One of the things that has come up for me and it seems to be on the minds of others in recovery or seeking freedom from an eating disorder as we don summer clothing and bathing suits, is body image. How can I offer this body acceptance, and self-compassion? This self-compassion, for me is about receiving God’s grace and offering myself the same grace I would offer someone else. Or rather extending to myself the same lack of judgement that I offer every other woman I see in their bathing suits, shorts, and sundresses.
Why is it that I can honestly look at every "body" and see that it is “…Fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14), yet can’t see this for myself? I know one reason why is that this seems to be the absolute last tether that ties me to an eating disorder. Oh, how Satan would love to have me feel its tug, than have me sever it.
If you are reading this you know that an eating disorder is about so much more than being thin, and yet is feels like this is a tether that is made of impenetrable steel. It is the reflection in the mirror taunting me asking me “are you sure you are good enough?” It is the fear of “Wow! You have really filled out,” as I slip into the pool. It is the distraction that keeps me from lounging freely in the sun and playing with abandon in the water with my granddaughter. Yes, it lingers and… I hate it! I also have to ask myself, not only “what are the good things my body image keeps me from enjoying, but what are the big feelings and emotions that it covers up as I cover my body up?”
I remind myself that big emotions can be joy, peace, contentment. Yes, the eating disorder numbs the unpleasant emotions, and it numbs the joyful emotions as well. So, while my recovery and freedom from restriction, purging, and compulsive exercise is solid, my body image in summer clothing is not.
This makes me sad for me and every woman who has worked so hard to trust our clinical teams and God to restore our bodies and weight. I often want to wear a sign that says, “I have worked infinitely harder for this body than you will EVER work for your six pack/beach body!” Oh, and I firmly believe if you have a body and you are at the beach…Voila…You have a beach body. https://www.eatingbyfaith.com/post/how-i-spent-my-summer-vaction-exposure
Being human means messing up, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing even in recovery. I have learned that beating myself up, for messing up, only leads to unwarranted shame, and shame can send me back into the rabbit hole of ED by fixating on my body image. And fixating on my body image leaves me, at times, glancing over my shoulder looking for ED instead of turning towards God. I remind myself that recovery is not perfect, nor linear, I am not perfect, and I am learning to be okay with this because I know God is okay with this.
In Matthew 6:25 Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
I used to read this verse as a directive or admonition and feel a sense of shame and condemnation because the eating disorder pulls me into worrying about the very things Jesus tells me not to worry about. I began to read this verse and pray about how this applied to my life and my life with this illness. I began to wonder what if, instead of seeing this as a directive, or admonishment, I heard it as an invitation; an invitation to let go and live in the freedom God desires for me? This transformed everything for me. Where Satan wants me to see condemnation, Jesus wants me to see an invitation to grace and freedom. As I continue to walk out my healing alongside others doing recovery, I invite you receive this scripture as an invitation to live in His freedom.
This is a simple exercise I use with my clients and myself to assist me back to being present and to what is true. I try pick out one part of my body that I already like and focus on it. Maybe you aren’t able to come up with one thing you like and that is okay. Focus on a body part that, maybe, someone else has told you is beautiful. Explore with curiosity the possibility that this is true even if you don’t believe it - YET! I will go first, today, I like my breasts and that they are just the right size and feminine. And, according to my nail technician I have very nice nail beds.
Feel free to share in the comments what part of your body you can love today and why.
How does looking at Matthew 6:25 as an invitation to the freedom you desire instead of a mandate change how you can approach the THRONE OF GRACE?