Our Bodies: Up for Discussion?

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 7, 2016. 

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature. . . For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” – 1 Samuel 16:7

fullsizeoutput_731During the time that I was in the midst of my eating disorder–and when my poor self image was at its peak–I got more comments on my body than ever before. You’d think that because I was purposely trying to be skinny, it would make me happy to get validation that I was small. But really, it made me feel disgusting. Many of the comments were made in a negative, concerned, awkward, or nosy way.

The comments ranged from a simple, “wow, you’re really small,” to a flat-out, “you’ve gotten so skinny! Do you have an eating disorder?!?” (A totally inappropriate thing to say while hugging someone at a party, in a room full of people).

During those months I would run into people in public, and sometimes the first thing they would mention was my body. The excitement I felt to see someone I had’t seen in a while was quickly replaced by shame,  frustration, and mostly hurt.

I understand–and I understood even then–that some people may have been genuinely concerned for me. But I did not FEEL cared about when they approached it by informing me that I “disappeared” when I turned sideways. Or when they told me–in front of other people–that I was “withering away!!!!”

They didn’t know that I was fighting the most miserably intense battle of my life. My mind was a war zone. My self-esteem was more fragile than my body.

All along, I knew the truth of what I was doing…I had the Holy Spirit convicting me, and I was sometimes really fighting to overcome my disorder. But those who made the comments could’t know that. Other days I was not fighting my disorder so hard. I was fighting to make my body skinner and look pleasing for the world. So, with all of the negative remarks, I felt like I could never win!

During that period of time I questioned why people didn’t comment on my appearance before I lost so much weight. Or why people felt it was their job to do so. If they really cared for my health, I wished they would come to me privately.

So after all of that, I’ve been curious about what is truly appropriate for us to say to one-another. Is it okay for us to comment on someone else’s body at all? We never know what someone thinks about themself. We don’t know what battle they’re fighting. We don’t know how strong or fragile their confidence is. We don’t know their past with food and weight.

Our words have a huge effect on people. The comments people made still echo through my mind sometimes. I can remember exactly who said what and how I felt.

One point I want to make is that the same ideas still apply to those struggling with being overweight. Or for making positive comments on someone’s body. For example, if someone is trying to lose weight because it’s healthy for them, a nice comment might be really encouraging! But it’s still risky. What if your words mean so much to them that they take it too far? By telling them, “you look really great,” you’re implying that their external appearance matters. That there is a measure of “good and bad” bodies. They might start to crave validation from people more and more.

By all means, still tell someone they’re beautiful! It’s just a fine line we’re walking on, people. So please. Be careful with what you say about someone’s physical body. There are insecure and hurting people all around us. (I’m preaching mainly to the teenagers and young adult women). We’re all children created in God’s image. If you’re not sure what to say to someone, compliment their necklace, their shoes, or their hairstyle first! Always be kind and considerate. And most importantly, how about building up their character? It’s cliche, but, “what’s on the inside is more important than the outside.” What truly matters is our hearts, our attitudes, and our relationship with Christ. Tell others when you see them DO something impressive or impactful. Tell them why you appreciate them. Build them up for being kind, loving, funny, brave, etc…

I don’t have the exact solution. But I just don’t want anyone to feel the things I felt. To be scarred, embarrassed, or made to feel like their body is up for discussion and judgment. Let’s be careful. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Passionfruit Doughnut

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on February 27, 2016. I had just decided that I actually wanted to go to college. After this post was originally published, I dreamed about Biola for 2 years while doing my time at community college. By the time you’re reading this, I’m either weeks away from getting there, or I’m finally there!

If you want to understand the obscure title I chose for this post, you’ll have to bear with me till the end!

SO. I’m going to give you something a little more lighthearted this time.

A few months ago my mom asked me if I’d be interested in going on a visit to Biola University, my brother’s school. I didn’t really care much for the idea at first because:

  1. I’ve never seen myself as someone to move out of state or even go to college. (Mostly because I haven’t had a clear vision of what I want to do in the future, career-wise.) And
  2.  The idea of considering colleges has been daunting and anxiety inducing in the past. So, I didn’t particularly want to go to Biola, but I thought, “Hey, I can hang out in the sunshine with my brother and go to Disneyland for a day.” So I let my mom sign me up.

