We turned the page on 2022 nearly two months ago and since then, my socials have been flooded with commitments to weight loss and fitness pursuits.
For decades, I was one of these. Every New Years, I’d renew my goal of losing 10, 20 or 30 pounds and employ harsh methods to get the job done. Over the course of my adult life, I’ve gained and lost the same 30 pounds half a dozen times, manipulating my body, wearying my spirit and wounding my soul.
A few years ago, I decided on a different approach. I didn’t want to spend valuable mental and physical energy “losing weight.” Instead, I wanted to find out why I turned to food to stuff emotions or to my appearance as a source for validation. I wanted to break these unhealthy coping mechanisms. I wanted to stop caring more about other people’s perceptions of me than being true to myself, gentle to myself and good to myself. I wanted to develop a well of compassion I could drink from and offer others, whose souls were dried up on the shores of a world that overvalues our appearance and undervalues everything else.
I didn’t lose a pound that year. In fact, I gained 40. And in that state of vastly overweight, I found myself again. Alongside those 40 pounds, I gained back my voice, my confidence, trust in myself, understanding of the way this over-sexualized culture affected my perception.
I committed to going to therapy every other week for nearly two years. I joined a recovery group with people who faced some of the same difficult issues I faced, stuffed and buried. I stopped placing a religious band aid over things I didn’t understand and started asking God and myself some really hard questions about the dysfunction in relationships around me.
I had to break agreement with the lie that hovers over us all, whispering that we’re both too much and not enough. The same lie that separates us into pieces; silencing our spirits, coaxing our souls to disdain our bodies or wield them like they’re the source of our power.
I had to face myself. I had to break denial. And I had to let go of any attempt to ease my internal pain by controlling my external persona.
One thing I’ve faced is how sexaholism has shaped my view of myself and the world.
We were created for connection—with God, ourselves and others. Sex is made to enhance that experience but often times it is used as counterfeit connection for those who are unable to connect otherwise. In those situations, it becomes the most important sign of love and we all desire to be known and loved.
If sex as counterfeit connection is so important, so is being sexy. The world mirrors this mode of thought from my lens of experience.
It’s affirmed through the catcalls I’d get while running.
It’s affirmed through the grown men taking turns watching me bend over at a restaurant as a young teen.
It’s affirmed through inappropriate messages I received from men in the school system as a high school student—substitute teachers and coaches who are supposed to be “safe” but instead are predatory.
It’s affirmed through the men who took advantage of me when I got drunk as a young teen and woke up to someone having sex with me, without consenting.
It’s affirmed through those I told this trauma to, who questioned what I was doing beforehand. Wasn’t I white-girl wasted and being flirtacious? Wasn’t I flaunting my body around? I must have deserved it.
It’s affirmed by the porn-addicted boyfriends who were eager to have my body but did little to understand, cherish and care for my wounded and broken soul.
I carried all this pain and these experiences in my heart for decades, trying to make sense of it on my own but knowing God was there, too. He was beckoning me to lay it at His feet and live in the freedom and fullness He had for me. As an effort to respond to Him, I turned to the institutional church.
Sadly, what I found reaffirmed my experiences in a white-washed, pseudo-sanctified way. All the “Christian” books said God created men as visual beings in desperate need of sexual release. He designed wives to meet that need. They said men fight really hard to not look at porn and not cheat on their wives, therefore wives need to make it easier on their husbands by becoming their “methadone” and only “safe” expression of sexual release. (Actual wording taken from a book called Every Man’s Battle.) Isn’t that the epitome of being used? That isn’t connection at all; that’s conceding to be a “consolation prize” because men aren’t morally able to do what (who) they’d really like to do.
What in the actual efffff?! Imagine thinking it’s normal to have to “fight hard” to not commit physical or emotional adultery or betray someone you’re supposed love.
So, instead of finding safety and wholeness within the church, I found the affirmation of my worst fears—woman are objects, my body is both a weapon and the only valuable thing about me. How do I reconcile with that?
I took this into myself and these lies became a part of the driving force of my attempts at weight loss and “being fit” since being desirable is the best thing I could be.
Deep down, I knew it all was bull shit. I knew that the men in the world AND the men in the church were both deceived, as was I. I knew the “Christian” books I read making broad generalizations and weaponizing scripture to manipulate women didn’t reflect the heart of God, who cared deeply.
Once I realized I was also under the cloud of deception so common in our culture, I took ownership. I repented for objectifying myself. I repented for the times I disdained my appearance and committed to truly accepting myself at any size. This wasn’t a one-time, all-encompassing moment. Layer after layer, I started to see how this mode of thought affected me. I engaged with those realizations instead of pushing them down or pretending they weren’t important. As I did this, little by little, the fog began to lift.
As it lifted, I began to see clearly.
I’ll never forget the moment it happened. I was readying up the house for my son’s birthday party. I pulled the bathroom mirror off the wall and as I was windex-ing it, I looked myself in the eye. My hair was up in a messy bun, my make-up was smudged and my oversized cardigan slipped off my shoulder. I didn’t see all the extra “fluff” I had gained that year. I didn’t see the dark circles or the unruly hair. I didn’t see myself in dinged up, smudged up, not-quite-right parts. I SAW ME IN ALL MY WHOLENESS. A person with immeasurable worth and value as a daughter of the Creator, each part of my life redeemed by an outrageous act of Love. I was a carrier of that Source; accepting His assessment about me rather than the world’s.
The energy I would have spent shrinking, I spent digging. And in all my digging, I found this treasure. Self-acceptance!
So, to you, I pose something to reflect on: Think before you shrink. You weren’t made to be minimized into an object for consumption. You were made to TAKE UP SPACE. This world is waiting for you to stop cramming yourself into a socially constructed mold and take up yours. Show up. Do the thing. Run the race. Take the class. Process the pain. Heal the wound.
Don’t shrink. Take up space. And do it unashamedly.
Can you relate to anything I’ve shared here? I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below.
5 thoughts on “Think Before you Shrink: A Contemplative look at our most Common Resolutions”
Some real meat to chew on!
Thank you for sharing such an honest and vulnerable experience. “I saw me in all my wholeness” what a powerful statement. You are truly a light to follow. So happy for you.
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Thank you! This means so much to me because I admire you greatly! ❤️
Wow!!! You Brittany are a warrior for truth! Shining the light on the darkness the enemy wants to keep us in. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your pain and for showing us a way out. Keep writing and sharing what Jesus lays on your heart! God is using you to help set the captives free.
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I love you so much. Thank you!