I haven’t been home in 2 and a half years.
My dad turns 70 this month. And so our family will make the trek from Baltimore to Johannesburg via Detroit and Amsterdam. To be back with these people. These people who were my first home.
We’re ordering gifts and getting new suitcases and planning all the family we want to see. But deep down, deep down I’m wasting my anticipation because it’s drowning in a self-conscious worry I wish I could turn off. Turn off like the dripping faucet it is.
Here’s the thing – this time last summer I was at the healthiest, fittest weight I’ve been in years. Then I faced some crushing book deadlines and I mainlined candy corn, cotton candy and other assorted forms of sugar to push myself through.
These are things a 40-year-old body does not recover from quickly. Or even slowly. It recovers verrryyyyy slowly. No matter that I signed up for a gym and am actually going several times a week. No matter that I’m cutting out the late night binging on French bread and brie cheese and Cheetos. No matter than I’m really really trying, the scale has been depressingly stubborn every morning that I step onto it and feel my heart sink with each pound I haven’t lost yet.
And my days are filled with self-beratement about my lack of discipline and why can’t I survive on less calories and why do I love food so much.
I’ve never had an unhealthy relationship with food or my body. I’ve loved both. Generously.
But somehow in the last few months that scale has become an angry voice in my ear. A voice that despises my thighs and my belly and speaks ruthless criticism at both. And I have listened. And tried really hard to obey.
And it’s sucked the life and marrow out of this lifetime trip home.
Today I woke up and decided I was tired of it.
I was on the phone with my dad and I told him about it. I told him we’re coming home chubbier than we would have liked and asked him to just take us as we are. My dad. My dad who is turning 70 and is fantastically health-conscious and runs 5 miles and is raising kids the same age as mine and who probably never binge ate anything in his life.
My dad. Man, I could feel the love unfurling across the miles of phone lines and into my ear – he said, we’ll love you just the way you are and we hope you’ll let us add a few more pounds on of all the foods you love here for good measure.
Listen, this isn’t about food or weight. Really. It’s about love. It’s about believing you are unconditionally loved. No it’s more than that. It’s about KNOWING you are unconditionally loved.
Do you know what that means? Let me spell it out for you the way I had to spell it out for myself:
Unconditional love = you are loved no matter what.
No matter what the scale says or your book review says or your performance report says or your passive aggressive relationship says or your bathing suit says or the voice in your head says.
You are loved beyond pounds or fit or style or perfection.
You are loved because YOU ARE.
Period. End of story.
You are loved because you were created by a God who IS love.
You are loved because it’s the DNA of the stuff you were made out of.
You are loved because it’s the blood that runs in your veins and the sway of your hips, and yes even the rub of your upper thighs against each other — love, love, love, left, right, swish, swish, love love love. Even in the sticky sweat of summer in places you wish weren’t sweating.
You are loved because it’s what pumps in your veins like a drumbeat reminder that this is your name and there is no other name than love, love, love.
Somehow between the scale and my favorite jeans that don’t fit this summer I forgot that.
My daughter was stroking my belly this morning and whispered into its curves – “I love this belly.”
And my dad said the same thing using different words on the phone this morning.
And my husband said it when he called to say he missed me while he’s traveling this week.
This throbbing harmony of how loved we are. If only we will listen. If only we will stop listening to our measuring sticks and scales and start listening to our promises.
For God himself has said, “I will never fail you or abandon you.”
But there are some voices that WE need to leave.
Don’t get me wrong, I will continue on this journey to be healthy for my kids and for the calling God has entrusted to me. I will practice curbing my sugar cravings and leaning into better choices in my fridge and in my heart.
But at the same time I will leave behind the voices that are robbing me of the joy of that journey.
And I will practice being loved, more than I practice being careful what I eat.
And next week I will fly home to my South African people and I will revel in rusks and pancakes and boerewors and pap and koeksisters and a whole host of foods that taste like home. And I will not consult the scale for its opinion.
I will look into the eyes of my family and let them have the last word.
Because I already know what my Father has said:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
And before I step onto a scale I will repeat those words out loud and let them be the weight that defines me.
PS: I’m not asking for diet suggestions or work out plans by writing this post. I’m just asking you to look at yourself in the mirror or on the scale and hear a voice that’s weightier than your weight. A voice that literally does love you — just the way you are. Amen?
