Weight, Women & the Human Soul

Now that Moses is weaned, I'm thinking more carefully about getting my body to a healthy weight and shape again. I noticed more with him than I ever had before (with my other 4 babies) that any "trying" to lose weight significantly affected my milk supply. Thus, I put off any real efforts to lose weight (aside from just making good choices, like following the No S "diet") until I weaned my little man. Well, that happened last week.

So last Monday, my mom and I joined Weight Watchers and will work together and hold each other accountable. She's lost 54 pounds with WW before (a subsequent injury and the business of life caught up with her and she's gained it back), and I'm excited about it because it's just thinking carefully while eating real food and living real life. I don't have to buy special food; I don't have to change the kinds of meals I eat (i.e., suddenly supplement 2 meals a day with a shake or something). Choosing meals thoughtfully, with goals in mind, will likely lead to short-term weight loss and long-term weight maintenance while helping me to be more healthy and intentional in the process.

It's been interesting to me to live out this last year of not doing ANYTHING to lose weight, feeling not always thrilled with pictures of myself, having been asked multiple times if I'm pregnant (my baby weight just basically hung on for dear life), and knowing that I'm heavier than I've ever been not-pregnant. America is a very interesting place-- with a mixture of everything from quite obese people to those who are unhealthy in their relationship with food by not eating enough. And the pressures on young women to be sexy, toned, busty, thin, and ___insert description here___, all while going through the demanding season of raising young children are all around us-- magazines, comments from old ladies in the church, television, and internet ads, and they can overwhelm any sense of reason or balance on this issue of weight.

I guess I just want to encourage others out there who are in a difficult place with your weight. Do what you can do be healthy, but do not let the American cultural focus on size 6, 36-26-36, perfect bikini body, yada-yada-yada get you down. Be healthy; take care of your body-- it's the temple of God. But do not raise up this goal and let it become idolatry.

If you are pregnant, or nursing a baby, or taking care of little ones, your time is limited and your body has been affected by these things. And that is OK. Balance and PERSPECTIVE are needful at times like that. There are seasons in a woman's life, and some seasons afford more time and energy than others. And the great news is: even at times when you don't have time to care for your body, you always have time to pray and care for your soul and grow in godliness.

"While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds the promise for the present life and also for the life to come." ~1 Timothy 4:8

The Bible says that bodily exercise profits a little. Just last week, I went to a funeral, and was reminded once again- this body is only a part of me. My SOUL is the unique inner part that will not die. I don't need to ignore my physical health, but most of my focus and energy should be tasked toward making my soul healthy and beautiful, not focused on making my body healthy and beautiful.

"The LORD sees not as man sees:
man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart."

Do not let a number on a scale or a measurement on a measuring tape obscure the larger aims God has set for your life: Love God. Love others. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God. Bodily exercises profits a little, but strive most to grow in godliness.


wayside wanderer said...

I was 8/10ths of a pound away from 25 pounds lost at my ww meeting last week. I hope to get it this week. WW is so sensible and you can lose weight while still enjoying food. I just had my nightly milk and brownie. =) I have noticed that I am treated differently when I am out and about. I am sure part of it is my confidence and feeling good, but I know it is also because I look better. That kind of makes me sad to think about. It isn't right, but it is how our culture is, I think. Makes me more aware of my own actions. I wish you both the best.

Emily said...

Great word Jess! I sometimes forget that my time isnt my own anymore- and I'd usually rather hang with my kiddos over the extra 20 minutes that I could add to my run. This season is about them- and I'm good with that. Its been an adjustment to not be what I consider "fit", but worth it when I see the bonds I have with my little ones.

Liz said...

Your blog is always a great encouragement to me - Soul Care and this one were msgs I needed to here at exactly the right time. Thank you!

Kate said...

As you know, I struggle with this too. Women just want to feel beautiful. It's how we are and I think that's okay until it's turned into an obsession, or on the other hand an area of complete neglect, which seems to be very easy for many of us. If God had showed me ahead of time the drastic weight gain I would deal with in the process of child bearing, I would have been fear stricken and panicked. It's been ROUGH realizing my body refuses to make milk for the baby unless I'm fat, but then I probably did damage to my metabolism with crash dieting so when I'm breastfeeding my body says "Oh no you don't, girlfriend. We need this fat". Even though I'm losing now, being "fat" has been an invaluable growing experience. Having children seems to have forced me to grow in ways that I never would have agreed to. I thought I appreciated inner beauty before but now I think I was just plain crazy before... obsessing over my weight and when I look at pictures of myself back then I look downright hungry!

And yes, this season of having very little ones is so time consuming all the while our bodies doing things without our permission. Dieting stress can send a frazzled new mom over the edge. The least we can do is just eat when we're hungry and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now. I'm getting goosebumps. I have been so depressed over not losing my baby weight for a year now. I can't focus, I feel tired all the time but I can't sleep, and I'm sad.

Thank you so much for the encouragement.

heldbyHishand said...

Thanks for sharing Jess :) I'm a new friend around your blog, but I really appreciate what you've said here about being balanced... I agree that this is the most important thing. I'm in the single-study-work-girl season at the moment, but just as a mamma can get caught up in her kiddos, I often get caught up in study and work and forget to take time out for myself (not excessively) but just time to refresh and spend time considering the fact that God lives in me...
Thank you!

