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A Guest Story by Caroline Dickey

I used to roll my eyes anytime someone would mention something along the lines of, "we as women are taught by today's society that our bodies aren't good enough unless they're a size zero or look like: fill in your idea of beauty." I thought, "no, you're only choosing to believe that way and really you're just taking on a victim mentality."

I'm very pleased to tell you that I no longer believe that. In a world consumed with social media, "clean" eating, fitness boot camps, photoshop, the Kardashians, and Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, women aren't necessarily directly "taught" these beauty standards; however over time the idea that "pretty" only looks like: fill in the blank is planted. It takes root and begins to manifest in our minds. Before we even realize it, we are scrolling fitness accounts, doing intermittent fasting, and signing up for the latest fitness trend classes just to try to reach that idea of beauty. Why are the Victoria’s Secret models all size zeros; why are we being blasted with weight loss commercials; why are the Kardashians promoting waist-training corsets and skinny teas; why do all the kick-ass women in the latest, hottest movies all have rock hard bodies, zero cellulite, perfect mermaid hair and are making millions for it? All that teaches us is that we are better for those things.

Wait — aren't we are also told that all body shapes and sizes are beautiful too?

What are we supposed to believe? Are we being told that idea just to justify the fact that our society's beauty standards are still so unrealistic?

I never thought I'd ever be the girl to blame our culture and society for brainwashing my idea of beauty. It happened subconsciously, and it's happening subconsciously to everyone, especially young, impressionable girls. Let's get a clue! Let's stop commenting on people's weight. You have no idea how they got to that point. Maybe it's weight gain or loss; it really doesn't matter. They could be struggling with hormones, eating disorders, over-training, stress, or maybe they got to that point in a healthy way. Regardless, we are all worth more than our bodies' appearances and we shouldn't be praised for looking a certain way when it's out of our control or we're killing ourselves to get there.

Birthing from my belief that no suffering is ever in vain for a believer, I knew that I'd want to eventually share my story. Romans 5:3-5 says, "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Amen, amen, amen. I have been clinging onto that truth and finding joy and hope in the midst of my pain and misery.

For close to two years now, I’ve been battling with anorexia nervosa. There is a genetic link to this eating disorder, and for many it's a loaded gun waiting to be triggered. Once it's triggered there is no cure; you're either in remission or relapsing. Thankfully a life-long remission is possible. I won't get into the science or the extremely complex neurological details, but I do want to mention that it's a genetically predisposed condition and not a choice. It's an illness, and I did not choose to be sick.

Some of you may be thinking, "Caroline, you don't look anorexic?" I say, "what a blessing!" Someone suffering with this disorder doesn't have to be skin and bones. At one point I was at a very unhealthy weight and my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health all suffered (and still do) because of it. The ugly side of this illness isn't just physical; it affects not only the sufferer, but the friends and family of the one suffering. It's an ugly, brutal battle.

In September of 2017 I decided it was time to ask for some help. I moved back in with my parents and started to seek out professional help. Guys, it's okay to ask for help  — it actually shows your strength, not your weakness. I was tired of living in fear of food, saying no to that piece of cake because “it'll immediately go to my waist.” I was tired of saying no to social gatherings because I was afraid of the food that might be associated with them. I was tired of being a slave to the gym because I had to burn off blank amount of calories.I was tired, I was lonely, and I was depressed. Living my life to the fullest was what I dreamed of, but this illness was tangled around me, pulling me down every time I tried to get up. It still pulls me down. It's an ugly, brutal battle.

It's been eight months since I moved back home. A lot has happened. I've gained some weight. However, I only allowed myself to halfway recover. I thought I was good. "Okay, you're at a ‘healthy’ weight now. You better not gain any more." You see, in my mind, I was recovered and as long as I didn't gain any more weight, I'd be good. I'd be happy. I'd be worthy, loved, and wanted. Yet, I was still living in fear of food.

In those eight months, I was only seeing a therapist. I didn't want to see a nutritionist. They'd probably tell me I still wasn't eating enough, put me on some type of meal plan, and then I'd gain a ton of weight. Oh how I wish I could smack some sense into myself sometimes. The thing about any mental illness is that the only person who can change your mindset is yourself. If you're not ready to recover, you won't. The truth is, I will probably continue to gain some more weight. My body is damaged; and not only does it need to trust me again, but it needs to repair itself. That may mean gaining a few extra pounds than i'm used to or comfortable with in order to fully recover. I have to ignore all the weight loss commercials, summer body exercise routine ads, and instagram posts of girls with "killer" bodies . I have to focus on myself, my health, and my well-being. I have to trust in the process and in my Redeemer because that is what He's doing — He's redeeming my broken body.

Let's fast forward to the now. Control — it's the word I am fighting daily. We aren't called to live a life in fear; we are called to live a life in abundance! Abundance in peace and joy. I've slowly been gaining weight. At the same time, I'm dealing with my ED (eating disorder) thoughts and fears. They're constantly telling me that I’m gaining too much weight, that I better stop or I'll be worth less than I was before. I have to fight my old ways of thinking and choose to trust in The Lord —finding my worth in Him alone — because, if for one second, I give into my old ways of thinking it'll be a downward spiral into fear and restriction.

I am beginning to work with a nutritionist, and that's terrifying. Letting someone tell you how much food you should be eating and the different kinds of foods — "fear foods" or ones that I have deemed as "bad" — knowing full well that I am going to gain weight (even if it's healthy and needed) — that goes against everything our society tells us to do! I have to choose to believe in my beauty, see my "flaws," and love myself anyway.

I know I am being very transparent, but I think my vulnerability can bring some light on this topic. I've lived it first hand and if my story helps even one person in any way, shape or form, then it was worth it. I don't know what the future holds or what the scale will say in a month let alone tomorrow morning, but it doesn't matter! There is freedom in giving our life to Jesus and allowing Him to take the wheel (shoutout: Carrie Underwood).  My story is a reflection of the love and saving grace of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Recovery from anything isn't easy, it's just as much physically painful as it is mentally. It's a daily battle for me; however each of us  deal with battles of our own. Life isn't easy , but there is hope! Hope in our tomorrow because of the loving and saving grace of Jesus. We are more than our battles; we are more than our earthly beings; we are more than our careers; we are more than our race, gender, size, shape, height, clothes, partner, past, and our mistakes. We are who Christ says we are. We are beloved, loved, and adored. We have purpose, and our tomorrows are not ours to control.

There is freedom in surrendering. We can't walk through this life alone. I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago if I tried to do this on my own. I'm leaning on the truth of God's word. That's all I need. He is enough. He completes me in all the areas I fall short. He calls me worthy. He calls me beautiful. He calls me to a purpose, and He equips me to fulfill it. I am enough.

You are enough.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Psalms 139:13-14

"And I am sure of this, the He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12

A note from The Kindred: We hope you are blessed, comforted, and inspired by Caroline's story! She has allowed us to repost this piece from her own blog. For our purposes, it has been edited for length and clarity. To read more about Caroline, and to read the full, original post, click here.

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