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I did something really, really hard this morning.
We had our family pictures done by Sara Welburn Photography a couple of weeks ago, and we just got the final photos.
There are so many of them that I LOVE, like these:
But then there are some that make me cringe. Not because they are bad pictures, but because of ME.
In case it’s not obvious to anyone else, I’m fat.
I once had a friend who lost a ton of weight with surgery, but she said she still felt like “a fat person in her head.” I’m the opposite – in my head, I’m a thin person. I’m the person I was in college and when I first got married.
Before prednisone (a steroid required to control my Crohn’s), before babies, and before a feeding tube that destroyed my metabolism.
Every time I see a picture of myself, I cringe. I’ve put on 70 lbs since I was first married.
You wouldn’t guess it by looking at me, but I walk 3-6 miles five days a week while pushing both kids in the stroller. I eat a fairly health diet (yes, I have some chocolate now and again).
I’m healthy, but I don’t look anything like the girl I was in this bridal photo:
Man, see that slender neck and tiny waist? And those arms?
Now I just see rolls and blubber and jiggling when I look at those pictures.
My first reaction when I saw them was to just delete them, delete the email, and make the photographer delete them from her camera. I was embarrassed and ashamed, and I didn’t want anyone to see them.
But you know what? I’m sharing them anyway.
For my husband
Most of the time, I’m pretty confident with myself. I know that my worth has nothing to do with how much I weigh. I know that in many ways, my weight isn’t completely my fault. With my frequent Crohn’s flares coupled with pancreatitis necessitating a feeding tube, mixed with pregnancy and steroids, my poor metabolism just decided to give up.
(Trust me, I’ve talked with my doctors and tried many a diet, cleanse, etc. – so please don’t try to sell me anything in the comments!!)
For a while after having our boy (and while I struggled with postpartum depression), I couldn’t stand how I looked. Every time my Phillip touched me, I’d shrink away. I didn’t want him to feel fat rolls and be disgusted….even though the disgust was really all in my head.
What happened was Phillip would go to hug me, and I would cringe away. This started to hurt our relationship. No matter how many times I assured Phillip that it was me,not him, it was hard for him to believe it. (We’ve all heard that line before, haven’t we?)
Phillip is so good at loving me for me, and loving my body for whatever shape ti’s in. Spontaneously he has said many times that he loves how I look now so much more than how I looked back then.
So when I would envision him being revolted by my body, I was basically telling him I didn’t trust him and calling him a liar. That his opinion about me didn’t matter – when really, his opinion about me is the most important one!
Making the conscious choice to start appreciating my body, no matter what shape it’s in, has made a tremendous difference in our relationship. Sharing these photos publicly on social media tells my husband that I love our family that has been created by my body.
For my daughter
One day, I came across this quote on Facebook:
What a mother says about her body becomes her daughter’s inner voice when she looks in the mirror.
That hit me hard. You see, I never, ever want my daughter to see herself the way that I see myself.
I don’t want her to look in the mirror and hear my own voice in her head criticizing her the way I criticize myself.
I want her to recognize that she is so much more than inches or pounds or complexion. As corny as it sounds,I really do believe that beauty truly is more than skin-deep.
If I talk negatively about my body, or I bemoan my weight gain, or I only look to find fault, then she’ll wonder what I say about her body. She’ll start to see herself through the lens of my insecurities.
So instead, I try to change my wording. Instead of saying, “I am so fat. Gross,” I try to say, “Man, I’m having an ‘I feel fat day’ – that’s no fun! But at least my hair looks great today!” Then it turns into a statement of feeling, not “fact.”
I want my daughter’s relationship with her body to be the healthiest it can be. So I am sharing these photos for her.
For my family
My journey with Crohn’s disease has literally led me to death’s doorstep. Multiple times.
I can’t remember how many times my husband has been told that he needs to start preparing to say goodbye. Or how many times my mom has had to fly in to help care for me, not knowing if it will be the last time she gets to see me on this earth.
At the risk of sounding fatalistic, there’s a very good chance that I may not live to my children’s adulthood. And every single one of us will one day no longer be on this earth.
If I shy away from pictures with my family because I’m ashamed of how I look, then I am depriving them of a blessing that they may need in the future.
After I’m gone, all they’ll have to remember my face and relive memories is the pictures that we have. If I’ve refused to be in any of them, what good will they be?
So I share these photos and hang them on my wall to offer my family comfort and peace in the day that I’m no longer present to do that.
For my God
Have you ever been to a birthday party or baby shower where the gifts are opened in front of everyone? It’s my least-favorite part.
I’m constantly feeling worried that my gift won’t be as “cool” as everyone else’s. It seems like everyone is judging everyone else’s gifts, and mine doesn’t measure up.
And there’s nothing worse than seeing the look on the opener’s face if your gift isn’t something they wanted.
I think that’s how our Heavenly Father feels when we look in the mirror and saying something negative about our body. Our bodies are precious gifts from Him, and they have the potential to house His Spirit.
Yes, we can work hard to be fit, exercise, eat well, etc. But even if we don’t, it is the utmost sign of ingratitude and rudeness to look upon His gift with disgust and rejection, whether or not we like the way we look and feel.
I never want my God to doubt my gratitude for His amazing gift. Because my body is an amazing creation of science! So I share these photos in my Christmas cards for Him.
The ever-famous Miss Piggy once said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes it may be necessary to give the stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”
In this case, the person needing the black eye is myself!
So often, people tell me that I have a positive outlook for having the health issues I do. How I seem happy in spite of so many hospitalizations and surgeries. I always respond, “Happiness is a choice, and I’d much rather be sick and happy then sick and sad.”
I haven’t yet been able to apply that to my self image, but I’m working on it. I can’t do a ton to control how my body is right now (pregnancies, Crohn’s, and steroids have done their number), but I would much rather be fat and happy than fat and miserable!
So I share these photos with friends and family on social media for myself, as a reminder that I want to be happy with my body, no matter what shape it’s in.
How to overcome
We all know that charity is the pure love of Christ – it’s the love that Jesus has for all of us. We are told that charity is the greater than even hope or faith. Moroni 7:46 says, “If ye have not charity, ye are nothing.”
This includes charity towards ourselves. Do we truly love ourselves, our bodies, the way that Christ does? He loves our bodies so much that He died on the cross and was Resurrected so that we could one day regain our bodies and keep them for eternity.
How do we develop this love, then? Moroni tells us in verse 48, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ;”
As silly as it sounds, prayer is the answer. When I began praying sincerely to have love for my body and to know how to care for it correctly, the Lord changed my heart, and my eyes.It’s still a work in progress, but the only reason I’m progressing at all is because of prayer.
It’s a journey
I know it sounds so simple, but it’s still so hard! As my minor breakdown over the above photos shows, I still have a long way to go.
More and more, I am realizing that how I feel about my body is a journey. It goes up and down. I’ll go weeks, or even months, without worrying about how I look, but then something will happen that will set me back and make me feel insecure again (like stepping on the scale at the doctor or seeing a photo that isn’t as flattering as I see myself in my head).
Several years ago, my uncle (a doctor of Chinese medicine and acupuncture) told me that I would always be sick for the rest of my life. However, with proper treatment, the bad days would become less extreme, and become farther apart from each other.
Having confidence in my body is the same way. For a while, I felt disgust every time I looked in the mirror. But slowly, that disgust became less intense. And I would go a day or two without even thinking about it.
Now, those feelings of insecurity and self-loathing come but rarely. When they do come (as they always will), they don’t overwhelm me. And, through prayer, I’m able to overcome them more quickly.
It’s a journey, but one that I can make progress on. And so can you.