Beauty

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This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on July 3, 2017. 

One of the most frustrating things about being a female is the ever-changing and multi-faceted beauty standards.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time watching Disney princess movies and playing with Barbies and Polly Pockets. All of the female characters I had in front of me shared the same qualities: small waists, flat stomachs, long legs, and skinny arms. Along these lines, the mannequins in clothing stores have always had those same features. So, growing up, I naturally believed that those physical features were the norm. They seemed to be the marks of a beautiful woman.


I also remember being exposed to the tv show “America’s Next Top Model” at a very young age and thinking, “Oh, is that what women are supposed to look like?” The women on that show were your stereotypical model: tall and skinny. Not only were they unhealthfully thin, but they were being praised and photographed in little to no clothing.

It was impossible for me to escape the image that was (at least back then) the “ideal” body.

During my younger teenage years, I thought of fitness as something to keep people healthy; to simply increase the heart rate; and to maintain a healthy weight. At some point though, a stronger emphasis on muscle definition and weight lifting seemed to arise for women. Now, fitness is even more focussed on achieving a “toned” body. It has seemingly become a new obsession. For a long time now, I’ve noticed this craze we have for perfecting our muscles and limbs.

Embarrassingly enough, the other day I caught myself in the middle of this thought process: I was at a red light in my car, and out the window I saw a woman jogging. She had a long line of definition going down her leg. While sitting there, I thought, “Wow, she looks really good. I wish I looked like that when I run. That’s some nice leg definition. Dang, I have a lot of work to do…” But then I stopped myself and thought, “WAIT WHAT AM I THINKING??!!!”

A line on my leg?! A stupid line?? Who says a line of muscle definition is a mark of beauty?!

Well sadly, our culture does. Through media, our culture sends us messages like…

Be skinny and tall.

Be toned or ripped.

Have a thigh gap and flat tummy.

Buy expensive makeup and trendy clothes.

Spend your time at the gym, and try this cool diet.

These messages have been perpetuated for decades, causing us to believe that we’ll achieve true beauty if we listen to them.

But we can’t ever achieve some perfect image, because it is ever-changing and perceived differently by every-one!

For example, some people say that “natural beauty”– less makeup – is better. While some people are avid makeup wearers who devote lots of time to it.

Or even yesterday, I was surprised to hear a guy say that “super skinny arms were not attractive” to him.

Or while the media most often emphasizes skinny, tall, and straight as the “ideals,” now days, more people are acting like curvy hips, thighs, (and yes butts) are a thing to be desired. Meghan Trainor’s song came out a while ago, proclaiming that “boys like a littlemore booty to hold.” Suddenly, a woman’s curves are like a trophy.

fullsizeoutput_b14So obviously, we have varying opinions on what is visually pleasing. That’s why it’s so important to simply embrace who YOU are!

We all have special genetics that have made us look the way we do. At our most clinically normal weight, we may not look like the media wants us to. Our natural body (without hours at the gym to tweak it) may not be what we necessarily want. We may not look like our peers, either. We all have a different looking “healthy body.” Our composition and build is unique to each of us; and it is dependent on our family tree. (Your close relatives can give you a clue as to where your extra weight may be carried and how you are proportioned). If we try to change our own genetics, we’re going to be miserable. If we compare ourselves to people who are from super different looking families, we’re only doing ourselves a disservice.

If I waited around forever to have a flat stomach and skinny arms, I’d be waiting till I die. Those things just aren’t natural for me. Even in my eating disorder, I wasn’t really able to achieve the thin arms I wanted. But I’m learning to accept this!

So maybe you have wider hips. Maybe you’re naturally tall and thin. Maybe you have a short torso and a tummy that rolls over your waistline. Maybe you have small arms and thicker thighs. No matter what you’ve got, you are beautiful. There will never be one image of an”ideal body.” There will probably never be a consensus about what is most physically attractive and desirable. So join me in embracing your own unique body, and let’s stop striving for a non-existent idea of perfection.

Your Questions/My Answers

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on June 15, 2017.

Below are some questions that people were curious about and asked me to answer. I hope you enjoy my answers and find some of my insights helpful!

Q: How do you manage or re-direct your anxiety? What are some of your coping strategies? 

