The Weight of Body Image

I kept an eye out for when the garbage truck came through our neighborhood. This was important because I wanted to throw away my journal just before the trash was picked up so no one could potentially find it.

On the pages of this journal that I desperately wanted to throw away were lists of the foods I had eaten over the past couple years. Lists of the calories I had consumed. Lists that I kept in complete secrecy. Lists that I had rather convincingly told myself were made in an attempt to be healthy.

But the journal with all its lists filled me with shame.

The fear of gaining weight started very subtlety—feeling happy about eating a little less, reading about healthy eating strategies, cutting down on snacks. Nothing serious, I reassured myself.

I told God often that food was not a problem for me. I even read my bible and prayed daily to help justify myself: I can’t be in sin if I’m doing Christian things. But despite all my attempts to erase my guilty conscience, I could not feel any peace in my life.

I had built my identity around my appearance. I believed that if I could control my appearance, especially my weight, then I could control my life. But instead of gaining control, I completely lost it.

I forgot how to eat normally. I avoided eating with others for fear of them discovering my restrictive habits. My solitude was loud with self-made rules about what I ate and how often I exercised. I fed these rules with strict obedience.

I could not escape the heaviness that the problem I was dealing with was beyond my own ability to fix.

God lovingly entered my world of secrets during my freshman year of college. He surrounded me with a wonderful community of Christians who helped me see that the gospel was so much better than the unattainable physical perfection that consumed me.

A slow change started happening: I wanted Jesus more than I wanted a perfect body.

I began eating in a truly healthful way and ended up gaining twenty pounds during my freshman year. In a strange way, I realized that those twenty pounds were an act of worship to God—me releasing my deepest fears to Jesus and discovering that He could restore my soul and my body.

Melanie Watkins

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