Archive | beauty

on being called anorexic

"Being skinny doesn't make me love my life..."

I doubt I’ll ever forget it. I was at a science museum, I was about fifteen and I probably weighed ninety pounds. I was a healthy, happy teenager having a fun day out with my family the first time I heard it. Someone whispering (loudly) from a group of students to my right. “Oh my god.” She gawked at me. “Anorexic!”

My sister and I just kept walking and later laughed about it. Wow! What do they know? I was far from anorexic. As a matter of fact, I often ate more than my friends, who were all average-size if not big for our age. I had no food issues whatsoever. The only thing I was guilty of was having my mother’s genetics and a high metabolism. Today, at age 22, I am not the bean pole I once was. I don’t wear adjustable waist pants anymore and I finally turn the airbag on in the passenger seat. However, it has recently come to my attention that many people still view me as that girl at the science museum did.

I am an underweight, flat-chested, spindly adult. I am also perfectly and completely healthy.

I don’t eat low-fat. I love cooking with butter, getting seconds of bread and I often indulge my sweet tooth. I don’t work out very often. I really need to get back to it, because I want to be stronger and protect my bones against the osteoporosis that runs in my family, but I feel unmotivated a lot of times. One of the reasons I feel unmotivated to work out is because my body changes very little when I stop working out. In other words, I couldn’t get fat if I wanted to. And because of that, you might hate me.

Trust me when I say I have plenty of other things to bemoan in my life. I don’t have to struggle with weight gain to relate to feeling down about my body or unattractive. I don’t have to constantly try to lose weight to understand the pain of striving for unmet goals. Yes, you guessed it! I’m skinny. But my life is not perfect.

You know why? Because (and this may come as a shock to our 20-something minds, but) weight and worth are not the same thing. 

I am a skinny twenty-two year old woman. I have to be the happiest person in the world, right? Wrong. Being skinny doesn’t make me love my life. It just doesn’t. If I could suddenly have the body of a super model and the teeth of a toothpaste commercial and the hair of a viral Pin, I would not be happy. There is something much deeper and more spiritual to life’s joy. Just ask any beautiful, rich, famous celebrity who is overdosing on their depression meds right now.

You know what really makes me sad when people ask about my weight? It’s not that I feel judged and violated (though sometimes I do.) It’s not even that our society is obsessed with thinness (though it is and that’s awful.) It’s that some girls actually do have eating disorders. And instead of treating these words with caution and being sensitive to folks who cannot control how they view their bodies, we call skinny girls “bulimic” because we can’t stand for them to fit into a societal requirement we don’t.

My dad works in a hospital. He has literally seen girls in Central Texas die of starvation because their minds are so ill. They keep nourishment from themselves despite the urging of their doctors and their mothers whose hearts are breaking. And yes, we have the media to blame. We have photoshop and Sports Illustrated and Pinterest and billboards to blame. But it’s also a disease.

A disease I am grateful I do not have. 

If I don’t call you “fat” and tell you to get on a diet, if I don’t whisper and snicker and call you “glutton,” if I don’t flaunt my body like society wants me to and tell you it’s my hard work that keeps me so “perfect,” will you not call me anorexic? Will you not call me “disgusting,” “boyish” and “sick” as I recently heard folks saying about another slim person?

There has recently been a movement to take our obsessive eyes off of being thinnerthinnerthinner all the time. It is great what words from fuller-figured celebrities can do for girls who aren’t beanpoles like I was. These sort of words prevent eating disorders, I truly believe. But, can we not swing the pendelum so far as to hate the thin? Can we stop imagining that every woman in a size 0 is a “skinny b*****” who kills herself to be thin and judges the heavy? Can we please stop singing that song about being curvy so boys will like you? It’s not helping, really. (Meghan Trainor-you are beautiful, but you would still be beautiful if your thyroid went out on you in the night. And don’t change your body for boys. You’re worth a lot more than that.)

