Why I Won’t Call You Skinny

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I remember the first time I heard the words that will stay with me forever. I remember the smile on the woman’s face as she looked at me with envy and I remember the pride that exuded from me that day thinking I had just won a gold metal.  No those words weren’t you are amazing. No they weren’t you are so smart or kind. They weren’t even you are beautiful. Those words which held me in a death trap for over a decade were, “You are so skinny!”

I was ten years old and standing in the school hallway before class. A former teacher looked at me and gushed as she told me how skinny I was, how much weight I had lost, and how incredible I looked. I learned on that day; skinny was to be praised, skinny was noteworthy, skinny made people stop and notice, and skinny was what I should strive to be. My heart breaks and I literally feel sick as I think of that young, innocent girl holding her princess backpack as her grasp of beauty begins to slip through her fingers.

I think if only the teacher had known I lost weight because of mental issues that were weighing me down, if she had only known each day at lunch I traded my home packed lunch for half of a subway sandwich (that a girl who’s mom was on the subway diet gave her each day). And if only she knew once I was given that six-inch sandwich I never managed to eat half of it. If only she knew, ironically the same year, I learned about how important skinny was, I also learned what eating disorders were. However, I never even dreamed I could have an eating disorder, because I wasn’t an emaciated Ballerina and I didn’t throw up my food. So how in the world could I have a problem? That same year I would stand outside my Reading Class with a headache so terrible I could barely focus because I had eaten nearly nothing that day. The only thought which crossed my mind as I stood there, was “If this is what it takes to be skinny, it is worth it”.

For over a decade I would believe the lie, “skinny was the best thing possible”. Skinny fueled my Ed. I would try to brush off every compliment related to my size. I would deny it when someone said I was smaller than them. Shrug my shoulders when size “x” didn’t fit me. I would laugh when someone asked me for my diet and exercise tips. Inside, I would be thrilled. I was ecstatic of the praise and attention. Proud that my size had earned me this “privilege”.

Secretly though, I was dying, physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought in order to be loved, in order to be valued, in order to be praise worthy I needed to stay this skinny. It was a losing game because no matter what the number on the scale said, no matter how small the size got, no matter how many people complimented, it wasn’t enough. And even more, the skinnier I got, the more I lost MK. I had no idea what true beauty was and that it had nothing to do with the size you were.

Looking back I don’t blame the woman who stopped me in the hallway, she didn’t cause my eating disorder. My Ed was about so much more than that. That woman merely played the part that society has taught us to play. We are taught from an extremely young age that beauty and (even more) size are important. We are taught to praise and take notice of size. We are taught that size defines our worth and who we are.

What if I told you it didn’t though? What if I told you striving for skinny and even more perfection won’t get you anywhere but heartache. If you know me today you know, no matter how much weight you may have lost or gained, I will never comment on your size. I will never tell you how skinny you are. I will never say you look like you’ve put on weight. Because I don’t believe commenting on people’s sizes is appropriate in any way, shape, or form. I don’t believe your view of beautiful should be determined by a size, by a comment, by a magazine, or by comparison.

When we take time out to comment on something we are stating what we feel is important to say. When we comment, worth is put in our words. I never want someone to think they are valued for their size. Because size doesn’t define worth. Size doesn’t define beauty.

May you know you are beautiful for millions of things but your size should never dictate your beauty. And may we work together to stop using words like skinny or fat or commenting on size in general.

And may you always remember how loved and worth it you are,

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The Words You Say

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I was two when I said I didn’t look pretty and meant it. I was three when I learned what a diet was and how to do it. I was five when I was called the word fat and it devastated me. I was nine when I noticed what the scale said and what those numbers really meant. I was ten when I was called skinny and it encouraged me that starving myself was okay. I was twelve when a boy commented on my physical appearance and it stayed with me. I was fifteen when I missed a state mandated fitness test because I was terrified to see the numbers on the scale and what the teacher would say. I was too young to learn and be impacted by those words and yet it happened.

And the truth is it is happening to young girls and boys no matter how young they are and no matter whether we want to admit it or not. We think they are too young to fully understand the impact of our words, too young to have these struggles, too young, they aren’t

So today I want to take a moment to talk to those young girls, the moms of young people, the teachers to these kids, and anyone who interacts with these young people on a daily basis. Take notice of these young people because they see the world in a manner that you can’t. They see the beauty and they see the pain. They are confused and trying to become the best individuals they can, so stop putting pressure on them to be the best. Encourage them, love them.

