It was fifth grade the first time I remember calling myself fat. A school picture taken at an unflattering angle revealed “fat rolls” that made me feel incredibly insecure. ELEVEN. YEARS. OLD. I should have been thinking about recess or whether or not my parents were going to let me watch 'One Saturday Morning'… not “I hate how fat I am.”
Since 11-years old, it's been a constant battle of loving the way my body looks. Even from a young age I was a broad-shouldered, big-chested, tall kid. I didn't look like any of my friends, and instead of finding beauty in my uniqueness - I found shame when I looked in the mirror or had to say “i’ll take a large shirt.” I didn't get the boyfriends like my friends did. I didn't fit into the size zero pants (I'ma be real - is that even a size in adult clothing?!? Cause like... pizza? I’ve never known.). Long story short - I was different, and in my mind ,different equaled fat... and fat equaled ugly.
Fast forward to adulthood and you guessed it - nothing had changed. I was still an insecure 11-year old struggling to feel confident in who God made me to be. I had tried everything I knew to do. I prayed, I saw a dietitian, I joined a Crossfit gym, I worked out, I measured food, I meal prepped often, and NOTHING changed… except my weight… in increasing numbers. All my attempts were failing, and I was frustrated.
I had finally gotten to a point where I was now blaming God. God, why did You make me this way? Why can’t I lose weight? Do You not care that I hate myself? I remember the moment like it was yesterday - I was on College Road when I felt Jesus impress upon me, "You'll never know discipline if you're not first My disciple." What I learned in that moment was that with Jesus it wasn't about what I looked like - it was about my habits and lifestyle. I had no self control. What Jesus was saying was that I can’t know a fruit of the spirit (self control) if I wasn't in constant relationship with Him. My life, at that point, was all about me. What I wanted to do, who I wanted to spend my time with, how I wanted to feel satisfaction. It was all about me. God was saying if you want change in your life, it has to start with a perspective change. You have got to take your eyes off yourself and ultimately off the mirror and look to Me.
God impressed upon me that if I could learn to deny my flesh spiritually. I can learn to deny my hungers physically. If I could learn the power of "no" and discipline in my walk with Jesus, then those practices and habits would carry over into every part of my life. So instead of focusing all of my time on my physical body, I turned my attention toward my spiritual body. I cut out things in my life that were hindering my growth with Jesus and walked away from things that were stealing my walk with Him. I slowly began to seek Jesus more and learn that He was more important than any gym or diet. Once I learned discipline in a spiritual sense by learning the power of "no" and that it's sometimes necessary to say goodbye to things you love to make room for Jesus, I was able to translate those practices into my everyday life. I learned how to say no to foods that tasted good, but brought no goodness to my body. I learned that I did have the strength to workout and do things good for my body even when I didn't feel like it. First my heart changed, then my body changed.
Ultimately, it wasn't about losing weight. It was about losing my identity and finding it again with Jesus. It was about focusing on a body that would last (my spiritual one). I was a broken person and God used my health and weight to get my attention. I’m not saying God made me fat and I’m not saying God made it so I couldn't lose weight, but I do think God uses all things for good and will teach us in ways we learn. I'm thankful for a God who loves us specifically as we need.
Since January 2017, I have lost over 40 lbs and gained a deeper-rooted relationship with Jesus. I have learned that you truly don't find your life until you lay it down.