Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Go Rest High on Rainbow Mountain....

*Warning: Graphic and disturbing images that may not be suitable for younger audience.

Today I am appreciating the wisdom of Hannah Montana. "Nobody's perfect, you live and you learn it." Oh you don't know that song? Well, I will be more than happy to ship that CD to you. :) Anyway, today I want to talk about a lesson I am learning that has been influenced by Hannah Montana, Barbie, honeybuns and the Bible. Are you ready for this??

The topic today: Weight. And beauty. I know I have shared my weight loss plans with you and I really felt like I had arrived when I saw that someone actually found my blog by searching for "Emily Strickland diet". Holy cow! Okay, so obviously there is an Emily Strickland (my maiden name) out there who actually has a diet that is working and that people are wanting to try. But, it was fun for a second to pretend that I would be someone people would seek for weight loss advice. Then reality hit and it was just funny!

I have joked a lot about my weight loss efforts but the truth is that it has been a very serious subject in my life. I'm about to get personal here so I just thought I would warn you. I was diagnosed with my depression in August of 2000 and got engaged in September of 2000. That meant that I started an anti-depressant and birth control in the same year. Many anti-depressants are known to cause weight gain and mine certainly did. Also, when I started on birth control the nurse practictioner told me that it would increase my appetite but it would not cause me to gain weight. I didn't get that because if my appetite is increased I'm gonna eat more! I had already gained about 15 pounds by the time I walked down the aisle and then I started married life as the wife of a breadman. Good grief! Unlimited access to bagels and honeybuns. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how ugly that got. THEN, I got pregnant 4 months after we were married. I gained..........50 POUNDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll never forget Easter of that year because I had gained 15 pounds in a month when I went back to the dr. He didn't chastise me or tell me to change my diet. He just said, "Somebody sure enjoyed their Easter bunnies." It is funny now, but to a very hormonal pregnant woman it was not. I called Josh crying and wouldn't tell him why and I know he thought the dr. had told me I was dying. That was how I was acting.

So, that is how my weight loss struggle began. I still remember the first time I really looked at myself in the mirror after Sarah was born. I was disgusted. All of the models and celebraties were in the magazines looking even better after having babies and I looked like I might still have a few more in there waiting for delivery. The models obviously did not have the unlimited resources to carbs that I did. I ordered diet pills. Which was just what my depressed, postpartum hormonal self needed. Like I needed another honeybun.

I never lost all of the weight before I got pregnant with Eli and then I gained 60 POUNDS!!!!! I did do much better after he was born about exercising. For a while. I really got my wake-up call when we moved to Mississippi. God had done amazing things bringing us here, but I won't lie. It was a very stressful time. I was finishing up my last year of school, including an internship in the ER and I had a 3 year old and an infant. Food once again became my comforter. After we moved I received a gift card and I went to try on clothes. I had to buy pants that were 3 sizes bigger than the last time I had bought clothes. It was just a month after that I learned that I was pregnant with Kate and I decided at that moment that things were going to be different.

I was very careful about what I ate. I only gained 35 pounds with her and that was a big accomplishment after my previous pregnancy weight gain. I was extremely motivated after she was born to lose not just the pregnancy weight, but also the depression, birth control pill, honeybun weight. I had such a rough time when she was born that I honestly lost my appetite. That has never happened in my entire life. I really think that helped me the most but I don't recommend going through what I went through to achieve results!! Between nursing and substituting 2 or 3 of my meals everyday with Lean Cuisines or Weight Watcher meals I started losing the weight pretty quickly. I was also still working and would eat low fat subs for lunch most days. It really helped that I was on the go so much for work. That had been my biggest struggle before, being at home surrounded by food and my kids who were constantly eating. I felt like I lived in the kitchen. So, that is my weight loss story. I am actually back in the size I wore in high school.

I share this story for several reasons. 1. I've had several people ask me about how I lost weight. 2. I know SO many people who struggle with this, and probably all moms have struggled with their body image even if they don't share the weight gain. Having a baby just changes your body no matter what! 3. For me I feel like my weight loss was a testimony to how God is involved in all parts of our life. I'm going to share that part now.