Today across the world, there are young girls skipping lunch, running to the bathroom, literally running for miles, pouring over magazines, crying in the mirror, trying to fit into a certain perfect size jeans, writing in their diary because some boy told them they weren’t pretty. And it matters…it is not just simple words. Your words, their words, they matter and they hold more weight than you could ever realize. We have to start changing this and it starts with changing the conversation.

Stop telling them they are beautiful solely for their physical appearance. Tell them they are beautiful inside and out. Tell them they are important, their opinions matter, they are going to change the world. Their physical beauty is fleeting and could change in an instant but their beautiful hearts are forever. Tell them they are loved for the unique individual they are. Tell them there is no one like them in the world, because it is true.

Moms, Dads, teachers, friends, pastors, mentors, young people, you have a chance to change the conversation and it starts today. I hope today that you feel loved and tell others how loved they arefor who they are on the inside and not just on the outside because that is what matters. From a young lady who has fought harder than anyone should ever have to, to believe this truth, I promise changing the conversation, it is worth it.

You are so very loved,

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She Told Me I Was Fat

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It happened nearly nineteen years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was on the playground, a young five-year-old. I was in a purple t-shirt dress, my long curly hair bouncing as I climbed up the to the top of the slide. Suddenly, she looked at me, a girl whose name I will never remember but whose words were imprinted on my heart. She looked right at me and said, “You’re fat!”. That is all she said and walked away. I honestly have no idea if we were friends, or if I even knew her name but even now nearly nineteen years later I remember my heart breaking. I remember it was all I could do to get home without crying. I remember telling my mom and grandmother. I remember my little heart and head couldn’t understand but even at five I knew that fat meant ugly and she had called me fat, which meant I was ugly.

Fast forward seventeen years later to two years ago, I am with a woman who loves me and knows my struggle, yet as we walk across the parking lot she grabs my arm looks at me and smiles. “I am so glad you dropped all that extra weight because you are just too pretty to not be tiny. I am so glad you are your tiny self again. You are just beautiful like that.” I starred at her not believing the words that just left her mouth and my heart and head took me right back to my five year old self who was broken-hearted because someone called her fat and therefore ugly. It didn’t matter that I knew I hadn’t changed sizes, it didn’t matter that I knew that this woman had an Ed and therefore couldn’t speak truth, it didn’t matter that I knew my beauty wasn’t defined in my size, it didn’t matter that I KNEW that fat and ugly are NOT synonymous, it stung. I have wrestled with what she said and  the sting that it cause and why it hurt so bad. Friends I think the truth I remembered in the midst of the sting is worth sharing.

When I was in the deepest darkest days of Ed, beauty meant one thing, it meant being thin. However, no matter how desperately thin I got it, was never enough. I could never see myself as beautiful, only ugly. My view of myself was defined in something temporary, in something that the world tells me is important. My beauty was defined in my physical appearance which is something that will never be perfect. The more I watch TV, flip through magazines, or browse pintrest the more disgusted I am. You see I am a true girly girl at heart. I love anything that sparkles and glitters. I love pretty dresses. I love nail polish. I love lipstick. I love getting all dressed up. And at the same time I love my sweatpants. I love my big shirts. I love throwing up my hair in a top bun and wearing no make up for days. But I have learned that none of those define me. And the more I look at the media and the more I hear young girls and older women talk the more my heart breaks, because the overarching message is this: You are beautiful when… you are size x, you have perfect hair, you have a clear face, your nails are manicured, you have beautiful clothes. And it all is just not truth. As women I believe we have an innate desire to want to feel beautiful but I have learned that beauty in no manner comes from my physical appearance. If you read my post, “Why I Won’t Call You Skinny” you know that I believe, beauty is not defined in a size!

I know you just read that last sentence and were tempted to stop reading because you don’t believe me. You don’t believe that beauty is not about your physical appearance but I promise your beauty does not depend on your physical appearance and I desperately need you to believe that. Because until you do, you can’t fight the lies of the world that tell you otherwise. The statement from my friend and the girl when I was five stung because it defined me solely by my physical appearance, it defined me as only good enough or beautiful enough if I met certain standards, and it hurt to be put in such a narrow, rigid box of lies. And any time someone tries to define us in one way I believe it hurts because we are soo much more than what are face and body looks like. However, I will be the first to say that it is hard to not believe the lies that the world tells us but it is absolutely so much more fulfilling and life giving to fight the lies.