A: I don’t always handle my anxiety well, to be honest. I’m still working on this and learning new “strategies” that work for me! I think that I am qualified to talk about this, though, because I used to have panic attacks quite often, but now I rarely do. I have come a long way. Here’s a few tools (besides medication):

  1. Taking time to simply breathe can help at times. Often, I unknowingly slip into shallow breathing when I’m anxious, and this is not helpful. It causes my body and stomach to tense up. If I can, I lay down or sit in a position where I can get comfortable; I release every tense muscle; and I pray.
  2. Self-talk is a good technique: I have to literally whisper truth to myself that can combat the lies I’m thinking. For example: In the morning, if something happens to trigger my anxiety, I might start thinking things like, “Today is gonna suck. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to eat. I can’t eat. This ___ is too hard for me to handle.” Lately, when I recognize that this is happening, I start combatting the anxiety by saying out loud, “I’ve gone through worse than this before. I’ve gotten through all my hardest days! I can get though the next 24 hours. I’m way healthier than I was before. God has never left me. Food is fuel that I need for this day.”
  3. When I’m alone, prayer is always my #1 tool. When my anxiety is severe, I feel like God is literally my only comfort – my lifeline. Plus, since I’m a verbal processor, It really helps me to talk to and cry out to God, telling Him what’s grieving me. I find some comfort in knowing that He’s with me, and He hears the cries of those who love Him and seek Him. Talking out loud about what’s stressing me out can also make me realize how illogical my thoughts are. Anxiety usually originates in our minds.
  4. Lately, when I can, I try to find someone trustworthy to talk to. This helps me get “out of my head.” I’ve learned over the years that too much isolation is not healthy for me, as an anxiety prone person. The reason is that anxiety usually comes when we think negative thoughts and allow them to progressively worsen and escalate. I do this a lot. So, having someone else – who knows me well or is level-headed – tell me the truth about my circumstances and rationalize with me is very effective.
  5. Crying…Yeah, it works for me. I don’t do it often, so when I do, it feels really good!
  6. Journaling about how I’m feeling is another good way to process what is going on in my life or swirling around my head.

 

Q: How’d you get through weight gain in your recovery? (In my eating disorder, I lost a significant amount of weight, over 3 years. I reached a weight that was dangerous for me. In order to be considered “safe,” I was told to follow a meal plan and gain weight. And I did.)

A: Weight gain is a difficult thing to feel 100% okay with. I was very resistant to the idea at first. However, once I followed the plan, I started realizing the benefits that the food was giving me. It was my medicine. After so long depriving myself, I felt so much better having vital nutrients! My headaches went away; I had energy; I didn’t need naps; My mood improved; And I was less anxious!…So, the benefits of food outweighed (no pun intended) the changes that my body started going through. Along with appreciating what food does for me…

  1. I also covered my mirror for 10 weeks, eventually put my scale away, and got rid of clothes that were uncomfortable. I realized that objects were having too much power over my self-confidence, related to my body/weight. And that’s pretty darn lame! (I do not feel the need to weigh myself anymore).
  2. Talking with a professional dietician and learning about a healthy, normal BMI was incredibly helpful! She explained to me how BMI is measured, why it’s different for everyone, what type of “frame” I am, why a healthy weight is important for women, and much more. She also told me recently that I’m sitting pretty comfortably in my healthy BMI range, and that there’s also wiggle room for me to gain weight and still be considered normal.
  3. I realized that my genetics are unique to me and my family. My extra weight will distribute differently that others’. A “thigh gap” is genetically unrealistic for me (and most people); and super thin arms are basically impossible for me to obtain. The list goes on. But that’s something I’m okay with now! Trying to force my body to be something it’s not supposed to be is exhausting.
  4. Also, I educated myself on how sick the media is, and how our culture worships the “thin ideal.” (I watched a few documentaries, did some reading and research, and learned about it in Sociology class). Once I learned how much women’s bodies are altered and edited in the media, my thoughts changed. Putting skinniness on a pedestal isn’t something I want to take part in.
  5. I accepted that the my body is no longer an adolescent body. It’s an adult body. I can’t keep it the same as it was when I was younger.

 

Q: How are you so vulnerable about your struggles with your friends and family?

