“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are you’d never think a negative thought again.”
Thoughts have the ability to determine our day, even our outlook on life. Our thoughts, when verbalized, have the ability to shape the minds of children and support or break down others. Thoughts, especially in conjunction with words, are the most powerful weapons in the human arsenal. Sometimes thoughts feel so uncontrollable, so overwhelming and demeaning to ourselves that we act based upon those thoughts. This is the case with me when eating disordered thoughts once controlled my life. Sometimes the thoughts are still powerful and it takes all the remaining mental strength I have to reason with myself and convince myself that an eating disordered life is no way to live. Due to my own faulty thinking regarding food and body image when I am being controlled by the negative eating disordered thoughts, I am able to recognize the potential dangers in others when they verbalize their faulty thinking.
In September I was added to a group on Facebook that seeks to support women on their weight-loss and healthy eating journey though a biblically based plan. In order to protect the women of that group I will not name the plan or the group but the basics are this: balance your blood sugar through different types food/fuel combinations; typically resulting in weight loss but at a minimum resulting in change in energy level. The principles are solid and I have reaped some of the benefits of utilizing this notion in conjunction with the knowledge base I have from working with a dietician for 18 months. I have more energy and I’m less sluggish when I follow the food combinations outlined by the plan but I have not, and will not, go “all in” as so many in the group say. I see the faulty thinking in this. Food becomes about rules, competition with self and others, and all too often becomes about the weight loss. Daily in this group women post photos of their feet standing on a scale to show how much they weigh or body comparison photos demonstrating their weight loss over the last few months. I shake my head because I know weight alone does not signify health. In fact, multiple women in the group have commented that since starting the plan and going “all in” they have lost a significant amount of weight (in too short amount of time, in my opinion) and, as a result, are struggling with hair loss. That raises a red flag to this woman in eating disorder recovery. Hair loss in the land of eating disorders symbolizes a lack of nutrients, and potentially a serious caloric deficit. In fact, when I was in treatment we had a lengthy discussion about weight loss and hair loss. The body is preparing for starvation. This is not something I want. I happen to like my blonde hair and would prefer not to lose it.
Women also post almost daily about being discouraged, hating their stomaches/thighs/etc, and begging for tips on how to make the plan really work for them to lose weight. It seems very reminiscent to pro-ana discussion groups in which I once found “support” and encouragement. However, this group does it to “glorify God” by taking care of their bodies, as they are a temple for God (1 Corinthians 6:19). I am not mocking the faith of these women, as I believe in God and have a strong Christian faith, but I believe most of them are not doing it for this reason alone but also because they absolutely hate and are ashamed of the way they look. Some women who utilize this plan have been urged by medical professionals to lose weight or death and disease will ravage their bodies and, as a result, lose weight and truly become healthy. Everyone has their own motives but I know not everyone has pure intentions and use the group as a means for comparison, self-deprecation, and a motive to lose more weight.
The most worrisome posts to me are the ones where emotions are clearly tied to weight and body size. Women who say they cry because they gained two pounds instead of losing two or saying they “feel fat” because they aren’t dropping clothing sizes. These are borderline eating disorder thoughts, especially when combined with the strict rules being followed when going “all in” on the plan. So often the “rules” associated with the plan remind me of the rules I followed when I was living in the eating disorder, which is what scares me for these women. The most disturbing trend I keep reading and seeing in this group deals with the children. Women post selfies standing sideways in the mirror often but the photos that really rip at my heart are the ones where these women are posing with unhappy, self-loathing faces (words to match) and their child is standing beside them, silently observing the self-hate and learning these behaviors. I’ll be the first to admit that I still fall into the trap of body-checking by standing sideways in a mirror (when I have access to one) to determine whether not I like how an outfit makes me look but I never, NEVER do it in front of Vivienne. However, some day she may catch me doing it and it is for that reason I need to continue to strive to change my behavior. I can still clearly picture the photo that hurt me the most and it is of a woman who is doing just as I described and her daughter, the same age as Vivienne, is standing beside her with a sad face, too, while clutching her blanket. Is this really what we want to teach our children?
I know it isn’t what I want for Vivienne. I don’t want her to look at her body after it has birth babies and hate what she sees because her stomach is no longer flat and her breasts aren’t perky. We were all created unique in God’s image and that uniqueness extends to our bodies. Some people are built to be heavier than others. We aren’t all going to look like models, have well-defined muscles, or absolutely zero cellulite. Sometimes we forget that while God created us with different personalities He also created us with different bodies, but all are still created HIS image. All I can do is strive to take care of my body to the best of my abilities in this life I have been given. I can’t get bogged down by playing the compare and despair game and I don’t want to pass that game on to my daughter.
It is time to change the conversation.
We, as women, have a responsibility to the young girls in our communities to teach them to love who they are, regardless of body size.
We, as mothers, have the chance to change how our daughters look at themselves in the mirror and the dialogue they have about their bodies.
We, as Christians, have a responsibility to celebrate all bodies and the uniqueness God created.
No two people were created exactly the same and that is something we should celebrate!
It is time to quit playing compare and despair.
It is time to teach our daughters that bodies change over time but their abilities should still be praised over appearance.
With Body Love,