Yeah, takes a whole new level of letting go to lose weight and stay trim past 40- but you can do it. It is possible.
I love, love, love this! What a testimony to unconditional love. I relate to what you described but am looking at it through fifty something year old eyes. We are blessed to be loved and to love.
Thank you. At 4 AM today my son (who has been very sick for a couple years) was squeezing my belly that is no where near flat. I asked why he was doing that. “Because your squishiness makes me feel safe.”. Through doctors, hospitals, surgeries, testing – it is my belly (that to be honest, I really am not happy about) that makes him happy and safe.
This was very touching. Thank you. I’ve been struggling with loving myself lately after not meeting certain expectation/goals I had with the scale — after five babies in seven years. Though that certain number on the scale may still be just out of reach this summer, my worth is the same. Fully loved!
Thank you Lisa-Jo, this is exactly where I am as well this season, so your words are a wonderful balm to my soul. Bountiful blessings on you as you allow your “people” to love you well no matter what!
I don’t know how to do this…. but yes, I agree with you. It makes me so sad how we beat ourselves up like we do. I try to think, how would I respond to my kids if they had an issue like this? I sure as heck wouldn’t respond the way I do to myself. I would respond in love. How it must hurt our heavenly Father when we talk to ourselves this way. Let it go, Lisa-Jo and I will try too.
Lisa-Jo, this is great! Haven’t all of us been there with that on and off battle with our bodies and those voices in our heads? and why is it so much easier to put it on than to take off?
But leave all that at home and just go and enjoy South Africa and family . Stay well.
Thank you. This is exactly what I needed to read right now.
Been there. Done that. As a (ahem) 59-year-old, I totally get just how hard it is to make that scale budge. It’s doable. What’s also doable is being loved, no matter what. I’ve seen good friends after years apart, and we all look different. Guess what? Within 5 minutes, THIS is the way they’ve always looked to me! That’s what love is. Bask in it, Lisa-Jo. Eat all those foods you’re missing. Enjoy. Your. Self. Tomorrow’s another day :)
Lovely post. Thank you. I’m trying to balance between accepting when my two Littles lovingly call me “Squishy mama! I love how squishy you are!” (While squeezing my soft arms and middle) and leaning into healthier choices. Thank you.
Just what I needed to hear…thank you for sharing this Lisa! Prayers for your trip home too ❤️
The scale never entered our house. We weren’t conscious until the kids came. And after that, it wasn’t ever about losing the weight. Although, it should have been about exercising. I still don’t like it. But I want to see my grandkids, so I am. It’s just a bit slow.
Love your perspective, and your words. I’ve been following you I think since either your beginning or just after. Keep up all that work – and the writing too. ; )
Keep BEING the person you love, and the one your family loves. You got it.
Lisa, I love the honesty and particularity of your writing, that makes it universal! And the humour! Thanks for being a model of encouragement. You inspire me to be a better writer and remind me of the main thing! Such good words in my Australian morning. Enjoy South Africa!
This couldn’t have come at a better time!! This summer I too have been struggling to love the body I’m in. After three kiddos and quitting nursing my last my body just isn’t what it was. Trying to listen to TRUTH and not LIES. Amen sister! And my youngest sis and her fam are missionaries and live in Mozambique and rusks are her breakfast every am!! ;)
Wow. How I needed this today! I am trying so hard–doing all the “right” things and obsessed with the scale. I will NOT budge. This unconditional love is something I thought I always believed, but I am thinking I believe it for everyone BUT me. I am not really living in the moment, and I find myself hiding from pictures and events and life. I will continue; but hopefully with a new attitude. Thank you again. Many blessings to you. Enjoy your visit.
Gah! I love you so! That is all! (Oh and this: Have the BEST time with your people, in the place you first called Home!)
This is so much needed for me today. I’ve been on the scale every day this week. Thank you and enjoy your time with your family.
Lisa-Jo, thank you for the humor! I was a full-time teacher this year and sugar was my stress relief. (Chocolate is the new apple for the teacher?!)
I actually wore out a pair of khakis with my swish swish left right and was mortified to discover that at lunch after teaching half a day in said khakis.
I have been consistently using MyFitnessPal and working out with a friend for two weeks now. The scale has not budged though I am firming up a bit.