A: I’ve always been pretty honest. I’m a talker. I don’t really like hiding secrets. So, with that being said, it’s pretty natural for me want to open up to people, in general. At least with people I know and trust, it has not been very difficult to tell my struggles.

When it comes to really heavy topics, though, or ones I know my family or friends may not understand, I think vulnerability came once I realized the value in opening up to people. Talking about my struggles can benefit me in a few ways: 1.) It creates accountability. 2.) It makes me feel way less pressure or awkwardness around people when I don’t feel like I have to hide something. It removes huge burden. 3. ) People sometimes surprise me with how helpful they can be! How can I get support, love, or advice from people if I don’t let them know what’s up? 4.) We are ALL broken, sinful people with struggles. So, I think people relate to me in some way when I talk about my problems. Nobody ever really reacts with disgust, shock, or disapproval. They usually say they’re impressed by my honesty. 5.) Conversations about difficult subjects can be mutually beneficial. Giving and receiving of advice, support, and prayer can happen. Plus, I think we can all learn things by listening to someone else talk about their personal difficulties. 6.) I like to educate people on the realities of anxiety and eating disorders, and I have seen God use that in multiple ways.

 

Q: What bible verse is your go-to encouragement when you are facing stressful/tough times?

A: During hard times, I always find some comfort in Romans 5:2-5″

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

And Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Q: How should a family member or friend talk to someone who has an eating disorder? 

A: This is a hard one, because all people, situations, and relationships are unique. I don’t want to make big, blanket statements about all people with eating disorders. In general though, I have learned a few things that I believe should always apply.

  1. Talk to them in private first. Please…Don’t bring up someone’s eating disorder in a group of people. This has happened to me at 2 different parties, and it is SO frustrating. If someone bring up their disorder/struggle in a group setting, then that’s their choice. But most likely, if you bring it up in front of others, you’re going to damage trust with them. Even a small comment intended for good can make someone feel violated or uncomfortable. (Again, this is still just my opinion. Situations may vary.)
  2. If you aren’t sure if someone has an eating disorder, but you suspect that they do, tread carefully…If you genuinely want to offer them help, go to them with utmost sincerity in your eyes and voice, and tell them first what you observe about their behavior or lifestyle. Don’t make them feel personally attacked. You must come off as caring and sincere, or else they won’t be honest with you.
  3. If you’re close friends with someone who has an eating disorder, and this is an open topic of discussion, don’t tell them to “just eat” or “eat less.” The disorders are less about food and more about other issues preventing them from feeling like they can eat normally. Try to instead remind them why eating healthfully is important for their whole well-being (energy, mood, mind, body functionality).

 

Thanks for your questions! And as always, thanks for reading and supporting my blog 🙂 It’s what I love to do. Leave a question below, for next time!

Secrets of Sibling Success

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 27, 2017.  

I often get comments about how “cute” my relationship with my brother is. I’ve had a lot of friends tell me they envy the closeness I have with John. While I can’t imagine anything less than a best-friend relationship with him, I’ve come to realize that it’s actually pretty rare to have this kind of bond with a sibling (especially a brother/sister relationship). Our small advantage is that we’re the only two kids in our family. So, we only have each other. But I believe that siblings in bigger families can also develop close relationships! Now, speaking from my personal experience and observations, I would like to offer 5 insights on how to have a healthy sibling bond.

  1. Communicate:

The key to any relationship (and nobody will be able to convince me otherwise) is communication. Talking. Using words: Some of the reasons this is so beneficial is because it establishes trust over time; it shows interest in the other person; and it allows you to get to know them on a deeper level. Also, I find that constantly talking with someone lessens the chance that there will be secrets kept. Secrets separate us from knowing someone fully. Secrets (or simply keeping certain topics “off limits”) make fore a more shallow relationship.

John and I don’t really keep secrets from each other. Nothing is off the table for discussion at any time. Of course, we have had to establish enough trust in one-another to feel safe being vulnerable and sharing our deepest struggles and thoughts. This has worked out really well for us over time, and I think it’s the #1 strategy that’s gotten us to where we are now. No topic is too big or too small to discuss.

