Posts Tagged With: self-worth

A Letter to Biggest Loser Winner Rachel Frederickson

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Dear Rachel,

I didn’t even know who you are until yesterday, when your name blew up social media in response to the Biggest Loser finale. I don’t watch the show. I think the show stands for a lot of good, for the war on obesity in this country. But I also think the extreme approach, borderline torturous style of exercise, and inevitable shaming when a contestant is not working hard enough or losing quickly enough, isn’t the healthiest way to do it. I think it’s dangerous. I know the show has medical staff constantly present along the way, but I’m speaking of dangers mentally as well. And I’m sad that this show has been such a big source of entertainment for 15 years, because while on the surface it provides inspiration against the obesity problem and gives people at home the hope that they too can get their lives back, it points to a much larger problem- the American relationship to food, one of extremes. We have fast food establishments on every corner and eat ourselves to death. We have 24 million people in this country with eating disorders (the biggest killer of all mental illness), and 4 out of 5 women unhappy with their bodies. We have a booming diet industry with a revenue of $20 billion per year. We are killing ourselves with food, whether in one extreme or the other, while we sit on our butts on the couch and watch a TV show of other people going from one extreme to the other in a competition for $250,000.

I have been fully recovered from anorexia and bulimia for over 4 years. If I’ve learned anything from my decade long struggle and several years in and out of hospitals and rehab and therapy, it’s that our problem with food is just the visible symptom of a much larger issue, one of the heart. Eating well and exercising will make our bodies healthy, but not our minds. And I think there needs to be more TV shows addressing the underlying problem and changing the way we Americans think about food and our bodies.

That being said, obviously social media has exploded with the talk of you being anorexic, and with discussion picking apart every aspect of your journey and appearance. There are even pro-eating disorder sites with young teenagers praising you for your “sagging knees” and looking to you as their starvation thinspiration, saying they want to be just like you.

I don’t ever want to look at someone and assume they have an eating disorder. There is more to it than appearance. The vast majority of the time I spent sick I was at a normal weight. You can’t always look at someone and tell, and I so desperately want to give you the benefit of the doubt to slow the cracking of the break in my heart upon seeing your pictures and video of the finale. I think, maybe you really are just being healthy and trying to eat right and find a balance as you claim. And maybe you’ll gain some weight back now that the finale is over, now that you’ve secured the win for $250,000. Maybe you’ve been able to heal the mind that led you to become overweight to begin with over these past months.

I hope so.

But just in case….

I may not want to make assumptions on your mental state, but what I can say are the things concrete. I know the audience cheered, but then gasped, during your reveal. I know the looks on trainers Jillian Michaels’ and Bob Harper’s faces spoke more of horror and concern than celebration. I know your BMI is below what is considered healthy for your body. I know nutrition experts have noted physical signs of dehydration. I know people watching the finale had to look away, or shed a tear, while you were on stage. Many people say you just look sick, and that NBC should never have allowed this to happen.

If this is all due to your body desperately trying to adjust itself after such an extreme loss of weight in such a short time, then what I want to tell you will just serve as a positive reminder while you go through these changes.

But if there is more, if you have found yourself on a slippery slope, one where dieting leads to eating disorder as it does in so many cases. If you aren’t as free and happy and confident as you claim. If you feel like all your joy in life is now wrapped up in being thin, and that everything will be better if you’re skinny. If you find yourself obsessing over the weight and the reflection in the mirror. And if you think for a second, ever, that you need to lose more than you have already….. I want you to know:

“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Do not be afraid of it or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you will ever own.”  -Baz Luhrmann

You are not a number. You are somebody, not some body. The number on the scale can never define you or the worth that is inherently yours. You are a soul and a heart and your body is only what gets you from point A to point B. Take care of it, it’s the only one you will ever get. It is a gift from God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the devil uses our bodies against us, makes us hate them. If we are constantly looking at ourselves, we aren’t much use out there in the world. If we shrink all our energy in, we can’t shine outward and make a difference for others. You now have a platform and with it an opportunity to be a positive influence to women and men of all ages and sizes, and with that comes great responsibility.

