I Love My BodyAdd Comment
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I remember the day I planted the seed. After spending a sunny afternoon at Seaside Beach on Oregon’s windy coast, my parents, my sister, and I stopped for dinner in town. I devoured a large slice of cheese pizza, followed by two heaping scoops of chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream swaddled in a crispy waffle cone.Add Comment
Soon I felt sick—really sick. As I miserably clutched my stomach on the way home, I silently vowed to start eating more healthy foods.
The rest of the week I ate salads, whole-wheat bread, eggs, and almonds. I still ate some dessert, but I significantly cut back on anything sugary. I started working out, too.
A week later I started cutting back on carbohydrates, and I began exercising even more. After a few more weeks I realized how good I was at denying myself foods I wouldn’t have normally thought twice about eating, such as potato chips and white bread.
Then the seed that had sprouted began growing thorns—I began to obsess over how my body looked. When I saw a pretty girl my age who had a flat stomach, I thought, I need to look like her—my body isn’t good enough. So I increased my exercise and ate even less. I’d never struggled with my weight before or even dwelled on my size. Now suddenly the size of my body was ruling my life.
Soon my friends began noticing my changes. “Your waist is so tiny, Olivia!” my friend Brook exclaimed one day at school. I know now that she was pointing out that I was shrinking to an unnatural size, but at the time I took it as a wonderful compliment. It’s working, I thought.
Seeing how long I could let my stomach growl before I gave in to eating became a dangerous game. And when I did eat something, I tried to eat the smallest amount I could. Gaining weight terriﬁed me.
I began viewing people through lenses clouded with pride. That person has no self-control, I would think to myself as I passed a heavy-set man or woman. I also cut back on seeing my friends so I could focus more on eating less and exercise more. The only times I prayed were with my family over meals. I knew my new habits were changing me inside and out. Not only was I losing weight—I also felt constantly irritable and exhausted from being undernourished.
I didn’t realize it then, but I had anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by the fear of becoming fat and by the refusal of food. The little seed I had planted had grown into something powerful, and each day I was watering it with denial. When I ﬁnally realized its power, I was too weak to kill it by myself.
Confronted by Mom
One day my friend Andrea’s mom came by my school to pick up Andrea. She hadn’t seen me in more than a month and was taken aback by how much weight I’d lost. Worried, she called my mom, who confronted me.
My mom had noticed that I’d been eating differently, but I saw Mom every day, so the changes happening to my body were so gradual that they nearly escaped her notice. But to someone like Andrea’s mom, who had seen me at 100 pounds one month and then below 90 the next, my weight loss was a shock.
My mom immediately started monitoring what I ate. When she saw me consuming barely enough to give me energy, she gave me extra helpings and told me I couldn’t leave the table until I ﬁnished them. Even though I felt furious, I knew deep down that I needed help, and that what I had been doing was wrong.
Mom became my number one supporter through the struggles I faced as I tried to change my habits. She encouraged me, prayed for me, and was ﬁrm with me. One day I just broke down and cried because I felt so overwhelmed by the thought of getting back to normal—I felt as if I’d never be able to look at myself and be content. Mom held me and told me that I could conquer my insecurities, and that I had the help I needed, but I needed to accept it.
That night I prayed to God for the ﬁrst time in a long time. I told Him that I was scared, and that I also needed His help. In the silence of my room as I lay in bed, I heard a still small voice say, “I love you.”
I knew God loved me—I’d read it, I’d been told it, but it stunned me that He actually meant it even though my heart was stained with conceit and fear.
I worked hard to change the way I valued what I ate and how much I exercised. I remember the ﬁrst time I bought myself a dessert, a piece of lemon cake. I don’t like lemon much, but I made myself eat it. I had to convince myself that I wouldn’t die or instantly gain 20 pounds. Biting into the cake was difﬁcult. But with every nibble I ate, I began feeling more conﬁdent. I can do this, I thought.
I started hanging out with my friends more often, too. Andrea, I learned, had struggled with an eating disorder a couple of years earlier. She could relate to my struggles in a way no one else could. One day at school she gave me a letter. In it she told me that one of the scariest things about anorexia was that it robbed the joy from your life. She wrote that I could be joyful again, and that God loved me and was always there for me. I’ll never forget her kindness and empathy.
I’m sad that I can never regain the hours I spent obsessing over my body, hours I could have spent with my family and friends. My relationships with the people I loved were the ﬁrst things in my life to heal. Recovering from the damage I had caused to my mind and my body took hard work and almost two years.
Today I can say with conﬁdence that I love my body. With God’s grace and encouragement I haven’t had any more struggles with starving myself since I worked through my insecurities with my family and friends by my side.
Now my goal is to be healthy inside and out. I take care of my body by trying to make sure I get enough sleep, eat enough food, drink enough water, and get enough exercise. I realize I’ll never achieve a perfect balance of these things, and that’s OK. I don’t obsess over it. Instead of focusing on how I look, I focus on everything I’m thankful for. Remembering that God made me and loves me motivates me to treat my body with genuine respect—something I can truly be proud of.
Olivia Johnson praises God for all He’s done for her since that trip to Seaside Beach with her family nine years ago.
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