So yes, I’m skinny. Yes, I can eat pretty much whatever I want and see little to no change in my figure. No, I don’t imagine this will last my whole life! And no, I do not have an eating disorder. Now if people would stop picking me up and swinging me around when I try to hug them, all would be right in the world.

4

you are not a body

I have had so many thoughts on body-image swarming through my mind lately. After some of our team members at Kindred Grace opened up about it in April, my sisters and I had a long conversation about how we really talk to ourselves. Since then, every glance at the computer screen seems to be met with articles about eating disorders, health, pornography, lust, accepting one’s self, the approval of man and all of the many other topics that I’m realizing spurn from how we each see our own bodies.

It is one of those things I wonder if I could write a book about (but quickly realize many people already have!) because the more I think about it, the bigger the topic becomes. I used to think of body-image as something we talked to junior-high girls about to help them through their awkward stage. After that, my philosophy was always something between “God loves you, no matter what you look like” and “get over it already!” In short, I saw little value in discussing something so shallow and carnal as how a person sees his or her own physical body.

But then I grew up. And by grew up, I mean, made it through puberty. Was the body image message dead to me now? I felt pretty good about myself. I mean, I was no supermodel, but that was okay with me. I wore what I wanted and continually thought less and less about what my peers thought about me. I had this body image thing in the bag!

And then I started gaining weight. For the sake of honesty and clarity, I will say that I went from being a very small, underweight (though healthy) person, to being a slightly more average-sized person. In other words, I wasn’t fifteen anymore. Sit-ups were no longer second nature. Dessert no longer vanished into thin air. Then the strangest thing began to happen: I realized I had never been truly confident in my identity in Christ after all. I had been confident in my thinness.

While telling myself that I didn’t care what society told me to look like, I was secretly comforted by the fact that I happened to fit much of society’s criteria. Primarily: I was skinny. Maybe I was also pimply, flat-chested and gangly, but no one could call me fat. That made me confident, and the slight change in the scale pulled that rug right out from under my feet.

I began to realize how negative my self-talk was. “Well that’s lovely.” I’d say to my morning mirror. I’d get angry trying to fasten my jeans. I’d untag myself from unflattering Facebook pictures in which I thought my stomach was bulgy. I was nit-picking my own appearance.

And this from a girl who has been raised in a great, Christian home by parents who had always called her beautiful. This from a girl with super supportive friends who never criticized her appearance. This from a girl who weighs less than average.

Is this not the result of fashion magazines and photo-shopped movie stars? Is this not the crazy sort of thoughts that bring about eating disorders? Why are we ever shocked by those who starve and gag themselves when their whole lives, the world has been telling them they’ll never measure up? And what’s worse, that they’re unloveable. Look at the check-out line and you’ll find two things on nearly ever magazine: how to lose weight and how to get men and be sexually satisfying to them. The two are inseparable. It’s not about health, but about market value.

My mind reels with thoughts about innate worth and sexism. My heart weighs heavy with stories of girls on hospice, literally starving because they’re convinced, deep within their spirit, that they are fat. And life is just not worth living if you’re not a beanpole with balloon boobs.

I am linking at the bottom of this post to some recent posts that have inspired me and given me food for thought. As I said, the topic just gets broader and broader the more I think about it! Through all this, one thing has finally come to the surface of my mind and that’s what I’m going to close with.

Whether you are fat or skinny, confident or mortified, black or white, tall or short, selling yourself or hiding your skin, health-nut or couch-potato, there is one thing we must all remember: You are not a body.

You are not disfigured just because your body is disfigured. You are not unacceptable just because your body has been rejected. You are not unpresentable just because you’re hair is never like you wish it would be. You are not lacking just because you’re thin, you are not too much just because you’re heavy. You are not wasted just because you’ve shown yourself to the world, you are not unlovely just because nobody’s ever told you so. You are not a body.

You are a soul.