I’m sorry that we use your weight loss journey as our entertainment. I’m sorry that we’ve sold you the lie that if you just lose weight everything will be great, with the promise of a quarter of a million dollars and the fame that comes with being a winner of a reality show. I’m sorry that we fellow humans failed you, that something wasn’t done sooner. I’m sorry for the culture that we live in that tells you if you’re fat you should lose the weight at all costs, the same culture that celebrates thin as if it is a goddess that will teach us how not to need.

You said at the finale that you know now you can take control, and do anything you want. But control is where eating disorders thrive. It’s not about controlling your body, it’s about partnering with it. It’s about a loving relationship with your self and your own body, one where it can be honest and tell you when it’s hungry and what it needs and you can tenderly respond, helping it to grow healthy and strong. There is no master and slave, but instead a close friendship. When this relationship is working, you will have a glow on your cheeks and a light that shines from behind your eyes.

You are worth it. You are enough. You matter. Not because of your weight or what you look like, but because you, Rachel, are beautiful. You are made in the image of God, a Father who knew your name at the dawn of time, knows every hair on your head, and has all your days written in his book before a single one happens. You are loved, beyond what you can begin to fathom.

If you have slid down that dieting slope into eating disorder, there is no shame. There is no blame. There is only a need for each other, for fellow human beings that can lift you up again. You said, “You learned you can ask for help.” That’s still true. It was true at the beginning of the Biggest Loser and it’s still true now. Secrets keep you sick, but letting other people in is the first step to pulling yourself back up.

Rachel, if you are struggling, there is more help available. There is hope that you can truly find the balance you say you’re looking for, that you can truly find joy. I hope you find both. I hope you can embrace your worth because of who you are, not because of what you see in the mirror, and I hope you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror and tell yourself, “I love you.”

I think it’s obvious that a lot of people want to see you be happy, want to see you rise above the prison of food and weight, no matter the size of the bars. You can do it. I’m rooting for you. We all are.

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Categories: Mental Health and Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acceptance Starts With Self

lovethyself_1 At times as a child, I could be a liar.

In 2nd grade a fellow classmate got braces. Everyone thought they were cool, probably just because they were different and no one else our age had braces yet, so they seemed to make her more ‘grown-up.’ So I told everyone I was getting braces too. They started asking me every day where my braces were, eventually figuring out I was lying. But no, no, I insisted I was going to be cool just like the other girl.

In 3rd grade I copied an excerpt from my book obsession, “Lassie.” I wrote it out by hand and brought it to my teacher and told her I found it in my grandmother’s journal from under her old bed. I said my parents wouldn’t let me bring the old journal in because it was delicate and falling apart so I had to copy it to that piece of paper. My teacher read to the class all about my grandma’s desires for a real sheep farm someday.

In 4th grade my parents took me to The American Girl Place in downtown Chicago. One of the perks offered for little American Girl doll lovers was being able to get your picture on the cover of an American Girl magazine. It wasn’t a real issue that people would find in their mailboxes, but it was a real magazine that you could hold in your hand and take home with you as a keepsake. I brought it to school and kept it in my desk and showed half my classmates. I was a model.

In 5th grade I started a journal of funny stories about my cat, Whiskers, and her adventures. I showed my teacher. When my cat wasn’t doing anything very interesting, I made stuff up. It was important to me that I contribute this little dose of humor to my teacher’s life. I thought it would make her like me more.

In 6th grade I decided I wanted a sister, so I told one of my friends that my parents were adopting one for me.

In 7th grade I wore an ear wrap around the cartilage of my left ear, and insisted it was a piercing. I didn’t even have my ears pierced at all. And I felt like I was lacking somehow because I didn’t have any holes in my body.

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I guess the point is, I never thought I was good enough. No matter how much I had, no matter how much my parents gave me or did for me… No matter who I was, or what my cat did… I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t interesting enough, fun enough, pretty enough. I fully believed I couldn’t just be accepted for who I was, so I had to take control of how others’ perceived me by painting whatever picture I thought they wanted to see.

Fortunately, the process of growing up, and the help of a little  a lot of therapy, I discovered that the flaws were not in me, but in my thinking. I discovered I was wrong. I didn’t need to change the truth because the truth was enough. I was enough.

Somewhere along the line, the world feeds us the lie that we aren’t good enough and we eat it up like a delicious afternoon snack. The percentage of people we meet each day who don’t feel like they are “enough” in one way or another is alarming. We’re not pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, strong enough, successful enough, talented enough, etc.

