One dichotomy of thinking that I have clung to in various ways for most of my life is a bit embarrassing to admit:
If I am thin, I am valuable; if I am fat, I am detestable.
This belief led to a certain degree of self-loathing in my adolescent and young adult years and then propelled me into the disordered thinking and distorted body image that supported an eating disorder and remnants of one for much longer than I would care to admit.
‘Thin’ as defined by me has meant a variety of things. Its worst definition was a denial of self — a refusal to care for my needs in favor of controlling my body to attain and maintain a particular size. Over the years, the definition morphed into something more socially acceptable — a particular dress size, for instance, that could be maintained through regular exercise, an aversion to excess, and a more private critical eye that was still always trying to find a way to weigh just a little bit less.
‘Fat’ as defined by me has meant anything over a particular number on a scale, laziness, apathy, and a refusal to take charge of one’s life. I had been ‘fat’ in my younger years. I didn’t like myself then, and I wasn’t going back. I had control over my body. Fat people were simply ‘less than’ me.
See why I am embarrassed? I had put myself into a category, ‘thin people’, and, in so doing, had positioned myself in opposition to those outside of that category. Now, in my defense, this was not conscious. I would have never admitted this out loud. I pride myself in treating people fairly, not judging a book by its cover, but looking on the inside to find value and worth.
But, I’m admitting here that I have been a hypocrite. And, as with almost every other judgment I have made in my life, my judgment of ‘non-thin’ people has had more to do with what is inside of me than what is inside of them.
I know this because in the last three and a half years that I have been dealing with health issues, I have been slowly putting on weight. It’s now up to twenty pounds. My clothing size has changed. The number on the scale has exceeded my ‘safe number’. I don’t like how I look. I don’t like how I feel.
I’ve been trying to accept it. I have bought some new clothes. I have done a lot of self-talk. I have continued to exercise. I have continued to watch what I eat. I keep telling myself, “this is not a failure; it is a disease.” Or, “you don’t have control over this, you will have to adapt.”
So last week when I went to see my doctor, I said, “My weight keeps climbing. It edged up again this time, didn’t it?” I think inside I was hoping she would say, “you don’t have control over this, you will have to adapt, it’s part of the disease.” But do you know what she said? She said, “I want you to keep track of everything you eat for a while, so that I can see what is causing this.”
Gasp. You mean it’s something I am doing? I might be able to control this?
Danger! Danger! Danger! All the alerts are going off in my head. Keeping track of what I eat was a gateway to anorexia over thirty years ago. Each day I tried to eat less and write down less. If I write down what I eat now, I will fall back into this disorder. I can’t do that! I have to let myself eat whatever I want.
Did you hear the dichotomy? Either I eat whatever I want, or I will have an eating disorder. It’s simply not true, but this is challenging territory.
Can I be attentive to what I eat without being restrictive? Can I assess what I am eating without the pressure to trim down? Can I trim down without dieting? Am I comfortable allowing my doctor to see everything I eat (or don’t eat)? Am I willing to let her speak into this?
Before I could go too far down the rabbit hole, I blurted out in her office, “I used to be anorexic….” Phew! I got it out. “Well,” she said, “we don’t want to get anywhere close to that, but we do want to make sure that what you are eating has a healthy ratio of fat to protein to carbohydrate.”
I didn’t initially want to follow her directions. And then, I wanted too badly to follow her directions. I started thinking, “well, I could lose those twenty pounds and get back into all of my old clothes….” That’s all it takes for me, really. Just a quick thought and I am off and restricting. Quietly. In private. Hiding my plans from others who might want to stand in my way.
For the first three days I recorded what I ate quietly on my phone app without telling anyone. And, of course, I limited what I was eating so as to ‘eat less’ than the prescribed number on the app. Sigh.
Then, I told my husband about the app. Now I am telling you. I am not going to believe the dichotomy any longer. I have value and purpose regardless of a number on a scale or a dress size. My weight does not define me. I can watch what I eat without being restrictive.
I can evolve past this dichotomous thinking. God has so much more for me.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.