9/19/2011

A Weighty Series, part 14

We're nearly to the end of a lengthy weight series. You are free to catch previous posts, though you don't have to. I do recommend it if you can, though! Here they are: part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6part 7part 8part 9part 10part 11part 12, and part 13. Friday's post picked up on the one from Thursday about how I have been struggling in my heart with dark thoughts about my worth because of my weight, because I gained weight and feared going back to nearly 400 pounds . Today I'll share where I am right now.

Losing: My Religion
This series has been part of a large stirring in my heart. I do feel very convicted and serious about getting healthier and not staying at 280 pounds. At the same time, I struggle with what worship while seeking to lose weight looks like. I want to worship, not just try to get skinny and find approval from the world.

For me, weight loss is a very satisfying religion. I have a great app called MyFitnessPal on my iPhone (it's on Android and you can use it on your computer, too) that makes calorie counting super easy and I have my super wonderful and accurate bodybugg which tells me how many calories I have burned. I can make each moment of every day all about how many calories I've eaten and how many I have burned and will I hit my target of a net deficit of 1,500 calories a day so I can lose 12-14 pounds a month?

Me, last summer, two days after finding out I was pregnant, in the best shape
of my life,and the thinnest I've been in a decade.

Truth telling time: there is a part of me, deep down, that believes that I will not
deserve any good thing until I get back there and then surpass it. My lowest
weight was 241 pounds, thanks to 3 months of first trimester vomiting, and
my heart constantly whispers that I MUST get to the 230s ASAP to prove
that I can still lose weight and won't gain 100+ pounds overnight.
Guess what? Sometimes the calorie counting and intentional, hard exercise is liberating. There are days where it's so much more freeing than the bondage of slothfulness and gluttony. Then there are times where it's just exhausting. One problem I keep finding is that when I'm working out hard core then I feel horribly guilty any moment in which I'm not busting my tail at something busy. For example, I did my first 5k last Sunday and according to my bodybugg I burned 1,200 calories. Yet when I got home and watched the Seahawks game I kept feeling like I needed to do more, some lunges or working out my arms or something. I want to get religious and work hard every second of every day to earn my salvation of a thinner physique.

What is My Goal?
The balance has come in asking Jesus continually to show me the wickedness of my heart, to help me worship him and not weight loss, and to hold with an open hand what my "goal" is. To be sure, 160 pounds still sounds dreamy. But this entire series has come from Jesus working on my heart about what I'm pursuing. Am I pursuing health and stewardship of this body? Am I eating because God is a good God who has made good food for me to enjoy?  Or am I trying to find pleasure, comfort, escape in my food and not the God who created it? Do I work out to be fruitful (thank you, John Piper) or sexy? Am I exercising so my body will be healthy and strong and ready for whatever God has before me? Or am I punishing myself because I ate just enough to avoid starvation mode yesterday but those 1,200 calories are the enemy that is ruining my life?

As I said in my last post, I don't think Jesus has a physical number as a goal for me. I do believe that Jesus cares about my heart, that I cleave to him for my identity. Jesus did not spread his arms on the cross and receive the penalty of death for my sin for so that I can make jaws drop with envy and/or lust when I walk by in a tiny pair of jeggings. Jesus did not endure separation from God the Father so that I can be controlled by Satan's lies whispered--and screamed--to me by the world. Jesus did suffer and die so that he could make new life in me, that I could live not for myself, my desire to be proclaimed beautiful and thin by the world, but so that I can live for him. This isn't just a Christianese cliche at work--it says so outright in II Corinthians 5:14-15.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all,that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
For When I am Weak...
So what then? How do I pursue weight loss and still worship? See, the hope is that I'll just get fixed and find the perfect way to do all of this. I'll worship and enjoy good food and work out really hard and maybe just maybe reach and maintain a body that I feel great in with no more struggles in this area. Ta-da!

Praise Jesus, that's not how he works. For now, and possibly my whole life, one way in which his strength is made perfect in my weakness is that as this issue of weight/body image/exercise/food ebbs and flows I get to keep leaning on him. When I am trusting Jesus and experiencing victory, to Christ be the glory. When I'm gravitating to either extreme, away from Jesus, by either turning to sloth and gluttony or worshiping weight loss I get to cry out to Jesus to make my heart his again and to Christ be the glory when I do that. Christ is not glorified in my perfection but in my incessant recognition of his strength in my weakness.

...Then I am Strong...
This week had a lot of Christ's strength. I'm hovering right at 274, so I've lost 5 pounds this week. I worked out hard this week, pushing through max intensity, hour long sessions on the elliptical and the aforementioned 5k. I can feel the strength gained from my weight training, a tighter core and toned arms and stronger legs and a bit of lift in my tush.

Best of all, there was real worship. I prayed when I was sweating and my heart was pounding and I wanted to quit with 45 minutes or 35 reps  to go, but I literally cried out to Jesus to help me steward this body and worship him by not quitting, not accepting a weight that will lead to deadly health problems if I just give up. The Holy Spirit met me there and I finished my workouts (and ate really healthy meals) with peace that Jesus was my strength in my weakness.  Great, right?