Tiny back story: For a long time I have been resolved to the idea of going to community college and figuring the rest out somewhere along the way. It seems like the easiest plan. I wish I had a more passionate spirit like some people. My brother, for instance, is one of my biggest role models because of how passionate he is, how he works hard, and chases his dreams. But I haven’t felt very passionate about what I can accomplish in life.

So, as I prepared for Biola Bound, I was feeling unsettled about a lot. I prayed over the trip for weeks in advance. Specifically that I would not have panic attacks, that God would provide me with energy, that I would be joyful and confident in meeting new people, and that God would just reveal something to me while I was there.

The trip started off tricky because I had severe panic on the airplane. But I prayed myself through it. The rest of the night was a blast! The next day I met high school seniors and Biola students from all over the U.S. Though everyone’s cultural backgrounds were diverse, it seemed like the one thing everyone had in common was a love for God. (Biola is one of the biggest Bible Institutes in the country). I don’t even really know how to explain it, but I could FEEL the presence of the Holy Spirit over that campus. And the joy of the Lord was inside so many people I met. My joy increased quickly. I loved being immersed in that positive environment, and I felt comfortable. My normal insecurities seemed to vanish!

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As hours and days ticked away, I noticed all my prayers about panic and having energy and joy being answered. I was having such a good time (and Disneyland was only a sliver of the fun). My mind was clear, and my focus began to shift: I found my apathy towards college disappearing, and I realized I really loved everything about this school. – The weather, the campus, the people, the feeling of Christ-centered community, and mostly how God is elevated above everything that happens there. On day three I was feeling stronger about it.

I had a nice long hour to talk with a communications professor over lunch on Monday. During my chat with her was when It finally sunk in that it could actually be a possibility for me to attend the school some day. And that I now had a dream school. After going to a business class, Bible class, and a communications class; I was sold.

I could hardly contain myself when I ran across campus to John’s dorm that evening. I sat there with my hands on my head because I couldn’t even believe I was telling him, “I want to go here some day…” Could this be the answer to my last prayer? Was this what God was wanting to reveal to me?

I’m confident that If he wants me at Biola, I will get there. Regardless of what happens, I’m thankful for the experience and that he changed my heart toward college. I have honestly never felt so strongly about something in this way…I did not want to go home.

The experience as a whole reflects this AMAZING doughnut I sampled during my trip. When I bit into it, I didn’t know what flavor it was. It tasted like…lemon? But then I kept chewing, and my taste buds danced! There was a curd filling on the inside accompanied by something crunchy AND a whipped cream on top. It was perfect. John read a sign and said, “No, it’s not lemon. It’s passionfruit flavored!” For some reason this excited us both immensely. It wasn’t what we were expecting. That intricate doughnut was just like my trip: I went into it with narrow thinking. “This will be a typical doughnut. Whatever.” Or, “It’s a scary college. I don’t want to go to college.” But the more I experienced and learned about the different aspects, my eyes were opened, I got excited, and I left wanting more! And how appropriate that the flavor was PASSIONfruit, and I gained a new passion and vision for my future. 😉

Thanks for reading!

Waking Up to the Truth

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 31, 2016. This was the very first blog post I ever wrote, launching my blogging career. Posting it gave me a feeling of freedom and excitement, as I shared my struggles publicly and received a lot of verbal support from others who read it.

Hello there! Welcome to my blog, and thank you for being interested in what I have to say. I’m really excited to use this as outlet for sharing my thoughts and stories. I think A LOT; And most of the time I either bottle those thoughts up or let them spill out into my family’s ears…But, I believe I’m ready to start sharing my perspective with the world too. Please understand that my intention is not to gain attention, sympathy, affirmation, or anything like that. My heart’s desire is to bring glory to God through what I say. He’s gifted me with the ability to think hard, be aware, feel emotions, and encourage others. He’s also radically changed my life in the past several months; and I hope that by telling my story I’ll glorify him and be able to encouragement others who may be struggling.

Now, this first post will probably be a little longer and different than future ones. I want to set up for you how I’ve been shaped to be who I am today. Though I used to be embarrassed about my struggles, I have realized that what I’ve gone through is not so uncommon. I’m an imperfect human and I mess up like everyone else. I think hearing personal testimonies from others can be impacting. So, sparing some (actually, a lot) of the rough details, here’s my story:

If you know me, you know that I’ve been blessed with a great family who’s always encouraged my faith in Jesus Christ. I have loved my God for as long as I can remember, and I’d say faith is my strongest spiritual gift. I just haven’t truly doubted his existence or that he is who he says he is. – I’ve also had a life with minimal “big trials,” so why worry? Life was good! I was happy! Anything hard that came my way in middle and high school was an opportunity to depend on God and let him comfort me.

