Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Struggle With Body Image: Your Body is Not Your Enemy.

I remember in year nine, three people called me fat in one week, pretty harsh ey? If I could tell my year nine self the truth I know now, that being beautiful isn’t about being skinny, that a boy’s love for me wouldn’t increase as my weight decreased, and that self-control isn’t denying yourself to the point of starvation, I wish I could. But unfortunately, my year nine self didn’t believe this or know this to be true, and instead of not taking those comments to heart and seeking the truth, the struggle of a six-year battle with an eating disorder begun.

I want you to imagine with me for a second what it’s like to have an eating disorder. It’s a typical Monday morning, your alarm goes off and immediately you start to stress about today’s eating. You start to plan how you can avoid your mum without her realising that you’ve skipped breakfast. Plan A is to run out the house as quickly as you can, plan B is to eat 7 grapes. The 7 grapes equate to 67 calories, but by the time you’ve walked to school your body would have managed to burn the seven grapes off, so you decide that if worst comes to worst, you’re allowed to eat them. The sandwiches your dad has made you for school are thrown away on your morning walk, for lunch you have two single crackers and some water, you then walk home, able to burn the crackers off.

 Proud of yourself you seek to starve yourself for the rest of the evening. It comes to the time of dinner, two options arise. Plan A is to try and avoid dinner by saying you don’t feel well or by ‘pretending’ to eat it and hope that they don’t look in the bin. Plan B is to eat the dinner, but within seconds of the last mouth full the guilt rushes in, the shame begins, and the lies control your every thought. ‘You’re so pathetic, you can’t even skip a meal, you have no self-control’, ‘everyone is going to be able to tell tomorrow that you’ve eaten, you can see it on your hips’, ‘he’ll never love me until he can see my collar bone’. The feeling of no control becomes too much to handle, your only option is to the run to the toilet and make yourself sick. In every second the shame increases, what would people think if they knew I did this, what would happen if my friends ever found out? The desperation kicks in, you promise yourself tomorrow will be different even though your body is at breaking point.

 You go to bed, empty, full of lies and full of guilt. Wake up, repeat, wake up, repeat, then three months later, you’ve lost three stone, the collar bones are more than obvious now, your friends and teachers are asking you if everything is ok and you’re being force fed in your head of years’ office.  All you want to do is cry out for help, to not see the feeling of starvation as a feeling of success, but instead you smile and say everything is fine.

Ok, you can stop imaging this now…. But for many people,because of unrealistic expectations put on us all by society, this is sadly a day to day reality.

The journey of realising your body is not your enemy

Six years on, I can honestly say that I’ve been on the most beautiful, vulnerable, hard, journey of realising my body is not my enemy, that healing is a process rather than an event, and that I am not defined by my illness. Although I spent most my life hating my body, seeing it as the measurement of worth and beauty, I must constantly remember the truth. That God does not hate my body, God does not see my worth as defined by my body, and God certainly didn’t intend for my body to be an enemy or for it to be getting in the way of my freedom. Instead, God wants me to rejoice in the way He created me, He wants me to look after my body in a healthy way and use my body to glorify Him. The day I realised that my body was not my enemy was the day I realised that if I hate my body, I hate Gods creation. But, if I love my body, and see it as a gift to help me achieve holiness, then I love God’s creation and love God. I found freedom when I realised that that if I base my perfection and worth in something that is changing, something that isn’t constant, something that is material (like my body) I will never be happy, and I’ll never find perfection. But if I find my perfection, my worth, in something that is unchanging, something that is constant, something that is absolute, like Jesus, I’ll find my perfection, my worth, my dignity.

God's promise and His inheritance

This summer, Youth 2000’s festival’s theme is ‘Inheritance’, the festival is about God’s promise to us, His gift to us, and our inherited identity as children of God, sons and daughters, rather than slaves. God doesn’t want us to be slaves to our own low body image, slaves to the thoughts of hating our body, slaves to the shame we feel when we base our worth on changing things and slaves when we let our addiction lead us to sin. But instead he wants us to inherit his promised identity as children. He wants us to inherit his nature of righteousness, to inherit his hope, and his promise of eternal life. We can be secure in the knowledge the God does not measure us on societies standards. Our inherited identity as children should be the basis for every decision in life, and in turn it will affect how we see our bodies, how we see our worth and our dignity, how we treat others, and most importantly, our relationship with Jesus. Every day we need to chase after His promise with everything we have, chase after his truth, read the scripture, and claim our God given identity. We are precious gifts, we are children of purity and worthiness, we are set apart for beautiful things, and most importantly, the truth is that our bodies are a gift; something to be looked after, not hated.

'For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.'

- Deuteronomy 7:6

The power of Confession and forgiveness

One thing that truly helped me in my search for identity and overcoming my guilt and shame was Confession. Confession helped me to love God, love others and love myself. In Confession, I was overcome by God’s mercy, I realised that when I laid my struggle, my hate and my sin before God, he could transform it all into a deeper revelation of his love for me and for my purpose as a child, not a slave. In Confession, I could forgive the people that called me fat, forgive the people who made me believe that my worth was based on how I looked, forgive society for unrealistic expectations of beauty, but most importantly, forgive myself. It’s one thing forgiving others, but freedom will only come when we forgive ourselves. I was able to realise that I'm not a failure even though I struggle, that healing is a process, to take one day at a time, to allow myself to slip up and get back up again and most importantly to be patient with myself. God’s flipping patient with me, why can’t I be? If you’re struggling with self-hatred, if every time you look in the mirror you wish you were someone else, you focus on your flaws, and you find yourself constantly fixated on your appearance, then take it to Confession, let God’s mercy rush over you, and show you that you are beautiful, that you are loved, that you were created perfectly, and that to Him, you are perfect.

To realise your body is not your enemy is a long process, it’s a hard battle and one in which knowing the truth of who we are is key. To the person reading this blog who is fighting a battle with themselves, who struggles with eating, self-worth, self-identity or self-esteem, this is what Jesus wants to say to you today.

I see you, and I love you, I see you and I love you, I see you and I love you. There is nothing you could do that would change the way I look at you. You don’t need to earn my love, you are not a failure, and most importantly, I feel your pain. I feel the pain when guilt over burdens you, I feel the pain when shame overwhelms you, I feel the pain when you don’t realise your beauty is beautiful just the way it is. Just make one promise, that you’ll pray to be able to see yourself the way I see you, pray that every day and watch the beauty unfold.

Be patient, love yourself and fixate your idea of perfection on the one who made you.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own,  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies’ 

– 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 

Look out for snippets of St. John Paul II's 'Letter to Women' on our Instagram (@Youth2000UK) over the next few weeks as we lead up to our Women's Session at Inheritance 2017! And don't forget to book on

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