10/15/2016

There & Back Again

There & Back Again: A Weight Loss Story

Back in December, I took a social media fast and completely erased what had once been a big part of my life: my Instagram account. I have deactivated and reactivated Facebook numerous times throughout the years, but I had never truly deleted a social media account. Gone. Forever. All my data, all my followers, all my memories.

I feared becoming irrelevant. I feared being forgotten. I feared being out of the loop with my friends. I feared forgetting the memories I had posted.

But I pressed “delete.”  I think I might have cried afterwards.

A big part of my frustration was with myself and my own inability to practice self discipline. I felt powerless to limit the time I spent on social media. But truthfully, an equally significant frustration I had, I couldn’t quite put my finger on. My Instagram began in 2013 as a system to hold me accountable to completing T25 Beachbody workouts when I started to take my health seriously. It was a good motivator, some days I only worked out because I knew I had made a commitment to myself to post a “check-in.” A “check-in” was a photo of either myself, Shaun T, or some other aspect relating to the workout I did that day.

Instagram brought a new sense of accountability to my life. To myself.

Upon completing the program, I experienced dramatic weight loss, muscle tone, and a completely new outlook on diet and exercise. I posted my progress photos, me in shorts and a sports bra, and didn’t give it much thought beyond that. I had done what I set out to do.

But then my use of this otherwise innocent social media platform slowly began to transform into something entirely different… Something, to be honest, a little bit ugly. I became addicted to the validation and the feedback of others as they praised my new body, my new life. And then as an injury, emotional stress, and other health problems slowly and then suddenly all at once gave way to gaining all the weight back, I couldn’t help but feel a little betrayed by my own body.

I lost everything I worked so hard to gain.

I grew more and more frustrated, restless, bitter, unable to be joyful, unable to be happy for others. I scrolled through hundreds of photos of picturesquely happy, healthy, and attractive young women, many who posted “transformation photos” of their weight loss stories. Of their six packs. Of their happiness. Of their beauty.

All the things I felt I had lost. All the things I felt I wasn’t.

And as I sank further into my little pity party of one, I began to notice the captions underneath all of these beautiful women’s transformation photos. The story was always the same: “I was unhappy, depressed, anxious, [insert horrible previous-version-of-self here] and now that I’m fit, I feel happy, amazing, and confident.”

I didn’t doubt that their stories were true. But I asked myself, if I truly believe that I am who God says I am, beautiful in His image, worthy of love regardless of my exterior, capable of doing great things in His name… why is it that when I lost my “dream body,” I lost myself? Why do I feel unworthy, unloved, ugly, and alone?

The answer was that I had begun to identify myself with my body, my external appearance, and the opinions of others. And then I realized what I couldn’t quite put my finger on before, why I had run so vehemently away from the Instagram fitness craze.

The transformation stories on Instagram had led me to a place I never meant to go on my journey to wellness. They rooted in me a lie that my worth resides in how I look, how toned my muscles are, how many workouts I got in that day, and how many people knew about it by way of my “check-ins.”

It all seemed so fake to me. So many stories that exclaimed, “I was that, now I’m this!” As if losing weight was the magical missing piece to a life of fulfillment, happiness, and peace.

I had to escape. After a few months of zero Instagram as well as completing a social media fast for Lent, I came out with a fresh perspective.

If I am waiting for the return of my perfect body to be happy again, then I am robbing myself of Joy. Joy can be found in every moment of every day, regardless of shape or size.

One thing that has become clear to me as I continue to write, blog, and post to social media, is that I never want to lose myself in the culture in which I live. For me, that means taking periodic social media fasts to reconnect with myself and to reconnect with my God, for He says:

I am loved.

I am beautiful.

I am worthy.

And I desire to give up my own pride, my skewed sense of worthiness or unworthiness, and my desire to be validated and accepted by others. There are days when I feel strong, convicted, and encouraged, but the road I am traveling on can be a lonely one.

They never said it would be easy, they only said it would be worth it.

Sometimes the right path is not always the easiest one.

~ Grandmother Willow, Pocahontas

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