When we were younger, we talked about who we had crushes on. I remember telling my girl friends, “Yeah, I already told John that I like ____,” and my friends would respond: “What?! I could never tell my big brother that!” So, for as long as I can remember, John and I must have been good communicators.

Now, as adults, we talk about God, heartache, life transitions, stresses, mental health, physical health, funny things, stupid things, and things that the other person doesn’t even care to know. We check in on each other often. We call each other one the phone to share the smallest or biggest news. Whether I’m driving to school in the morning or it’s 11 p.m, I always answer the phone when he calls.

The more we talk, the more we value and appreciate each other. The more we talk, the more opportunities there are to say “I love you!” The more we talk, the more we enjoy and help each another.

2. Be available 

I think that it’s really important to show your sibling that you’ll support them and be available for them at any time.

Yesterday I was struck by how this looks for me and John. Our family was walking around the Disney store at Downtown Disney. He and I separated from everyone else, and he suddenly started sharing his heart and burdens with me. It wasn’t the typical environment to have a heart-to-heart talk, but for me and John, it works. I instantly shifted my focus from Disney merchandise to him and his needs. I made sure to look him in the eyes and show him I was listening.

fullsizeoutput_caShowing your availability to your sibling might look a lot of ways. Maybe it means stopping what you’re doing and chatting with them for 5 minutes if they ask for it. Maybe it means keeping your bedroom door open. These are things that John and I have done. When he lived at home, we would stop into each other’s rooms and say “Hey, how’s it going?” Sometimes it lead into an important talk, and sometimes it was just a simple acknowledgment. Now that we live in different states, it means prioritizing each other on the phone. I always aim to respond to his texts quickly. He tries to answer his phone calls from me, even if he’s walking to a class and only has 3 minutes. And we always end our talks with: ” Talk to you later,” or “We can talk more about this when I have more time.” This shows care and implies that the conversation can keep on going.

3. Be Kind 

Part of why I actually like my brother is because he makes an effort to treat me well. Now, listen…He and I have had our share of conflicts. Sometimes we really suck at being kind and intentional. Because we’re family, we tend to get the worst of each other. We don’t always filter our emotions, attitudes, or words around one-another. However, we’ve never been ones to be hateful or purposely hurtful to each other.

In the movies, siblings are often pictured as being aloof toward each other, fighting, yelling, and name-calling. I hate this…I even see it in real life occasionally, and it breaks my heart. I can remember being at other friends’ houses and feeling insanely uncomfortable seeing my friends fight with their siblings. God gifts us with brothers and sisters, and we have the potential to make them be our best friends! So, why do we treat them like enemies? You can be the exception. Treat your sibling well, and they will hopefully do the same.

    4. Spend Quality Time

Invest in your sibling by spending intentional time with them. It won’t always feel fun. Sometimes you might sit down to do something with them, and you’ll feel like “Umm, why am I choosing to spend time with this person?” But, other times it can turn into such an unexpected blessing. By spending time alone with them, you get to know what makes them happy. You get to know their real self. And you show them you care.

Sometimes John and I go out to lunch, and we have great talks. Other times, we feel like we have nothing to talk about, so we enjoy the food and just applaud ourselves for trying to make it a good date. Sometimes we run errands together and enjoy some music or talk in the car. We also try to do what the other person enjoys. For example, last summer I watched movies that John likes (that I don’t necessarily like), and then he’d tell me why he likes them. Other times, John would take me to Starbucks and go shopping with me. These actions can be so meaningful and allow great memories to be made.

5. Love

This seems like a no-brainer. But are you actively showing your sibling that you love them? Love is an action. Your brother or sister needs to undoubtedly know and feel that you genuinely love them. Otherwise, there’s no chance your relationship can be at its full potential. They won’t come to you, talk to you, or enjoy you it they don’t feel that you love them unconditionally. You have to put effort into them to get the same effort back.

John has also told me the words “I love you” so many times throughout my life, that I will never doubt it. The knowledge of his love for me is drilled into my brain. Even when he’s being lame and doesn’t show his love, I still know he loves me.

If you feel like your relationship with your sibling is a lost cause, it’s not too late. If you don’t communicate well with them now, you can change that. Just be genuine. Don’t fake it. Tell them honestly that you’d like to improve your relationship, and go from there. Or, start the change by simply changing the way you act around them. Be loving.

