Too Much

I caught a glimpse of myself today as I was opening a set of glass doors, and I was caught off guard by how large I looked. Even though I have gained back 75 of the 90 pounds I lost many years ago, I think part of me sometimes still imagines that there’s a thinner version of myself walking around, even though I know what the numbers on the scale and on my clothes say. I live with this absurd fantasy in my head, despite reality literally staring me in the face every time I look in the mirror in the morning, and despite the way the fabric of my clothes pulls in places where it once hung loosely. I want so desperately to be the size I once was that I think I have convinced myself that I’m not THAT fat, that my weight isn’t THAT big of a problem. But when I feel the skin on my thighs rubbing painfully when I wear a skirt or dress, when I feel that same skin stretching uncomfortably taut when I cross my legs, when I feel the sides of a chair digging into my backside, when all I can think about when swimming at a public pool with my daughter is how many people are disgusted by me–those are signs of a problem. I am uncomfortable with my body and uncomfortable in my body.

black make up palette and brush set

Photo by kinkate on Pexels.com

All of this makes me feel like “too much”–both in the literal and figurative sense of the word. I feel as though I quite literally take up too much space in the world, but I also feel like my ongoing struggle with my weight and food obsession make me too much for people. If people knew how many times a day I thought about eating junk, would they still be my friends? If I ballooned up to 400 pounds, would I be loved? Am I even loved now? Is there a point at which even God Himself will say, “Whoa there, Erin, I think I’m going to need to take a break from this relationship until you get your issues settled”? In my darkest moments (and there have been plenty of those), I ask all of these questions and more. And in my more rational moments, I know that the love of people I care about is not contingent upon how much I weigh. I know that I am loved deeply by my husband and family. I know that God loves me with a love I can’t even fully fathom and that it is nothing but pride and vanity that causes me to question His design. But somehow, sometimes, knowledge of this love isn’t enough. I haven’t believed it completely. If I did completely and utterly believe in God’s love for me, I wouldn’t choose other things above Him. I wouldn’t turn to food for comfort instead of to His Word. I wouldn’t chase after temporal pleasures instead of chasing after Him.

In a way I am in fact too much; I think too much of myself, too often. I spend too much time dwelling on my problems and not enough time dwelling on the Lord and His goodness. I trust too much in my own sufficiency rather than recognizing that I am completely needy. I waste too much energy on worthless pursuits and not enough energy working for the Lord and not for man. I fritter away too much time in front of a mirror, applying makeup and fixing my hair in the hopes that my face will be pretty enough that people won’t notice the rest of me, instead of cultivating the inward beauty of a heart that hungers and thirsts for God.

Since I am too much, I must pray as John does in John 3:30, “He must become greater, I must become less.” The important thing about my life ultimately isn’t how much weight I lose or don’t lose. The important thing about my life is that it points to Another altogether–Jesus Christ. He lived the perfect, sinless life I cannot live and gave me the redemption I could never hope to earn. May I live a life that brings honor to the One who can never get too much of my praise or receive too much glory.

Fight or Flight

I haven’t updated on my hips in a while, and for a while that’s because there wasn’t much to tell. My recovery was going well, my pain was manageable, and I felt really good about things. I last saw Dr. P for a check up on May 11, and he confirmed that I was doing great at 6 weeks post-op and that I should continue doing physical therapy. However, somewhere along the way since then, things have gotten worse. The pain started to creep up. I ignored it at first, thinking it was temporary. But then I started to have problems in physical therapy. I didn’t feel like my pain was getting any better, and any time the therapist tried to add new exercises, I struggled and had increased pain. This week my therapist actually called my surgeon and explained the situation, and now I’m scheduled to go see Dr. P this Friday morning. At 12 weeks post-op, I didn’t expect to be in this situation, especially since the surgery on my left hip was less extensive than on my right hip. I had already been discharged from physical therapy at this point post-op with my right hip. To complicate things further, the pain I’m feeling is different than what I’ve felt with my right hip, AND my right hip has been quite achy as well. Basically, things are discouraging in every possible way, and so with the physical pain has been added emotional pain.

I have found myself wishing that I could just run away from my problems, but it’s hard to do that when my problems are within my own body. I’m tired, deep-deep-down-in-my-bones tired, and I want to forget all of these problems exist, if just for a day. Unfortunately, I can’t run away from my pain because it’s literally a part of me. If I can’t run away, what choice is left? I have to fight:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. -Ephesians 6:10-18, ESV

Though I am weak and do not feel like fighting, my Lord is strong, and He will be my strength. I have to focus on what I know to be true when my feelings are lying to me and telling me that I’m all alone, that no one understands, that there’s no hope. So I fight by choosing to believe that God is good and loves me and wants good for me. I fight by choosing to stay in His Word when I’d rather do anything but read it. I fight by choosing to pray when sometimes I feel like all I can do is cry, for I know that even when I do not know what to pray, the Spirit prays on my behalf with groans too deep for words.

