Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'm perfect, just the way I am...



My oldest granddaughter is 9 years old.
Her mama and daddy have tried to verbalize to her how beautiful she is just the way she is.
One day, in some type of devotional or church lesson, she was supposed to answer the question, "what do you think needs to change about you?"
The devotional was talking about inward changes, but evidently that's not how she read it.
She wrote, "Nothing, I'm perfect the way I am."
Her Mama questioned her, "You think you're perfect?"
Without guile, she responded enthusiastically, "Yes!"
Her Mama finally realized that my granddaughter was thinking outward appearance, while the devotional was talking about inward character.
All I could think of when my daughter relayed the story to me, was "Thank God!"
I don't want her to outgrow that thinking, or overhear one of us say something that makes her feel otherwise.
I want her to grow up confident that she is, indeed, beautiful and perfect just the way she is.



I must have been only five or six years old.
I had hopped out of the bathtub and tried to run and get a toy to bring back into the tub with me.
Someone had a camera and snapped a shot of me reaching into the toy box, naked and wet.
I remember being ashamed when I saw the picture and trying to rip it up.
The reason for my shame wasn't just the fact that I was naked.
I thought my little, round tummy looked fat in the picture.

In third grade I was Dolly in our version of "Hello, Dolly".
I had long blonde hair that Mama had curled in ringlets on the night of our program.
 I felt pretty.

My third grade year ended with me home and bedridden with rheumatic fever.
I spent the whole summer between third and fourth grade in bed.
I heard Mama telling someone on the phone that I had gotten chubby from laying in bed for months.
About the time I was able to go back to school, it was discovered I needed to get glasses.
Then Mama decided to take me for a haircut.
She had it cut in what she thought was "a cute pixie style".
I just remember Daddy being very upset at Mama when he saw that she had cut off my long hair.
I felt ugly, chubby and awkward for the next several years.

The summer before my sophomore year I started dieting.
I had seen Mama's weight go up and down, up and down my whole life.
She did T.O.P.S, Weight Watchers, even took these little caramel like diet candies called AIDS, (long before a disease was given that name), that were supposed to suppress your appetite.
I had no real nutritional knowledge, but just stopped eating what I deemed were "bad foods" and cut down on the amount of food I ate.
I heard Mama on the phone boasting about how I'd lost weight and how good I looked.
I was happy that Mama was proud of me.

My senior year my grades were the third highest in my class and I was the school year book editor.
I was smart and funny and involved in lots of activities at school and church.
But, I had gained a few pounds back from my lowest high school weight.
When the photographer asked to display my senior photo in the window of his studio,
I never once thought it was because I was pretty.
I thought the only reason my photo looked good was because of the photographer's editing skills.
A friend set me up on a blind date, showing the guy my senior picture.
When we met face to face, he told my friend that I didn't look like my photo.
So, of course, I concluded that my assumptions about my senior pictures not looking like the real me were confirmed.

I went to college, got married, had babies, and like Mama, my weight went up and down, up and down.
When it would go up, I'd try some drastic diet to get it back down quickly.
I felt like I was stuck in the ugly and awkward stage that had began in fourth grade.
I tried different hair cuts, got rid of the glasses and got contacts.
 I didn't know what it felt like to feel beautiful.
 I had not been comfortable in my own skin for longer than I could remember.

About age 35 I decided to quit weighing myself and just focus on getting healthy.
I started walking, increasing my speed and endurance as time went along.
I tried to eat healthy and, I must admit, jumped on the low fat bandwagon.
At the same time, I was growing and maturing in my relationship with Christ.
I was feeling better about being me, more comfortable in my own skin.
I was feeling more confident inside and outside.
I was starting to believe that I was beautiful.

I'm 55 years old and, for the most part, I'm pretty happy and confident with who I am.
I still walk 4 to 5 days a week, and actually am jogging now in order to run my first 5K in 3 days.
With menopause, a few pounds have crept back on, right around my middle.
I try to eat a diet that includes healthy fats, (olive oil, nuts, etc.), a bit more of a balanced approach than how I ate in my thirties.
But, I notice that I can go on a good run and come home, catching a glance at myself in the mirror as I head into the shower and think, "you look pretty good for a 55 year old woman"!
Yet, if I weigh myself ten minutes later and my weight is up, or hasn't budged downward, I can look in the mirror and see something completely different.
My mood can change according to the number on the scale or according to how "bad" or "good" I've been with my eating and exercise.
I think I need to ditch the scale again and go back to just focusing on being fit and healthy and accept the fact that that may look different than it did at 35.

