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.

When a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Feelings

On Tuesday night I received the link to the family pictures we had taken a couple of weeks ago. These were our first professional pictures since we became a family of four, and I couldn’t wait to see them. I scrolled through sweet pictures of my two girls, but then I got to pictures with all four of us, and my heart dropped. I could not believe how HUGE I looked in the pictures. It’s ridiculous that I was blindsided by this because I own a scale and have been on it recently, so it’s not as though I was unaware of how much I weigh or what size clothing I currently wear. I think in my mind I was still picturing myself at a lower weight, but pictures don’t lie. Seeing these pictures woke me up to the fact that I have allowed myself to reach a weight I never thought I would see again. I’m currently the heaviest I’ve been in nine years, and that is a tough truth to acknowledge. I love the pictures of my sweet family, but I can’t help but wish that I looked a lot thinner.

Mount 7 (Sans Tissue)

I know I had a baby two months ago, but even before I got pregnant I was heavier than I wanted to be and yet doing little about it. I used the pain in my hips and the depression that accompanied that pain as an excuse to eat poorly and not exercise. Instead, I fed my sadness and hopelessness with food. I knew what I was doing, I saw the number on the scale gradually go up, and yet it was hard to stop. After I got pregnant with Ava, I let pregnancy be my excuse for eating sweets more often and generally being a lazy bum. I told myself that after I had Ava I would get serious about losing weight. If I lost the weight before, there is no reason I can’t lose it again, and yet I look at pictures of me when I was at my lowest weight and feel like I don’t even know who that person is anymore.

So here I find myself, completely overwhelmed by how much weight I have to lose and disgusted with how I look, but have I done anything about it? Not yet. I keep telling myself that something has to change, and then I keep on doing the same things that got me where I am today and then feel sad that I’m this fat.

However, moping about my weight isn’t going to make me thinner. Moping about my weight isn’t going to make my clothes fit better. Moping about my weight isn’t going to make me pick healthier foods. Moping isn’t going to change anything, except maybe to make me feel even worse about myself. Dwelling on the past has rarely served me well. Instead, I want to dwell on this fact: God doesn’t want me to be skinny as much as He wants me to be holy. I have to stop being so self-absorbed and remember the truth of the gospel: I am approved before God because of the work of Jesus on my behalf. How I look has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love and acceptance of me. When I remember who I am in Christ, I can let go of the feelings of despair and hopelessness. When I remember who I am in Christ, I can fight the temptation to eat to excess. When I remember who I am in Christ, I can have confidence not in myself, but in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me. Food does not love me back. Food will not satisfy the deepest longings of my heart, but God will.

The battle I am fighting is a spiritual battle as well as a physical one, and it’s time I put on my armor.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

“With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
    with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
    and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
    but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
    the word of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:25-30

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