One day a friend with whom I work told me, “I don’t really like french fries.” I remember thinking, “That is the strangest thing I have ever heard!” (Let me just say — she is pretty strange, anyways — she likes things like cauliflower rice, spaghetti squash, and baked chicken over fried.) So, needless to say, I don’t hold her opinion in high regard 🙂 Okay, Okay, I know some of you reading this are thinking, “I am pretty sure I heard Laura say one time that kale chips are better than Kettle chips.” If you were a recipient of one of those statements, I am sorry, it was probably one of my failed attempts to make myself BELIEVE that kale chips taste better because I know they arebetter for me. But let me tell ya somethin’ — I am the QUEEN of trying the latest and greatest. In the past I have been known to try three or four diets all in the same month. The problem is I have not been able to find one that allows me to eat whatever I want with little to no exercise. (If you have, please send me an e-mail ASAP!) I also have tried numerous shakes, programs, cool work out clothes, and fitness resources to help me be 110 lbs. with 15% body fat. Yes, that was actually a goal of mine. (I think the closest I ever came to that goal was my sophomore year in college after I was sick for three weeks, but pretty sure I still weighed around 120, because of the key word : sick.) The thing is, I have always set unrealistic expectations for myself in a lot of areas, but probably the greatest area is how I look. The thoughts and feelings thatI’ll never be _______ have caused a lot of emotional issues for me and have really prevented me from being happy, not only for myself but for others.
I know y’all have heard this before, but what is the first thing you do when you look at a photograph with you in it? YEAH, you look at yourself! But I am sure that none of y’all are like me: #1 rip yourself to shreds about not looking a certain way, #2 compare yourself to everyone else in the picture, and #3 make a mental list of all the ways your are prettier/frumpier/skinnier/chubbier, and all the above, compared to the others. No, I did not think so, that is probably just me. So, I thought I had left the constantly comparing myself to others and striving to be more than behind me, back in college. Then I joined the beautiful world of staffing. Not sure if you know anyone in staffing, but well, my company has some pretty people, and some of my competitors are literally known for hiring “hot blondes.” (I have red hair that at times can look like a lion’s mane, legs that were built for the soccer field, and skin tone that could light up a room with the reflection bouncing off my paleness.) Anyways, I started this job in sales, and for the most part, did not really fit in with those around me. Maybe what I lacked in outward appearance, I made up with personality, a trait I like to say helped me “land” my husband — HA! That, plus the fact that for three years I asked him every day when was he going to ask me to marry him –PERSISTENCE IS KEY, PEOPLE! I want y’all to understand that while some of you reading this who know me may be thinking, ” I think you are pretty, Laura; I love your red hair; you are crazy to talk that way!” my point is that we ALL struggle with body image, and instead of building up each other and celebrating each other’s fitness victories, or just general great genes, we allow this type of envy to cause rifts in our friendships and often take us to a “dark” place. Now, let me tell ya somethin‘ — by celebrating each other I am NOT encouraging all of you to go buy your friend the bottle of Dove Body Wash that looks like a giant pear — I mean, who at Dove thought that mirroring body wash after body types would be good idea?!?! Sure, I will take this one that looks like Shrek!
While I struggled with comparison issues and overall discontentment in my early career, nothing really rocked my core (the core that now carries an additional 2 inches and will never look “normal” again), was bearing children. We have all heard and said it, “Before I had kids . . . ,” but it is so true isn’t it? Ladies, social media is a great tool, but it can also be a source to foster a lot of negative feelings. I do not want to harp on that (social media) too much on this post because I will get to that later, but I would strongly encourage that you try taking a break if it is causing you more harm than good. My mind plays tricks on me all the time, although, I know that really, it is the Devil. He will take something as wonderful as growing a baby in your body to tell you that you are fat, unattractive, and all around worthless. I often have to recite the verse Song of Songs 4:7, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” King Solomon was writing this poem to his wife, but I think that God feels this way about all of His creation, and we need to always remind ourselves of this truth. Nonetheless, “flaws” creep up on us as fast as cellulite grew on my thighs during both my pregnancies, making us doubt God’s truths. Now, I have a friend who wore the same clothes her ENTIRE pregnancy; she gained only 15 pounds (yeah, her son was 8 lbs), and she had a flat stomach when she left the hospital two days after giving birth! Needless to say, while I was working on losing my 40 lb weight gain, I was pretty jealous. See, I love my friend, and she has always been so supportive and genuinely encouraging to me, but I still always felt uncomfortable being around her because her mere presence made me feel horrible about myself. This same friend, who did not even know that I was struggling with these feelings of resentment towards her (I mean, it is a little crazy to be “mad” at someone for good genes, but, oh yeah, I neglected to tell you she doesn’t really work out either and also eats cookies for breakfast), was having a hard time nursing. I remember her talking to me about it and being really upset. While I was on the phone with her, I remember distinctly thinking, “Oh! Finally — she has a problem; she is not perfect; she now understands how the rest of us feel!” Crazy, right?!?! People, she is one of my best friends, like a sister to me, and that was my response when she poured out her soul to me — to immediately rejoice in her pain because I felt like I had been dealt the “bad body” hand in life?!?! I want to share something with you in hope that if you are like me, you will realize that you are not alone with these kinds of thoughts, but more importantly, you know in heart, that we are sinners, saved by God’s grace, spared from the many punishments we deserve. That night I opened my Bible and just started reading, and I came across Proverbs 14:30, “ A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Wow, thanks God, I got it. Thank you, once again, for saving me. I do not deserve your grace.
That night I decided that I was going to start believing Psalm 139:14, ” . . . I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” but it is a daily struggle to do so. I must do away with a few things that cause me to set my focus on the scales, which lead my thoughts down the wrong path. Even so, I would love to tell you that I no longer have feelings of envy or fight to hold back tears when I catch myself in the mirror, but that’s not true. Here’s the deal: I believe it is important to eat pretty well, so I decided a while back to follow the 80/20 rule (let’s be real — I know God is going to have bacon, lots of WHITE pasta, and french fries with mayo at the banquets in heaven). I also believe it is important to work out, but it doesn’t always have to be a 1,000 calorie session — ain’t nobody have time for that! And lastly, I believe that I need to be OK with and accepting of ALL OF ME. Not that I don’t try to get better in certain areas, but I CANNOT let negative thoughts about my body image consume me; I CANNOT let it ruin good friendships; I CANNOT let it steal joy away from my marriage and my girls; I CANNOT let it negatively impact my overall mental well being. But most importantly, I CANNOT let it detract from my worshiping God. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30. So, the next time you look at that picture and start tearing yourself down, how about look at the positives in not only yourself but in those around you — and heck, maybe even let someone know what beauty you see there, because let me tell ya somethin’ — WE ALL LOVE A GENUINE COMPLIMENT!