John, I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m blessed to be your sister and best friend. Thank you for leading the way for me, sharing your heart with me, and helping me through life. Here’s to many more years of memories, hugs, laughter, and occasional trials. 

  • May 27, 2017

My Frenemies: The Mirror and the Scale

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on February 10, 2017. It’s one of my personal favorites!

I can’t count how many times I have looked at myself in the mirror and felt negatively about my reflection.

I can’t count how many times I have stepped onto the scale and felt my heart sink.

I can’t count how many times I stared at my thighs or the number on the scale, hoping and waiting for them to change.

So much anxiety, so many tears, and so much self-disgust have resulted from what I saw on a piece of glass and a metal, square thing.

The truth is, I have allowed the mirror and the numbers on the scale to determine the way I feel about myself for the majority of my life; But now I’m done with that!

I have recently discovered how to separate my emotions from these two objects, and they no longer hold the same power over me that they used to.

How have I done this? What has changed? Let me tell you. It’s pretty simple, actually.

fullsizerenderThe first step was covering my full length mirror! I took the challenge by someone I respect, and I successfully kept it covered it for about 10 weeks (I still used my bathroom mirror for my hair and makeup).  At first it was difficult, and I felt really weird when I’d hop out of bed every morning and not see myself on the wall. But I quickly realized that the mirror was something I sought comfort and validation from. In a strange way, the reflection I saw first thing in the morning was able to set the tone for my whole day. If I happened to feel good about my body, I’d go about my day with more ease. On the other hand, if I didn’t like what I saw, I would feel glum and distracted by  it most of the day. I would most likely wear clothes that were baggier and maybe even eat less.

Once I realized the behavioral tendencies and unhealthy emotional connection I had with my mirror, I was sad. These realizations, however, motivated me to disconnect myself from the mirror and keep it covered it up.

After a month or so, I noticed that I was much less insecure about my appearance; I cared less about my insecure areas; and I flinched less at my reflection when I looked in public mirrors. After another month, I felt almost zero body negativity. Eventually I was able to look at my full body and accept it in its daily state. I have also been able to appreciate all that my body does for me instead of fixating on how it looks.

Next came the scale.

I have always known I shouldn’t let the number bother me. I’ve always known that weighing myself obsessively was not healthy. Yet, in my eating disorder, I couldn’t stop.

Well, several weeks ago I was fed up with it. Because I’m in a much healthier state of mind than I used to be, I know that my over-all holistic “health” is not solely defined by pounds. Whether I’m gaining, losing, or stabilizing weight only tells me a small bit of information about how healthy I am. Realistically, I probably should only be having my doctor or dietician weigh me. They can use the information to help me make changes if needed.

So, in order to separate myself from my feelings attached to the scale, there was only one thing to do. After 5 years of having it in my bathroom, I put the scale away. And guess what: I don’t miss it! It was much easier to give up than I thought. I don’t miss the ritual of dread and anxiety that I used to engage in. I have decided to measure whether I’m “gaining weight” only by paying attention to how my clothes fit. I have allowed my dietician to weigh me instead.

Now that the mirror and scale hold less power over me, I feel so much better about myself! Sure, I have bad days. Sure, I don’t always love the way I look. But I’m much quicker to measure my self-worth by my internal characteristics and to thank my body for its hard work. The two things that used to make me cry – my weight and the “cushioning” on top of my bones – seem much less important now.

The reason I share this story with you is because I know that I am not the only one who allows the mirror and scale to dictate my feelings. I want to remind you of a couple things.

1. When you look at yourself in the mirror, your perception is largely influenced by “your mind’s eye. In other words, you might look at yourself and make a totally false judgement about your body, weight, or what other people must think about you, because you have your own unique standards and opinion of yourself. Even if you hyper-focus on one “flaw” or roll, or think to yourself “AHH, I’m gaining weight!” other people probably aren’t judging you as harshly. It’s all about our unique perceptions.

2. The mirror and scale are not the best measuring tools for us, and they tend to generate a lot of negativity. Why torture yourself?

3. If you truly want to track whether you are healthy, try determining that in other ways.

4. Just like any addiction or bad habit, the best way to let go of these two harmful things is to give them up. I promise that it’s not impossible.