Somewhere along the way, though, I started caring too much about people’s perception of me and about the world’s standards. I become very insecure. In the midst of that, I developed health problems that made me feel physically defeated. In my own mind, my body wasn’t good enough. My self-consciousness made me want to hide. My body image got so bad over my junior year that I started restricting my food intake and exercising harder. These secret compulsive behaviors took over me. I wanted the satisfaction of feeling in control. I thought “If I can lose X amount of weight, then i’ll be happy and secure.” This lifestyle and these lies stole my joy. I became increasingly tired, anxious, and depressed. I gave up on social activities and even stayed home from church at times because I had no energy. Normal, every day tasks looked harder to me, and I was afraid of being vulnerable. My heart was hardening toward God and others, but I didn’t realize I was the only one hurting myself.

The world’s comforts looked so appealing to me that I lost sight of God’s will for my life. I eventually lost that X amount of weight…And even more pounds after that…But friends, that didn’t make me truly happy! Happiness from that was only ever momentary. Even after I achieved the thing I had longed for, I was miserable and clinically unhealthy. Migraines, naps, anxiety attacks, and feeling faint all occured more and more. After seeing a doctor, and after lots of tests, It was determined that there was nothing wrong with me except for my weight loss and depression. This was upsetting to me; But a few months later something snapped. I finally got sick of this lifestyle, and I missed my God whose truth I had been neglecting. One hard night I broke down and asked Him to help me escape this nightmare.

I strongly believe that when we surrender to God in prayer, he won’t neglect that cry for help. It IS the first step in any recovery process or escaping/letting go of sin. It says in the book of James,“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” This was my seed of hope.

When I started listening to God’s truth again, a verse particularly struck me: Jesus said in Luke 12-

“Therefore I tell you, DO NOT WORRY about your life, what you will EAT; or about your BODY, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

This passage was telling me that all the things I’ve obsessed over are not healthy for me! It also goes on to talk about how valuable we are to God, just the way we are. It convicted and encouraged me to get back on track. I didn’t know how to start; But since the things of the world (and my own self) weren’t working toward my joy, I gave God some control.  Isaiah 40:31 says “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. . .they shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” I had to wait on God, and trust in his promises.

I hesitantly started talking to a counselor who helped me with my depression. This was a good step. At the end of my junior year, I was told by professional nutritionist that i had “disordered eating” behavior and thoughts. I also hesitantly began following her eating plan. This was unexplainably hard for me, because I was giving up control. I slipped up a lot. I still felt sick, and my anxiety and body image got worse. But my relationship with God got stronger because I was depending on him more and thanking him when I would have good days or make progress. I recognized that a chance to redeem my past was possible.

This fall (beginning of senior year), overwhelming and sometimes uncontrollable anxiety struck again: Constantly feeling uneasy about possible negative outcomes and feeling so afraid that I slip into panic attacks. I was diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder” this recent December. I have been taking medication and seeing my old counselor since then. These are not things I ever wanted to have to do. But instead of feeling beat up and constantly insecure about it, I’ve pressed into scripture and prayer for comfort.

It’s not by controlling my circumstances, being affirmed by the world, or hiding that I’ve found peace. None of that satisfies and calms my heart for long enough. God tells me to take care of my body because it’s to be used for bringing him glory. So now, I fight my disordered thinking every day. I’ve learned how it looks to surrender in my times of panic and just let God’s truth calm me. I pray and remember these verses:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10

“joy fills hearts that are planning peace.” Proverbs 12:20

Fighting against the battle in my mind is still something I deal with daily. At times I feel so weak. But, I go to sleep every night remembering that I don’t have to fight alone, and that continual growth is happening and shaping me. The physical health I have gained back is also something I think about every day as a reminder that my prayers have been answered. I’ve been humbled and broken down so many times. I go through highs and lows, but it’s only when I give up and surrender that I can see clearly enough to grasp God’s loving truth.

