Saturday, 14 March 2015


For so much of my life I have felt that I was not enough.  I sincerely believed that my worth was measured in the currency of the world and that the scales showed me lacking.  One area of my self esteem which was fractured by doubt and insecurity was that of my appearance, most notably my weight.  I was always a rather overweight child and the butt of many a humorous jibe at school and with friends.  My family was not unkind to me about my weight but they talked about heredity and the 'fat gene' which plagued our kin as though a terrible fate had befallen me.  And so my destructive relationship with food began.

As a little girl I loved to bake with my grandmother.  She made the most awesome fruit cakes,... and melt in the mouth bread rolls which we would eat straight from the oven with melted butter.  I loved her so very dearly, a feeling which was beautifully requited. And in her love for me she wanted to give me every good thing, including Horse and Pony magazine, which she bought me every week from the newsagents, and an abundance of baked goods from her repertoire of farmhouse cooking. It was hardly surprising then, that I came to equate love with sitting in front of Grandma's fire, feasting on some delicious home-cooked treat whilst indulging my literary tastebuds to boot.

My love of food and the non-physical pursuits of reading and crafting (another wonderful inheritance from my grandma) meant that the 'puppy fat' of my childhood had become firmly established by the time I reached puberty.  I was a 'fatty'. At school I was subject to bullying and social exclusion.  I became depressed and developed a strong sense of loathing towards my body, and so it was that around this time I first induced myself to vomit after a meal.

I struggled with bulimia until I became a Christian at the age of 21.  It may seem unbelievable to some and was miraculous to me but my conversion to the faith saw a total healing of my relationship with food.  I seemed to be able to eat purely to satisfy hunger and then stop.  I was also on my feet a great deal in my job as a library assistant.  When I married at the age of 23 I was slim and healthy and glowing.  And once married, I didn't pile on weight like other wives had said I would.  It was a golden time for my self esteem.

The trouble came with babies.  There were five of them and with each pregnancy my weight ballooned.  Thankfully, the evil of bulimia had truly been slain and I never binged and purged again.  Instead of bulimia, however, I began a cycle of overeating and dieting, which gradually took over my life and contributed to the breakdown of my self confidence.

As a Christian I was well aware that my physical appearance was not important to God.  That God sees the heart and not the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).  Despite this I became trapped in a cycle that, since I was fat, I was ugly and worthless and must therefore eat to medicate my pain. Sometimes the cycle was punctuated by long periods of weightloss, when I signed up to Weightwatchers or Slimming World.  The loss was often shortlived, however, as I would become frustrated by the restriction of foods I liked to eat and indulge in increasing numbers of cheat days where I would totally blow out.

Hope came via Trim and Healthy Mama, a programme which had few restrictions but separated meals including fats from those with carbs.  It seemed to suit me very well and I lost six stone over eighteen months but eventually I began to struggle with eating some of the foods from the plan and developed intolerances where there had been none before.

So here I am.  A failed dieter.  And today I want to publicly say ENOUGH.  Enough with the food restrictions. Enough with value based on my appearance. Enough with the lie that I am not enough.
The Bible is clear about where beauty comes from; it comes from within.  It is also clear about stewardship of the good gifts God has given us; we are to take good care of them.  And it is very clear about our value; we are each one made in his image and precious to him.  So my mandate today is to treat my body with care and respect, to use it for his purposes and glory and to be thankful every day for the strong and able physique he has given me.  This body has experienced beautiful union with one who has loved it through fat and thin.  This body has carried and birthed five wonderful children. This body stands in worship and bends in prayer.  It scooters up and down the drive with a demanding three year old.  It carries our laundry mountain up and down the stairs each week.  This body is amazing. I will no longer allow enmity between us.  

I remember today Kara Tippetts, whose body now is failing her as she loses her battle with cancer.  I am inspired by her to be thankful for the health of my body, regardless of the number on the scale or my dress size.  More than that, I am inspired by her beauty.  The beauty of her courage and the grace of the Lord which shines through her, despite her cancer ravaged frame.  Another such woman who inspires me is Lizzie Velasquez.  Once known as the ugliest woman in the world because of her physiological inability to gain weight, Lizzie has used her high profile suffering to challenge stereotypes of beauty and identity. These women are the examples we should look to when we consider how to present ourselves, not the notions of beauty toted by the prevailing culture.  

From a Christian point of view, this message ought to be indisputable. Sadly, however, there are still too many Christians who believe that we should succumb to the world's model of airbrushed perfection in order to keep our husband's eyes from straying.  This is not our remit at all.  There are many ways in which we are urged to relate to our husbands, but this is not one of them.  Further, to my mind, it does rather assume men to be shallow, fickle and without self control; hardly assumptions to bring out the best in our menfolk.  

What now?  Am I just going to become overweight, unhealthy and unkempt in my appearance?  I don't know.  I hope not.  I am trying to listen to my body.  Eating what I fancy when I fancy it. Eating to satisfy hunger and then stopping.  I believe that not having restrictions will remove the temptation to binge and therefore help to regulate my eating in a way which is sustainable.  I have to admit that I am afraid.  I have enjoyed the compliments that my slimmer figure has brought me.  I am afraid of rejection and mockery should I initially put on weight.  I believe, however, that this is part of the process of my liberation from the fear of others' opinions and from my attachment to the shallow caprices of the world; part of the development of my inner beauty.  I believe that it is a God thing.  And God has plans to prosper me, and not to bring me harm, to give me a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

And that's enough of me then. 


Jo xxx

1 Peter 3:3-4 
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.


Jules Thorn said...

Hi Jo, that brought a tear to my eye. I remember you at school - beautiful, intelligent and witty. You are the same now as you were then. Jules x

Jules Thorn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jules Thorn said...

Sorry that was me posting it twice as I'm hopeless at these things! Jules x

uầy ôi said...

Nice blog !!!
thanks for sharing
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