I truly believe that I have the most beautiful friends and family in the world. However, their beauty has everything to do with their heart, their faith, their love for others, their ability to show grace and has nothing to do with their size, their clothes, their hair or makeup. The truth is my hair will one day turn gray. I will have wrinkles and saggy skin. I will probably shrink. My teeth my fall out. I may have age spots. I may gain or lose weight.  And yet I will still be beautiful and so will you. If I prescribed to the world’s idea of beauty, I am not sure how I could get out of bed in the morning. Many days I wear yoga pants, big t-shirts, and my hair in a messy bun. I get zits, my hair normally needs to be washed, more days than not I don’t wear makeup, so if I spent my time following the world’s idea of beauty, why would I get out of bed. Frankly, I would be terrified I wouldn’t match up. But each day I get up, I fight the temptation to give into the lies of the world and I remember that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and am absolutely beautiful, no matter what my physical body looks like.

Honestly,  I wish I could say that everyday, every hour, every minute, I believe this truth but I don’t and frankly some days are just harder than others. Some days I fight the lies of my past life with Ed and the lies of the world. But I remember that I am aiming for grace, not perfection and each time I remember the truth and live in the truth, that is beauty. Beauty surrounds me in the smiling faces of those who love me as my messy broken self, beauty is in the scars of battles won, beauty is living in freedom and not bondage. The world lies and tells us beauty is in the face but I am hear to tell you it is in the heart. Beauty is all around you and I dare you to see it and live in it this week. Whether you are wearing sweats, a prom dress, a swim suit, a wedding gown, or pajamas, you are beautiful.  My prayer is that you will discover how truly beautiful you are this week, because that is freedom, that is living in truth. And in case no one has told you today, you are absolutely beautiful inside and out just the way you are. Believe that truth this week friend and live in the freedom of discovering real true beauty.

All my love,

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When The Inside Doesn’t Match The Outside

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I could feel her looking at me as I stared out the window. She asked the question again and I knew I had to respond. “So you don’t think you’re thin enough to have an eating disorder?” I stared at her defiantly as I replied,”No”. But even as I said those words my voice trembled. Because I knew. I knew I was sick but I just couldn’t admit it. Not to her not to anyone. And the truth was I didn’t see it. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t think I looked thin, I didn’t think I looked like someone with an Eating Disorder. I didn’t think my insides matched my outsides.

I remember the drive to her office, how at every light I wanted to turn my car around. I remember walking up the stairs barely able to breathe and I remember sitting the open lobby waiting for her to come out and signal me back. And as I sat down and we began to talk. I remember wanting to jump up and run out. But I didn’t, I couldn’t leave because even then, even when I didn’t believe it I knew I needed to hear those words.

Three years later I can remember that conversation like it just happened. Those words were such a pivotal point in my recovery and my dietician words that followed forever impacted me. As I sat in her office that day and we talked about how even if I didn’t think I looked the part or believe it, I was sick.

The stronger I become in my recovery the more it impacts me the way we literally look at people with eating disorders (and people in general). I know for myself and many others there was the misconception that if I didn’t look a certain way I didn’t have a problem. I was small. I was thin. I was little but I would have never deemed myself anorexic. Yet I was.

The fact is that eating disorders come all shapes and sizes, they do not discriminate. No matter how much someone doesn’t believe they fit into a certain category because of the way they look. Size is not the determining factor in an eating disorder. Frankly for many years I “looked” healthy. I wasn’t what someone would consider too thin or too large. I was just average. However, even in my average days I was so so very sick.

The more I work with women who have struggled with an eating disorder the more that constant fact rings in my head that we cannot judge someone by their outward appearance. We have no idea the thoughts going on in their head. The control or lack of control that dictates their life.

Because here is the thing my friend, eating disorders are so much more than what the public sees. There is hiding. There is deceiving. There are things that go on that you would never know about when you look at their smile, at their darling outfit, at their laughter.

I was the girl who had it all together, who had the world at her finger tips, who truly seemed to be on top of the world. But I was sick. I was struggling. I was so desperate for help. But had you seen me, you would have never known.

You may have seen me comment on food. You may have seen me be a “picky eater”. You may have even see me count calories or exercise to the point of exhaustion. But you thought nothing of it, because in today’s society, talking negatively about our body or food is acceptable. You may have thought nothing of it because you too have those behaviors.

As a woman in today’s world, we are taught to care so deeply about what our outsides look like. We are taught to be put together. We are taught to look presentable even “pretty”. We are told to act as if all is okay. Here is the thing though, often times it is not okay. We struggle, we hurt, we often need help and sometimes we need to show that on the outside but we feel like we can’t. Many times the insides don’t match the outsides.