5. You are beautiful and wonderful no matter what that number says and no matter how much “fat” you see on the mirror. You are one of God’s masterpieces. He made no mistakes with you.

6. Focus on the functionality of your body. If you appreciate what your body and mind do for you each day, you won’t be so easily disappointed next time you step on the scale or look in the mirror.

I hope this helps or encourages someone! Go out today, and use your body to change the world!

A Letter to Those With Mental Battles

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 27, 2017. 

This is for all who are fighting mental battles.

As an observant, self-proclaimed “people-reader,” it’s not hard for me to spot when someone is struggling. Lately I have been noticing how many people around me seem to be going through something difficult. My heart aches with you; and I want to help.

I can read your emotions, your Twitter posts, your subtle hints, your change of mood, etc… I know that there’s something secret going on in your life. Or something that you pretend is not a big deal by keeping it quiet. I know, because I have been there – in that lonesome place – feeling like nobody could possibly “get it.”

I know that you don’t want to open up to anyone about your troubles. You don’t want to be “a burden” on anyone. You’re also afraid of what might happen when you vulnerably admit what is going on in your mind.

You’re afraid of judgement and the stigmas attached to your problem. But listen to me:

You are not a burden. You are not a disease. You are worthy of human help. You are not alone. You are worthy of healing and attention. You can fight through this; and it’s okay if you need help. 

Maybe you have a disorder: anxiety, depression, eating disorder, bipolar, multiple personality disorder, body dysmorphia, etc. Maybe you have an addiction, suicidal thoughts, severe insecurity, or doubt in your faith in God. Maybe you’re living with the pain that comes with being a part of the less accepted LGBTQ community.

I don’t know where you are on the spectrum; but I don’t want to minimize the fact that WHATEVER you are dealing with has got to be hard…I have figured out that mental disorders, and just the mental battles that accompany our insecurities and troubles, are agonizing and isolating things.

The enemy will tell you lies and try to keep you from getting proper help. He will tempt you to just get comfortable with your issue, become friends with it, and deny healing or outside comfort.

But I need you to know that life is meant to be lived abundantly (John 10:10), and that God’s plan for you is not to suffer for the rest of your life on earth. I promise you there is something you can do to escape the torment in your mind. (In some cases, even if you can’t get rid of it altogether, you can at least do something to make life more bearable with it.) You may not be able to see it now, but beyond your life today is a much brighter time. You just have to take one step at a time. And normally, that first step is admitting to someone what you’re dealing with.

We’re privileged to have so many tools to help us: counselors, doctors, like-minded people, friends, prayer, wise spiritual leaders, books, medicine, endless information, and all kinds of other things to aid us in “recovery” (or whatever your healing process might look like). USE THEM. There is no shame in getting help! I can’t stress this enough.

Maybe you won’t be able to make fast progress. Maybe freedom will take years to achieve. Maybe you will face some of the fears that come when you’re vulnerable with someone. But it is worth is, because your life is valuable and full of potential!

Don’t keep suffering in your present state. Don’t let your problems hold you back from the quality of life that you’re worthy of. Don’t let the enemy tell you that you’re stuck. Instead, grab someone who loves you; tell them what you need; get outside of your head; and start fighting for your life.

You’ve got this!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. – John 10:10

My Difficult Journey with Exercise

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on December 3,  2016. 

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I praise the Lord each and every time I recognize an area of my life that’s he’s transformed. Recently I’ve been feeling grateful for the redemption of my relationship with exercise.

When I was in the midst of my eating disorder and insecurity, I thought my issues were only about food. I’ve never been an exercise “addict,” and I didn’t think exercise was a problem area for me. Yet, I also don’t think I’ve ever had a completely healthy relationship with it. Going to the gym from probably ages 14-18 were torture…The reason being that I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

I would drag myself to the gym and force myself to perform harder than I should, because I wanted to change my body. Working out wasn’t a celebration of the body God gave me. It was an effort to change it. So I’d keep pushing myself in order to maximize my time at the gym.

