You’ve probably been there, thought these words or even said them out loud:
“I can’t believe she looks like that! It’s not fair! She doesn’t even take care of herself.”
I found myself saying this phrase out loud to others and also in my head. I was frustrated with how people who eat terribly unhealthy “junk” food and rarely exercised could be rail thin. I mean, here I was taking care of myself, exercising daily and eating clean, whole foods, yet it felt like that image I saw on my screen was always going to be a better, thinner version than me.
That isn’t true, because skinny doesn’t mean I take good care of myself. Skinny won’t tell me how good my blood pressure is, skinny won’t tell me how much my Jesus loves me and would die for me, and skinny won’t tell me the ways in which my body is able to stretch, grow and nourish another human life. So why do I let skinny tell me what I’m worth?
This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s infuriating, annoying, and upsetting all in one fell swoop, mainly because I’ve been there and also because it hurts me to see so many women fighting the same battle.
There is a war between guilt and grace on the road to what we call “healthy.” It’s a heavily traveled and seemingly abandoned road. If you know me today, people will often describe me as “little.” I am short and some say “I don’t weight more than 100lbs soaking wet” (though I promise you, I do). But, flashback to about 15 years ago, to my geeky, big glasses-wearing 13-year-old self. In those days, I was much tinier than those in my grade, and I was even a “mini version” of my twin sister. This word “tiny” became what I was known for and I kind of liked that about me. It made me different, though the word “tiny” would come to haunt me just a few years later.
When the words about yourself that you are used to hearing are “little”, “tiny”, “petite” you begin to believe that to be your best self and that you are to embody those words. And embody I did, right to a bone-protruding figure. I truly believed that I was being healthy by working out constantly, eating “healthy” (which was usually super-processed, low calorie junk!), and counting calories. I was worried that if my calorie count went over 1,000 that I would some how end up on The Biggest Loser. My body became my own personal torture device and what became the saddest part was I referred to it as “taking care of myself.” Taking care of myself?! What kind of care keeps you in chains and causes you to feel extreme guilt after eating a cookie or skipping a day at the gym? This wasn’t self care; it wasn’t care at all.
On this road of guilt and grace, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way, even though there are days the battle of guilt seems to win out. Most of these lessons have come as my body is adjusting to it’s new role as “mommy.” In those moments, I am reminded that grace doesn’t come from me telling myself “it’ll all be okay” or “you can do this.” It comes solely in seeking my purpose and life in my Creator.
My goal in saying all this is to extend a hand to those of you who are, like me, on a journey where grace overcomes guilt and our bodies become vehicles of worship and not torture.
Chassity Neckers is a regular contributor to Soul Care Collective.