So my hope is this, that the next time we look at someone’s outward appearance we wouldn’t assume they have it all together. We wouldn’t assume that they don’t need help. We wouldn’t assume that they aren’t sick. While this so very much applies to eating disorders I believe it applies to so many other aspects of our lives as well. May we not judge the book by it’s cover but may we learn to read the book and know the story by heart.

All my love,

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Why Not

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I’ve been staring at the blank screen for awhile now praying that some thought that I have jumbled in my head would come to fruition. I never meant to write a blog. I never meant to share my story. I never meant for people to relate. I was just one girl with a story, my story. And I decided that my story might be worth telling. Telling your story for the first time is like jumping into freezing cold water on a scalding summer night. You are scared to death to jump but once your body hits the cool refreshing water you realize that jumping was the best idea. Not only do you feel refreshed,  but you also feel invigorated. You know that it was the right decision to jump and that the next time you are faced with the option you will be sprinting towards the cool pool of refreshing water.

When I first told my story I knew I had to do. I had to do it to break down the walls that I was this “Little Miss Perfect”. I wanted to show others that grace is life changing and healing is real. I shared not only because I wanted to but because I had to. As I began to open up, I received message after message saying that someone else related to my story and they appreciated me sharing. It was not just kind, it was humbling to know that my simple story had a bigger purpose.

As I continued to share my journey I was given opportunity after opportunity to talk about my life and the experiences that led to making me who I am. As life gets busy and sometimes hard I find myself looking at this blog and wondering should I still keep writing? Does this matter? Am I wasting my time? But in my heart I know I am not and that I absolutely have to keep working.

So why do I do it? Why do I continue to be vulnerable, to pour my hear out, to share the messiness of my life? Why do on some of my worst days I sit down and type out the messiness? I do it, because I believe our stories matter. I believe the truth and the realness of our life stories is vital to share. I believe that as one of my favorite authors says, that when we share the brokenness and beauty of our lives that the gospel truly comes to life. The gospel becomes a real life story of redemption and not just abstraction. The other night someone asked me about my story and I hesitated. We were standing face to face and for a moment I was scared. It is a million times easier to share a story with people you don’t know versus the one person you are staring straight at. But then I took a deep breath and I told my story, I told my story of grace. I told it because my story matters and so does yours. Every time we are brave and choose to be vocal instead of silent about our stories we give people the opportunity to see grace at work.

The truth is my story is one of many. However, there is no one else who can tell my story and no one else who can tell yours. So on the days that I feel like listening to the lies and the shame I decide instead to tell my story. I choose to tell my story of the grace that changed my life. It’s sometimes easier to believe the lies, it’s often times what we feel is safe and what we know best. It is harder to believe the truth, it is harder to believe grace is bigger, but each time I have an opportunity to tell the story of grace it becomes not only more true but also a little sweeter. So why not share your story…

Much love,

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When Perfection Destroys

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At barely two I looked into the mirror, about to take a photo with my family and new baby brother and I starred back at my reflection. In the video that records this scene, you can hear my mother telling me to come on. I refuse to come take the picture and there I sit in front of the mirror and announce to myself and my family around me, “My hair don’t look pretty”.

Now some may think that little two year old girl was precious for saying that but honestly I think even at two that statement was a huge indicator of my personality. For whatever reason, I “knew” that I couldn’t take a picture because my hair didn’t look, “pretty”…it had to be perfect. And that is how I lived the first twenty years of my life striving for perfection that was unattainable.

Growing up I was the epitome of the “Little Miss Perfect”. And while I claimed to hate the nickname, deep down I loved it, because it meant I was doing something right. It meant that I was achieving what others thought was perfection. Oh how wrong they were, because inside I was dying. Do you know how hard it is to try to do everything right and perfect all the time.  It was exhausting. And that is where my eating disorder helped me out, he told me exactly what I needed to do to achieve the ultimate perfection and that was be the thinnest possible.

ED had a solution for every failed test, bad situation, breakup, loss, and it was, control it, with food. And the more I let ED take control, the farther I moved away from all that made me happy. Of course he told me the thinner I got, the more I was reaching perfection. However, the thinner I became, the more I lost, grades, relationships, friendships, social events, energy, and ultimately happiness. Yet, ED promised just a few more pounds and I would be there. Well, it never happened. No matter how thin I got, it never worked. And then one day I realized, this whole perfection thing wasn’t any fun, and it sure wasn’t getting me anywhere but despair.