I do my best to listen for God’s directions now, and I believe He communicates with me through the Holy Spirit often. I’ve experienced what separation from Him feels like. It can feel deceivingly good for a while, but I know that there’s nothing as filling as being close to Him. He fulfilled his promises and SAVED me from so much. His plans for me don’t include fear, insecurity, or bondage. My life is in His hands, and I can have peace because of that. I’ll follow Him for the rest of my life because He cares enough about me to save it.

(If anyone is struggling with an eating disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, or feeling stuck; Feel free to talk to me any time! I love to help. 🙂

Why Eating Disorder Recovery is Worth it

Between Instagram and real life, I have befriended and followed hundreds of girls who
have eating disorders (EDs). If you don’t have an ED, you might be surprised to hear about this; but there are thousands of “recovery accounts” on Instagram, where people fullsizeoutput_11b4document their journeys and support one-another.  It’s a beautiful “recovery community” that has supported me in significant ways!

Thankfully, at this point in my recovery, I’m more often the giver of support than the receiver. My heart has been breaking for some of my friends out there who are struggling to recover lately.

In the past month, I’ve watched as a lot of sweet girls have been admitting that they want to give up. Their hope is lost. Eating seems impossible. Food creates instant anxiety. Social fears and body image are crippling. Laxatives are being abused. Purging and exercising addictions are keeping them trapped. Insomnia or extreme fatigue are taking over. Joy is lost…

My dear sisters are sacrificing almost anything in order to maintain this perceived control. When it comes down to it, nothing seems more appealing and desirable than being thin and in control. I’m not passing judgement, because I used to be entrenched in that lifestyle, too. I understand how we get to that point.

Now that I’m in a stable recovery, seeing my friends struggle in their EDs makes my heart ache. I know the pain. But, I have discovered that it can get better, and recovery is possible. 

I’m going to share with you why I believe recovery is worth more than an ideal body and having a feeling of constant control. I hope that sharing about the freedom I feel encourages my recovery sisters to keep walking towards the light at the end of the dark tunnel. If you don’t have an eating disorder, I hope this brings awareness to the experience of this mental disorder.

  1. Meals & Hard Choices 

I used to wake up, lay in bed for a long time, and contemplate whether or not I was going to have breakfast that day. Questions would go through my mind, like: Was I “too bloated” that morning? “What did I eat yesterday, and am I allowed to eat breakfast now?” “If I do eat breakfast, what’s my calorie limit?”

These thoughts didn’t stop after breakfast, though. Similar thoughts would cycle through my brain all day and before other meals and snacks. It was truly exhausting and no fun! I thought that my strict rules and self-regulations would achieve ultimate satisfaction, because they would somehow get me to the body that I wanted. In reality, these thoughts and choices left little room for me to think about more important matters in my life. They also made food a scary thing that I felt the need to control and watch out for.

Now, meals are non-negotiable for me. I rarely ruminate on food thoughts, and I have way more brain space for my other priorities! It feels so good to just eat, move on, and focus on relationships, school, work, fun, hobbies, and my faith in God!

2.  Anxiety Level

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve found out that my anxiety disorder was largely linked to my eating disorder. I can speak for everyone by saying that eating disorders create anxiety. One reason for this is that our nervous system becomes negativly affected and less effective when we’re constantly worrying about food, planning workouts, and obsessing over calories and changes in our bodies. Also, when our bodies are depleted of nourishment, they send us signals to tell us something is wrong. Those signals feel a lot like anxiety!

Once we feed our body and brain, though, they begin to trust us, heal, improve the nervous system, and even lighten our moods! My panic attacks have almost entirely disappeared since being healthy and in a stable phase of recovery. Little moments of food and body related anxiety have also stopped hindering me in large ways. It feels so much nicer to be able to finally relax and rest! I save my worries for school stress. 😉

3. Guilt & Shame

I’m gonna enter some uncomfortable territory for a second. I think that deep down inside of everyone, whether we have a set of religious morals or not, there is a feeling of guilt created by our disordered behaviors and thoughts. Even when we have convinced ourselves that maybe we need these behaviors, we’re trapped by them, they’re safe, nobody will find out, there’s nothing wrong, or that they’re just part of  our life now…No matter what we tell ourselves, I believe that deep down we all know and feel there’s something wrong about our mindset and rebellious behaviors. We tiptoe around our families and make up all kinds of excuses to our friends. We feel unsettled. We feel the barriers that our Eating Disorder sets up between us and other things.

