Happy Thursday, friends! Today I have the joy of passing my pen to my friend Marsha, who is sharing with us her struggle with body image. Ladies everywhere, I pray you will be encouraged just as I was. – Jen
My testimony starts as a Jesus-loving young girl consumed with how she looked. I watched my mom struggle with her weight, and she desperately did not want me to deal with the same issues. Unfortunately that made me (and her) hyper-focused on it, and I began to believe I was fat, ugly, not good enough, and would never find anyone to love me.
I remember following the Weight Watchers diet plan when I was in elementary school, eating lettuce with salt on it and cans of tuna. I’ve cried WAY too many tears over a number on a scale. And looking back, there has never been a time in my life when I was overweight. Sure, there’s always a few pounds to lose or places to tighten up, but I’ve never been obese or considered “heavy” by anyone’s standards. It was just a complex that began way too early and became a lifelong struggle.
I suffered from what the doctors would call a “nervous stomach.” I was painfully shy and introverted and worried about everything. I worried about what people thought of me, of how I looked to others, if anyone would ever love me enough to marry me, if I was enough.
In college I toyed with binging and purging both with exercise and with laxatives. I’ve done all kinds of diets, pills, etc.
I finally found a man to show some interest, and I married him. For nearly 5 years we struggled to make it work, but I still had all the baggage of my worth and my own identity. We weren’t able to make the marriage last.
Having been a Christ follower most of my life, I have given Him this struggle, taken it back, given it to Him, taken it back, and so on! It’s the one thing that I know draws me to Him on a daily basis, because I can’t do this alone. The struggle has always been more in my head than in my physical body. I exercise and I eat most of the right things, but it just never seemed good enough.
When I turned 40 I read Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, and in it the story of the Israelites is highlighted specifically when God told Moses, “You have circled this mountain long enough, now turn north.” It clicked. I had been in this desert for 40 years.
So at 40 I turned north!
Oh, it wasn’t like flipping a switch and at that moment I knew and believed everything written in His word about how I’m “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “loved with an everlasting love.” But it was the catalyst. Slowly, I began to let go of my insecurities. Slowly, I began to take the chance at believing that maybe I was okay. Slowly, the thoughts in my heart began to change.
I still thought I was okay doing life on my own. God and I could handle my struggles. I mean, I had struggled forever with my self-image, always wanting to lose just 5 or 10 more pounds. But that was going to be my life, my normal….right?
However, I was convinced to do life with a group of ladies from all over the United States in a closed Facebook group for 40 days in 2015. We checked in. We shared scripture. We prayed for each other. We talked health and fitness. Some of us were runners, others lifted weights and some did DVD workouts in their living rooms. Some had baby weight to lose, others had some toning up they wanted to do, while many looked like they couldn’t get anymore fit and lean. None of that mattered. The workouts, the scales. All that mattered was that we had hearts that wanted more of Him in our lives and part of that was being a good steward of these bodies we were given.
And with that group, it all clicked.
I realized that this struggle that I’ve had, looking in the mirror, accepting and being thankful for this body I’ve been given, was/is an avenue for me to empower other women to be fit AND to be free. You see, you can be fit, but you can be in so much bondage. Slave to a scale. Slave to a number. Slave to a supplement or a pill. Slave to a rigid workout and diet plan. That’s not how we were meant to live.
While I was in the group, God did some work in my heart. Oh, I may have lost a few inches (because having some accountability always helps!), but the real transformation was on the inside. I began to look beyond myself. I’m fit. I needed to live free! Quit looking for affirmation. Quit comparing. Quit trying quick fixes. Quit buying into the gimmicks.
In the process, I began to share and interact more in the group. I recognized that God wanted to set me free so that I could help other women find what is “fit” for them and live free in the bodies that they’ve been given. Because every woman should know and believe she is fearfully and wonderfully made.
Marsha Apsley is a wife, mom and a faith-based counselor who helps women live fit and free by providing them with support and tools to live a sustainable healthy lifestyle. She’s an avid runner and “mom” to her local running club. She often shares lessons learned from running to apply to life. Marsha loves to encourage all people to get out and move and honor the body that God has entrusted to them and know first and foremost that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter & Instagram.