A living, spiritual being. Your body is simply your place of residence. A body is not a house. Tea is not a teacup. What use is a teacup without the fragrant, warm tea to be poured inside?

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all the eyes turn away, are you ugly? Our eyes can only see the exterior! O, if we could see your soul!

Interesting links:

Food/Eating Disorders:

What is Your Foodview? by Jenni Marie

Dear Miss Indiana: Thank You for Loving Your Body by Emily T. Wierenga

Understanding Disordered Eating by Neeva Walters (also: Disordered Eating: Hope for Healing)

On body-image:

Women & Daughters: When You’re Tired of Media Voices Telling You What Beauty & Love Is by Ann Voskamp

On Body Image and Self Worth at Design for Mankind

Moms, Put On that Swimsuit by Jessica Turner

How to Teach Beauty in a World that’s Blind  by Natasha Metzler

What Makes You Beautiful  by Bailey B.

Health:

Is Physical Health a Spiritual Issue? by Tyler Huckabee

How sexism plays in:

Women Swiftly Running Out of Things that Aren’t Sexy @ Patheos (*minor language)

3

daily frights

Someone once said, “do something every day that scares you.” The first time I heard this, I thought it was an awful idea. I imagined myself putting my hand over a wasp nest or jumping in front of a bus on a daily basis. This not only seemed unwise, but I could not see the benefit. Since then, I’ve realized that the message was lost on me. The point isn’t to do dumb, disastrous things every day, but to do things that are worthwhile even if you are afraid, because that’s how we grow.

Well, I’ve never really applied this slogan to my life, but I do seem to have my own. “Do something ever semester that scares you.”

The fact that I am starting to think about life in semesters is scary in-and-of-itself, but life in a college town seems to have that kind of rhythm. Every semester there is the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to so many things and God continually pulls me toward new things. Bigger things. Scary things.

I have yet to submit my skin to wasp stings or make a flying leap in front of a moving vehicle, but I have allowed myself to be frightened. The amazing thing about this practice is not that I gain confidence, but that I continually have fewer and fewer fears. What scared me a year ago is commonplace now. What scares me about the fall will probably seem simple and not so intimidating by next summer.

I have learned to introduce myself to strangers, to make new friends without the fear of rejection, to voice my opinion in groups. I have been called “a natural leader”–something I never would’ve imagined about myself a few years ago when I was too shy to order my own meals. I have opened up about my goofy habits and confessed my best-hidden sins. I have gone without make-up and not thought about it all day. I have made jokes that nobody laughed at and it didn’t keep me up that night. 

Through the crisis pregnancy center, church small groups, service teams and outreach programs, I have done whatever it was that needed doing, setting my inadequacies aside. I’ve written (closed) letters to officials on issues I care about (having learned that open letters are usually more self-inflation than communication.) I have written notes of encouragement to people I thought might think I was weird for doing so. I have learned to drive without having to pull over for panic attacks, to drop off books on doorsteps where I think they may be welcome, to ask some hard questions I had avoided for a long time. I have learned to give my stuff away without feeling nauseated. I don’t need extra anything.

I wear what I like and don’t think too much about it and I have started to kick the habit of feeling like every acceptable thing I do must be recorded on social media. I get angry and do not sin (I mean, sometimes I do, but anything is progress in this area.) I leave my drawing pad open on my desk and don’t shred my sketches into tiny pieces. I find new recipes and actually try them and sometimes I cook without a recipe.

I work out sometimes, probably not quite enough. I don’t work out to look different, I work out to feel healthier. I eat things like mushrooms and beets and onions without plugging my nose. I actually enjoy these things. To enjoy as many things as possible-this is my goal! And to do this, I must fear fewer and fewer things all the time. I used to fear driving, now I enjoy it. I used to fear onions, now I adore them. I used to fear a busy schedule, but I’m learning to control it. I used to fear speaking in front of groups, but I’m getting over that.

