Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stand Up

First, I want to ask you not to judge.  I start here … because it’s a place that I struggle myself.  “Body image” has been a very broken place for me since I was a little girl.  I am sensitive to it, and I always have a strong negative or positive reaction to anything “body” related.  Therefore, whenever someone publically posts anything “body” related, I tend to either immediately judge them {for bragging} or, more often, immediately judge myself {for not being good enough}.  I am just being real with you.  So first, don’t judge {and know I’m right there too if you share in this struggle}.

Second, I want to explain to you that this blog post comes from one of the deepest places in my heart.  As I said before, “body image” is a broken place for me.  It is also a place where God {yes!  God.} has begun to beautifully piece me back together.  Am I finished struggling?  Resoundingly, no!  But that’s why I need Him … and it is most certainly why I must continue to practice 2 Corinthians 10:5 by “taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ.”  Likewise, because I have wrestled so long and hard in this arena, I do feel that God {only through His amazing grace} has given me some authority over it.  Due to social media and the outpouring of popularity of fitness-related posts, over and over again I see women {sorry guys, this post is talking to the ladies} lamenting their shortcomings, sharing their progress, and shouting their successes.  My heart aches when I see other women “hating” on themselves for falling short of an imaginary bar they have set for themselves.  Then, I am very much reminded of the many ways I do this very thing to myself inside my head.  This morning, I finally felt led to publically share my health and fitness journey over the last 2.5 years--post-weight-loss-skin-and-all.  :)  

At the end of 2012 when I was at my largest, I didn’t think I was fat.  I acknowledged that I had gained too much weight during my pregnancies, but when I looked in the mirror, I did not consider it that profound.  In my head I had created two very distinct categories of women which I thought of as those “having extra weight on” and those who were “very heavy-set.”  I was, according to me, in the first category.   One day in January 2013, the scale told me otherwise.  It was one of those dreaded moments with the scale--the ones where the nurse has to move the large weight over the next notch to the right.  Reality struck, and I knew I had to change my way of thinking.  I would love to tell you that I swallowed hard, did not condemn myself, and leaped off in the direction of health and fitness.  But that would be a lie.   Really, I spent the next month wallowing in self-hate, convincing myself {and every loved one who would listen} that I woud never, never be attractive again, and choosing to continue in my own bad habits.  I really cannot tell you what eventually changed my mind, but the day after my 27th birthday, I decided to step up to change.  That was the first time in my long history of weight and “body image” struggles that both my body and my mind began to evolve.

Thirty-one months have passed since that day, and besides being 75 pounds and 6 pants sizes smaller, so much has changed in my life.  It is beginning to sink in that maybe, just maybe … since I’m nearing the 3-year mark of this journey … it is actually transitioning into a lifestyle.  Along this road traveled, a portion of scripture introduced to me at a women’s conference spoke to me in countless ways.  Incredibly, although it tells of Peter being rescued from prison while awaiting his trail and probable execution, I have found ways to apply it to both mental and physical health.

“The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell.  He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.  “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.”
Acts 12:6-7  
Peter’s circumstance was dire, the situation felt unbelievable, but he STOOD UP 
with the chains still on.  And, guess what?  The chains fell off his wrists!  And that’s just the point:  sometimes we have to choose to STAND UP WITH THE CHAINS STILL ON {even when it feels ridiculous} and believe that, through God’s amazing grace, they will fall off of us.

Again and again, I have come back to this place.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of obesity still on.  This meant I had to join a gym and face people I didn’t want to face.  It meant that I had to talk to my doctors about the reality of my BMI.  It meant that I had to eat less and exercise more.  But the chains fell off.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of my inner critic still on.  I had to listen to her jeers of self-hate {gosh!  She’s mean!} and learn to quiet them.  I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn’t running a race, checking boxes, or finding a quick fix.  But the chains fell off.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of toxic relationships still on.  This meant learning to decipher when good people were not good for me.  Unfortunately, this meant making sometimes painful decisions.  Other times, it meant learning to redirect my own thoughts to remind myself that most other people aren’t nearly as mean as my inner critic – they simply don’t understand my brokenness.  But the chains fell off.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of burn out still on.  There have been many seasons of excitement and dread during the last 31 months.  Some have brought a few {or 18} unwanted pounds while others have brought amazing strength and enhanced fitness.  I had to endure the seasonal forecast and keep going.  But the chains fell off.  The last one has been the most difficult for me.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of comparison still on.  This meant I had to continuously “check myself” when I began to long to be someone other than who God created me to be.  It meant I had to stay grounded in reality instead of wishful thinking and fantasy {…if only I were tiny and petite…}.  It meant learning to tell myself to STOP inside my head.  And the chains are falling off {I told you I am still very much a work in progress}! 

