A few months ago, on a Monday, my friend Alex came over and started a journey with me. After a long enough time of wavering back and forth, I decided it was time: time to love my body. That day, and a couple times since, he’s come over to train me in my small but adequate apartment complex fitness center. But that’s only been a couple times, which means, in the in-between-space, it’s up to me to do the literal heavy lifting.
I have always had a love-hate relationship with my body: I’ve loved to hate it and I’ve hated to love it. This comes out in not-so-subtle ways on a regular basis. I make jokes about baldness because it’s easier than sharing how my own chrome dome is most likely a result of my experiences with bulimia and body dysmorphia. I’ve alternated between working out regularly and rigorously and having no physical activity whatsoever (other than countless reps of lifting Oreos to my mouth).
I’ve fluctuated between obsessing about staying at 155 pounds, regardless of what that meant, and peaking above 200 pounds and not giving a shit. With the former, I could spend what felt like hours in front of a mirror, thankful that my love handles had lost a millimeter or two. With the latter, I barely looked in the mirror at all, and when I did, it was mostly to make sure that the way my shirt was tucked hid my belly as much as possible. It was to look in my eyes and solidify my self-hatred.
I’ve done many things in my thirty-two years of life to hate my body. Smoking. Excessive drinking. Binge-eating. Not eating. Since moving to Washington, getting divorced, reconnecting with faith community, making friends, and engaging with my therapist, I’ve made slow movement away from self-loathing towards self-love. But this change, the change in how I treat my body, is a massive one. It’s meant fostering awareness of the countless times my inner critic tells me I’m fat or unattractive or undesirable, and responding with a mental middle finger.
The last two months, I’ve worked out regularly 3-5 times a week, mostly doing strength training. A marked shift from nearly three years ago when I would practice yoga at a studio at the end of the night because it happened in the dark, lying closest to the mirror so I could look at myself and imagine a day when I might kind of like my body.
I want to share something. Call it an exercise in hope and in risk…
It’s one thing to send a pic in a random conversation on Grindr or Scruff, or in a text. It’s another to put it in a space like this. For me, and I think for many of us who struggle with body image, with believing that we truly are sexy, beautiful, loved, it’s important to see ourselves in tangible ways. Sure, I might have my tummy sucked in a bit here, but I know that I’m in the middle of a process. It’s already a huge accomplishment to have made it this long with a regular routine.
I’ve talked a lot about brokenness and wholeness over the years. Brokenness in the form of self-loathing, of not honoring my body as a temple, of diminishing my worth and value because I happen to be a little bit stocky. Wholeness in my search to find balance, to love myself, others, and God, in my journey towards health and wellness, in the ways I acknowledge my flaws and try to be better.
I refuse to believe that my worth and my value, that my chances for having meaningful relationships are lessened because I might not have what the media and dominant culture call the ideal body. I cannot help but believe that, as my capacity for loving me increases, so does my space for loving others and loving God.
You know what else? Being sweaty really isn’t all that bad … well … nevermind.
This post originally appeared on Michael’s blog, Finding the Balance.
photo credit: Michael Taggart, cc.
MICHAEL OVERMAN is a graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. As a self-admitted “old soul”, Michael is more than comfortable asking the tough questions and not having immediate answers. Michael is passionate about all things interfaith, challenging the religious status quo — and baking whenever possible.
As he says, “Running from God is easy… running back to God is anything but.” He tried parish ministry. Too hot. He tried the nonprofit sector. Too cold. He finally tried hospital chaplaincy. Just right.
Michael currently lives in Vancouver, WA where he is a hospital chaplain. In his spare time, he loves chocolate, wine, and scifi.
Check out more of Michael’s writing at www.findingthebalance.net.