Mama was in her 80's.
Her doctor felt like she was at a healthy weight,
yet one day she asked me if she was as large as a seriously overweight person we know.
That person probably weighed 75 to 100 pounds more than Mama.
Her doctor,  who specialized in care for the elderly,  commented to me at one of Mama's checkups when she was fretting over being up a pound or two, that he finds the majority of women don't outgrow this obsession with their weight, no matter how old they are.

My dear blog friend, Emily, has written a book that has just been released called Chasing Silhouettes.
It's her story of hope after almost dying from anorexia.
But, I think it's our story.
I think it's the story for every little girl who grew up feeling chubby or awkward or ugly.
I think it's the story for every woman who thought a certain number on the scale or on the tag in their jeans would make them happy.
I think it's the story for every women who tried to numb their emotions with food, whether by overeating or going without it.
I think it's the story for every family who wants their children to escape this vicious cycle.



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13 comments:

  1. This post made me cry. I relate to so much of it except that I lost control completely after I married and I never got it back. Almost did once but I scared myself after losing 200 pounds ... and gained it back. I think it's partly because I didn't know who I was in that body. Now I'm 53 and trying to lose weight for the sake of my health but I wonder ,,,

    And I have tried, as much as I can without offending my father, whose voice still rings in my head, to tell people ... NEVER EVER under any circumstances tease little girls about their appearance! EVER!

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  2. I have just started WW, again. I have never been at my ideal weight. I have no idea what I look like. My body image is so screwed up. Even after losing 50 lbs., I cannot see the difference. I am so sick of dieting and gaining. And now I'm having trouble with my foot and walking is painful. I need to get some sort of control. I project my weight issues on my son. I judge everything about myself by how much I weigh. Argh.

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  3. First...i rejoice in your granddaughter’s response...oh may she keep that wonderful perspective throughout her life...I dealt with ED for years...God in His mercy has set me free...and I too at 55(Well weeks away) focus more on being strong and healthy than numbers and sizes...not that those thoughts don’t ever creep in...but not for long. My mom is turning 88...is it wonderful...she still golfs...walks on a treadmill almost everyday...but I still see the bondage of her weight. She brought an “ab cruncher” a couple of years ago...still trying to have the allusive flat stomach.
    Em’s book will be a wonderful source of healing for many~

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  4. So proud of your daughter for teaching that to your granddaughter! You've done well, friend.
    And oh how I loved this post. I don't know anyone who hasn't battled with self image before at some point and I so hope and pray Emily's book is a top seller because of it. Because when I keep my eyes fixed on Him, I can hear Him telling me how beautiful I am...how proud He is of me...how I'm His everything.
    And what girl doesn't deserve that...well, none of us do. That's why it's grace. and we all deserve a bit of that!

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  5. I am so glad to hear that your daughter has been able to instill into your granddaughter that she is perfect just as she is. Too many times as mothers we forget how our words can hurt when we remark that you or to this or to that. God loves us as we are. Yes, He wants us to change but change starts on the inside then comes to the outside. I realize one of the enemies attack against women is their looks and size. I'm not beautiful. I'm too fat. Yes we should all exercise and eat healthy but with God's help He can help us change our image of ourselves. I know He's helping me and I'm starting to see that He loves me and that I am His favorite child. I know! I know! We are all His favorite, but I truly believe I'm His favorite and I am highly favored and loved and blessed by Him. I'm 58 and still am working on my self image!! But with His help it is changing!

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    1. I believe that too, about being His favorite. :)

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  6. Beautiful post! Beautiful granddaughter! So glad she sees the truth about herself - trusting she will keep that 'vision'. Loved seeing your photos. The photo on the lower right was taken sometime close to the time I first met you! I smiled - and said, 'that's my friend!'
    ~Adrienne~

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  7. Incredible post, and yes Emily's book will minister to many not just 'eating disorder' survivors.
    You do look great, take care

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  8. So happy that your granddaughter has grown up with such a positive self image...thank you for sharing your story...I'm with you on focusing on being healthy...running a 5K, I'm impressed...praying many would be blessed by Emily's book...I'm running a giveaway of her book next week. BLessings, Elizabeth :)

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  9. wow, in your story it struck me how generational this curse can be. oh, let us raise our kids and grandkids another way! i have a four year old, and i long for something better for her and all of us.

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  10. Oh my. What a powerful story. As I was reading this, I kept saying to myself, "Jennifer, you've got to let Emily Wierenga know about this story." And then, behold, you're promoting her book here!

    You're beautiful, in every way. Love you.

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  11. oh elizabeth. i had no idea you were promoting my post at your place! thank you SO much! what a powerful story, too... would you be open to sharing it on amazon, under "reviews"? if so, here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Silhouettes-battling-eating-disorder/dp/0984009558/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337742217&sr=8-1-fkmr1. bless you friend.

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