My Current Shape Is Worthy

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Fritha Washington -My Weight is Worthy3

[Trigger warning: Mention of disordered eating and controlling behavior.]

By Fritha Washington

I’ve always had a fractured, troublesome relationship with food. My mum was anorexic and my dad loves to eat–I grew up in a home where food was simultaneously worshiped and reviled. My slimmer sister stopped having periods and this was viewed as an exciting triumph. My own enduring memory is of my mum physically blocking me from getting to the food cupboard, laughing in my face as I protested my hunger.

Every one of my friends has their own personal cluster of “wrong,” the physical things that they struggle to cherish. Mine has always been my weight.

When I was a skinny tomboy child, I thought I was fat. (I wasn’t.) When I was a young teenager, I was told not to go to prom because my upper arms were too flabby to pull off the dress. (They weren’t.) When I was a young adult I feared mirrors, but was still drawn to them in the hope that today’s outfit might disguise the fat. (That I didn’t have.) On my wedding day my mum had to be stopped from sewing the zip closed on my gown in case my fat burst it open. (Bizarre). My whole life, during which I had never actually been overweight, I thought I was huge. I also believed, in line with my family, that to be overweight would be the worst possible thing I could have been.

Two babies later, and five years of foreign missions wherein I was quite sad and, thus, ate quite a lot of cake, and now I’m bigger. My boobs are so big I get neck strain headaches. I find jogging really difficult. My periods are too heavy and I’m tired all the time.

I hold back from “diets,” terrified of becoming my mother and of giving my daughter food issues. I am stubborn, angry and completely convinced that I will fail at losing weight anyway, so why try? I am ethically opposed to the diet industry, but every day I wish I was less big. I feel trapped.

Many things have been going on in my poor exhausted brain, so off to counselling I ambled. Once there, a very nice lady gently showed me that if I wanted to rein in the cake in the name of less boob headaches, then I had the power to do so. So I took a deep, scared, hopeful breath and enrolled in a popular group slimming thing. A world of slimming. A world of healthier options and choices and planning and tears and triumphs and, because of my background, a world of taking it far too seriously.

The world is a tough enough place for us human babies. We are all trying to feel okay in the face of endless streams of unrealistic billboards and glossy ads. Of walking past window displays juxtaposing our own flawed reflections against the plastic perfection of the near naked mannequins. Constantly abiding in the tension of trying to function while simmering in low level self hatred. We are never thin, toned, shapely, curved, hairless, pert, smooth, or chiseled enough. We are never enough, never finished.

So I lost over ten percent of my body weight.

It took actually losing weight to at last understand this: It. Does. Not. Fix. Anything.

Thirty three years of utterly wasted headspace, of vicious thought patterns, of discontent. Wasted years of pain and lies. Ouch. I grieve for the poor, deluded, deceived child that I have always been.

My whole life I’ve believed that if I was able to lose weight then I would be more beautiful, more accomplished, more worthy. I loved Jesus but I shut him out of this, on a bone deep identity level.

It took actualIy losing weight to finally understand that it’s all lies.

I am me. I had some more fatty bits, and now I’m less wobbly, but I was me then and I am me now.

I shrunk myself by a tenth, I diminished myself to the applause of our western culture, and I’m not actually happier. I’m not sexier, or cleverer, or kinder, or anything other than exactly who I have always been. The truth is that if I decided to mainline fries and increase myself by a few more tenths, then it would not be important. I would not be any less myself. I’m always me. Me is a good thing to be.

Before, when I had more physical mass, I was always a dreamer, always fiercely loving, always up for a big dance party, always a crafter of words and ideas, always interested and active and engaged and always–from womb to motherhood–utterly worthy. I have always been, and will always be, the girl who types in bed, waving her arms around air drumming and joking her way through the healing.

