Sunday, June 15, 2014

Do you have a baby in your tummy?

Sooooo . . . this is a "fun" story. Once upon a time a four-year-old asked me if I was pregnant. It was not one of my best days. I mean, she was cute. And obviously she didn't mean anything hurtful by it. But it still stung.

I'm not pregnant, by the way. Just want to clear that up. I never have been.

But I have been overweight for most of my life. And I think the time has come to talk about it on my blog. Because what is a blog for if not the over-sharing of all your deepest darkest fears, moments of shame, and personal issues?

Oh, dear.

I hope I can do this without offending anyone. This is such a touchy subject for some people that I generally just avoid it altogether. That works out pretty well for me too because the less I think about my weight, the less worked up I get about it. And I do not like getting worked up about things. I am a chill, go-with-the-flow kind of girl.

Maybe I'll just start with some background.

I was about ten years old when I started to put on extra weight. We were living in Washington (the state) at the time, and I was in fourth or fifth grade. I have only hazy memories of how this all started. But I do remember that my parents were concerned. My dad in particular wanted to use this as an opportunity to lose some weight himself. So he invited me to start going on jogs with him around the block and to set some weight loss goals.

I love my dad. I loved spending time with him. But I hated running. It wasn't until I was eighteen that I figured out why. That's when I was diagnosed with asthma. Kind of hard to love something when it literally takes all of your breath away.

Anyway, when I was eleven we moved to California and things got worse. Sixth grade was a dark year for me. I was bullied and I didn't have the emotional wherewithal to fight back. Maybe someday I'll write a post about that too, but I doubt it. All you really need to know is that it was bad. Among other coping mechanisms, I turned to food.

Things eventually got better and I stopped gaining weight. But I was never able to lose the extra pounds I had put on, and since then my weight has stayed pretty much the same for the last fifteen years, give or take twenty pounds.

I think most people can relate to the cycle of dieting. Every so often I get really intensely interested in losing weight and I start tracking my intake and only eating certain things. I've tried lots of different methods. But eventually I lose interest and go back to my old ways. I know there are people who lose weight permanently and I totally admire them. I aspire to be like that someday.

Right now, though, my main goals are focused on being healthy and being able to do the things I want to do rather than on trying to reach a certain number on the scale. I figure if I happen to lose weight in the process of reaching my goals, that's great. But if I don't, I'm okay with that too.

Through all of this, I've had an apathetic relationship with my appearance. It's not a love/hate relationship, though I have experienced both of those feelings at times. But in general, I just tend to ignore the mirror. I live more in my mind than in my body.

And that's the issue that really bothers me.

One of the main purposes of life is to have a body. And if I spend most of my time actively ignoring my body or focusing on my internal thoughts and emotions and intellectual side--my spirit, as I call it--then I'm kind of missing the point of being alive.

That's a really easy thing to do because there are so many things that involve our spirits or our minds more than our bodies, especially in our modern world. Some of them are good things like writing or reading or listening to good music or researching something that interests us. And there are some not-so-good things like video games and tv and movies. There are certainly times when we need to use our minds more than our bodies. At work, for example, I spend a good portion of my time writing emails or using my computer. That's not taxing physical labor, but it's definitely draining.

The problem comes when we get so caught up in things that are not physically real that we lose all sense of our surroundings or fail to develop our bodies the way we develop our minds.

Elder Bednar gave an awesome talk on this subject awhile ago. He titled it "Things as They Really Are." In it, he talks about how Satan is so frustrated by his lack of a physical body that he will tempt us to misuse or flat-out ignore our own bodies in favor of virtual realities. For me, this includes time spent reading or even daydreaming.

Here's an excerpt from that talk:

And for fun, here's a Sesame Street version that emphasizes some of the same ideas. Also, I'm including this because I love Zachary Levi.

I'm not saying all video games are bad or that we should never watch a movie or read a book. What I'm saying is that I've been there. I've experienced how it feels to prefer an alternate reality instead of my own life. And eventually, that path leads me to some really negative things. Things like coveting, selfishness, a lack of gratitude, irritability, stress, and guilt.

So this is my pledge to do a better job of living in my body, flawed as it is. It's just as much a part of me as my mind, my emotions, and my dreams and ambitions. And I need to stop ignoring it. I need to find ways to be physically present in the world around me and to discover what my awesome, powerful, miraculous body is capable of. I need to look away from the screens and look outside of my mind and take in the real beauty that is all around me.

I invite you to do the same. No matter what you look like or how you feel about your body. No matter how many flaws you think it has or how harsh you think your reality is. Be there. Live in your body. See the real world around you. And be grateful for what God has given you. He sent you here to experience this world and have a body because doing so will make you more like Him.

After all, it's only when your spirit and your body are united that you can experience the truest realities, the fullest joys.

As Elder Bednar put it,
Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal estate. President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has taught, “Our spirit and our body are combined in such a way that our body becomes an instrument of our mind and the foundation of our character.” 3 Thus, our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies. In the classroom of mortality, we experience tenderness, love, kindness, happiness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, and even the challenges of physical limitations in ways that prepare us for eternity. Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, “according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 19:6; Alma 7:12–13).
So go enjoy some "fleshy" experiences today. I'll try to do the same. And since I'm no longer going to worry too much about my appearance, here are a few pictures of me actually enjoying my body or the world around me. I'm hoping the photos will encourage me to have more experiences like these.

Note: You can watch, listen to, or read all of Elder Bednar's talk here. Or if you want to read an abridged version, go here.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I've thought of it quite this way before, but I like it. "One of the main purposes of life is to have a body. And if I spend most of my time actively ignoring my body or focusing on my internal thoughts and emotions and intellectual side--my spirit, as I call it--then I'm kind of missing the point of being alive."