I have always hated trying on clothes. Sizes vary so much from place to place, in one shop you can be an 18 and in the next shop you are a size 20 to have anything that fits. I don’t know about you but I like to go into a shop, choose something I like the look of, pick it in my size and buy it. However this isn’t always possible in the clothing department of many of the shops we visit.
Since the age of 13 I have felt overweight, I weighed 9.5 stone and hated what I looked like. I would never wear clothes that would show any stomach, I always wore t-shirts or blouses that went over the top of my skirts or trousers or I would wear a jumper so that no one would suspect how fat I was; there is even photographic evidence of me wearing a jacket in the Summer and I remember the feeling of not wanting to go out unless I was covered up.
It’s difficult to piece together all the ways in which I convinced myself that I was overweight, back then obese wasn’t a term used but in my mind’s eye that’s exactly how I saw myself. Looking back over old photographs I came to realise that I wasn’t fat I was just a different shape to other people.
Today it is considered a fact that we come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are apple shape, some pear and some banana. (The scientific terms are endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph). Whether we are concerned with which item in the fruit bowl is more reflective of our shape it is certainly true that our bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
That is why in some shops we can be a size 16 and in others a size 18 because the clothes haven’t been designed with our differing shapes in mind. When we desperately want to be that smaller size and we know we have lost some weight, we anticipate the acceptance a smaller size will bring us then to have that hope dashed when we can’t even squeeze into the next size up. The American system has taken the shape factor into account, for each of the sizes you can get a small, medium or a large. This is a much more realistic and practical approach to buying clothes, customers can actually buy something to wear based on what will fit and what suits their body shape rather than squeeze into something that feels uncomfortable; it then becomes a much more practical purchase rather than an emotional one.
One diet fits all
The same can be said of the dieting industry. We see the success of dieting displayed on TV and in our magazines, the hope and promise of a thinner life; a certain diet has proven to be the answer for the lifelong struggle to lose weight. So, we buy into it, invest our time and money, holding onto the vision of the success of another. Why didn’t it work? What’s wrong with me? Am I just set up to fail every time? Maybe I haven’t found the right diet! So, we try the next one and the next one only to continue the merry-go-round of futility. We ultimately conclude that we must be the problem, we must have done something wrong if it works for all those other people.
Maybe there is something else we should factor into the equation; maybe dieting doesn’t work for many of us because our problem is one of the heart. Dieting doesn’t deal with the inner turmoil of needing to fit in or the feelings of inadequacy. Dieting doesn’t address the relationship with food and the need to overeat. We have all had different life experiences, different upbringings, we all have different viewpoints of how this world works or doesn’t work, dieting doesn’t take any of this into consideration.
I am sure many of you share in the humiliation of standing on the scale and realising you gained weight rather than the loss you were hoping for, this major disappointment, for me, always resulted in overeating to fill the gap of inadequacy. Or the simplistic idea that all you must do to lose weight is eat less calories and exercise more. This advice only works if you don’t have a relationship with food, if you don’t have a dependency on the food to provide you with emotional stability.
The diet industry is left wanting because it doesn’t deal with each of us as individuals, it deals with us as a mass of fat and offers the promise that this will melt away if you do what you are told. However this approach only serves to reinforce our belief system; that we have no power over our lives and that we are failures anyway so why bother trying.
So why is God’s approach different, what has God got to say about our struggle with overeating anyway, isn’t it a modern phenomenon?
Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made….
God created each one of us to be unique, to differ from one another; we have different finger prints, different DNA, different races. So why do we spend so much time drooling over magazines and imagine ourselves as the supermodel with the super figure; we were never meant to be the same. In fact our differences is what makes us the same, we are all human, we all had the same creator, however it is our differences that shouts out that our God is creative and imaginative.
It’s about perspective
In Psalm 139 we see how much time and thought went into our creation, we see that God knitted us together in our Mother’s womb. In Luke 12:7 Jesus told the disciples that each of the hairs on our head have been numbered. Jesus goes on in Luke 13 to explain that he desires to gather up all his children as a mother hen gathers her chicks.
This is God’s starting point that he loves the whole world and wants to be in relationship with his creation.
Instead of allowing society to dictate who you are or who you should be let us consider God’s perspective; consider the loving way in which you were created, consider how much love it took to mould your body into being.
Don’t limit ‘you’ into being the same as everyone else; celebrate your uniqueness by turning to the God who knows you best.
The next time you look in a mirror ask God to show you how He sees you and one day you too will be able to join in with the praise of the Psalmist.
Getting to the heart of the matter
However God also knows our heart, he knows that we have all fallen short of his glory, he knows that without his intervention that we will never measure up to the only standard that matters. This is why dieting doesn’t work because deep down we know we are a failure, deep down we are aware there is something that needs fixing we just don’t know what it is. So we keep looking for the solution in the world, we exercise more, we buy into the latest food craze or we give up altogether and use the very thing that is killing us to make us feel better.
What a mixed-up world we live in however this is not a place of despair in fact the very realisation that we need fixing but we can’t fix ourselves is the very place we need to be; to recognise that we need someone to intervene. We need someone who not only understands our heart condition but someone who can do something about it.
Romans 3:21 – 26 explains to us both the problem and the perfect solution ‘But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’. (NIV)
The solution to our heart problem is Jesus himself, Jesus who willingly came to earth to rescue us from ourselves; the sinful nature that so easy entangles us into sin. God’s standard is the standard of righteousness, in other words to be made right with God. This is at the core of our heart problem, we can only be made right not through what we try to achieve ourselves but by faith in Jesus. By accepting that Jesus both knows our condition but is also the solution to the problem then we begin to find hope; hope that there is more to life than constantly seeking a freedom that seems to elude us.
Hebrews 12:1-3 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’.(NIV)
By accepting Jesus as the means to being right with God we begin to see that we can also live right for him. We have the opportunity to put off the sin, put off the desire to overeat, to put off the self-satisfaction we find from eating the 3rd bar of chocolate or to put off the desire for perfection.
Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned and have all fallen short of the glory of God. No matter what our upbringing, no matter what our learned behaviours, even if we consider ourselves a success or a failure one day we need to realise that Jesus is the only fit that we need.
Jesus is the ‘one size fits all’ solution because he deals with us as unique individuals. Ultimately what our heart is seeking is a relationship with Jesus, this is the gap that needs filling in our heart. Until we give our hearts to Jesus we will continue to wander aimlessly seeking the solution that the world offers but can never fulfil.
But as the writer of the book of Hebrews says we do not grow weary or lose heart because Jesus is the source of what we need, the solution to who we were, who we are and who we are to become.