...And Then Weak Again
Not entirely. There were very weak moments. I had a couple of days where I simply had commitments that made a workout impossible. One day included a lot of preparations for a party while still being full-time wife and mom. Another was Roger's 6 month appointment (including shots), missing an afternoon nap on a day when he already struggles with napping well because of being out late for community group the night before. One included simply needing to get a lot of errands run so that I could prepare for another party and help make Jason's commitments possible for him to accomplish.

Then, my sweet baby came down with a nasty virus that's led to lost sleep, worry about his health, weekend calls to answering services and waiting to hear back from doctors,  and quickly breaking that advice (he said no formula to stop the diarrhea, since the virus was spitting out the proteins and sugars from it by the end of the bottle, but poor baby was crying with hunger so we had to add some formula to his Pedialyte and pray it didn't cause more diarrhea which would remove more fluids from his tiny body and in turn require more Pedialyte to stop dehydration, but then if he was hungry and wanted food then we'd have to add more formula which would come out and...you get the horrible cycle). There was the harried trip to buy gallons of said Pedialyte from Target with money we don't have in a time crunch because Jason needed the car for a can't miss commitment. That's not to mention the guilt of missing church due to illness yet again and wondering if protecting other babies from getting the virus made us horrible Christians, though my husband and I were exhausted and sick ourselves.

Sweet Roger, smiling despite the misery his poor body
has endured this weekend.
Ugh. It makes me tired again just talking about it. But the point here is that I found myself totally stressed out. Old me would have stress ate and given up on trying to lose weight, likely from a pity party that this is my horrible lot and it's just not possible to serve and love others well and still take care of myself (such a lie!). I did have one moment, during the harried Pedialyte trip, where I bought and ate a Hostess apple pie. It didn't even taste good and afterward I felt horrible, but instead of giving up and eating for comfort all day since I'm already clearly a failure who deserves to be fat I just factored those awful 470 calories into my daily allowance and intentionally avoided any other sugars. Praise Jesus, no spiraling was to be had.

Must. Work. Out. Constantly.
The odd thing, though, is that the apple pie was the only time I ventured toward sloth and gluttony. Instead, the most stressful part of this last week or so was a constant feeling that I must exercise every second and I had to force myself to carefully enjoy foods at the two baby showers (I still counted the calories but I didn't sinfully abstain and only eat bell peppers, though a LOUD part of me really wanted to). I literally felt like only exercising for four hours this week would make me wake up 10 pounds heavier tomorrow. That's kind of laughable, really, since four hour-long workouts at max intensity is pretty awesome and my "high calorie" day was 1,700; every other day was between 1,200-1,500 quality, whole-food calories while my lowest burn was nearly 2,800 and I averaged over 3,000. Yet my religious heart was screaming at me that I had to stop life, not serve others or help Roger develop his core strength (he can't sit up independently quite yet) in order to focus on my own desired rock hard abs. Let him cry to be held, squirming on the floor while I call it tummy time and do 100 crunches RIGHT. THIS. SECOND! (I didn't, for the record--I focused on him and did my core workout during his next nap). I just kept pushing through even when it was really hard.

I ate super well and worshiped and worked hard yet it never felt like enough. I'm still fat.

In this, though, I choose joy. My body is not my own, it was bought with a price, and I want to glorify God with it. I get to choose to confess my weakness over and over and know that whether the image in the mirror reflects the desires of my heart (Lord, teach me to delight in you so my desires match yours, so that what you give me is a delight because it was from the One I delight in!) and whether or not I get to rejoice over smaller numbers on the scale or tight clothes getting looser, Jesus is my joy, my glory, the lifter of my head so that it does not hang in shame over my obese body.

Giselle Bundchen, looking like she could actually be
the girl in the next door apartment to ours.

Giselle Bundchen, turned by professionals (make-up,
hair, lighting, photographers, photoshop) into the
woman the girl next door killed herself trying to
look like.
Best of all, I get to keep fighting this fight but I am now armed and equipped with all that the Lord has taught me through this series. No longer do I have to wonder why I feel unsettled about how people only tell me how "great" I'm doing (at life?) when they think I look thinner but no one checks in to say they are proud of me when I'm struggling. I need not let the careful eyes of relatives who seem only to care about my weight scrutinizing every bite I take when we see them for holiday meals dictate my worth (not to mention what I do or do not eat). And next time I feel like I only deserve to live if I wake up beautiful tomorrow I get to remember that not even the woman in the picture that sent me spiraling looks like that. I can have honest conversations with Jesus about  my heart, and Lord willing, taste increasing freedom.

And Then There Were Two
Tomorrow I will do a recap of these 14--FOURTEEN!--posts, a quick sum of the whole and then the most bold, fearless, written in love but likely to arouse anger words that I have ever penned for this blog. Pray for me!

Then, Wednesday, I'll share with you the most powerful moment of this entire series, a snapshot from this last month or so of my life, and I pray it sticks to the back of your eyelids like it does mine, so that every time you close your eyes and wish you didn't look like you the imagery of what I experienced will put those desires to death, where they belong. And then...this series will be done!

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