In this constant drive, we never appreciate the moment we are in now. We never embrace who we really are. The competition isn’t between us and someone else, it’s between who we are today and who we were yesterday. We are called to take what we have and do the best we can with it, to strive to better ourselves each day, and through that, inevitably leave a positive impact on those around us. That’s all we can ever do. Do the best with what we are given. And that is enough.

I’ve come across some people that still do what I did in grammar school, even as grown adults. For one, it saddens me. For two, it shows me that this isn’t always just some phase one will eventually grow out of. Sometimes it’s more about insecurity and a lack of self-acceptance. People don’t magically know that they were made exactly the way they are for a reason, because that’s not what the world tells us. The world tries to tell us what we are supposed to be, what we should be. But this is what God says:

Psalm 139:13–16

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

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So the whole point of this, is to tell you, in case no one ever has, that you were made for a reason and with a purpose. Your life may not look like someone else’s but you have a purpose all your own, even if you haven’t found it yet. You are beautiful, and you are loved beyond measure. The Creator of the universe, the One who placed the stars in the sky and can count every grain of sand on the beaches, knows every hair on your head and He calls YOU by name.

Categories: Self-Improvement | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Message to Women Everywhere

Image     On this relaxing Sunday, enjoying what is usually my only day off each week, I’ve found myself contemplating the sad messages women and young girls are inundated with daily in our culture. This realization is not new for me, it’s something I’ve previously thought about many times, and something that was once included in therapy years ago when I was in treatment for an eating disorder.

I consider myself lucky, for being able to gain a perspective on these messages that many other women don’t see. I’ve learned to see beneath the false veil that distorts reality, leading young girls and women to compare themselves to ideals that don’t actually exist, or to get wrapped up in obsession over a health craze or diet, because in their minds, this is the one way they have found where they can strive to measure up, to be good enough, to be thin enough.

Women are raised in today’s America to see food as bad, whether we realize it or not, whether it’s blatant or more subtle.

We learn this from our mothers, who tell us fat is bad, and critique their appearance in the mirror, lamenting over their love handles and scowling at the scale. We don’t get it. As young girls, we look at our mothers and see beauty, see perfection, see life. Our mothers teach us what it means to be women, and so we come to understand that to be a woman is to find an enemy in your body, to not be able to trust yourself, your hunger, your cravings. To be a woman is to learn to suppress those things. And unfortunately now we have little girls as young as 5 years old refusing ice cream at birthday parties because they don’t want to be “fat.” This makes my heart break.

We learn this from society, from the inundation of diet ads and commercials and billboards. We see ice cream commercials with a sexy woman dressed in lingerie is sneaking around a quiet, dark kitchen, leaning against the fridge while seductively sucking ice cream off a spoon, licking her lips in sinful satisfaction. Somewhere along the line it became a marketing scheme to equate food with sex, but as young women, deep down we begin to become ashamed of them both. As a server, I can’t tell you how many guests I have throughout the week that respond to my description of the dessert options with a comment like, “Ooh that sounds sinful.” And if it’s a woman, this remark is usually followed with, “No, thank you, I’ll pass, though it sounds wonderful.” I smile, because it’s all I can do, it’s my job, but it makes me sad. Sad, because “sinful” is hardly a reasonable response for food. Yes, the abuse of food can be turned into sin, can be used for gluttony, but one dessert after dinner on a night out hardly makes the cut.

My take is everything in moderation. I think anything taken out of moderation becomes unhealthy. Even eating healthy, eating wholesome food, becomes unhealthy when our minds obsess over it and we can’t allow ourselves a single “unhealthy” bite EVER, even if it means a whole lot of inconvenience to avoid it, or not eating at all, or if we can only allow ourselves a few bites of “junk food” if we justify it by making it sugar-free, fat-free, all-natural, then we deem it “safe.”

I get eating healthy, it’s something I’m currently striving to do more of in my own life. But when you go from making food choices to feel good about yourself and honor the instrument of your body that God gave you and owning that, to those food choices ruling you, your mind is no longer free.

I came across an article the other day that I really enjoyed. I got a chuckle out of it but also felt it was very insightful:

http://impruvism.com/clean-eating/

The blog is titled “Why ‘Clean Eating’ is a Myth.” The writer argues that yes, while foods can impact your health and performance, your body doesn’t see certain foods as “good” and others as “bad.” It’s all about calories in versus calories out, and the nutrients your body breaks your food down into. Yes certain things, like sugar, can lead to problems like diabetes, but back to my comment on moderation, this is when overconsumption comes into play. Even sugar, in moderation, is okay. You just have to eat a little here and there, not overdo it.