I always felt so conflicted about my Eating Disorder. I wanted to engage in it; yet it went against so much of what I believed. It put barriers between me and other people, my health, life experiences, my spiritual life, my academic success, my energy, and so much more. Since letting go of so many of the behaviors and doing the hard work of therapy, I can tell you that it feels awesome to no longer carry the weight of guilt on my shoulders!

4. Digestive Problems 

I remember when I was in the beginning steps of recovery and the re-feeding process. It’s brutal…Introducing so much food to the body again wreaks havoc on the G.I. system. So much stomach pain…Bloat for days…Constipation…It’s very unpleasant; and to make matters worse, it creates anxiety. But our bodies need time to adjust to the changes. My friend once told me, “it’s one of the necessary evils of recovery,” and she was right.

If you fight through that stage, though, it can get so much better! I know it’s difficult and requires patience, but you just have to trust the process. Our bodies were born with this complex digestive system, and they know what to do with food. Eventually, you might not suffer with all of those symptoms I listed above. Which, in turn, creates less anxiety and bloat! Yay!

    5. Passion, Interests, Hobbies, & Potential 

With an Eating Disorder, I think we lose sight of what matters most in life. I think we become so focused on achieving this one goal within ourself that we actually forget about everything else we enjoy about life. Even our dreams from childhood – of who we wanted to become and what we wanted to accomplish– disappear.

I had once convinced myself that I “liked to run,” and  I was “interested in nutrition.”  In reality, those things aren’t my calling in life or what I enjoy most. I spent time pursuing my disorder, partially because it felt like the only thing I was good at.

I also convinced myself that “I didn’t want to go to college,” “I was not talented or passionate about anything,” “People were annoying to spend time with,” and so many other things like this. The general theme here is that my eating disorder distracted me from so much goodness; and it convinced me that I was worth nothing if I didn’t have the ideal body.

Through recovery, I’ve discovered so many things that I like more than my disorder! I have healthy, real goals and hope for the future. I try new things,  enjoy having fun with people, and care more about things that matter to me.

   6. Exercise & Movement 

I think that when we’re in an eating disorder, its’s basically impossible to exercise with a 100% healthy mindset. I tried it for a long time, but I always felt wrong about it. I felt the rebellious side of me mistreating my body and ignoring my intuition and energy level. So, one of my favorite things about recovering is being able to finally move my body in a respectful and fun way!

When I do go to the gym, I try really hard to tune out other people and focus on me. I stay mindful of the clock and don’t make myself stay longer than I should. I fuel up before and after, so that I know I’m taking care of myself. I do the kind of workouts that I like, instead of what I think I “should” do. I also listen to podcasts and music that make me happy; and I’ll even watch Netflix on my phone while doing cardio. It has become a time for me to stop thinking about school and focus my mind on other things. It’s way more fun to move my body now that my conscious is clear and I respect myself!

7. Social Life

Before recovery, my social life was different. It’s hard to explain, but I always felt like I had to hide certain things about myself. I felt like sharing my hard personal issues with people was not okay, and that sharing good things would make me seem like a faker. As a result, I had a hard time being authentic with people. I was insecure about the words that would come out of my mouth and about the body and life I was portraying to people. I had little confidence or dignity.

Now, I’m still working on embracing my identity and the good parts of my personality. I’m working on recognizing the potential that I have to positively impact others when I walk into a room. So far, it feels so much better to be around people! I feel like I’ve let some walls down that never needed to be up in the first place. Relating to people is such a wonderful thing, and it enables me to have more genuine fun and laughter! My friendships and family relationships also feel healthier.

 8. Story 

Recovering has given me a story to tell. It’s a powerful story of enduring through hard times and transforming in ways that I never believed were possible. It’s a story that I’ll proudly be able to share with others for the rest of my life. Just like all good stories, it has a conflict that took a lot of time and overcoming obstacles to resolve. But I know it has a happy ending. And it makes me who I am.

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I won’t lie and say that I don’t miss my old body sometimes. But I never really miss the lifestyle. There are several more reasons why recovery is worth it, but these are the ones that came to mind today. My prayer for you is that no matter what hard thing you’re dealing with today, you’ll find the strength to get through it. Be persistent, and believe that freedom is possible for you. Life after an eating disorder looks and feels beautiful.fullsizeoutput_11a8