Being thin has never come easily to me. For a variety of reasons, I began struggling a bit with my weight around 4th grade. It wasn’t too out of hand – I was more active than the average bookworm, so I didn’t pack on a lot of pounds, but I did begin adopting unhealthy methods of dealing with stress and emotions that I found necessary to keep in check. Rather than finding a safe and effective way to express myself, I stuffed it all down, one Oreo or second helping at a time, until there wasn’t much room left for vulnerability, or so I told myself.
Fast forward about 10 years. I had become nearly inactive, and my stress levels were sky high. Comfort food was my companion and confidante. I gained a lot of weight in a relatively short time, and when I met my first husband, I weighed over 300 pounds. Yes, you read that right. As embarrassing as it is, it’s the truth, and the truth sets us free, right?
“Steve” (not his real name) took me by surprise. A Christian in active ministry, attentive, funny, and intelligent – he seemed to see what I was trying so hard to hide from the world. He told me I was wonderful, beautiful, smart, funny and kind, and after he proposed, he promised me that our love story would exceed anything I could read in a book. And thus, I embarked on what became the darkest time of my life. My hopes and dreams, my trust, invested in a gilded lie that would only be revealed in time, after a series of crushing heartaches.
To make a nearly 7 years long story short, most of my first marriage was an exercise in mental, emotional, and spiritual cruelty. I became invisible in a new way. I lost over 200 pounds through diet and exercise, but no matter what I accomplished, what new hurdle I jumped or demand I met or exceeded, nothing seemed to satisfy “Steve.” I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t thin enough, I wasn’t…whatever it was that would make him happy.
During one of our last conversations before our divorce was finalized, he offered me a bit of advice in hopes that, one day, I might find the kind of loving relationship I wanted. He said, “Marilyn, you just need to keep working on yourself because men look at women like real estate. They might drive by their dream house every day, and it might have the exact interior design, architecture and special features that they’ve always wanted. But, they’ll never stop to take a look if it doesn’t have the right curb appeal.”
Ironically, at the time of that conversation, I was a size 4, weighed less than 120 pounds, and ran 5-8 miles every day.
Fast forward a few more years. I reconnected with my college sweetheart, we got married and I became pregnant with our son. My husband knew I was nervous about gaining weight, and sought to put me at ease. “Don’t worry about gaining weight,” he said. “Eat what you need to be healthy and happy. You can lose weight after you have the baby. You’re pregnant – you deserve ice cream!” And, he made sure I got Ben & Jerry’s every week. 🙂
I did gain weight with my pregnancy, but lost about 30 pounds pretty quickly afterwards. Then, my world turned upside down again – loss, another cross country move, a bad diagnosis of a loved one. I was no longer as athletic as I once had been, and I turned once more to comfort food. I can happily say that I don’t weigh 300 pounds :), but I do need to lose quite a bit of weight. Again. But, I want this time to be different – inspired by love and not fear. Inspired by a love for myself and the life God has given me – as a brave girl who never has to hide again. You are welcome to join me on my journey, and I hope you do. 🙂