Why do you exercise? Is it to get stronger, fitter, lose some weight—or do you exercise so you can eat more? I start with this question, for as women, if there is a deeper question to why you exercise or diet, then no amount of exercise or dieting will ever satisfy you! You have to face the question beneath the surface in order for you to find peace with yourself. Here is what I mean . . .
I was around 12 years old when I started to become obsessed with my weight and figure. Back then, one of my friends was bulimic and another would starve herself. I took the binge eating, starve myself and exercise approach to try and get the perfect body so I could be satisfied with myself.
What followed was a crazy cycle that kept me in chains. I would start by over-eating the foods I loved. Then enormous guilt and disappointment in myself would set in. I would vomit up as much as I could. I would miss the next few meals and then go smash it out in the gym until I had burned enough calories. This continued for a number of years. And looking back on my photos, I was not fat. I was just never happy or content with my self image. The deeper question beneath the surface for me was, Am I perfect enough?
Now, I was not aware of this at the time, but I was chasing perfection and therefore no amount of exercising or dieting would provide me with a self image that would satisfy me.
The sad reality about eating disorders is that many do not recover. In 2017, the ABC news presented a report on how the Australian health system was failing patients with eating disorders. According to the report, “one in five eating disorders ended in suicide”. The Butterfly Foundation noted that in 2012, one million people suffered from eating disorders and 64 per cent of those were women.
Eating disorders often arise from poor body image and this peaks in teenage years. I remember my dad saying to me when I was a teen, “Renae your calves are looking really skinny.” Rather than hearing the concern in my dad’s comment, I chose to hear his comment as a compliment, for I was always fat in my eyes. The dissatisfaction in my self image still haunts me today. I still struggle to put the brakes on when it comes to yummy food. I eat when my mood is down or when I think I deserve a reward.
" . . . it is not what you are that will hold you back. It is what you think you are not that will hold you back."
Now, desiring to look nice is not wrong. Wanting to reach a goal, be it weight, fitness or toned muscles is not wrong. I am asking you to look deeper beneath the surface to ascertain the true reason behind your goals. If you discover a deeper reason, you may have unresolved issues that need confronting. Failing to confront these underlying reasons puts you on a path where no amount of exercising or dieting will ever be enough. If you have an eating disorder, I encourage you to go and talk to someone about it and free yourself from the chains of perfection, guilt and dissatisfaction.
God made women in His own image (Genesis 1:27). God was satisfied with what He created. With God and in God women are enough. So why are we letting this world rule our ideals? It’s time we stand together and learn to stand alone in God and be satisfied in who God made us to be!
We owe it to ourselves and we need to own it for the sake of the next generation of women.
My daughter Faith was in Kindy. She came home one day saying she was fat, while pinching her tummy.
“Why do you think you’re fat?” I asked.
“My friend said so,” she replied.
Her friend at school had learned that, because she could pinch her tummy, it meant she was fat. In teaching Faith this, since Faith could pinch her tummy, she concluded she was fat too. This broke my heart. It shocked me that this was happening at six years of age.
I do not want my daughter battling with food and self image like I do.
I do not want my daughter telling herself she is fat when she is perfectly beautiful in how God made her.
I do not want my daughter growing up thinking she is never enough.
I do not want any of our daughters or future daughters or women in general to think they are not ever enough.
We need to accept, appreciate, respect and love ourselves as women. We need to encourage each other and never let our challenges drive us to silence. Let’s share our battles with each other so that we can fight them together.
To be beautiful means to be satisfied with yourself. Beauty begins when you decide to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. For it is not what you are that will hold you back. It is what you think you are not that will hold you back.
So say these words out loud: Who I am is enough. What I do is enough. What I have is enough. Learn to embrace these words . . . and you will grow to be satisfied with yourself, just as God is satisfied in who you are.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or other local support service.
Renae Maua attends Avondale College Church. Originally posted at collegechurch.info/she-ministries.