Monday, October 31, 2011

Thinness Doesn't Make You Perfect

I’m back. Last week I just couldn’t bring myself to write, because, well, I just didn’t have it in me. My thoughts about these issues of food and eating and self-image were swirling about in a dust storm of confusion and I needed to get some perspective. So I took a week off and read Feeding the Hungry Heart by Geneen Roth. The winds have died down and the dust is settling so now I’m ready to renew our discussion. Whew.

So two weeks ago I broached the topic of “The Scale”. I wrote of my hatred of the aforementioned bathroom native and even hinted that I might know why we are so powerless against its siren call.

I think the reason we weigh ourselves obsessively and strive toward that golden number is because we believe that it’s the answer. “If I could just weigh (fill in the blank), wow, that would be awesome.” And it is awesome…for about a week, or a month, or (if you’re lucky) a year. It’s an indescribable high, really. You feel in control, attractive, part of the “normal crowd” who don’t give food and eating a second thought, that enviable group who routinely “forget to eat because they’re just too busy”.

But eventually the high wears off; it doesn’t scratch the itch, and you admit to yourself that you truly aren’t one of the at-peace-with-food-cool-kids. So you either choose a lower number to attain (because that will surely be the answer) or you throw your hands up in the air, gain the weight back, and then start the cycle again, looking for the euphoric feeling that the first weight loss gave you.

When I lost my weight in high school, I went from 165 lbs. to 130 lbs. And for about a year, that weight felt great. I felt I had conquered every evil of this fallen world. But then I went to college and I was scared and lonely and suddenly 130lbs. wasn’t enough. 125 would be better because, really, I was 5’5 and the doctor’s chart said 125 lbs. was the ideal weight for me so if I could just get down to that, then things would be alright, then I wouldn’t feel so frightened and I would like my body.

But when I reached 125 lbs., it was underwhelming. No peace, no self-love. So I went lower. My lowest weight was 115 lbs. and by the time I reached this number, I hated myself more than ever and food had become a cruel monster that shook my emotions with maniacal fear. Yet, I remember at one point during my stay at 115 lbs. my dad asking if I was anorexic…and I was proud of that.

In Feeding the Hungry Heart, Geneen Roth writes, “While the widespread desire to lose weight does not necessarily constitute an eating disorder, it does indicate the priorities in our culture. It indicates that young, vibrant, pulsatingly alive women are spending their energy trying to disappear.” I remember wanting to disappear. I remember thinking that the smaller I got, I better I must be.

Here’s where it breaks down, though: your problems will not disappear with a number on a scale. They will still be waiting for you when you step off that scale and back into life. And the “cool kids” who forget to eat—guess what? They’ve got problems, too. Maybe they don’t binge on moon pies and pork rinds, but if they haven’t dealt with their shit, they are avoiding it some other way with some other vice. They aren’t perfect because thinness doesn’t make you perfect.

The only way “thinness” will give you what you want is if you take a “whole healing” approach. Yes, being overweight is the indication of a deeper problem. That is true. So begin to delve into those problems, not out of guilt or self-loathing, but out of appreciation and self-love. We were created to live "whole" lives, not these fragmented puzzles where one piece weighs 125 lbs. and the other hates itself. Fix the problems on the inside as well as the outside and do it for your whole health, not just the appearance of your body or the number on a scale.


  1. Welcome back :) I am encouraged by each of your writings in this series. Thank you for sharing your heart. I have been plagued by this whole issue since high school, and it's a daily battle. I hate that! But I love your openness and honesty about a subject that some of us are still battling with.

  2. Michelle, thank you so much for reading and for your willingness to be honest about your struggle as well. It's good to know that these words are resonating with someone else out there...and it's good not to be alone on this journey:)

  3. I forget that losing weight isn't about the weight but about whole health. Losing myself to become whole. I need to figure out the reasons I emotionally eat and find alternative outlets for this. Thanks for the reminder and for being strong enough to continue this discussion for us!

  4. Maile - your transparency and heart for healing and restoration in this post is so refreshing. I definitely agree, that while the media tries to steer us towards always thinking that it's ALL about our outward appearance - that our joy will ultimately come from a much deeper place! Thankful for your vision to keep this discussion going, and to spur others on to work on our self identity, and finding joy and peace from the inside out... Afterall, I really believe only our Creator can evoke ultimate satisfaction in discovering who we truly are in Him.

  5. Brenda and Janae, thank you, ladies, for your insights, honesty, and encouragement. It's comments like yours that keep me moving forward with this series. Thanks again; I so appreciate you both!