A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece called Body Positivit-ish, discussing the great relationship (or massive lack thereof) that I had with my body. That post blew up a bit: it was helpful to a lot of people, and I had so many great conversations around the way that we see our body and the habits that we fall into in an attempt to feel like we are good enough. It was a vulnerable and honest piece about something that I was finding particularly difficult at the time – have a read if you haven’t already.
Since that point, a lot has shifted in my thinking and my behaviour, and I’ve had a pretty good relationship with food. I was challenged by God, at that time, to change my thinking around my nutrition (or lack thereof) and exercise: He actually spoke to me specifically about this weird mindset that I had been calling my “weight journey”.
And since then, I’ve stopped weighing myself – full stop. The whole idea of weight loss, for me, was about control – and having that number in my head, every day, was really important in that. If only I could reach that magical number I would be acceptable – until then, there was no chance.
Yesterday I took myself out on a walk around a local loop, as my Boris-approved exercise of the day, and that was exactly what I needed: I stomped down some backtracks and up a hill, and it was a fantastic time of thinking and processing and chewing over some stuff with God.
One of the things that I was thinking about was around my weight and my body. I wondered, as I walked up the hill, what it would be like to have an approach to fitness and well-being that totally disregards numbers – not thinking about them or looking at them at all.
I haven’t weighed myself now in almost two years – because for me, having that number in my head was not helpful; in fact it was massively detrimental to my mental health. It’s something that I have a tendency to get obsessive about: weighing myself turns into stepping on the scales every morning, which becomes a cycle of beating myself up and falling into patterns of over-exercising or skipping meals in order to see that number keep going down. After getting out of a particularly toxic personal situation that encouraged me to care a lot about that, I made the decision to step away from the scales for good, and to intentionally not seek out that number.
I’ve been pretty happy with that for a couple of years, and it’s not an area that has been particularly problematic for me; but in the past month or two, I’ve noticed some of these patterns of thinking creep in again. With some time on my hands I’ve been getting myself back into fitness (which is super good for my brain) and running and cycling around the local area (also very good for my brain) – but, along with these good habits, I’ve noticed the numbers creeping up in the back of my mind:
How many calories am I burning on this walk?
Breakfast was 250 calories, lunch was 300 – have I done enough today?
And while there’s definitely a really great aspect to feeling good and having a healthy lifestyle, I really hate the way that my brain turns that into a numbers game, and allows guilt and shame to come in so easily.
So, what would it look like to totally disregard numbers?
I know intuitively that being outside and moving my body are great for me – both for my body, and for my brain. I know that eating good food ultimately makes my body feel better than relying on junk food to get me through the day (but that a bit of junk food isn’t going to kill me), and I know that I can trust my brain to tell me what I need.
There’s some things that I do know – so now, this is about noticing the intrusive thoughts that are coming in, testing whether or not they are good, and then being able to replace them with something that is true. The Bible calls this taking captive every thought – not allowing thoughts to just come and go and taking them as truth, but testing them, being conscious of them, and lining them up with the truth.
Let’s replace how many calories are in this? with wow – this tastes so good! Let’s replace I’ve been so greedy today with look at the great experience that I shared with friends – what a beautiful memory! Let’s replace am I fit enough yet? with am I happy with my soul, and my character and my heart? What do those things need?
This post is partly an accountability thing for me, and an honest reflection around where I’m up to in my relationship with my body – this is me saying out loud that I am going to actively choose to look away from numbers, from counting, from diet culture, from comparison, from ideas around what my body should look like, and all of the rubbish that comes from that. But this is also an encouragement that you can be free from these things too. I’d love you to join me on this journey!
Here’s what I keep 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 a 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 that 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 to 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, my face is radiant because I have been speaking to Him.
Finally, Philippians 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 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.