How can a morbidly obese person hide? Being so large makes a person very visible. When I was obese people would stare, make comments and I was laughed at many times throughout my young adult and adult life. I have very few memories of childhood that involved feeling beautiful physically. I always knew I was loved by my family, but I really don’t remember loving myself.
I want to share with you about my day of reckoning. To tell you about one of many experiences that formed me, shaped me. This one however, started my path in a different direction and I’m grateful for the pain of that day. It motivated me. There was one time in July 2010 that I was mortified by an experience at an amusement park called Carowinds. I couldn’t fit into a seat on a roller coaster. There was a “test” seat at the end of the line. This was there to expedite the loading process and to avoid confusion at the onset of the ride. However, I was decimated as I tried to fit my hips and stomach into this seat. My husband, and friends Jamie and Mandy watched with kindness in their eyes as I tried several times to get the bar to latch. They offered not to ride, but I through tears assured them that they needed to go ahead and have fun. So I waited in 100+degree heat for over an hour while they rode the ride. Then to console my wounded pride we went to ride another ride. Guess what? I couldn’t really fit on that one either, but they put me in a “special” seat. After making me move away from my party, struggling to strap me in with the double belts, and wishing me a good ride I was undone. I cried the entire time and felt completely worthless as this display had taken place in front of hundreds of people.
August, September, and October went by as usual. Although my heart had been broken I didn’t know what to do about it. Then the day…..October 31, 2010 I woke up and simply….I had had enough. I said to myself that I no longer wanted to be fat. I hated who I was, who I had become and where I was headed. The words of the 12-steps and 8 recovery principles were ringing in my heart and head and I said to the Lord “I’m powerless to change. I’m out of control. You have to help me.” I wrote down some goals. Took a picture, went for a walk (as long as I could…which wasn’t long) and cried one GOOD cry. It was the beginning of the end. The death of the victim. The dying off of a woman who felt trapped and captive to addiction, fear, pain, sadness and a destiny of health problems, isolation, half-hearted relationships, and failure.
Up to this point most days I felt like I had the ability to hide. I felt insulated by my fat. I felt that if you really wanted to love me, to be in my world that you would embrace me despite my physical size. I used my fat as a shield and put up a barrier of false humility. It wasn’t because of my past I was fat. It wasn’t because I had carried five children, two sets of twins on a 5 foot 2 inch frame. It was because I made choice, after choice, after choice. I kept my heart concealed and the truth at bay. I concealed my hurt, pain, shame and guilt with humor, charisma and whatever talents I could (singing, playing, acting etc.) People appeared to like me even when I didn’t.
I went years without liking myself. High school brought a reprieve from the voices in my head that bombarded me with negativity. Although there were still unkind words spoken to me, and hurtful stares I succeeded in many areas. I was on prom court my junior and senior years. I had a boyfriend and I was drum major my senior year. I appeared to be well liked and did well in my studies. College was a mixed bag of emotion, fear, pain and disappointment. Yes, it brought me a wonderful husband, but it also brought more weight, more pain and more sadness. Years went by of trying, failing, trying again to lose weight and become the woman I wanted to be since childhood. You see I was still equating beauty with being a certain size/look. However, there was also this knowledge deep in my core that I was made for more than this cycle of guilt, sadness and shame.
In 1999 after graduating from WCU I started at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. I had a great experience there and I was able to lose approximately 30 pounds by portion control, following Weight Watchers principles and walking 3 miles daily with a friend, Shannon. It didn’t stay off long as I became pregnant in 2001. I never lost the weight I gained with that pregnancy and my weight just kept rising and rising after that. Basically from 21-33 I was on a roller coaster of living a dual living (acting like I wasn’t hurting but being devastated), trying to ignore my ever-increasing sickness, smiling through the pain and living a world of performance for everyone else. Mixed motives. Mixed emotions. Joy and sorrow mingling constantly. I didn’t like who I was.
2005 brought a bit of hope. Nathan and I started participating in a ministry called Celebrate Recovery. Through the work of a 12-step study I was able to release a lot of shame, guilt, fear and could process hurt, pain and betrayal. I really begin to forgive people who had harmed me AND I began the work of forgiving myself. In 2008 as I shared my testimony on stage at Mountain View Church I said the words “I like myself”. It was the first time I could remember saying them in almost twenty years. Chains broke that day. It was the start of something grand. 2009 brought two more amazing Flint kiddos and the journey of realizing wholeness and balance continued. In the midst of all of this though…more weight, more using food to cope.
Years of my life playing hide and seek. Hiding behind my faith instead of using it as strength or to walk in the fullness of victory. Manipulating my world with my family, my smile, my fat, my personality, my humor. All the while seeking true identity, true love and acceptance. I was longing to be loved unconditionally and to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin…no matter what size it was. I wanted to change, to have some sort of control and to eat one meal, one bite, one type of food without feeling destroyed. I mean really, aren’t they just french fries, pizza, donuts……….???!!! The seeking began and is continuing. Seeking God’s truth. Memorizing scripture, reading His word, reading books that are positive and uplifting. Seeking new ways to cope, to move, to eat, to live, to pray, to train, to laugh, to love, to play, to think. to BE. Releasing guilt, shame, fear, pain, hurt, sadness, anxiety and disappointment.
Today I’m visible and it’s okay. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to like me or not. I like me. No. I’m not at “goal”, but the great part is that my goals have changed. Numbers are simply that…numbers. Most importantly I know that I’m the beloved daughter of God. I’m treasured beyond measure and I’m wanted, accepted and liked. I’ve been redeemed and it’s good to be out of hiding.