This Lent, I’m giving up weighing myself on the scale.
This is probably the hardest Lenten sacrifice I’ve ever come up with, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to follow through. I’m really scared that on Easter, I’ll step on the scale and see it shoot up 5-10 pounds.
Weighing myself after nearly every meal or snack has been such an integral part of my life for the past 12 years that it’s something I still can’t let go of even though I’ve come so far in terms of healing from my eating disorder. Today is probably the most secure I’ve been my entire life, and I think there’s a stronger part of me that wants to give this up once and for all.
I used to think if I truly loved God, I needed to take my sacrifices to the extreme, and Lent was the perfect time to do that. Why stop at the “Catholic fast” of one full meal and two smaller meals on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, when I can deprive myself of food the entirety of those two days and also every Friday during Lent?
In retrospect, this was such a HUGE lie I told myself while I resisted my body’s cry for food. On those nights when I went to bed without consuming a morsel, I was ecstatic at the thought of having lost two pounds by the next morning.
My eating disorder really scared me for the first time during my junior year of undergrad; I remember barely being able to walk up the hill to my dorm without my vision blacking out. I could hear my heart struggling to beat and I wanted to collapse from insufficient breathing.
Since I made it up the hill alright, I sat down and just brushed it off as the “sacrifice I was willing to make for God.” I continued to fast all day during class, and having felt accomplished, sometimes at night I permitted myself to eat a snack which turned into an hour binging session.
I’d cry myself to sleep at the utter failure I had become, and this vicious cycle kept going until my body finally rebelled. It took my impaired digestion unwilling to hold any food in for a week for me to stop my fasting and binging habits, because I honestly thought I was going to die.
I’m sharing this story because I DON’T want you to give into this lie anymore. I don’t want you to believe you’ve gone too far with your eating disorder that you can’t survive a day in your life without it. I don’t want you to give into justifying your actions as being heroic love for the Lord when it serves as a mask for temporary pleasure in feeling accomplishment.
I don’t want your body to deteriorate and for you to believe in the lie that you’re only beautiful because of the weight you’ve kept off. Trust me, I know how hard it is when your heart wants to abandon your bad habits but the people around feed you compliments on how you look, that it’s the first time you feel you’re worthy of love.
I promise you that the biggest sacrifice you can make for God this Lent is taking that first step toward healing. I know it just seems impossible at the moment, and you may not be able to imagine a day without letting your body image dictate your life. But trust me, take that inkling of desire in your heart to make a change and run with it this Lent.
Run to the Cross and ask Jesus to be with you every step of the way. This might be the biggest thing you have ever done for yourself, and it IS the biggest thing you can do for God this Lent. A great way to start is by looking through the resources on Made in His Image on how to approach overcoming an eating disorder. Take that first, tangible step toward truly loving yourself this Lent.
And even if you don’t have an eating disorder but still struggle with your body image and self-worth, this Lent you can tackle the insecurities that so often lie at the root of our unhappiness. During college, I used to look in the mirror and said to myself, “I’m so ugly, who could ever love me?”
An idea is to make it a sacrifice every day to look at yourself in the mirror (or if you’re like me and need that constant reminder, keep a tangible list in a journal) and affirm what you like about yourself. List anything from your physical features you like, aspects of your personality, your abilities, your talents, your character. Keeping a list of things you love about yourself for 40 days is probably more challenging than you think.
Sometimes it takes some deep digging to find things you like about yourself, but as my spiritual director says, “God doesn’t create garbage, He creates goodness.” Maybe reach out this Lent to find a good friend, mentor, spiritual director or therapist you click with who can keep you accountable, allow you to share your honest feelings, and journey with you this Lent and onward.
Please pray for me, and know I’m offering up my sacrifice this Lent to pray for your journey toward healing and self-acceptance too. There’s so much liberation when you don’t let your insecurities rule you, and I’m praying you will soon find that healthy confidence in who you are as a beloved daughter of God. You are more than a number or your looks. You’re worth being loved.
P.S. You are enough.