Jaime said...

so many important reminders here.... thanks.

melissa said...

thanks for your post. the I Samuel verse that you shared is our verse of the week! :)

Last year after I finished breastfeeding, I did a body cleanse. It felt so good to get rid of the extra toxins in my system. I liked it so much, that I decided to do a body cleanse once a year! :)

Enjoy the healthy eating lifestyle!

ledatangen said...

This is such a wonderful post! I used to have a not-so-healthy relationship with food.

I am overweight but would sometimes feel overwhelmed with the desperate desire to lose lots of weight very quickly, and it would work for a couple days, then it would backfire and I'd end up actually gaining a little when I got so hungry and deprived that I binged.

But I've been praying and thinking about this a lot lately, and I've finally begun to realize that I simply need to take care of this temple that God has given me.

I am learning to like myself as I am-on the inside. Learning that I am good enough is a big step for me, since I have some depression issues.

I recently met a friend of a friend that lost 100 pounds in the last year. It is really inspiring to actually know someone in real life that's done it.

But good for you! You can totally do it! And good for you for including the Lord in your journey.

Joy said...

Great post, Jess! I don't know if I've ever commented here before but, I first read your blog about 8 months ago (just after my second baby was born) and you inspired me with the No S Diet to focus on self-control. It's paid off slowly, but surely and mostly in internal ways. How easy it is to make our bodies/figures into idols! Wow! You hit the nail right on the head. I really appreciate your balanced perspective. Keep it up!

Laura said...

Jess, you know I agree with you about so much, but I have to take exception to one thing:

"Just last week, I went to a funeral, and was reminded once again- this body is just a shell. The real me is my SOUL."

Nope. The real you is YOU, all together. Your final existence is going to be you, glorified, resurrection body and breath of life back together again. God didn't make Adam and Eve as disembodied souls and then create a "shell" to contain them. He formed Adam from the dust and then breathed life into that very important, divinely crafted body! The "real Adam" was an animated physical body with a mind and a sense of the eternal and the breath of life, not a disembodied spirit trapped in a shell. One of the reasons death is so abhorrent to humans is because it separates what was never meant to be separated.

The notion of the body being a shell or a glove (thus inferior) and the soul being the "real," eternal part of us (thus superior) takes a lot more from pagan Greek philosophy than it does from the Scriptures, which exhort us to honor God with our bodies and present them before God, to avoid sinning against our bodies, to be holy with our hands and feet and eyes and mouths. Caring for our bodies matters because our bodies matter. God made them, and he's going to perfect and glorify them at the resurrection.

(This is a pet peeve of mine in modern Evangelicalism since I'm a Classics/Humanities teacher. Hardly a day goes by that my kiddos and I aren't talking about ancient dualism absorbed by Augustine, or early-church Gnosticism which was just dualism with a dash of Jesus. Hope you're doing well and that you take this for the academic inquiry that it is!)


Beth Celestin said...

I'm about to embark on the Weight Watchers journey myself. My Mom, as well as a few women from my church, are also starting the program. I'm looking forward to seeing your progress. And if you have any recipe/meal ideas, please share!

Rightthinker said...

Being a woman who is open-to-life, my body has seen it's share of up's and down's. I'm a thinner woman who gains A LOT of weight on healthy foods when pregnant. Additionally, I've always felt I'm the "only woman alive" who doesn't naturally lose weight while nursing!

No my body hoards weight while nursing...and I've had to cringe when I hear mom's saying, "gosh I just can't keep any weight on since nursing..I need to be careful so I don't keep losing!"

Just like anything else, when we are submitted to God, our own desires and selfish ways take a back seat to fulfilling the purpose that He's called us to.

I wrote a bit about it accepting our bodies here: http://andreamomm.blogspot.com/2011/06/accepting-our-ladylike-bodies.html

God Bless!

scarp said...

Thanks! I am a nursing mom of an 11 month old, my second. After the birth of my first, I was skinnier than I was pre pregnancy while eating as much as I wanted (fairly healthy, but without having to give it a lot of thought). So it has been discouraging this time that my body hsape is not slimming down like last time. I know that it has a lot to do with having been operated on at the end of the second trimester and then on bed rest the rest of the pregnancy, as opposed to regularly exercising with my first. But it doesn't stop frustrating me. All of that to say, thank you for your post today. I need all the encouragement I can get in this season.

scarp said...

Thanks for this post. I am a nursing mom, second child, of an 11 month old. I was operated on at the end of the second trimester, then on bed rest, so I know that there are reasons my body isn't slimming down like it did after my first was born, but it doesn't mean it isn't frustrating. I can use all the encouragement I can get. Thanks!

Jessika said...

So glad to find you again through SL forums! This post was so timely for me. Thanks for the encouragement to focus on following Christ and growing in righteousness even as I'm working to get my body in good health.

Jess said...

Good call- I hear what you're saying and am travelling now so I don't have time to edit. But I want to think more carefully about how to word this.

Thanks for the input! I appreciate your ancient language wordsmithery. :)


Matt and Sarah Pitts said...

What a timely word in season for this nursing mama! Thanks Jess!