What is the result of all of this fighting (besides lots of crying)? The Lord has met me in my place of despair. He has been kindly and gently showing me that He walks with me. I am not alone in even my darkest nights of the soul, for there is nowhere my mind can go that Christ has not already traveled. There is nothing that He cannot understand. He was tempted fully and yet resisted completely. Not only that, but He suffered in ways I can never begin to fathom, so that I could be rescued from hell and spend eternity with Him. Jesus asks much less of me than what He gave for me. What a comfort, what a gift!

I will be honest: the temptation to sit and wallow in my misery has been great, and I have done my share of that. The only thing that has kept me from succumbing to it completely has been the grace of God, holding me fast. He who began a good work in me will carry it to completion. He wants me to grow in Christ-likeness, and this path is an opportunity to learn that most important of lessons. And honestly, would I learn any of this during a season of relative ease and comfort? Maybe, but probably not. Charles Spurgeon said it well when he said, “I have found that there is a sweetness in bitterness not to be found in honey; a safety with Christ in a storm which may be lost in a calm. It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” It is only when I am at the end of myself that I know I can do nothing without Him. It is only when I am so desperately in need of Him that I realize I needed Him desperately all along.

I wish I knew if one day all of this will be a distant memory. But it is not for me to know the future, only to trust in the One who does know. So I trust, and I fight.

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Here Again

Here’s a tip for all of my readers: if you’re feeling dissatisfied with your body, don’t go clothes shopping. It will only make it worse. I knew this, and yet I still decided to try on clothes tonight at Kohl’s. I tried on at least 12 things and hated all but 2 of them. This in itself is nothing new, as finding clothes that I like and that are flattering has always been hard for me, but it was all the more discouraging tonight because I realized that I’m on the borderline between regular clothing and plus sizes. (And can we just take a moment and admit that the way clothes are labeled is stupid? All the terms are obnoxious.)

I can’t believe I am here again: at a weight that I thought I would never see again, about to need a size I thought I would never need to wear again. During my high school and college and grad school years, I spent a lot of time in the plus-sized section of stores, and I hated it. I never wanted to shop with friends because I was almost always the biggest one and knew I’d have to go to a different section of the store or wouldn’t even be able to find any clothes in my size. If I did end up on an outing with friends, I would make up some excuse as to why I wasn’t trying on anything (“I don’t really need anything.” or “I’m saving up for something.” or “I’m just gonna go look at the purses.”). And then after my friends had bought their cute clothes and I was back at home, I’d go in my room and cry and probably eat too much food and wonder what was wrong with me.

What’s wrong with me, of course, is that I’m a glutton. I love food to excess. I obsess about it, and it’s embarrassing to think of how much of my day is spent dwelling on food. Even when I was actively losing weight, thoughts of food were never far from my mind. If I wasn’t eating, I was planning what I was going to eat and trying to figure out if a Twix bar would fit into my calories for the day (I’m not even kidding). Even when I lost 90 pounds, I didn’t defeat gluttony. Sure, sometimes it was dormant for a while, but it always reared its head again. I told myself that I had figured out this food business for good, but I was lying to myself, and that became all too clear after I became pregnant and gave myself permission to ease up on my restrictions because after all, I was “eating for two” (never mind the fact that Charlotte weighed less than 7 pounds at full term). After I had Charlotte, I fought hard to shed the 40+ pounds I had gained, and while it took me a year and a half, I did it, getting back to pre-pregnancy weight in October 2012. However, I wasn’t as disciplined as I had been the first time around, and I let a lot of things slide. It wasn’t uncommon for me to find myself at the end of a bag of chips, not aware that I had eaten half of it. I ate desserts with abandon and then hoped my running would counteract the extra calories. And yet in spite of my struggle, the scale moved in the right direction, so I told myself I was fine and that an occasional slip was not a big deal when I was clearly on the right path.

