Thursday, February 20, 2014

I have always struggled with my weight.  I think I was 13 the first time I thought I was fat.  I wasn't, of course, but I wasn't as thin as other girls were.  Sometimes going through puberty does that.  By the time I was in high school, I had thinned out and I felt pretty confident in how I looked.  I remember as a junior in high school walking from the seminary building back to the school with my boyfriend.  Some kid yelled from one of the third story windows, "Hey, big butt" and that's all it took for me to be self conscious and to think I was fat.  One stupid comment that I have remembered for 25 years.

The result of that comment was that I started to panic about my weight.  When I panic about things, the result usually isn't very good and for some reason, what I'm worried about usually happens.  Suddenly by the end of my freshman year of college I had gained 40 pounds and that same high school boyfriend told me when he got home from his mission that I had "changed too much".  He said that the first time he saw me so I knew it wasn't my personality that had changed.  I had lost someone I loved because of what I looked like.  It was devastating.  

I went on a mission, not because he didn't want to marry me, but because I knew it was the right thing.  My mission was such a great experience for me.  While I did lose the 40 pounds, it was during my mission that I discovered so much about myself.  I loved the gospel, I was smart, sometimes I could even be funny, and people liked me.  I discovered there was more to me that what I had always thought.  In my final interview with my mission president, among other things, he told me how important it was that I never gained weight.  "It makes it very difficult for your husband to love you and stay attracted to you if you gain weight," he told me.  And I believed him!

When I got home I felt like I could do anything.  But in the back of my mind (sometimes not so far back) I remembered what he said to me and I panicked about my weight.  

In the first year after my mission I dated two guys pretty seriously.  One of them was actually engaged to someone else so I guess we weren't as serious as I thought we were, and the other just disappeared.  I suppose he thought it was better than telling me that he didn't want to see me anymore, but it wasn't.  My irrational conclusion to the failed relationships was that, of course, I wasn't thin enough and I knew that my mission president was right.  My weight spiraled out of control.  I rationalized that if a man could love me when I was overweight, then I wouldn't have to worry about it, and as the years passed, a lot of them, I concluded that I would never get married and somehow I was okay with that.  

I think I was 34 or so when I met someone.  I really liked him and I thought he liked me.  It turned out that he didn't but it took a couple of years for me to realize it.  During that time, I felt like a new person.  There was something about feeling loved by someone that made me better.  

Suddenly I was losing weight.  At first it wasn't even conscious, it was just happening.  I lost 80 pounds.  I joined a gym with my sisters and we were going at 5 in the morning.  I felt great.  While I really struggled realizing that this person I really liked didn't like me in the same way, I started dating, relying on online dating sites.  I met some crazy guys and some great ones, and then I met "him".  

He was tall and handsome and interested in me.  He told me he loved me, he was affectionate, and I loved spending time with him.  At first I felt like a love sick teenager.  I couldn't eat or sleep.  I continued losing weight but late nights made early mornings at the gym almost impossible.  He started to make comments about "all the beautiful women" he would see and I started to feel incredibly self conscious, but we continued to date.  We even decided to get married, but he changed his mind, saying that he didn't want to look back and realize that he'd settled.  

Six months later he said he'd made a big mistake, he knew we were supposed to get married and would I please give him another chance.  I did, but four months later we were sitting in a car and he mentioned that he was surrounded by all these beautiful women and he didn't know if he could be without that for all of eternity.  I had some good qualities and he thought that could make up for how I looked, but it couldn't.  We were through.

Every single day I thought about what he said to me.  Every day the reality of what my mission president said to me felt like it was shoved in my face.  During the next three years, I gained weight, a lot of it, and felt less than good about myself.  While I started and stopped several diets, I gave up, wondering what the point was.

Sometime near the end of last year I started feeling that I really needed to remember who I am - who I really am.  I know that Heavenly Father loves me and that I am His daughter, but I struggle to see myself as He does.  I wonder why that is true.  Why do the things other people say about me carry more weight than what my Heavenly Father knows about me?  Why do I let it?  How can comments from a few people about how I look make more of an impact in my life than hundreds of comments from people who love me?

I see commercials all the time about weight loss.  I was part of a facebook group about it.  The message is always the same - you can't be happy and people won't love you unless you are a certain size.  That's simply not true. Those people who really love me do so because they DO see me as Heavenly Father does. I am entitled to as much happiness as anyone else and I can feel it.

This year I want to spend time discovering what it is about me that my Heavenly Father loves.  I want to be able put aside the comments of others and always remember that He loves me.  I want to discover how remembering that allows me to be truly happy and how the knowledge of who I really am propels me to not let Him down and to really become that person that He sees.  

No comments: