Last year, for Eating Disorder Awareness Week (which is week beginning 26/02 this year), I wrote two blog posts, one about Chine McDonald’s Am I Beautiful? and the other about the concept of Imago Dei. I also wrote a letter to my 15 years old self about those challenges. For many years, I thought that being single was something adding to my lack of self-worth. Surely if I had a man who was attracted to me and loved me as I was, I would accept myself and start to find myself beautiful? But I have such a man, and I still often don’t like the reflection I see in my mirror, although I have reached a point in life where good days are many, and on good days I love the way I look. Still, a lot of conversations with Mr Knightley go like this:
Me “I’m getting fat.
Mr K. “You’re not fat”
Mr K. “Not Fat”
Mr K. “I’m not going to win this argument, am I?”
And feeling fat can ruin my day. I don’t want to get out of bed. I can’t find anything to wear, and despite the most likely explanation for having gone up 2 sizes overnight is my irritable bowel, I will see myself as a huge whale like the one that had Jonah in her womb for three days. Photos and videos are the biggest culprits: I don’t know how to pose to look thinner, so I end up looking twice my real size just because that’s what cameras do to you. And when your size is already a size 14, that can be quite disheartening. On the bad days, it’s clear I have bought into the societal attitude that treats fat like the worst thing a person could be. My first reaction then would be to take my own advice that I give out on good days, and remind myself that my identity is found in Jesus.
However, sometimes the Church can add to our insecurities. I look at the girls in the worship bands and more often than not they are what the world beyond the church would deem attractive. Then there are the girls who can dress modestly because they are skinny and elegant and they don’t have to fight with big breasts that you can’t hide under anything. If I feel down, and close myself to the truth, I only notice the things that make me feel worse. There is something liberating in a community I’ve only just joined, where the worshippers are mostly older than me, with all that goes with it…people of any shape, size and colour with only one thing in common: a heart bursting for Jesus. And not a care in the world for who was in the same room as them, or any self-consciousness about what they were doing and what that looked like.
Envy can be a poisonous sin, and for a long time I thought I needed to look a certain way before I could find anyone to love me, and sit in the pew next to me not because of rushing late into the church after Mass had started. The reflection that stares at me in the mirror on many days isn’t that person. Even if I have someone who wants to sit in the pew with me, I still wish I could look different. Never mind that right now I have barely the energy (or appetite) to feed my body for fuel as I fight a prolonged illness, and take a shower, so any effort like fewer calories or exercise are beyond what I can realistically achieve. And as I try to accept what I have, and even be somewhat grateful because it could be so much worse, what you can find on the Internet are advice on the best Christian weight loss programmes instead of how to stop disparaging God’s creation by wanting something that goes way beyond the taking care of the Temple of the Holy Spirit as the epistles tell us to.
Some Christians are trying to reclaim their right to a body that isn’t perfect against the idea that being fat means you lack self-control, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit, when there are many reasons why you are fat even if you have self-control, but the fear of your witness being impacted by not looking great is very pervasive and goes hand in hand with the other kinds of prosperity Gospel. It’s very easy to think that if only you believe that little bit more you would see the blessings of a fat pay check and a thin hot body. Yet faith isn’t something you can command like that, nor is what you look like for that matter. For me, fundamentally, a sign of having reached maturity in faith would be to leave behind the compulsions about the way I look, and how normal I perceive my eating habits to be. When my boyfriend celebrates my “binge day” because I was ill and ate nothing for the previous three and I need the energy to get better, I shouldn’t shut him down. I should strive to see in my reflection what he sees, not what my distorted mind has seen for the past 25 years.
When I get that extra glass of wine, I should enjoy the fast food on the way home that allows me to keep sober instead of counting the calories that were in my glass and made the food an extra I really wish I could avoid. Yes, maybe it falls into gluttony and I could do with some spiritual discipline, but it has to come from a place of healthy faith rather than a desire for a magazine-cover worthy body staring me back in the mirror.
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Reflection”. Find the rest of the series here.
Meet your co-hosts:
Brita from Belle Brita
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. While her first love will always be Paris, she lives happily with her husband Daniel Fleck in the Atlanta area.
Amritha of Join Me in Transit
Amritha is a travel and food blogger offering travel, dining and healthy recipe guides for vegetarians who love to vacation. Her mission is to guide others in creating meaningful life experiences with friends and family through mindful travel, vegetarian food, and an active lifestyle.