One photograph changed my life. I was 10 years old and had gone to a friend’s birthday party. I remember feeling carefree and having a great time. When my mom asked me if I wanted to see a picture from the party, I was really excited. I saw my friends and myself huddled around a birthday cake. We all looked as if we had been laughing. I smiled as I looked at each of my friends.
Finally, I looked at myself. I paused for a moment as my smile faded.
I was a lot bigger than my friends.
That was the first moment I felt fat.
My heart had been screaming, “Am I beautiful?” The no echoed in my head for the next 10 years.
There’s been a familiar cycle in my life. I get really excited about a new workout routine. I throw out my “junk” food; I dream of what I’m going to look like in a few months. Imagining the faces people will make when they see my progress. I get a gym membership and buy cute athletic clothes. If anyone is ready, it’s me. I tend to do things in extremes so instead of easing myself in. You know, maybe going three times a week? Not a chance, I tell myself, you are dedicated, and you’re going six times a week. After a few weeks, I start to see results and my body feels great. I have more energy, and I’ve gotten through that difficult first week. I’m still sore, but long gone are the days of feeling like a grandma when I go down stairs.
I feel healthy, yet I’m still unsatisfied. I had this image in my head of what I thought my body would look like. I’m doing all the right things, but I still don’t feel enough. I thought when I made this decision that I would start to feel beautiful. Exercise was supposed to answer. I take a few days off from the gym. This turns into a week, then a month. Suddenly I realize it’s been months since my silent divorce with the gym.
The problem is that this cycle is motivated by fear. I made decisions because I was afraid I wasn’t enough.
It’s been 10 years, but sometimes is still see myself as that little girl. Taking care of my body is incredible when my heart is in the right place. Jesus has taken me on a journey to learn to love myself. Through many tears I can say that I truly accept my body. I’ve started to work out again recently. This time I want things to be different. I’ve invited Jesus into every step of the way. The sun is beating down; I am drenched in sweat. My legs are jello, and my lungs feel like fire. I’m exhausted and I think one.more.set. Then I hear Jesus quietly whisper, “You don’t have to do this anymore.” A huge part of me wants to pretend I didn’t hear Him.
I exhale, letting go of my last bit of control.
This is the moment everything changes.
This seems to be a trend lately. Instead of pushing myself past my breaking point, I realized that Jesus has been teaching me to let go. I never knew I could have grace for my body. Breaking this cycle is uncomfortable, and I’m learning every day.
Loving your body takes courage—will you join me?