Olivia Folmar Ard

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Embracing Imago Dei in a Flawed Body

Originally written September 2, 2016

Originally written September 2, 2016

My body weighs 330.7 pounds. 

That is 15 pounds heavier than the weight I swore I would never reach again four years ago. 

That is 150 pounds heavier than I want my body to weigh. 

Some of the blame is chemical. Before I received a diagnosis for my anxiety disorder, my emotions were out of control and I was hungry for something steady, something that could anchor me to reality. I couldn't tie my mind and spirit down, so instead I settled for my body. I filled my stomach, even when it wasn't empty. I would sneak through the kitchen cabinets after the rest of my family had gone to bed, tearing through everything with a caloric value in search of something that would fill my bottomless hunger. I stuffed my face with food that didn't taste good in the hope that it would finally give me peace. 

Some of the blame is metabolic. Recently, my doctor discovered that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome, an endocrine disorder that affects hormone and insulin levels in women. In addition to making it difficult to conceive the child my husband and I so desperately want, PCOS makes it incredibly difficult to shed the weight I need and want to lose. 

But most of the blame is optional. For so many years, I chose not to be an active person. I chose not to educate myself on matters of nutrition. I chose not to care, because not caring was a cozy blanket to drape over the uncomfortable truth. 

There have been times, too many to count, when I did all the right things in an attempt to distance myself from this excessive weight that has always hung like an albatross around my neck, even when others couldn't see it. I ate few calories and burned many. I stared in the mirror and forced myself to swallow the bitter medicine of what I thought was the truth. 

As I survey what I know will be a long, difficult road, I cannot help but place myself under a brutal inquisition. Why didn't I push harder before, when I had much less weight to shed? Why didn't I succeed? It can't be because I didn't want to change, because I've never wanted anything more.

The problem wasn't motivation or desire or drive, but the goal. 

All those times before, those postmarks of failure etched in my brain like punishing memorials, I didn't want my body to become healthier. I didn't want my body at all. I wanted the ability to crack my flesh, to inflict a wound so deep that I could peel my body off and somehow slip inside a new one. I wanted to discard this God-given protection for my soul and pretend like it had never existed, because that seemed better than a life spent searching out the faded rivers and crevices of stretchmarks mapping out my history of fat. 

But my body is not ruined. It is, in fact, a miracle. 

I am learning how providential grace is hidden in the contraction of a muscle. I can see now how my body is formidable because of, not despite, its broken past. I can see now how my body is valuable, because every second it exists, it fights to preserve my life. I can see now how my body--how every body--is an ever-changing work of art. 

See how our bodies move? See how they respond and learn and grow and adapt? See how they stave off infection and discourage us from burning ourselves? See how our insides rearrange to accommodate life? See how our veins and nerves spider through us like marble? See how our muscles swell and harden and tense, so our lives can be filled with verbs? 

My shame has worn thin. It bears the travel stains of late night binges and too-tight jeans, and I am tired of wearing it. So I lift its surprising weightiness from my shoulders now, fold it up, and gently cast it aside. I have fallen in love with my body, because it is mine, and so I no longer need my shame.

I will lose weight this time--not because I now have the strength and wisdom needed to conquer my body, but because I finally realize my aim has been set at the wrong target. My body doesn't deserve punishment for existing. It deserves fastidious care and attention. And from now on, that is what it will receive.