One thing I really liked is how it showed that different people have different ideas of what “bad” food is. Vegetarians think animal meat is bad. Vegans feel that way about all animal products. Bodybuilders stay away from milk, fruit, and white bread. The USDA cringes from saturated fat, cholesteral, red meat, etc. There were a few others listed, but you get my point, to read the full article, click on the link above. Labeling certain foods as “good” and others as “bad” rather than seeing them for their composition and taking things in moderation, is unscientific and unhealthy. I guarantee you, if you go eat a doughnut right now, you will NOT blow up into 1000 lbs., ruin your entire future, or drop dead. None of those things will happen. Now, if you went and ate 17 doughnuts, then yeah you probably just gained a pound, because you will have reached the caloric content of one pound. Again, I’m talking about moderation here. Moderate exercise can be looked at through the same lens, but that’s for another discussion.

Our media continuously throws false pictures at us, whether it’s a thoroughly photoshopped magazine cover so that the celebrity staring at us is nothing of what that individual looks like in real life, or a perfect face of a model gazing at us through the pages who doesn’t even exist. Yes, it’s been done, a selection of a set of eyebrows, a nose, a pair of eyes, all put together to grace a cover with perfection, so that women everywhere can hope they look as good as this magazine model who was just created by a man sitting at a computer.

Here’s another I just read this morning that shows one way diet products keep their industry booming, giving us skewed promises and false promises:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-dixon/weight-loss-secrets_b_3643898.html

I am not saying that people don’t have incredible transformations by working out and eating healthy, because yes, those stories are out there. But this DOES show, that with professional lighting, a different stance, some professional tan, a smile….those before and after pictures that get us hooked on a workout plan, diet pill, or other weight-loss product, can be concocted in as little as 5 minutes if you know what you’re doing. And the people that do have transformations, often other things can be involved, such as starvation diets, or cutting out entire food groups, or intense exercise other than what is pushed for whatever the product may be. Believe me, I’ve taken diet pills. I’m not proud of it. All they did was make me sick. They didn’t work because I didn’t change all these other things about what I was doing. They are a waste of money, yet I chased that ever elusive end goal. There is no miracle pill, because weight loss and gain is simply calories in and calories out. Yes, there can be foods that can help our metabolism work more efficiently, but it is never going to be some miracle, too-good-to-be-true ploy.

It saddens me that weight and how we view ourselves, our self-image is such a struggle for women, and increasingly men too. As a woman though, and a Christian woman, I’m not the least bit surprised. There is a reason the most common issue women have with themselves is their weight and their appearance. Satan knows this is our biggest weakness and he takes full advantage. It’s kind of ironic, yet not purely circumstantial, that the one thing he used to tempt Eve with in Eden was food. An apple. Food. She fell, humanity fell, because of a woman being tempted with food.

Satan hates beauty and life and his mission is to destroy it. Satan was beautiful, gorgeous, when he was the angel Lucifer. He was the most beautiful angel. And it was his downfall, he fell from grace because he became arrogant and self-centered, and he lost his beauty. So he hates women, especially, because we were created as the “beauty” of the two genders, and the life-givers. If he can keep us down, insecure, wrapped up within ourselves and focused on our bodies, then we are a lot less apt to be able to look up and look around and make a difference in this world. It’s how he keeps us in chains, in bondage. By telling us we are fat, or ugly, or not good enough. That we don’t measure up. If we don’t think we are good enough, and we don’t measure up, then we are going to hide our light, not let it shine.

So my prayer for you reading this is that you may discover your worth, your beauty, from the inside not the outside. That you may eat healthy and take care of  your body, not to measure up to Hollywood’s standards, but to respect the one body God gave you to care for and enable yourself to better live your life because of it. May you stop relying on the scale to weigh the immensity of your heart, or your jeans size to determine the width of your smile.

May you find purpose and identity because of who you are, not what you look like, for this is where true beauty is held. Know you are worth it, you are enough, you are irreplaceable, you are loved. Let your light shine, the world is a little darker without it.

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Categories: Mental Health and Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments