Y’all yesterday I did something crazy. I posted a picture of myself (well, it was a boomerang video, but still). In a bathing suit (I literally just smiled as I typed that line because it is such an important accomplishment for me!). This was the result of years of therapy to overcome lies that I had chosen to believe about myself that I’d heard from culture, the purity movement, and a not-so-great boy.
Before I start this post, I have some important disclaimers.
First, yes, if you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve recently purchased a more “modest” bathing suit that didn’t arrive before my trip. It’s important to note that I believe our standard of modesty should be primarily about our relationship with God and not our relationship with other people. Showing 2 extra inches above my knee because my suit didn’t arrive is not rebellious or sinful, in my opinion.
Second, this is about my experiences. I fully believe that we have to allow negative thoughts into our minds and that we have to allow lies to become truth. I allowed lies to become my own truths, and I’m in no way “blaming” another person or a movement for how I viewed myself.
Why Write This Blog Anyways?
First, I want to break down the stigma that many Christians have about therapy, which allowed me to get to this point in my life.
Second, I want to be authentic as possible and encourage others that may be going through similar struggles.
My Struggle With An Eating Disorder
I remember the first time I forced myself to throw up out of disgust for myself. I was in 6th grade and felt truly ugly for the first time (yeah, 6 grade, I was 12). Many of my friends had already started middle school, and I heard about all of the “dating” relationships. Although I knew I wasn’t allowed to even really consider “dating” until I was at least 16, I still feared that I’d be rejected by my peers. And that, somehow, my ugliness or my “fatness” would keep boys away.
The funny thing about this is that, at 12 years old, no one had ever explicitly told me, “Krista, you’re fat.” I just knew that I was chunkier than my friends, and I saw my skinny friends got attention from boys that the chunkier girls did not.
Ironically, I learned about “throwing up” in health class, a class that taught about eating disorders to prevent them. I realized that I could never stop eating without my family noticing (we had sit down meals every day together) but maybe I could “sneak” in the vomiting. I’m stubborn and fiercely determined, so when I was unable to make myself vomit on the first time, I tried again and again until I succeeded. It was honestly the strangest feeling of my life: on one hand, I felt very successful: I had accomplished something I had set out to do. On the other hand, I felt overwhelming guilt and shame: I knew I’d be in trouble if my family found out, and I also felt strange that I had done something to my body, for no apparent good reason.
Over the next three years, I forced myself to throw up when I felt stressed. When I felt everything was spiraling out of control, I did it to regain control over something. It wasn’t bulemia, per se, becuase it wasn’t focused on binging and then purging, it was all about control.
In 9th grade, I was promoted from JV to Varsity soccer at the end of the season. In 9th grade, I had the best season of my soccer career and I kicked butt as a sweeper (center defender). If I was forced to choose a point in my high school career that I felt the most self-confident, it would be the Fall of my 9th-grade year. I was in 2 gym classes a day (I wanted to get those credits out of the way) with most of the athletic and older kids. We had subs for most of the class and we played soccer every day, and I was always one of the first kids picked. I still vividly remember one of the senior boys on Varsity soccer picking me first saying, “we’re going to kill it on defense.” (Isn’t it weird the things we remember?)
Anyways, when I was brought up to Varsity, all of my insecurities came flooding back. The girls were all so beautiful and athletically talented and I quickly realized that I simply didn’t look like them. My drop in self-confidence caused performance on the field to drop, and I went back to making myself throw up to regain the control. The next year, I was a nervous wreck during try-outs and did awful. Just awful. And I became the only player that had been brought up to varsity the year before to be kept as a swing player, playing mostly on JV. Once again, I became obsessed with control, and I dropped down to the lowest weight in my life and began to hate my body.
Purity Movement = Body Shaming
Around the same time, I got heavily involved with the “purity movement.” Feeling like an “outsider” at school (although looking back, I totally wasn’t) I began attending every church and youth group event. I felt “in” there. The “cool” movement at the time was the purity movement, and I got totally caught up in the broken promises.
There were various seminars or youth conferences almost monthly. And, guess what the topic of almost every conference was? PURITY! That’s right: the broken promise of how not having sex until marriage (and the less physical stuff you do, the more bonus points to you!) God will bless you with a hot husband, beautiful kids, and a perfect life.
Did the purity movement explicitly state this? No! But the authors of all of the purity books (like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “The Bride Wore White”) were all married with attractive spouses. Same with the speakers at the conferences. Their silent message was simple: as soon as I “gave my heart to God…He brought me THE ONE” and THE ONE also just happened to be beautiful). I so desperately wanted MY ONE that I bought in. I bought in hard.