Throughout this process, never once have I had the key.  The Lord was the keeper of these keys.  Now, make no mistake, I have used the key.  I have worked very hard.  I have sweated a lot.  I have pushed myself to change in ways I never thought possible.  I have turned off social media.  I have sacrificed.  I have gone to bed early because I was hungry.  I have re-lost pounds that I gained back.  I have cried.  I have set relational boundaries.  I have lost sleep.  I have celebrated.  I have let other people off the hook for my own dysfunctional thinking.  I have decided that this has to be forever.   Yes, I have most certainly used the key.  But the key was always given to me by Him.  God’s promises and grace at the forefront of my mind have been the deciding factor in allowing me to keep moving forward and watching the chains fall off!  Without Him, I would have given up a long time ago.

If anyone reading this identifies with anything I have written, please remember that you’re not alone.  More importantly, remember that God has the key … but sometimes you have to STAND UP WITH THE CHAINS STILL ON and trust Him to supply the rest.  And if you need proof—I’m it.

*   *   *

Looking for a few practical {and oftentimes funny} musings that I have thought of/used during my journey {I’ve had 31 months to think about these things!}?  Here they are … as concise as possible:

1.     Didn’t meet your goal?  Oh well!  If you are in Christ, you have eternity. J

2.     Comparing yourself to someone else?  Think about dogs.  J Seriously.  Would you ever look at a Labrador and wonder why is was bigger than a Chihuahua?  Reality check!  Just like dogs have different breeds … people have different ancestry and genetics. 

3.     No one thinks you’re going rogue if you don’t eat a slice of birthday cake.  Okay.  So this is a pet peeve of mine.  J  At Jackson’s birthday party, I was the only adult who ate a slice of cake.  People I didn’t even know were dieting refused it.  It kinda made my chuckle in observation.  If you don’t want to eat cake, fine.  But if you DO want to eat a slice of cake, just eat it!  If your fitness journey is a real lifestyle … it’s for life.  I really hope that you don’t go the rest of your life and never eat a slice of cake {and if you do … can I have your corner piece with the extra icing?}.

4.     Notice how your fitness improves what you love!  This summer I took the boys to Dutch Wonderland.  Oliver didn’t want to walk up the four stories of stairs each time we rode the water slide … so, naturally, he asked me to carry him up.  As I was doing this, {he weighs 36 pounds} my knees were killing me.  Then I remembered that I used to carry MORE THAN TWO OF HIM around EVERYWHERE I went.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Proud moment.

5.     Extend grace to people “behind” and “ahead” of you in their journey.  Have a friend who is working hard to lose weight?  Encourage her!  Notice her changes!  Pass along information to her.  Have a friend who is a fitness guru?  Tell her she inspires you!  Ask her for workout advice.  Have a friend who hurts your feelings by making thoughtless body-related comments?  Give her grace.  Realize that {talking to myself here, too} sometimes it’s your internal reaction that’s the problem … not really what she is saying.  And if that’s not the case, do what you need to do with that relationship without judgment.

6.     Keep challenging yourself.  New workouts are so much fun!  Switch up your diet.  Do a water drinking challenge.  Get stronger.  Get faster.  Do something new!  As Nike says:  Just Do It!

7.     Give God the glory!  Remember, He is the keeper of the keys.         


Robin said...

Hey, Love this blog. Love the gentle way you have with yourself. Thanks for the inspiration. I'm struggling with my internal talk too.

Megan van Ooyen said...

You look great, Jennifer, and even better, you reached this place in a happy, healthy, motivated way that will last you a lifetime and provide a good example to your sons. I was doing well with losing weight before I got pregnant, and then I did well with my pregnancy weight gain, but I COULD NOT lose anything after I had my baby. My body held onto everything while I breastfed, and I was starving all the time. Not even hour-long workouts three days a week was helping. Now that the breastfeeding is (mostly) done, I'm hoping to get back on track. Mostly, I need to be better about what and how much I eat. I would've totally eaten birthday cake with you. I still will, but maybe I'll just eat a salad or soup for dinner instead of steak :)