Our worth is not dependent on anything physical, despite the shrieks of our world. We need to stop fat/skinny shaming and we need to affirm that every person is completely perfect because we are image bearers. We bring the gorgeous qualities of our God simply by existing. Breathing in and breathing out. There is nothing that can be added to our value, and we cannot diminish our worth.

Weight loss adds absolutely nothing to anything. We are worth love, whatever our current shape. We are worthy.

I am worthy.

__________

About Fritha:
FrithaI currently live in Ukraine, working with YWAM to run a Transition Home for girls who have aged out of orphanages. I’ve been married to John for seven years and we have two tiny people called Bethel and Simeon. Soon we will be moving back to the UK. I love making glorious messes with my kids, cooking fancy food, adventures with suitcases full of kitchen sinks (my husband despairs at me) and escaping to cafes to write things.

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  • C.S. Lewis was not talking about food issues when he said this about God and our fallen selves, but it encourages me:

    “Do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all – not least yourself.”

    It’s from Mere Christianity, and helps me to think with compassion about this “wretched machine” because God is in the business of redeeming things, and that alone makes your words today (“I am worthy”) gloriously true and precious.

    • Fritha Washington

      I love a bit of Clive, thank you! He makes me laugh and then leaves me breathless with the scope of his wisdom. Wretched machine…brilliant…

  • pastordt

    Well, YES. It is true that I (sometimes) feel better in a body that is smaller than it was for over 40 years, but it is not true that losing that weight changed who I am in any intrinsic way. A dear friend inadvertently denied that truth with this comment once: “Oh, my Diana, doesn’t your husband just love you so much more because of this weight loss?” Well, that would be a NO, thank you very much, and I said so, as nicely as I could. When will we learn?

    And what happened to you in your family of origin? Borderline criminal, in my book. I am so sorry for all of that. But I’m grateful, with you, that you have discovered the beautiful truth: you are you, no matter what size you might be at any particular moment in time. Thanks for this.

    • Fritha Washington

      I get a lot of ‘your husband must be happy’, and it’s nicely intended but betrays such a troubling worldview. He liked me before and he likes me now! Thank you for your lovely and encouraging words 🙂 xx

    • Jenna

      I can relate to what you write about comments about husbands loving you more b/c of weight loss. I think husbands can be affected negatively by this worldview as well, believing that is true. And if a husband does believe this, how much harder for a wife to fight against this and believe what is truth – that our worth and loveability is not in our body size.

  • Andrea Christiansen

    Thank you for sharing! I tend to give the D(iet)-word a suspicious sidelong glance, yet at times I get wrapped into a “health kick” and – everything you just talked about gets all muddled into it. With our culture… it doesn’t deliver as promised. Thank you for the re-centering, lovely!

    • Fritha Washington

      Oh I do so get this, do you feel sometimes like health obsession can be just as disordered as being ‘unhealthy’? I read an article that said that orthorexia is the face of our current food/ body issues, but it’s so hard to tackle because of course health is a good thing! I’m praying for balance, for myself and for our culture…

      • Andrea Christiansen

        Is too much health… unhealthy? Hah, it’s Saturday, I take a lighthearted tone. On the serious side though, I did not know there was a technical term for that, thank you! It is an interesting question. But, while physically it may be a healthy condition, as you discuss in your post, the spiritual condition ought to be priority. The obsession… in any direction… is the difficulty, I think. With you in prayer for balance in our culture and a personal reliance on God’s – not culture’s – view and approval of ME.

  • Robin Baldwin

    You have nailed it exactly! As someone who has struggled with weight issues since 9 years old, I completely agree with you that we are worthy no matter what number appears on the scale. But it is such a head game we engage in and society exploits. God bless you, Fritha, for sharing your insights.

  • Coco

    You are beautiful, I always talk about you as my warm, kind, passionate beauty of a friend. I adore you and you are so inspiring. this resonates with me so much, I long to be enough. But actually, my tiny human sees me as the person I want to be, so for me; that is now enough. Love you F xxx