The contours of my face have changed. Where before there were rounded edges and softened corners, now underlying bone structures surface and nuances of muscle and movement create new character and definition.
It’s strange to watch something so familiar to you change, to be surprised by your own face. I’ve had to compose a different self-portrait, now that I can more clearly see the framework of who I am.
For me, losing weight has only been part of the journey of discovering who I want to be, or rather, who God is calling me to be. For a lot of people, losing weight is the means of making themselves into someone different, moving from someone they don’t like to someone that they think is more loveable –to themselves and others.
I never set out, in fact, to make myself happier by changing the shape of my body. I already knew that I had value and worth and importance no matter what I looked like or weighed, or who was or was not attracted to me. I already knew that I was loved for who I was, though that was a relatively new thing for me even then. I had lived many years before that in insecurity and disbelief that I was loveable, or even likeable. But at this point in the game, I had reached the point that I was secure in the knowledge that I liked who I was –the things that made me me.
So why did I do it?
Well, it started out with God wanting to teach me about hope and perseverance. I woke up one day and knew that it was time to start running. –I’d been walking to get some form of daily exercise, but had no plans or desire to change that to running in the least. But, that morning, there was something with authority inside me saying that today was the day, and that it was time to start learning firsthand what hope really meant and why perseverance was so essential.
Sometimes God takes you completely by surprise.
So I started running –more walking than running in the beginning, until I could build up enough stamina to run a mile without stopping, and I started looking for truth instead of believing every negative thought that crossed my mind until I could start believing with growing confidence that there was something to be hopeful about solely because God was working in my life. And I haven’t stopped since.
The crazy thing is, once I discovered that I could do it, I realized that I actually enjoyed running. Time for being alone and exploring outside and letting my thoughts turn over along with the music in my ears? Sounds perfect. And the funny thing is, once you start believing in God’s goodness and the hope He has for you, the easier it is to see the truths about yourself and simultaneously unmask the fears and doubts that prevent you from living.
But just like every other area of my life, I like a challenge. So I started running farther, exploring new, more difficult routes. The neighborhood behind my old apartment complex in St. Louis was all hills. It took convincing myself every morning that it was a good idea to finish strong by tackling the steepest one. And now I’m training for a half marathon. Each weekend is pushing through one more mile by grit alone. But that’s training –stretching yourself to go a little farther than you think you can, building up strength and muscle and endurance, and mental stamina.
Now, looking in the mirror, I see someone so much stronger. The potential had always been there before, but it had never been drawn out. It took God’s wisdom to say ‘now is the time to work on these things in you.’
Running, and a few other things in life, have built me up into a person that can hope in a future that is still too far off to see, believe that every hurt or broken piece is being used by God to change me into someone greater than I was before, trust that God is for me and working things for good even when I can’t see it, and know that I have a place and a purpose that is being revealed with every step I take closer to God. –That is strength to me: to hope, believe, trust, and know God.
Losing weight has just been a byproduct. And I think, when done right, more people than not discover that the real quest in losing weight is not, in fact, shedding pounds, but uncovering who they have been all along but couldn’t find underneath all the doubt and fear and shame.
And I think, if it’s not losing weight, than it’s something else that God uses to draw us out from our lesser selves and show us the strength and beauty we’ve had buried so deep that we’ve forgotten how to believe that we could be those things.
I don’t have a goal weight or a certain size that I’m working towards. I’m not working towards anything but becoming stronger. I will always have stretch marks. But to me they are not ugly or unseemly, they are marks of how I have changed, how far I have come from the person that I used to be. I don’t want to lose them. I don’t need to look perfect, whatever that is. I would rather have peace and security that I am enough, that how I love and who I am is of more worth than how I fill out a dress or how flat my stomach is. I know that I am so much more than how I look.
It took a while to get used to seeing a different shape in the mirror, to realize that I looked markedly different than before, to have a different self-image (not better or worse, just different). It took a while to view myself differently –for my brain to comprehend that people look at me differently, that people who didn’t know me before I lost weight have a different impression of me than those who did. But then, too, I am a markedly different person on the inside than I used to be, and people will get a different impression of me regardless of what I look like.
That’s what I see when I look in the mirror. The different curves and indentations in my cheekbones are nothing compared to the strength of spirit I see behind my eyes. So if you catch me staring at my reflection, it’s because I’m marveling at what God has done with me.
“Your love and mercy build and shape us
Break and then recreate us now
Lord have mercy” -Gungor “We Will Run”