That’s where grace came in and that is where the healing began. However, I didn’t learn that grace overnight but it was the  pain and suffering that got me there. Without these circumstances I am not sure grace would be as real to me as it is now. It finally sunk in that the God that I loved, didn’t love me because I was perfect, He loved me in spite of the fact that I wasn’t. And nothing I could do would make Him love me any more or any less than He did right then. As my dear friend says, “It’s okay that we’re not okay because Jesus is better than being better.” It was that message that made the darkness bearable and reminded me that there was light at the end even when I couldn’t see it. And those people who thought I was so perfect, well they loved the not perfect MK even more, because she was real. Unlike, perfect MK they could identify with the real MK (funny how I was convinced they wouldn’t know how to handle not perfect me).

So what about today? Do I still strive for that perfection? Even those questions make me laugh out loud. Because, today I cannot live without grace, because I am one big mess! And the fact that I am not perfect is totally okay. “Perfect MK” lived a really miserable life that led to a really horrible relationship with ED and other destruction. MK today, she messes up about every other minute. However, she is learning to accept the fact that it is okay, because in her imperfect mess she is loved deeply.

Maybe perfection in any aspect is your goal. My guess is on some level it’s tearing you apart. Let me tell you no matter how hard you try it’s not going to get you anywhere but misery and heartache. And even more, I bet the people in your life would love the not so perfect you even more than you could ever imagine. So just remember it’s okay to not be perfect, in fact it is extremely freeing!

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Your Words Matter

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I remember standing on the scales getting my weight read to me and marked down in my file for my seventh grade dance class. I was traumatized, I knew the exact numbers and how it had changed since last semester. Years later, during the middle of my junior year I would miss a state mandated fitness test because I was terrified to step on the scale and to know my weight and BMI. Of course, I would fake sick to get out of it but internally I knew I could never know those numbers because they would haunt me. For years, each time I went in for a check-up no matter how sick I was I made sure to pay attention to my weight, how it had changed. I would prep for days going into my appointment so I “maintained a good weight”. I was so very sick and I had no idea.

Today I still struggle when I hear women my age and older talk about diets and the way they should look. It breaks my heart. It may start as young boys and girls but it continues into adulthood. It is why for so long it was hard for me to eat lunch with women who didn’t know my story because five minutes into a lunch it was diet chat and scrutinizing the food on their plate and marveling that others could eat what they could. It mad me sick and sad. I can’t help but wonder what if something had changed sooner, when I was younger. And that gives me hope for the young people now that struggle, that a change can be made but first we have to change the conversation.

As I watch the kids I babysat grow up, as I watch my sweet flower girl go to kindergarten, it makes my heart leap for them because I know how MK was even at that young age. She was a mess and she had no idea what to do. More days than not she didn’t get the nutrition she needed as she missed meals and hid her double life. She strived to be the beautiful girl that all the boys wanted to date, and all the girls thought was gorgeous. And it got me to thinking about how early these issues start especially for young girls (young men are definitely not exempt). And even more it made me realize there are so many young people who deal with the same issues and we don’t address it because we assume they are too young to have those struggles. They aren’t.

So today I want to take a moment to talk to those young girls, the moms of young people, the teachers to these kids, and anyone who interacts with these young people on a daily basis. Take notice of these young people because they see the world in a manner that you can’t. They see the beauty and they see the pain. They are confused and trying to become the best individuals they can, so stop putting pressure on them to be the best. Encourage them, love them.

Today across the world, there are young girls skipping lunch, running to the bathroom, literally running for miles, pouring over magazines, crying in the mirror, trying to fit into a certain perfect size jeans, writing in their diary because some boy told them they weren’t pretty. And it matters…it is not just simple words. Your words, their words, they matter and they hold more weight than you could ever realize. We have to start changing this and it starts with changing the conversation.

Stop telling them they are beautiful for solely for their physical appearance. Tell them they are beautiful inside and out. Tell them they are important, their opinions matter, they are going to change the world. Their physical beauty is fleeting and could change in an instant but their beautiful hearts are forever. Tell them they are loved for the unique individual they are. Tell them there is no one like them in the world, because it is true.

Moms, Dads, teachers, friends, pastors, mentors, young people, you have a chance to change the conversation and it starts today. I hope today that you feel loved for who you are on the inside and not just on the outside because that is what matters. From a young lady who has fought harder than anyone should ever have to, to believe this truth, I promise changing the conversation, it is worth it.

May you truly know how loved you are today and always,

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