I get mocked by my friends quite a lot – a running theme in my life. “How to sort your life out, Heather-style,” they say: “give it a go; get it very wrong for a while, have your life fall apart for a little bit; pick up the pieces and then do it right. Repeat”. Eating, and exercise, and thinking around my weight and body image in general is an area where this has been absolutely spot-on: I am, in general, a girl of extremes; and when you combine this with eating and health habits, that can get a bit tricky.
Dear Reader: I am aware that this is an area where it is so important to not be following rules and restrictions that have been put on you; rules that have been set by someone who does not know the way that you think, or the places that your mind goes to when you think about your body, or how you feel about food. Please, please do not take any of this on as rules or regulations: this is not a “How to Get Fit” blog post, or a “I know how to make you better” article; it is simply my thoughts around the body positivity movement, some of my experiences and a call for accountability around something that God has said to me about all of this, specifically to me in my situation. I would love to chat to you and hear your experiences – comment and chat to each other – but please, friends – be kind to one another.
Where I’m Coming From
I’ve never been someone who is particularly small or particularly fit, but I have always been massively aware of the way that I look – pretty much exclusively from an extremely negative perspective. In all honesty, I’ve never been all that fussed about exercising and getting fit because I never felt like it was worth it – I just knew that I was ugly, and that was that. What was the point in working out or watching what I ate, anyway?
In April 2017, apropos of nothing, I decided to pick up the couch-to-5k app and give it a go. At this point, I couldn’t run for more than about three minutes (if that) without completely giving up; I’d had a period of time the previous year of getting into the gym (in quite an extreme way, naturally), and because I live in Cambridge I cycle everywhere; but at that point I’d had a year of comfort eating a lot of Dairy Milk and bread, and I wasn’t doing well at all. I did the first days’ run (walk for a minute, run for a minute – repeat a few times), came home, curled up on the sofa and spent the next hour talking to my housemate about how there was absolutely no way I could do this. But, somehow, it happened: I finished the first week, and then the second, and then the third (probably with a couple of blips in that time); I ran for twenty minutes without stopping, and then twenty-five, and then I ran a 5k for the first time in my life. That was when my slightly extreme, challenge-loving brain kicked in: something in me decided there and then that I was going to run the Cambridge half-marathon the following year. I got training with a friend who runs it every year, and kept going, further and further: I ran 10k, and then 11k, and then 12; by Christmas I could easily jog for an hour and a half without thinking about it. I lost all of the weight that I’d put on in a sad year, and I was eating really well and running four or five times a week. Running, for me, is a really great habit: it’s headspace, and fresh air, and it gets my body moving in a way that really works for me. The hour that I spend in my bubble with my headphones on, pounding the pavement is one that I thoroughly enjoy. I ran the Cambridge Half Marathon in March 2018, in a time that I was really happy with – I realized at this point that I’d fallen in love quite significantly with running.
2018 has been a bumpy ride for me, and while running was an incredible help in a lot of ways, as the year went on some unhealthy habits began to creep in. My own insecurities, along with a voice or two in my life that was telling me I wasn’t acceptable as a person because I was more than a certain weight turned running-a-bit-and-eating-well into running-a-lot-and-not-eating-much-at-all – it became more and more tempting to skip a meal and do that extra run in the week, particularly when I saw it making a difference on the scales. It was something that I saw happening, and it scared me a lot; but the voice that told me that I needed to be smaller and fitter before I could even think about being acceptable was stronger than anything else.
Long story short, God has done a massive amount in the last few weeks, including radically healing a lot of the stuff that was clouding my thinking around the way that I eat and exercise, and the way that I feel about myself. It was a part of a much bigger confusion around the way that I saw myself and the way that I saw God in that; but, as only He does, He turned my thinking around in a moment. It seems crazy to me that in a moment, He took me from the place that I had found myself in; turned me around, brushed me off and set me back in the right direction with completely new thinking – almost a brain transplant; but that is what He’s done.
One of my lovely housemates caught me the other day: “Heather’s back” she said with a smile; “but she’s a bit more Heather-y than she was before”.
So What Now?
I was massively challenged by God to change my thinking around nutrition (or lack of) and exercise: I think He actually spoke to me really specifically about this weird mindset that I was calling my “weight journey”.
He dropped into my heart three things:
- 1) stop weighing myself – full stop;
- 2) take down the sheet on my bedroom door that I was using to track my weight pound-by-pound; and
- 3) take down the Instagram account that I was using to compare myself to anyone and everyone else.
For me, the whole idea of weight loss was about control. If only I could reach that magical number I would be acceptable – until then there was no chance. I was either feeling in control of my body because I was “eating well” (read: not eating enough) and running every day, or not seeing any point in exercising at all and bouncing up and down quite an unhealthy amount of weight.
But here’s what He keeps going back to:
At the same time that He created the sun and the moon and the stars, and the birds and the oceans and the mountains, He created me: He knew who I would be and He had an life drawn up for me before I ever existed. He breathed His breath into me. He put me right where I am, at this time, for a reason. My life is much bigger than the way I look – and the same is true for you.
But – I look great – and the same is true for you! The Word says that the very hairs on my head are numbered (Matthew 10:30) – He designed me the way that I am for a reason, and He only designs beautiful things. The Word says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) – He took so much care in making me and I am good.
The very fact that I am filled with His spirit means that I am beautiful – the Word says that those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces are never covered with shame (Psalm 34:4-5). The Word says that when Moses came down from the mountain where he had been talking with God, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord (Exodus 34:29).
Psalm 139:17-18 says that I am always on God’s mind, and he thinks of me constantly: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand”. I do not need the attention or the affection of anyone other than my God – but in the same breath, a face that is radiant because of the love of God is the most beautiful thing.
Finally, Philippans 4:8 says this:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”
This really is an area where, at the moment, I need to take captive every thought, but this is what I want to fill my head with: I am not wrong. I am true, I am right, I am pure and lovely and admirable – He calls me excellent and praiseworthy. That’s all.