“Your wrists are SO TINY!”
“Real women have curves.”
“Eat a hamburger.”
“Be careful. You might get blown away.”
These are just a few of the comments I heard growing up. I was always one of the tallest in my class and quite thin, which left me resembling a string bean. As I entered my early teens my string bean physique landed me an opportunity to do some modeling. The modeling world isn’t like the real world. Even though my doctors were telling me I could gain a few pounds, the modeling world was telling us we needed to drop an inch here and lose another inch there. Being thin became so much a part of my identity. Tiffany was someone who was tall and thin and beautiful.
As social media became more prevalent and I transitioned into my 20’s I could feel my self-confidence waning. I was baptized during this time and knew that God loved me, accepted me, and created me for a purpose. I finally reached a healthy weight for my height, but all I could see in the mirror is that I wasn’t as thin as I once was, and a far stretch from the ‘ideal body’. I didn’t feel loved or created for a purpose because I wasn’t effortlessly thin anymore.
I’d never bought into fad diets, but the idea of counting macros and a regular fitness routine didn’t seem like another diet to me. It was a ‘lifestyle’. A good friend gave me tips on how to calculate the macros I needed to consume for weight loss and toning and how to structure a workout to burn as many calories as possible. I installed an app on my phone to track my meals, log my exercise, and decide whether or not I deserved dessert that night. My entire day was consumed by calories, how I could get a few extra steps in for my daily count, and ways I could substitute high fat or calorie-dense foods.
My turning point is still so vivid in my mind. I stood over a pot of boiling water, tired and stressed from a long day, just looking to make some comfort food for dinner. As I watched the spaghetti noodles boil, all I could think about was how high the calories were going to be in my meal. They would push me over my carbs for the day and I felt guilt for choosing pasta instead of something “healthier.” I would have to make sure I was under my calorie limit the following day to make up for the overage. That was the moment I knew my mind was poisoned. The way I was living was toxic both in nutrition and for my mental health. I was cooking a meal that would fuel my body and fill my soul with comfort, yet the only feelings I attached to it were guilt.
Shortly afterward I heard a podcaster speak on keeping a healthy balance in life. They said something along the lines of “the best thing we can do is the minimum required to keep our bodies healthy.” 1 Corinthians says “So glorify God in your body.” Although the original text refers predominantly to sexual immorality, I think we can apply this to our physical health as well.
We are given one body and if we fail to care for that body properly we are no longer effective within the Kingdom. We need to simultaneously be careful that health and fitness don’t become an idol in our lives—spending every minute focusing on our calorie intake, weight loss, or step goals makes us ineffective Christians. How can we save people and spread the word when we’re too busy trying to find the lowest carb fruits or trying to find another substitute for pasta? The idea of doing the minimum required means doing what we need to do to care for our body and then getting on with our lives—regular exercise, making healthy choices without becoming obsessive over numbers and saying no to “diets” (even if they are promoted as a “lifestyle”).
We will never be remembered for our waist size or six-pack; people will speak of us after we’re gone for our “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
When we secure our identity in Christ instead of the world our eyes open to the lies that took root and we can begin to dig them up. When we feel guilt or shame about our bodies we are focusing on the standards set by man, standards that are impossible to achieve, and forever changing. When we turn our eyes to the standards set by God, suddenly we recognize the things that are truly important and worth focusing on. God doesn’t want us to be a size 2; He wants us to love our neighbors. He doesn’t want us to consume fewer calories; He wants us to consume His word. He doesn’t want us to only eat zoodles; He wants us to enjoy the beautiful and delicious things He has created.
I am still on my journey of healing. It’s not easy to disassociate weight from worth in a society that glorifies plastic surgery and Photoshop, but it’s something I try and remind myself every day – my weight does not determine my worth. We, especially as women, need to aspire to something more than being thin because God has so much more planned for us.
Written by Tiffany Janzen
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Jen Roland