I have a sad memory from a little over a year ago: It was a busy week, and I was undoubtedly tired. I knew I should study for the S.A.T, but the enemy made me feel like burning calories was more important. When I was on the treadmill, I distinctly remember thinking, “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to exercise for the right reasons. This is torture.” After that day, it was a repeated thought pattern each time I’d work out. I would zone out and wonder if I could ever love my body enough to just exercise because it’s something I enjoy.

Then one day I got so anxious while running on the treadmill that my heart rate became really scary, and I had to stop. I went home and cried, feeling simultaneously scared, guilty, and sorrowful. I yearned for the day that I’d be able to exercise normally and healthily.

Fast forward to 10 weeks ago: School started, and I just couldn’t fit the gym into my schedule. That was scary for me, because I was super active in the summer. For the first time in a long time, I went 10 days without any form of forced activity; and it cured me. Somehow, having a break from it was exactly what I needed. I gained so much perspective, and I was able to let go of dependence on it. I think a large part of it was also that I was solely focussed on thriving in school, church, and relationships. There was a shift from where I was receiving my identity.

Now I can go weeks at a time without exercise and feel okay about it. The day that I was at the gym and realized, “wait…I’m not doing this because I hate my body. I’m doing it because it feels amazing, and I love it…” That was a great day.

Now, I know how to limit myself. I don’t go when I’m exhausted, I try new things when i’m there, and I don’t get anxious about it. I love it. But I don’t depend on it anymore. The Lord has been showing me constantly what it looks like to take care of myself, heal, rest, and appreciate the genetics he gave me. And I have discovered that I truly love to use the legs that he gave me to RUN. 🙂 (and release some endorphins)

I hope that you all find your identity from where it matters most and move your body because you want to care for it.”Healthy” looks different for all of us. And it’s never too late to treat yourself well.  img_0622

365 Days of Transformation

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 27, 2016. It was my last day of high school, and I reflected on the changes over the past year.

I’m all about dates. My mind works like a calendar. I like to know exactly what happened to me one year ago and how I’ve changed. Charting progress is really enjoyable to me. I especially love looking at old photos and remembering the accompanying memories. When I look at pictures I often also think about what I was like at the time – mentally, spiritually, physically, and relationally. Because I’m at the very end of my senior year of high school and I’ve just become an adult, right now I’m especially reflecting on change. I’m astounded at how much God has brought me through and at the utter transformation of my heart and mind.

A few days ago I was driving to my job in the morning. I was sleepy and getting ready for a full day of my least favorite position to work. But at the same time, I felt okay about it. I was determined to get through the day, and I was able to smile at my co-workers when I got there.

Why does this matter? Well, the next day I remembered something crazy: Last summer, I worked at the same place, but my anxiety was worsening. And something I haven’t told many people is that I would often have panic attacks on my way to work. Yes, while I was driving on the freeway. Sometimes several days in a row…I was anticipating the worst every morning. I lived with an unsettled feeling of danger, and I didn’t think I could handle the day’s challenges. But now, I have confidence in my self.

An even bigger milestone though, is what happened to me one year ago from tomorrow. With fear, pride, and hesitation, I walked into the office of a nutritionist who changed my life. We identified that day that I was on the brink of an eating disorder and that I needed to gain weight.

I remember leaving her office with a huge poster of different food groups and the number of each that I was required to eat every day. It felt like an impossible task to me…But at the same time, I knew I had a deeper issue in my heart that needed to be fixed, and that being healthy was what I wanted deep down. I looked at myself  in the mirror for a long long time. I looked at my thigh gap and said goodbye.

One year later, and I have finally reached the physical health requirements we set that day.  (: I’ve found my worth elsewhere, and I am okay with the changes I see in the mirror because they reflect the change in my heart. (And  I laugh at the unrealistic thigh gap expectation.)

One of my life verses is, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

It’s been a journey, and throughout my senior year and the last 365 days, I have experienced a slow transformation in my mind. I truly feel like the truth of God’s word has  changed me and healed me in some monumental ways. (And I have so much evidence to prove it!) God’s will for my life has proven to be so life-giving, while the things I was experiencing were, by nature, self-destructive.

God is able to transform us all. It doesn’t have to take a whole year either! This gives me so so much hope for everyone around me.

So today while I celebrate my last day of high school, I’ll also be celebrating everything else God has done in my life in the past year.