You see, that Christmas that I went shopping for new clothes and had to move into not only a new pant size, but a new department altogether, I realized something. I realized that I was a stress eater. And I realized that was not okay. In the same way that we teach that it is wrong to drown out our sorrows with alcohol or seek an escape with drugs, it was wrong for me to seek food for comfort when Jesus told us that we have a comforter. I realized that instead of casting my cares at His feet I was eating Dove chocolate like it was going out of style. So, this endeavor became more for me than a physical one. It became a spiritual one.

I don't want this to become an issue of what size you are. It's really not about everybody being a certain size. It's about being at a place where you are at peace. With your relationship with God and with how you feel about yourself. I still do not like to see pictures of myself from certain times. And that makes me sad because many of those are pictures with my babies. I became more anti-social because I didn't feel comfortable being seen or participating in certain activities. It has been so freeing and exciting to have fun and not constantly be worried about how I look. Some of that has to do with the weight loss. But mostly it has to do with the work God has done on my heart about accepting myself.

So now that I have shared all of that, I will confess that I am still very much a work in progress. Physically and spiritually. I still have a mummy tummy that will probably never go away. I am slowly trying to accept that. I have stretch marks and cellulite. I don't look like Barbie. That brings me to the next part of this.

I love Barbie. Playing with dolls was my favorite pastime for many years. Above bike riding and roller skating, I loved dolls. Especially my Barbies. So, I'm not here to bash Barbie. I'm just here to lay to rest some of the ideas that Barbie has filled our minds with. I had someone ask me why I struggled with insecurities about how I look. I could totally make a list of every physical flaw I see in myself, but I will spare you. Because I think it is much more simple than that. I'm not Barbie. Have you ever thought about how Barbie has all kinds of friends, but Barbie is the star? It is the same problem I have with children in beauty pageants. They may learn confidence, poise and personality. Or...they must just learn that only 1 girl is pretty and good enough and the rest are not.

You see, our culture has continued to reinforce this idea in movies and TV shows. Casts are made up of all kinds of characters, but there is usually only 1 pretty girl. It is so easy to convince yourself that those around you are so much prettier, skinnier, or likeable. So where does everybody else fit in?

Barbie herself inspired this post. One weekend I spent the majority of my time putting her head back on. Let me explain. Kate shares my passion for dolls. Unfortunately for those dolls she insists on putting them in Speed Racer's car instead of their car. And y'all, Barbie is too big for Speed Racer's car. She don't fit. To add to the humiliation Barbie must feel about being too big, Kate was constantly pulling her head off in the process of car stuffing. It is rough to be a toy in this house. I spent so much time putting her head back on that at one point I found myself saying, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you in the name of Jesus. Get up and walk!" Seriously, you know you have spent too much time in the house with kids when you are praying for the healing of Barbie dolls. Apparently the Spirit was not with me because instead of "healing" Barbie I broke her head off...for good. So sad. But it taught me a lesson. Even Barbie couldn't cut it when she was put somewhere that wasn't created for her.

So here is what I am getting at. God says that we were created for His glory and in His image. If you have become a follower of Jesus is that what concerns you? I've had to start asking myself, am I more concerned with others seeing Jesus in me or with others thinking I'm beautiful, skinny, attractive, etc.? Does it matter if I'm a size 0 and have perfectly straight, white teeth if my heart is ugly? Do I feel like I don't fit because I'm trying to fit into a mold that wasn't made for me? Whose approval am I seeking?

If you really want to see what happens when you try to fit into something not created for you, check out poor Barbie. My kids didn't even give her a proper burial....


III said...

Well said, Em.

Lori said...

I'm in awe of the strength it takes to share your personal experiences for others' benefit the way you do!!

I enjoyed this one so much.

By the way, you and Karen really were created to be best friends! She had the BEST Barbie collection EVER!!

Amber Gregory said...

Okay Emily I so was going to blog about some of the same issues I have with this, I still probably will mine are alittle different, so don't think I am stealing but mine will not be as well put as yours either :)

John White said...

You have been a beautiful young lady for the whole time I have known you. More importantly, a wonderful Christian example for other women and girls. Libby and I are very happy we had the opportunity to know you in your teenage years.... and that great husband of yours as well. We pray God will continue to bless you and your family