I will never be an extrovert, a high-energy doer or a fearless superhuman. The greatest victory is perhaps that I’m okay with that now. I am not distraught over the fact that I’m a slow, hesitant, introverted, often lazy girl. I don’t feel guilty about being me, because I can tell that I’m trying really hard to be less fearful and more content every semester, every day. And, as strange as it feels to say it, I’m kind of proud of that. What use would I be to the people I love if I never improved or progressed? I don’t want to simply be loved and accepted, but also useful, also helpful.

There will always be pitfalls. I’m sure I’ll discover new fears. But how can you overcome a mountain if you don’t first stand at it’s base and appraise it’s awesomeness? And how can you have a victory, without a battle?

So wasps and buses aside, I’m doing the things that really scare me and becoming all the braver for it.

6

this is the day

beauty berry: this is the day

I’ve often heard it said that we should live like we’re dying.

Really? Like we’re dying? That sounds kind of panicked if not macabre. What about living like there’s something worth living for, whether you have a thousands of days left on this earth or just one?

I’m in a pseudo college student season. Most of my friends are in class all day, watching their grades, applying for internships and grad schools. They all seem to have a few questions in common, “What should I do after I graduate?” being number one.

Though my lifestyle is very different, our questions sound the same. I’m living at home, writing blog posts instead of papers. I spend 90% of my time with my family, most of that at Eyrie Park. I cook, clean, run errands and goof off with my ten-year old sister almost every day. It’s not the life of a college student.

But I have the same fears. What if I’m wasting my life?

crooked: this is the day

What if I never marry? What if I never become independent? What if I get stuck and nothing comes of any of this effort?

It’s a season of questions and waiting. There is a feeling of rushing down a river toward a waterfall, unsure of what fate might lie at the bottom. Every day bustles by, every iphone has a full calendar app. Plans must be made and made now or you’ll miss the boat! And everyone knows what happens to people who go over the waterfall without a boat…

sisters: this is the day

Sometimes my house is suffocating, but I’m always thankful that I live here rather than in a dorm with a couple of people my own age. I sometimes slip out of the house and walk around in the pasture (less now that we’re building a house there!) and think about what’s changed and what’s remained. I know that some changes come like spirits through all the walls and locked doors we may put up. They appear when we least expect them, but their presence is impossible to ignore. Jubilee is getting tall and losing her baby teeth. She reads chapter books in a day and bravely goes to overnight events at the church. You can’t mistake the fact that she’ll soon be a young lady.

But I think I forget to remember this one thing: today is today. And today is the day. The day that the Lord has given me at this ordained time. I will never wake up and say, “Hooray! It’s finally “tomorrow”! Now I can be the person I always wanted to be!” The future won’t feel like the future. It will feel like today.

photo ala photo: this is the day

And that’s the secret to living life like life’s worth living. That’s the secret to enjoying your life! Enjoy today. And then enjoy today. And then enjoy today.

I’m not waiting for anything. Sometimes I get giddy thinking of what God might have in store for me, but I don’t know what that might be. One way or another, it is beyond my imagination. But I don’t have to “wait” for that. He’s given me something today. Life. Breath. People to love. Things to do.

My rushing about doesn’t change how soon God’s best will come. It’s a daily thing. New mercies every morning. The rising of the sun. The postal service. :)

rainboots: this is the day

I’m done wasting my life while waiting for it to begin. There is so much given to me daily and so little faith in all my plans. God planned this day for me. It would be a sad thing indeed to waste it waiting for tomorrow.

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day..” Hebrews 3:13 

5

embracing brown

Note: This is a post from my heart, full of honesty. It’s not all a bed of roses, but I hope it doesn’t hurt any feelings. If you take an issue with something I’ve written here, leave a comment and let’s talk about it. No mulling it over, getting angry, please. Thank you.

 

embracing brown

The black man is my brother.

