Lent 2018: No more scales
Confession: I don't always give something up for Lent. Sometimes I forget, sometimes I'm too caught up in the rest of my life to think hard about what I need to give up, and sometimes I'm just not feeling it. This year, however, was different. It's been an important year - one where my faith has been renewed as a priority in my life and one in which I feel very strongly that God has been pursuing me, in more ways than one.
Sometimes (ok, frequently) I'm nervous about sharing my faith with others, especially in a public forum such as this. Not because I'm ashamed (although the same can't be said for how I feel about other so-called "Christians" who proclaim to believe in the same God I do, even though they very clearly don't,) but because I know religion and faith can be alienating. And part of the role I want my blog to have is to offer inclusivity, in the hope that my story may resonate with others (or at the very least provide some entertainment!)
But there you have it - I'm Christian. I try to go to church every Sunday. I sing as part of my church's worship team every few weeks. I'm in a small group, where we spend time in community sharing our lives together and discussing the current sermons series (at the moment we're doing a series called The Gospel and Race - and it's really challenging, but also really important.)
Anyway - being Christian means that for me, Lent is not just a time to give up, say, chocolate for the sake of it, but to think about what sacrifice I can make with the purpose of helping me get closer to God. So this year, I thought about what was getting in the way of me and my faith. I didn't have to think about it for long: my weight loss.
It should come as no surprise to any of my regular readers that weight loss has always been an idol for me. (If you're new here, this post may give you some context.) I am no stranger to measuring my self-worth in pounds. While I've done my best to be particularly mindful of my demons during the rapid weight loss that has occurred since my surgery, it has also been extremely tempting to step on the scale every day to indulge in my losses (and, yes, berate myself when there are none.) While this journey has been transformative not only physically, but also emotionally in helping me start to achieve a true semblance of self-love, there has also been a genuine thrill in stepping on the scale and seeing a number on there that's lower than I've seen in years. So, like chocolate, I relish in this thrill, because for the moment that I register the number (assuming it is lower than the day before,) I am supremely, unequivocally happy.
But herein lies the problem: my joy is not supposed to come from a number on the scale. If I'm rejoicing more in my weight loss than in my faith or community, I'm doing it wrong. And while I can set up all sorts of mental boundaries to help check myself so I don't fall into the same patterns of restricting or purging like I did years ago, enabling this idolatry of the scale is a slippery slope on the way to engaging in more harmful eating disorder behaviors.
When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, nothing else mattered. Not just my faith, but my friends, my family, my grades, my passions - everything took a backseat to the voice that snaked her way through my brain into every waking moment of my life. I couldn't go five minutes without thinking about food and whether or not I would allow myself to have any - and if so, how I would punish myself for failing.
Let me be clear - I don't feel that way now. Yes, I think a lot about food, but not in terms of how little I can eat, but how best I can nourish my body (how novel!) One of the side effects of my surgery means I have to make sure I'm taking in enough nutrients, particularly protein, which is absorbed less easily by my digestive system now. But food doesn't rule my existence the way it used to. Still, I've recognized that no matter how strong I think I am now or how much I may have changed since the last time I was in the midst of an eating disorder, tempting the beast can have no happy ending. The scale was then, and still is now, nothing more than an effigy taking the place of a Higher Power - one who, unlike the scale, not only doesn't judge me for how much I weigh, but doesn't want me to either.
I haven't stepped on a scale since February 14. I've had my annual physical since then and I even turned around on the scale so I wouldn't see my weight. I don't know if my number is going up, down, or staying the same. And this is making me anxious - ok, not just anxious, but panicky. I hate not knowing. It makes me feel out of control - I feel (irrationally) like if I'm not checking my weight every day, I might suddenly balloon back up to 260 pounds and all the progress, both physically and emotionally, I've made in the past 7 months will be reversed.
Of course, logically, I know that's ridiculous. But it's also a very real symptom that the eating disorder I thought was so far behind me could, if I'm not careful, have a chance of catching up. It's a sign that my weight is becoming more important to me than God or my relationships, because I'm allowing a number on a scale to be a potential indicator of my happiness.
The reason I decided to be open on this blog about my struggles with weight and food is because a) I don't think I can fairly have a "beauty blog" without being transparent about how my perceptions of beauty have been skewed by this experience, but also b) to hold myself accountable. There's something about typing this confession on this blog page, where the public can read it, that makes it feel more real, that makes me more apt to do something about it rather than dismiss it as not a big deal. Do I think I'm about to fall back into all the old patterns of my eating disorder? No. But I also think that if I'm not honest about the setbacks I'm having on this journey, I'm realistically not going to get past them.
Thanks for reading.