Thanks for the encouragement that it’s about love in the midst of making good choices. That it’s been about love and not shame/perfect performance all along! I will be 36 in October and see my pictures from 4 years ago when I was fit and did a 1/2 marathon. It has been easy to feel discouraged.
Thank you for the “me too” today! This is what has made FMF so powerful for me-all the “me too” moments.
I wish you were coming to Kansas City with us so I could thank you in person.
May God richly bless you and your family reunion!!
I love every single thing about this….enjoy the rusks and the pap and the lychee fruit from the yard…have a FABULOUS time – I can’t wait for all the IG stories. :)
Crying hot tears reading this. Sometimes God sends us just what we need to hear. I dieted (failing miserably) for the month up until I went “home” this past month. I have 3 kids and my body is so different than it used to be. Thanks for reminding me that I’m lovely and love able no matter my weight. Also, your Dad.. no words.. what an incredible Dad.
I’m also struggling with this body I find myself in at 40 and having just delivered my third child 8wks ago. One of the things I use as my motivation for self-love is that 2 of my 3 children are girls. Girls who will become women, girls who do and will continue to watch and model what they see mama do. So even if I have to “fake it until I make it” I am determined to never let my daughters see any of my negative body image issues. The greatest gift I could give them is an example of what self-love, and heathy body image look like
This is exactly where I’m at these days and realizing how much I equate my weight to being loved. I want to “practice being loved” and let the weight of God’s words define me and be weightier than the scales’ reprimand. Thank you Lisa-Jo.
Being loving and kind with myself has been something I’m working on this year. I have the same conversation with myself often. Being over 40 changed things in ways I really never anticipated. I do the same thing to myself before trips or my birthday. Sometimes it goes my way other times it doesn’t. It’s so easy to put myself down and so hard to remember that I’m more than my weight.
I just stepped on the scale and I am disappointed that I have been at the same weight for two weeks . Last month I join weight watcher and a gym . I need to loose some weight . So I am laughing right now because God is there all the time for me . Thank you Lisa for sharing and the encouragement .
Thank you for your honesty and sharing your message. I needed to hear this tonight.
Your email in my Inbox was so timely today! Last night I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the body that stood before me. Who was this woman with the expanded and bloated belly? (And no, I’m not pregnant!). At 40+, this body is changing, for better or for worse…just hoping that the worse is over and it will get better! Granted, there may be some medical issues (but those are in the process of getting figured out). Instead of focusing on it and wallowing in self-pity, I had a sweet time in God’s Word and with Him in prayer this early summer morning.
Enjoy your time with family, friends and familiar places! Thanks for taking time out of your busy days of planning and preparations to encourage me!
Love. Love. Love! Yay for your trip!! I’ve been longing to go see Tante Molly since my cousins and I have begun supporting her (nursing home care) and the family stories have begun unfurling, flowing freely and beautiful (even the hard war parts).
And LOVE the words of no body shaming!! We are the worst to ourselves! Show yourself the respect you would give a stranger!!
I’m rooting for you to FULLY enjoy the memory making of food and family; to love deep and well on each mile traveled and every table shared.
God bless you on this journey! I’m praying for you all.
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing. I really needed this. Enjoy every minute with your family.
Lots of love from a sunny South Africa.
I read something the other day that really spoke to me. We are not fat, we HAVE fat. We all have different amounts, but that doesn’t decide our value.
We got shifted around at work and I ended up sitting with three girls from the company that bought mine. It sometimes seems as if they discuss dresses, diets, and fitness all the time. As a result, this week I caught myself thinking “I can’t wear shorts to work, the girls are all wearing dresses…” and then, a bit later, I was studying my sides, thinking that those “love handles” aren’t really lovely…
And that despite the fact that I usually liked the way I look and didn’t care who thought whatever about my clothes (it was convenient to work with a bunch of guys who don’t care what you wear, even if it’s the same hoodie third week in a row).