No, seriously. He’s my brother. Sam will be fifteen this year and he’s getting taller, and broader, all the time. People would never guess we’re siblings. I am skinny with dirty blond hair and dark blue eyes. I have long fingers, a bridged nose and creamy skin. Sam is stocky and strong with deep brown eyes, black bristly hair and little tiny ears we always tease him about. But we are. We’re siblings.

I am very thankful that we both grew up where we did. A little while in Haiti and most of the years here in this college town where Koreans and Egyptians and Ugandans walk our streets and stand in line behind us at Starbucks. The homeschool co-op is an adoptive-family’s dream. Kids of every shade eating lunch together and pointing to their homeland on the map and not even thinking about judging one another.

And yet, as much as I’d like to be blissfully ignorant, I know that racism isn’t gone or even far away. I know that the judges sit in every seat at the DPS office and the doctor’s waiting room and barber shop. I know that, despite all of the beautiful, tremendous progress our nation has made toward racial equality, this is still not a black man’s world.

It sticks in my throat a bit to say that because, like you maybe, I’ve often said that we need to stop talking about racism so much because that’s what creates it. But it really depends on what we’re saying, doesn’t it? Guarding our mouths may help raise up a generation of accepting, loving people, but ignoring the issue doesn’t undo the issue. Ignoring the brown doesn’t wash it way.

And sometimes I think I try to do that. I like whiteness. Not the actual color. Heaven knows white people love brown skin and black hair-dos. But I love the white culture. It’s my culture. I like European literature and history and accents. I fight the genes and try to make Sam a writer when he’s a football player. Not that a black man cannot write or a white man cannot punt, but there’s something in Sam’s blood that makes him understand sports, excel in sports and love sports. He was born in the mountains. Grew up running their steep streets. He’s not a writer like Joey, and that’s okay.

Recent events in the news have brought up conversations about race and racial profiling. (I recommend this news piece, though the most appalling part to me, was with the woman, not the black man.) Many people claim to be “colorblind”. Why be blind when we can see and enjoy?

I’d rather there be no racism to see than teach a child to see no race. We celebrate our colors in this house, mostly by way of jokes and compliments. Sam likes to make black jokes about himself, not to be degrading, but to set his white friends at ease. Once he’s cracked a joke, they know that he’s not defensive about the color of his skin and they don’t need to be walking on eggshells for fear of offending him.

In many ways my “brown” siblings are tokens in their social circles. Other kids think they’re cool. Sam plays football. Jubilee has neat braids and runs like an African Olympian. Not sure if Willin has noticed he’s black yet, but that’s a topic for another day. However, this novelty will not go out with them. It will not go with them to their first job interview. It will not go with them on a blind date. It will not go with them to college or the bank or the polling boxes. These places we have to trust to God. We have to trust Him to send people who value humanity over society.

I’m not just having to come to terms with the fact that my little brother is becoming a man, but that he’s becoming a black man. As much as I’d like to say otherwise, that does make a difference.

embracing brown 2

Sam is a gentle giant. He’s sweet and quiet and sensitive. He loves little girls. He wants to be a dad to little girls someday. Little girls love him. He watches The Waltons. He cried when we read Little Britches. He gives good hugs. But they don’t know that. They don’t know him. And that’s the whole problem.

Alone, in a convenient store, he looks like a thug. Alone in an airport he looks like a runaway. Alone in a church? That’s normal, because this whole Christianity thing is mostly for white people, isn’t it?

If anyone ever treats my little brother the way I know innocent black men are treated in my own town, I will throw all racial stereotypes aside and this sweet, polite white girl will turn into a racist’s worst nightmare.

It’s time for racism to die. Everyone reading this blog agrees with that. But it’s also time to cure colorblindness and turn our eyes to the issue. Just because you’re not looking at something doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I’ve noticed that most racists don’t realize that they’re racist. They’d never hurt someone based on their race. They’d never use the n-word. They’d hire a person of another race. They’d be their friend.

But they blame them for the crime. And they hesitate to adopt them. And they don’t even think about marrying one.

That’s racism too. A child could tell you that.

embracing brown 3

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