“O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Psalms 90:14
I have never been thin. I was overweight before the concept of a positive body image was in vogue. In elementary school, I was referred to as a “big-boned girl” by my family to spare my feelings, but I still heard the whisperings of my peers that I was fat, or worse yet, hefty. I would pour over the gigantic Fall/Winter JC Penney catalog looking at the fashionable clothes, only to be disappointed that they didn’t make the blue oxford shirt and brown corduroys in my size. I distinctly remember, in the fourth grade, going to school during the frigid Wisconsin winter in a bulky, army green coat while all my classmates were wearing baby blue, hot pink or lavender winter coats. Almost forty years later, I still shudder when I see army green, even if it is the trendy color of the season.
Middle school came and my weight climbed. Eating had become a coping mechanism for the abuse that I was hiding. In spite of this, I made an unconscious decision to not let my weight define me. I got involved in every activity I could, from drama to forensics, desperately trying to fit in. This continued throughout high school and college. I was successful in the academic and extracurricular world, receiving various accolades that helped shape my self-image.
My weight did not stop my life in the bigger sense. I married a wonderful man who always made me feel beautiful despite the numbers on the scale. I had two children that loved their mom despite her being morbidly obese. I had great friends and family who believed in me and supported me. I was successful as I defined success. And, most importantly, I had an incredible relationship with God, who loved me unconditionally.
At the end of July, 2018, I woke up one morning and made a decision. It would be grand to say it was an epiphany where a clear message was written across the sky in gold letters while angelic voices filled the air with a heavenly hymn. It would be more dramatic to say that a major health crisis led me to this decision. Some people have those moments that make for good stories or reality shows on weight loss. For me, the moment was just answering the quiet whispering of God. Many of our most important decisions are made with no fanfare, away from the clamor of public opinion. It’s when we listen to the still, small voice of God and face the giants in our lives that real change and healing happen.
I downloaded an app and started holding myself accountable for what I ate. I made changes in my diet by eating smaller portions and making healthier choices. I joined a gym and started exercising, both cardio and weights. Most importantly, I started to read the Bible differently than I had done before, memorizing scriptures and journaling. I started to be more honest with my feelings and attitudes about food. Why was I looking to food for comfort or fulfillment? Why was my relationship with food so unhealthy? Was this unhealthiness pointing to other areas of my life that still needed healing?
At the writing of this blog I am down 127 pounds. That can fluctuate daily and that’s ok. I don’t define myself by the numbers that glare back at me from my bathroom scale. They only reflect a part of my journey, not my destination. Most of my goals are related to healthy decisions and physical activities. I am learning to be satisfied by God, rather than food.
This weekend, I learned that food should not define my enjoyment of a season. I can share the family favorite acorn candy freely with friends at a bonfire. Then I can put the remaining candy in the freezer instead of devouring it piece by piece by the next afternoon. I can enjoy fall by exploring God’s creation on a hike with my husband. This past weekend, he and I took a hike that was rated as “hard” on most apps and websites. We climbed over one thousand rock slab steps up the side of a mountain. It was difficult, at times grueling, but the sense of accomplishment was exhilarating, as were the views from the top.
The verse in the beginning is written on a note card on my refrigerator. It is a daily reminder to find my satisfaction in God and his mercy. Food can still be pleasing to my palate. I still love a juicy burger, or a homemade chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven. Yet, the deep satisfaction that fills my soul with completeness and wholeness is found in God. And for this I can rejoice and be glad.