And the funny thing about being taught NOT to focus on the physical stuff is how much more important the physical stuff becomes. Like, “you only get to hold hands with, kiss, and have sex with one person ever…for the rest of your life…until you die…” So, of course, knowing this, you want to make sure you’re attracted to the person. Even though we were told “look at the heart” we all knew that since we could only ever touch one boy, he better be cute. Likewise, boys knew they could only ever touch one girl, so she better be beautiful. And to be frank, I didn’t fit that mold. So I hated my body and threw up more.
The Boy That Loved Everything About Me, Except My Weight
When I was 17, I started seriously dating (to be honest, it was closer to a courtship though, since we were both taught that you only date to get married) a handsome, kind, Christian boy. We dated for 1.5 years and never kissed (although I remember feeling guilty deep down for even holding hands…ridiculous, I know). When we would have our deep talks about our “future” or talk about our relationship, my weight would be brought up. Once, he told me that it was “the only thing he wanted me to change about myself.” He always seemed to be focused on my health, telling me multiple times that he just didn’t want me to get diabetes and other things like that.
When I followed him to college, the focus on my weight increased. I was diagnosed with mono (funny, because it’s the notorious “kissing disease”) and was very sick my first semester. I don’t want to say “I let myself go,” but when you have mono, walking ten feet is difficult, let alone making sure your hair and makeup is done, or that I’m working out.
I remember vividly the night I knew something was just “not right.” I knew our relationship was falling apart and was so wrapped up in the lies of the purity movement and afraid to see myself as “damaged goods” that instead of amicably parting ways, I decided to “fight for it.” I was so tired that I couldn’t even do my own hair and had one of the girls in my dorm spend two hours curling my thick, long hair and picking out an outfit. I didn’t eat. When we went to the movie theater, he seemed disgusted that I got popcorn and a soda and wouldn’t touch me during the film. When we got back to school, my aunt had sent me a box of baked goods. When I opened it, he got visibly upset. stormed off, and then came back and told me how he was very concerned about my weight, and offered to make me an appointment with the nutritionist at school to talk about my “weight.” I threw out the baked goods and felt awful about myself. When the inevitable breakup happened the next month, I was devastated. He broke up with me because I was fat. Even though there were many other good, valid reasons for the relationship to end, I let it fuel my self-hatred. I went back to throwing up until my friends caught me two years later and forced me to therapy. And, for the past six years, I have, wrongly, believed that I’m unworthy of any man’s love because of my body. Because of my ugly, fat, body.
Honestly, this has been fueled by the comments of others, too. When I opened myself to the scrutiny of the public eye four years ago, I have had my share of mean commentators. People who pick apart my weight. Not only that, but there have been multiple friends that have told me if I “really hated being single, I could just change myself to attract a man.” And I allowed those lies to sink in.
The Blessing of Therapy
I’ve been attending both faith-based and secular (with a wonderful therapist who is so supportive of my own religious beliefs) on and off for the past six years, but have really become committed to bi-weekly sessions this past year. And y’all, it’s been a Godsend.
As Christians, we need to remember first and foremost, how GOD, not man, sees us. We are wanted, we are sought after, we are beautiful. Not beautiful in the cultural sense that varies from place to place (what’s attractive in America is not attractive in other parts of the world), but instead, on the beauty that matters to God.
First, I had to recognize the dangerous lies that I had allowed to spill into my head, and that I had chosen to meditate on: my unworthiness for love, superficial values, my looks. I chose to focus on these things, instead of the things that matter to God.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Not only that, but we are reminded throughout scripture how important character is to God (I hesitated posting the 1 Tim and 1 Peter verses, because I know they have been blatantly TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT to suppress women…so please consider them in context and their ultimate meaning: that the heart of a woman should matter more to Christian men than her changing physical appearance).
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,
but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 1 Timothy 2:9-10
She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. Proverbs 3:15-18
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30
Before you do anything else or take these verses out of context, go read those verses IN CONTEXT!
So these past few months, I’ve been working on changing my mindset. Instead of constantly focusing on how I look, I focus on what I’m doing. How am I serving others? What is God doing in my life?
And it’s weird, but my changing in attitude didn’t come overnight. It wasn’t a process of “puffing myself up” but instead, thinking about myself less. Thinking about the non-important things less. Yes, it’s important to be healthy. Yes, making yourself look presentable and basic hygiene are so important, but my looks should not define me. I shouldn’t want to be close to people who are more concerned about how I look than how I’m living. And. Neither. Should. You.
I don’t know your struggles, friend. But what I can tell you is: get the professional help you need to be emotionally and spiritually healthy. Doing this will allow you to view yourself in a healthy manner. Yes, you’re a sinner, but the God of the universe loves you, delights in you, and thinks you’re so, so, so worthy of love. And, so do I. And so should the people whose opinions you care about.
I wish I could tell my 21-year-old self this. My 17-year-old self. My 12-year-old self. It would have saved so much heartache. I can’t go back and tell myself that, but I can tell you.