A few years ago, I slowly lost sixty pounds. I didn’t do anything drastic, just made small, simple, better choices and took daily walks. I tracked my food in a free app on my phone. I worked to close the rings on my Apple watch and to hit 10,000 steps a day. I wish I could say that the catalyst for the changes I was making came from some awakening in my heart. But, friends, they came from a mortified response to being shamed.
I had a doctor appointment for something entirely unrelated to weight, or even my general health. It was a very specific issue that turned out to be nothing at all. However, the doctor felt it necessary to comment on my weight and said briskly that I should consider losing some of it.
My face burned for days, thinking of hers as she looked at me, a stranger, and commented on my body. She’d offered her suggestion after my diagnosis was complete and I was nearly ready to walk out the door. When I did walk out the door, it was with a blazing face, a pit in my stomach, and a resolution to do whatever needed to be done in order for that doctor to eat her words. I know, not the best motivator. It didn’t even make sense, as I would literally never see that doctor again and I could never “show her.” I figured I would know, and that would be enough to give me a smug satisfaction.
So I downloaded the apps, started walking, and lost 60 pounds in about a year and a half. I did everything in a slow, consistent, baby-step kind of way. Healthy, safe, and not extreme. However . . .
I got more comments on my body over those months than ever before in my life. I invited some of those comments by sharing pictures from my walks and a few before/afters on Instagram, and most of them were from well-meaning people in my life, telling me how amazing I looked. But every single time they offered their good-intentioned praises, my stomach churned and my face blazed just like it did in that doctor’s office. I felt that if they were praising my appearance now, I must have looked terrible before. I’m sure that wasn’t what drove their comments, but that’s how it felt. The same feeling of shame that flooded my heart in the doctor’s office returned, and I wanted to hide.
When Adam and Eve became aware of their bodies, they became ashamed too. I understand that impulse. I get their reaction. I get their urge to hide, to cover up, to avoid being seen. I understand that as an overweight woman, as a pregnant woman (no, not now, but at four other times), and as a woman who has both lost and gained significant amounts of weight. In each of these circumstances, comments were made, and shame was offered an invitation to lodge itself in my heart.
If invited in, shame is all too happy to entirely occupy every inch of space that it’s given.
Shame, for me, is as well-worn as a broken-in, old pair of jeans. It’s easy to slip into and believe, and there’s a kind of familiarity to it that comes right alongside the hurt it brings. There’s something about shame that can even feel comfortable. But we are not built to house shame. We are God’s workmanship, designed for the freedom that Christ’s love can bring.
Freedom from shame and guilt. Freedom from feeling too much and not enough. Freedom from counting, measuring, and eating half a banana when we want the whole thing. Freedom from embarrassment and pits in our stomachs.
I don’t want my children to see their mom striving or shrinking or ashamed. I want them to see her living free.
There’s not enough room in this article for all the words I want to say about this, so please know that I acknowledge much is left unsaid. There’s not enough room to dissect every aspect of what it means to be healthy, strong, or fit. There’s not enough room to talk about the ways in which the health industry dangles their ideal body in our faces, offering their products as the only or optimal solution and perpetuating the vicious cycle of shame so many live in. There’s not enough room to discuss eating disorders or mental health. There just isn’t room for such a massive and nuanced conversation.
What there is room for is to remind you that you were hand-created by a good, loving God who adores you. Full stop. God doesn’t love you more if you’re thin. God doesn’t love you less if you’re in a bigger body. Your pants size does not matter to God, and it doesn’t matter if that size goes up or down or stays the same. God just loves you — wholly, as you are. The end.
God made you beautiful.
Jesus came to give whole, full living for us in His love.
There’s nothing you can do to earn God’s love. Shame does not disqualify you from being loved. The size of your clothes doesn’t impact God’s love for you. Shake off the shame, friend. Fight it and dwell in God’s overwhelming love.
Listen, there are for sure days where that’s much easier said than done. But on even those days, God’s deep love for us can carry us through the shame, the sadness, the not-enoughness that we feel. Friend, don’t look to the tag on your clothes to tell you what you’re worth. Your size — your weight — is not your worth. Our worth, our value, comes from God . . . and He says we are good.