Then I got sick, sicker than I have ever been in my entire life, and because for the first time in my life food was repulsive to me due to the effects of my disease, I dropped down to a weight I had not seen in my entire adult life. I was elated but also terrified. I didn’t know how to process my smaller size, especially in light of the fact that it was not earned but instead was a reminder of how broken and diseased my body was. I hoped that I could maintain my lower weight after I felt better, but months of prednisone wreaked havoc on my body in ways that ulcerative colitis didn’t, and I watched the number on the scale slowly creep up. On May 1, 2013, I wrote a post with a weigh in and talked about how discouraged I was at the weight I had gained. At the time, it seemed horrible, but I weighed  175 pounds and was upset that over the course of a year I had gained one pound. ONE POUND. Given the fact that at my highest I weighed 261 pounds, 175 is still a great number! I would LOVE to be 175 pounds today! I wish I could go back to my self of 3 years ago and slap her on the head and tell her to lighten up on herself, but I can’t. It’s not as though being hard on myself helped at all. If anything, my feelings of defeat only made me more prone to bingeing and unhealthy habits, and so it’s no wonder that by July 2014, I was over 200 pounds again. It’s there I’ve stayed ever since, with the exception of a few months last year when I briefly dipped down into the 190s. Having hip surgery twice and being immobile for weeks only made matters worse, and so that’s how I found myself in the Kohl’s dressing room wishing I could just disappear instead of face this again.

This isn’t a post about how I have a new plan to lose this weight once and for all. I don’t. I’ve written that post before, and it got me nowhere, and I’m heavier now than I was when I last wrote about my weight. This is a post about how ultimately, the main problem isn’t with the size of my pants or the number on the scale, it’s with my heart. My heart is sinful, and I have not fought the sin of gluttony as I need to. If I’m honest, I don’t even know where to begin, but I do know that it’s wasted energy to try to change the past. So for now I’m just going to wake up tomorrow and pray that the Lord would guide my steps and strengthen me and help me to resist temptation, and I will do my part by not stuffing my face full of cookies or chips or all the other junk I love to eat when I feel despondent. I will soak up the truths of Scripture, knowing that I am loved completely by the God of the universe. I will read resources like this one and this one and plead for wisdom. And then I’ll do the same thing the next day, and the day after that. I don’t know if the number on the scale will go down, but I hope and pray that holiness will win out over gluttony. That’s the battle I really need to win.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13

The More Things Change…

If you’ve read even a few posts on my blog over the past year, then you know that I have been through my share of changes, the biggest of which is obviously my ulcerative colitis diagnosis. Beyond dealing with that diagnosis, the only other change that occupies much of my thoughts is my weight (I know, you’re all shocked). But truly, my weight has gone up and down in truly astounding fashion. I decided to check my blog and see what I weighed around this time last year, and fortunately I found that I had actually recorded my weight for this exact date. On August 12, 2012, I weighed 178.6. Do you know what I weighed this morning? 179.6. That’s one pound higher than this day last year, and a whopping TWELVE pounds higher than my weight at the beginning of this year. I managed to get down to 170.8 in the beginning of October 2012, and not long after that I got sick. I actually didn’t lose a whole lot of weight when I first got sick, but when I got home from the hospital, the weight came off at an alarming rate (about 10 pounds in two days, then 5 or so more after that). At one point, the scale was down to 150. I knew that wouldn’t stay, and I didn’t expect it to, so when I managed to stay between 155 and 158 for about a month, I was happy. I hoped that even though I lost all of that weight because my body was sick, I could maintain the loss. I even wrote about how losing weight wouldn’t be one of my goals for the new year for the first time in ages. I was filled with excitement and optimism! 

Taken in November on my first Sunday back to church. 150 pounds

Silly, silly me.

By the middle of January, five years into my weight loss journey, I was back up to 167.6. To be fair, I was on a TON of medication (including prednisone), and I do think that it wreaked havoc with my body in lots of not-so-great ways, but I can’t blame it all on the medicine. If it were solely the medicine causing the problem, when I went off the prednisone in March all of my weight gain should have stopped. But it didn’t, and now I find myself at a weight that makes me anything but comfortable, a weight that is almost exactly what it was at this time last year. If nothing else is consistent, at least I am consistent about gaining weight, right?

“But Erin,” you say, “You had goals, you had a reward system! What happened?” In a nutshell, fatigue happened. Depression happened. Laziness happened. Honestly, this has been a HARD nine months, and the struggles manifested themselves in my eating habits. Even now, when at times I feel like I can’t eat ANYTHING, I still overeat. I still eat junk. All of that eating combined with virtually no exercise due to severe fatigue is a recipe for failure.

So I find myself coming back to the brink of 180 pounds all over again, and I want it to be the last time, but part of me feels helpless. I don’t know if making a plan will help. I’ve made plans, lots of them, and in the end they meant nothing.

The truth is, I don’t need another plan. I need freedom from this bondage.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ~Galatians 5:1