girl and tree

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield/

This is another hard one to write. This morning on Facebook there was a cartoon which reminded me of all the times I heard as a very small child comments that shaped how I have viewed myself most of my life. These comments impacted my life even before other societal forces reinforced them——my early years were before Barbie doll, before Twiggy, and before I knew what a television was. The comments were always what a pretty child I would be if only ______________or what a good something or other I could be if__________________________. The “if blanks” were filled in with words that usually had something to do with me being “chunky,” “husky,” or “losing weight.”

I was slow moving, clumsy and awkward even as a child. It was all blamed on weight. It wasn’t until I was 12 that they had my eyes tested,  I was given bifocals, and I found out there were separate leaves on trees. The point I am trying to make is my problems have not always been about weight. I have always been a beloved child of God even if I don’t fit society’s judgmental standards. To be honest, some of my major problems have been about weight, the kind that endangers health. But no one ever told me when I was little  that I would “be healthier and have a better quality of life when you are older if you’d just lose weight.” They just said, “Eat everything on your plate.”

I know now that skinny people and “right-sized” people have just as many every-day problems and even health-related problems.  I know now what is meant by the saying that my body is God’s temple  and I need to treat it like one. At ages 4-10 I didn’t. The first diet they put me on at age four was a “buttermilk diet.” The doctor told my mother I’d lose weight if they made me drink buttermilk. To this day, I cannot drink buttermilk—–and I couldn’t then.

The whole point of all this is to emphasize how the words spoken to us have tremendous influence on the life we create for ourselves. I am, I know, lucky I wasn’t told as a child that I was “not worth anything” because I would have believed them.  I was taught never to ask questions or speak my opinion because it was considered disrespectful “talking back.” It is still a battle at times for me to be assertive and speak my opinion; I never stopped asking questions in my mind. But I was also loved, read to, played with, bathed, put to bed, etc. I was told in a lot of different ways that I was worthwhile and loved by my parents even if they couldn’t say the words.

I am God’s child. I am God’s adult. I am God’s temple. I choose today to take care of myself and God’s temple in loving and respectful ways. I will treat those I meet with the love and respect due them as they are also temples of God.  It took over forty years for me to overcome the “weight tapes” and to lose and work at keeping off  over 150 pounds. I’d lost over 100 pounds at least a couple of times before, but those pounds always found their way back on because food, not God, was my comfort. I am also working on self-acceptance just as I am. I no longer have to excel scholastically, publish articles, write books, impress others, attain tenure. I am retired, and God has finally given me time and wisdom to learn to know and love myself for what and who I am—-and to enjoy the gifts He has given me. I pray that I will always remember that God’s gifts are accompanied by the responsibility to share His love and generosity.

Please comment and share your thoughts about how you experience self-acceptance. May God bless and keep you.