I’m super excited to bring you a new post from my friend Mindy Pickens. Mindy will be serving as a lead contributor here at Compared to Who? and since her first post “My Beauty Idol” she’s written an update. If you’ve ever struggled with your weight or body image, you will be blessed by reading it. Here it is: The Fear of Scale Cycle
So, I really thought I would finally lose the weight after that great start I told you about.
In a corner of my heart, I thought God revealing my body image obsession and thinness idolatry was a cure, and I’d be able to write to you again, a couple months later, from a sparkling place of success (not too much success mind you, just enough to be inspirational) and then close my little body image success post with a line like this, “Oh yeah, and I’ve lost two pants sizes since then. Not that it matters very much, but glory to God.”
It would be a mic drop for Jesus. Slam dunk. A great witness. I caught myself daydreaming about if someone might notice I’d lost weight, ask me what I had done differently, and I could honestly tell them the gospel changed it all for me and I was now free. Friend, I thought body image freedom would make me, get this, *instantly thinner*.
Sigh. . . My heart. It’s a stubborn, blind, factory of idols. I need my Savior every day.
Would you like to know what has actually happened since I started this journey with God a few months ago? I’ve decided to make you all family, so I’m just going to tell the whole truth here. It’s been a whole lot of grace from God and baby steps from me. I’ve had some progress and some failing, but hopefully I’m failing forward. Let me share with you one of my struggles and the victory hidden in it. Maybe it will encourage your heart as we fight this thing together.
Post Revelatory Struggle: The Scale and the Fear of Fat.
I am fighting for body image freedom with the knowledge that my doctor has told me I need to lose weight for my health. I am making progress, but it’s not as fast or linear as I want. Some of my family health history is concerning, and this makes me scared of my own body because of my fat. I’m scared of what it will mean for my future. I’m scared that my tombstone could read, “We told her she was too fat, but I guess she didn’t love her family enough to get her crap together.”
This temptation to fear is bad on so many levels. Here’s an example of what it does to me:
I told you I had put the scale in the garage so I wouldn’t be obsessed with it every day, and I did. It stayed out there for like a month, but then I started to feel fat (as though fat is a feeling). I began to fear I was getting fatter, and after a few days of this tension mounting I would convince myself that if I just weighed myself I would feel better and then I could adjust my game plan and move forward if it was up, or reward myself with feelings of accomplishment and relief if it was down. It sounds so reasonable.
You know what happened every time I weighed myself though? No matter what the scale read, I found myself struggling with food within a day or two. If my weight was the same or up, I felt so discouraged. The discouragement tempted me to comfort myself with food. If my weight was down, I felt high and happy, and I found myself justifying extra bites of this or that, “because I’ve been doing so well.”
It goes like this: Something triggers and my body image starts to nosedive, feelings of fatness creep up alongside fear, I use the scale to assuage my fear, then my reaction to the number results in either sinful pride or sinful despair, and I end up using food in an unhealthy way in both cases, which leads back to the beginning of the cycle. This is madness. It’s bondage. It’s probably diagnosable.
I turn into a fearful, body image nut job. AAAHHHH! Thank goodness I have a faithful loving God.
I sat on the end of my bed after a mini episode of eating my faux-fat-failure-feelings, and cried out to God. “Father, I know you want me to bring my emotions and fears to you, but when I do I don’t feel better. You don’t usually make them go away. I want anesthetic. You want healing. Help me want the healing more than the anesthetic too.”
Some of you know how scary that prayer is.
The only way for me to get out of the fear/scale cycle was to take my old weight watchers scale out to my outside trash can and leave it in there. There are other ways to evaluate my healthy living choices than the scale–like listening to my body and respecting how I feel, and being honest about my self-care choices. Or how about asking my Father for feedback and direction?
More than pitching the scale though, much more, I had to own that when I find my body image taking a nosedive, my heart fearful about my body, or I’m hurting, disappointed, or feeling out of control of my life, that’s when I start to “feel fat” regardless of my actual weight. It’s a cover over the harder things. A lie. I have a choice to recognize this, bring my whole experience to God in surrender to His goodness, his sovereign rule over my life, and his personal love for me, or I can try to silence those feelings by controlling my food or my weight. Maybe you’ve been here too. Friend, fat is not a feeling. It’s a call for anesthetic. I can fight for control or I can surrender to the Healer. Healing is messy and sometimes hard, but it’s what I know I need, and what I’m learning to bravely seek.
“I am the LORD God who heals you.” Exodous 15:26
With so much compassion,
Mindy Pickens a wife and mother who loves Jesus, her husband, their two daughters, coffee, books…and coffee. She spends her time homeschooling, tutoring in her homeschool community, and trying to figure out this whole home-maker thing. She’s a regular woman who is captivated by the gospel of Jesus Christ and is learning to surrender to the grace and goodness of God.