My mom once told me “It doesn’t matter how heavy the load is, it matters how you carry it.”
We all have our own individual “loads.” Whether it’s 20 pounds, 50 pounds, or 100 pounds—we are all carrying our own “loads” in life that weigh us down. From issues with body image to struggling with eating disorders, we hide the weight that we carry and never let anyone know just how heavy it is. It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair. But the truth is that the heavier our load gets, the stronger we become.
This is the load that I carry, and more importantly, this is how I carried it.
“Healthy” and Insecure
For as long as I can remember, I have always been on the heavier side. “Chubby,” “Big-Boned,” or as my family would call me, “Healthy”— were just a few of the words associated with me growing up. In school, I was noticeably bigger than other girls my age. My size never really mattered to me during that time, but I knew that it bothered those around me.
On a shopping trip when I was about 11 years old, my mom was helping me look for clothes. It was rare that I ever went shopping with my mom. She had always bought me size 12 jeans, or plus-size jeans, which would fit me perfectly.
During this particular shopping trip, I remember the concerned look on my mom’s face when I struggled to get into these particular pairs of jeans. I knew her concern was for good reason, just like any other mom. She was mostly concerned about my health and what my future could possibly look like if I gained more weight at this age. Knowing how concerned my mom was, I felt this feeling of guilt and disappointment in myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I got older, I recognized this feeling: the feeling of insecurity. This physical and emotional weight began to feel heavier and heavier from here on out.
Facing the Hard Truth
Physical Education was always one of my favorite classes growing up. I absolutely loved playing sports like baseball, tennis and volleyball and have always been really competitive at a young age. I excelled in the sports that I played, and the sports I didn’t play, I picked up very fast and used my athletic ability there to my advantage. Besides those fun parts of PE, I always feared the times when we had to do any fitness tests, and especially when we had to do timed runs. Before starting any of our tests, our height and weight were measured, which was when I developed my fear of the scale. I remember telling my teacher to not say my weight out loud and to just write it down in silence. I was afraid to know the truth about me, and I was terrified of anyone else knowing as well. In eighth grade, I was forced to face the truth. This was the year when we had to participate in a wrestling unit—something I feared ever since I heard about it years before.
“I’m going to have you line up from lighter weight class—” my teacher said as he was explaining instructions. He looked directly into my eyes to finish his instructions and said,”—to heavier weight class.” I am the heavier weight class. He knew my secret and I couldn’t be more embarrassed. I never realized how much it hurt when he said that, until I got home that day and his words had resonated in my head like an endless echo. Years later, and here I am talking about it like it happened yesterday, because it still hurts the same way it did in eighth grade.
In high school, my weight wasn’t my only problem anymore. As a teenager, I was faced with severe acne that got worse as the years went by. It was during my sophomore year of high school when my skin worsened. Multiple dermatologist visits, changed eating habits, and layers upon layers of facial products took over my life.
Every morning, it was always tough for me to look into the mirror and see the weight of my skin. Red, plump spots covered my entire face, on the verge of erupting. My skin was so tender and fragile like glass that every touch and movement would sting. I had no choice but to cover it up with makeup, thinking that it would make my skin better when it did exactly the opposite of that.
I remember watching countless makeup tutorials on YouTube and being completely envious that their makeup was so smooth, almost flawless. I had the choice of either going out and covering up my face with an inch layer of makeup that would ultimately make my skin worse, or go out completely bare faced and have the whole world be as disgusted with my face as I was. Having bad skin didn’t leave me much of a choice, so every day was a constant battle as to which one would make me suffer less.
Asking for Help
While all of this was happening, I gained even more weight. Everyday, I looked into the mirror and I felt the weight on my face and on my actual body. Nothing seemed like it was getting any better, and I feared that it never would. I can recall one time I was talking with my mom and she of all people would notice my skin and how bad it was getting. She was also the one to be concerned with my overall health, because after all, she is my mom.
“Why don’t you just have devotional prayer for your skin?” she said.
I honestly thought she was joking because I thought it was so silly to ask God to fix my appearance. “God gave me these things—this look—so why would I ask Him to change it?” I thought to myself. But that’s when I started to realize that these physical matters are no different that mental, emotional, material and spiritual matters. Prayer was always my answer and solution to everything, so why not now?
Shortly after, I followed my mom’s advice. I asked God in my personal prayers to help cure me. I prayed for not only my skin to heal, but also, for my mind to heal, as well. I asked if He could make me happier, and bless me with the heart and mind to love the body that I am in, regardless of what people would say about me. I believed that this was what I needed to do, and I had no doubt in my mind that He would hear me, and that things would look up from here.
Summer of Change
During the summer of my senior year of high school, things started to improve for me. I invested in skin care products that were popular on the internet and started using them in hopes to clear my skin. Fortunately, it worked out for me and my skin became noticeably better. Friends, family and peers noticed it too, mainly because I also felt so much better.
In the following months into the school year, I realized that I was tired of carrying this physical weight on my body and decided to change for the better. I spent years and years loathing my body, and decided that it was time to love my body. I changed my eating habits and looked into diets that fit my lifestyle. I started working out regularly, which improved my energy level. By the end of that year, I had lost 20 pounds, with a face almost clear of acne. It was the best I’ve ever felt. I wasn’t happy because I was slimmer or that my skin was smoother, I was happy because God blessed me with the heart that I needed to realize my self-worth. He helped me learn that I am capable of making changes. For once, I loved and appreciated the body that I was in, and I knew that this was God’s work coming into play. It wasn’t my body or my appearance that made me happier, it was the change of heart and the mindset that God guided me to, so that I could be happier.
Heart & Soul
I was recently asked to be a part of the “Heart and Soul” podcast, on an episode about loving your body. I joined the discussion with Dr. Darwin Buyson, a psychologist from the United Kingdom, Lauren, a dietician, Jun, who also had a hard time with self-love and Brother Richie Juatco, a minister of the gospel, who enlightened us with inspiring words coming from the Bible. To say that this experience was enlightening and eye-opening is a complete understatement.
Hearing from Dr. Buyson and the unbelievable statistics about negative body image that people all over the world suffer from, was devastating, but also really relatable. He helped me understand the relationship between body image, social media, and how it can lead to different kinds of eating disorders. Lauren gave helpful tips about developing good eating habits, which I really appreciated after years of having a horrible relationship with food. I appreciated Jun’s perspective as well—knowing that a negative body image is not limited to a specific gender. He was really courageous in addressing his issues with body image and self esteem. I really appreciated his honesty and courage to share his own experiences.
I was all the more grateful to hear from Brother Richie and the Bible verses that he provided us about loving your body that really helped with my insecurities. It showed me what God had to say about body image and it was the most comforting thing to hear. God has the words for everything we might be going through, even when we think He doesn’t. I left the podcast feeling so great and comforted by my fellow brethren and their words, but most of all, by learning and hearing God’s words.
One thing that I have learned in this journey to love my body, is that no matter what shape or form my body might be, or what my skin will look like, there is that self love that I gained through God’s love for me. He continues to help me heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. After years and years of carrying all this physical and emotional weight, things are finally feeling a little bit lighter.