12 and I felt that I was the best version of myself. I didn’t want to be extreme anymore. I didn’t want to starve myself. I was learning that our culture tries to depict the normal weight of a woman to be different than what really is. And I was learning that in the black community curves were “in”.
It wasn’t until my Pastor started teaching a health coaching class that I felt led to eat even healthier. I participated in her detox plan and experienced a change in my perception of food and my desire for it. No longer did I crave sugar; it was too sweet. All of a sudden I wanted to eat food as if it were fuel for my body, not out of pure pleasure. I had developed self control over my eating in a healthier way then I ever had dieting or battling bulimia, and as a result I dropped down to a size 8. I hadn’t been in the single digits since I was a kid! I couldn’t believe that my body could even be that small. That is when I knew that I was manifesting more of who my true eternal self was and not who I thought I was. God was revealing me to me.
I maintained that size 8 for about 7 years with my healthy eating lifestyle but when I started dating I gained about 15lbs. All of a sudden I was fearful because it had been a long time that I was unhappy with my weight. But God met me again. He showed me different ways of eating that would help me lose, but not go overboard. Even though I was experienced with eating healthy there were some changes I needed to make in this new season of my eating journey. In the midst of this I had gotten into strength training. Although after college I had been pretty active, up until 2 years ago I had never done strength. I learned that strength training boosts your metabolism even after you are done working out, unlike cardio where you only burn while you are working out. I learned I need more protein to build and tone the muscle groups I am targeting. I also need to eat more frequently to fuel my body for the workouts I do (I usually eat every 2-3 hrs).
After losing the 15lbs I had gained, I was satisfied that my body was where it was supposed to be. After all I was comfortably back in my size 8’s and at a strong 158lbs, (which is where I had been for years). Then more recently I found out I had unexpectedly lost 4lbs. How did I lose 4lbs without trying? I wondered. I have been very “in tune” with my body for several years and just believed I was where I was supposed to be without being extreme and staying active. Yet God is showing me again that my body is changing and it is a new season. Now I am intrigued as to where my body can go given my new regimen of strength training and a higher protein diet. I am excited!
I am so grateful by the Father teaching me the best diet and exercise regimen for me. I have received the affirmation and attention I did when I was younger and smaller but now my confidence is not superficially based on that. It is based on knowing who I am to Him. My value to Him. And His love for me.
I know many struggle with their weight and women have so much pressure to be a certain size just like men are pressured to be a certain height. I can share that my experience is that we can overcome our weaknesses and be free from addictions, however it is rarely an overnight occurrence, and it truly does not happen without discipline and intentionality (although I did randomly lose that 4lbs, LOL).
The unique thing for me is that I know my discipline and desire for fitness comes from Him. The self control I have is His fruit and I can taken no credit.
My health and fitness is truly a byproduct of me manifesting my true identity in Him and I’m glad He has revealed such an important concept, especially when as a youth my view was distorted.
He does great things.
And loves giving us the desires of our hearts.