Oh, Lisa-Jo–your scale and mine must be sisters separated at Walmart. What in the ever-living world? I know I’ve heard all the stuff about lower metabolisms when you’re older, blah, blah,blah. But, never did I apparently believe it. I’ll be 46 next month, and like you, it seems like no matter how much I exercise or cut carbs, or take orders from a wristband (fitbit) , or cut calories, or, or, or…the scale still laughs. I only want to lose 12ish pounds, but bargaining with the scale doesn’t seem to be an option. — Beautifully encouraging words today. Thank you. — Happy Birthday to your dad. Prayers for a safe, memory-filled trip. ((graces))
I loved your post. Menopause and advancing years (my next big birthday will be 60) mean there us a little more of me to cuddle these days. I know you didn’t want diet advice but do look at The Daniel Plan, which has saved me from the guilt ridden road to health and lifted me up instead. We have two pairs of scales in our house, why is it that I use the downstairs one which is probably accurate and my 20 something daughter, lovely and bubbly and with a fiancee who loves her curves, happily uses the bathroom scales which are always 11lb lighter than those downstairs?! The optimism and joy of youth.
Have a wonderful, wonderful family trip – nothing more important.
Because of love, love, love and your encouragement to hear the TRUTH with both my ears and my heart, I am better able to reject the lies of insufficiency today. Bless you, your people, and your adventure home!
Thanks Lisa. It seems like most of the women I know in their 40’s go through the same difficulties. It’s hard to loose weight even if you never had children. It’s just the way nature goes. I do believe that we need more than discipline to make it through. We need to let Jesus in our lives. We need to let go of the “control” and let Him fill us up. Our souls, our minds and our bodies. We have to trust Him to guide us, give us strength and show us how to love ourselves as well as each other. We’re the first ones to judge and self punish. We need to turn off the negative talk and feel His love. Good luck on your trip. I hope everything goes as smooth as possible. I would be lying if I said it’s going to be easy. It’s a long trip whether you are 5 or 50. We all need patience and grace. Prayers for you and your crew. Sincerely, Debbie Finley
Lisa – I cried as I read your words, so anointed. God used you to touch my heart, I have struggled so with feeling inferior and judging myself so harshly. I am on this journey, only I am almost 58. Talk about a verrrryyy slow weight loss, but I am doing it and growing through it. I am following the no cane sugar and no wheat/white flour. So for the folks that say “I can’t change”, I say I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Thank you for your beautiful words of self-acceptance. You have shared the Father’s heart with me tonight and I have been wrapped in His loving embrace. God Bless you on your journey. I will follow your writings – they have been food to my soul tonight!
Thank you. I am “home” as I read this for my mom’s 70th. I spent much time worrying about what others might think or say. I carefully packed clothes that might camouflage this 46 year old belly & hip package that I have acquired.
And I am not the topic of any conversation like that. We speak of love, work, summer plans, & yes, what we will joyfully cook & eat together. We are perfectly made❤️
This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing. My belly is no where near flat, but my toddler loves to squeeze it while I tell him about the time he lived inside. I’m learning to love it, stretch marks and all, because it brought me him.
This is the most beautiful way I’ve ever read this message. Only the Lord knew that I needed to read this in such a way that your perspective changes my thinking. I repent. I’ve been incredibly hard on myself and detrimental to my life because of how I’ve treated my body. And still need grace. But God and His grace is enough to keep me and you, and endure through day to day. I’m without words to say how this is resonating in me and my heart. I simply thank you for writing this all out. I am loved and not the overweight, over compensating inadequate daughter any more. Wow, simply wow, how wonderful this permission feels!
I totally get it. I was super healthy when I got married. Would walk 7+ miles daily, lift weights, etc. Fast forward to 2014. My aging dad began having major health issues and my job changed & suffered a lot. I began to despise going to work & wondering if/when the phone would ring. I took to eating “junk” food and drinking diet coke. My weight went & still is the highest it’s ever been. I used to say “I’ll never have mushroom tops. Surprise! I know that with time, diet, & exercise I can get back into decent shape again.
Yes! Thanks for the reminder that I am unconditionally loved. Loved by God enough for Him to send His ONLY Son to die for me!!!
Have a great trip visiting family & friends!
As so many have said above, Thank you for your words of encouragement! These were needed words this morning! The scale is stuck or increasing here despite the exercise and it’s voice was loud and angry! God’s voice is not so, nor is my families! My goal is changing, slowly but surely, to healthy rather then less weight. Your words of encouragement were a blessing this morning! God Bless you!
I definitely understand your pain on this subject. I am your age, born the same month, & trying to loose some weight. I also have to remind myself a lot about what God thinks of me. It is a battle a lot of us face.