“You’re a foul one.
No one will touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!
The three words that best describe you are as follows,
Stink. Stank. Stunk!”
Those could be the lyrics to “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” or that could just be my inner monologue during the holidays.
Just after we bless the food and all squeeze each other’s hands with an emphatic, “amen” my anxiety starts to rise. I can smell the carbs. I can hear the sizzle of the grease in the pan. I anxiously search around for anything green, even a casserole of some sort would suffice.
Everything is fifty-shades of golden-brown.
My heart begins to race with a mixture of both fear and excitement. I can feel myself at war with myself. You see, I have two versions of myself. Healthy Hannah and Hungry Hannah. They couldn’t be more opposite and around the holidays their conversation tends to go as follows:
Healthy Hannah: “Wow, we’ve worked so hard all year long. These pants actually seem to fit. Maybe we should chill out for a second.”
Hungry Hannah: “OH MY GOSH I’VE NEVER EATEN IN MY WHOLE LIFE. KIDS LOOK AWAY THIS COULD GET UGLY.”
Healthy Hannah: “Stop it. You’re out of control. Think about the pants! And the bridesmaids dresses!”
Hungry Hannah: “Who needs pants when you can have cake?!”
Healthy Hannah: “I didn’t want to have to do this but now I’m going to have to bring in the reinforcements…”
And then the worst Hannah comes in. Hateful Hannah. Either Healthy or Hungry usually calls in Hateful to break the tie and really throw things over the edge. I like to think of Hateful Hannah as a sort of a clean up batter. We use her when we really need to get the job done and bring everyone home.
Hateful Hannah: “If you eat that cake you’re going to hate yourself.”
Hungry Hannah: “But…but…I’m so hungry and I’ve been so good all year….”
Hateful Hannah: “Oh really? You think you’ve been exercising? The only thing I’ve seen you lift is a fork to your mouth. You don’t deserve food you worthless piece of crap. Get out of the kitchen and get on a treadmill so someone will love you.”
I either slink out of the kitchen void of cheesy and chocolatey goodness. Or, in a flash of defiance I pile my plate so high that I need a booster seat to be able to see over the top of my mounds of mashed potatoes. Afterwards, Hateful Hannah comes in for the kill as she layers on the guilt and shame just as thick as the gravy that coats my digestive system.
If Christmas is all about the spirit of giving then I’m really good at giving myself a hard time.
I very quickly buy into the lie that if I don’t look a certain way or eat a certain way that I’m therefore unlovable. It’s a quick and ridiculous spiral, but it’s true. I need the way I look or the way I eat to justify my existence in the room. It’s really hard to fully engage with the people in my life when I’m constantly over-evaluating and second-guessing the implications of every bite.
But guess what? Odds are if there are cookies and casseroles around then I’m probably already surrounded by people who love me. If I’m tempted to eat something sweet I guarantee you it’s because I’m at a party or at Christmas dinner. And much to my surprise these people invited me to show up at the table regardless of my appearance or performance.
The table is a place of invitation, not intimidation.
Someone is inviting us to the table whether it’s family or friends. Christ has certainly invited us to the table, and isn’t he the one we’re celebrating after all? In fact, we’re celebrating his humanness, his body, the fact that God moved into our neighborhood and put skin on, the very skin that we feel so entrapped and encumbered by.
Can you believe that? The God of the universe loved us enough to have a body, the very body we’re so quick to loathe and abuse. He’s got one too, forever and ever, because he loves us that much. Everyone give a round of applause for Jesus because you better believe there’s no way I would sign up to live in a real human body for all eternity. If you ever doubted the infinite love of God, there’s your proof. He loved you enough to get some actual skin in the game. Even if you’re not into the whole Jesus thing, you’re still into the whole love and acceptance stuff right? Right.
So I’m not letting my body image or self-loathing steal the holidays anymore. This year I decided enough was enough because I am enough. It’s really hard to be present, or give presents, or better yet give the gift of my presence, when I’m counting every carb and shaming myself out of every bite.
There are a few more days left in 2015. There’s plenty of time for the whole “new year new me” to kick in. I get a fresh start and a clean slate in just a few short days. It would be such a waste to not live into the fullness of this last week. It would’ve been such a disservice to the person I’ve become if I had sat back and felt intimidated by the table.
If your body-image stole Christmas don't let it take any more of your year. You have a few precious days left, a few more parties to attend. New Years weekend beckons us right around the corner. Don't let guilt and shame eat up any more of your days than they have to.
There's a new year right and it's shiny and new. Let's leave guilt and shame in 2015 and on the cross where they belong.
Side note: If eating really is something you struggle to find freedom in you should totally check out my friend Margaret Molteni’s blog. This post in particular called "You Don't Have to Eat That" helped me find so much freedom in food.