The Girl I Once Was is a series of blog posts compiled from real-life journal entries from my teenage years. At 13, my insecurity turned efforts to lose a “few pounds” into obsessive calorie restriction/over-exercising. Soon after, food allergies I experienced as a child returned. My digestive system reacted negatively to almost every kind of food and a functioning body felt like an unreachable dream. After years of trips to the naturopath attempting to follow various elimination diets, I was sick of being sick and tired — trapped in a body I refused to love. My rapid weight loss caused hormonal imbalances, leading to a draining season of anxiety coupled with the loss of my menstrual cycle for a year.
At 15, I wanted out. I took my first steps away from compulsive overexercising and began a journey of healing that continued until I graduated high school. My journals have sat on my closet shelves ever since. A few years ago, I revisited my words. They were heartbreaking. I didn’t want to go back. I was recently stirred to try again, at 21 years old, to review them once more. And instead of heartbreak, I found Grace. His Grace on every page. I have joy. I know what it is to be loved and accepted by a Heavenly Father. God has set me free from the trap of comparison and healed my heart. Oh, how far I have come. Oh, what a story He has written for my life.
“For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deuteronomy 20:4
I have prayed much about sharing these [seemingly] insignificant words. They are raw, they are vulnerable and I am terrified. But my prayer has always been: Use me, Lord.
Thanks for reading,
In our family, healthy food and an active life was the norm. Neighbourhood walks, bike rides, trips to the park — not to mention wholesome dinners around the table. My parents loved me unconditionally; my appearance was never discussed. I didn’t think I was fat or thin — I didn’t think anything. My eyes were opened to my own body when the first comments about my weight came in elementary school. I started to notice the bodies of my friends. Maybe their words were true. My body started changing when puberty hit — and those changes brought with them analysis. I started to track pounds and inches. Upon much comparing, I knew there was work to be done. I needed to lose the weight that stood in between “normal” and “hot.” I learned about calories, cardio and weight-training. I studied every celebrity diet and training program, read every fitness magazine, spent hours on forums and made a weight-loss plan for myself. With obsessive calculation, I lost 15 pounds my last year of middle school.
June 12, 2004: I’ve decided to start keeping a journal because I read the book “The Princess Diaries” for the second time. It seems like a great idea to understand your feelings. Sara* is having a really hard time at school. It bugs her that Nicole* thinks of herself as fat and ugly even though she’s beyond gorgeous and the perfect size. I hate all these low self-esteem issues girls have. Some of these people have no right to hate their bodies. My confidence is okay… but I know after losing 10 more pounds, I’ll love myself. [*names changed]
June 14, 2004: I went on the treadmill for 30 minutes and stopped because I wasn’t motivated to do more. I looked up some calorie information and I’ve decided to cut cheese right out of my diet. After dinner, I was feeling lazy again and getting into an “I’m so fat” mood. So I did the best thing; I went on the treadmill again. Tomorrow is supposed to be my weights and cardio day which will take me 1.5 hours… I don’t know if I can fit it in. I could do weights then study for my French exam while I walk on an incline. Maybe tomorrow at lunch I will study so I can run after school.
June 21, 2004: Today I worked out for over two hours. I don’t remember how it went. It was a blur. I hope this is becoming a habit I no longer have to think about…
I have an urge to read the Bible. Strange. I haven’t done that in months.
June 28, 2004: Wow, school is over. I’m kind of sad, the next time we go to school we’ll be in high school, as Grade 9s. I’m sort of nervous. I had a few “fat” moments today. I hate that feeling. But I worked out lots today! I did 45 minutes of weights, 45 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of Pilates and 10 minutes of ab work. I’m proud of myself. On Tuesday, we leave for Cranbrook. I am not looking forward to five days without working out or counting calories. It might be good for me though. I am definitely going on at LEAST two jogs while I’m there. Maybe I’ll bring this journal and record what I eat. I could even throw my free weights in the car. This isn’t so bad after all! I’m happy now.
July 2, 2004: I absolutely cannot wait for high school. I am 100% positive it will be the best time of my life. I’ll be in the best shape of my life, have the best marks in my life and have so much fun! I really want school to start again… but I don’t want to go to school until I’ve lost weight. So I guess I really don’t want it to start until September.
July 14, 2004: I’m feeling a lot of things right now: jealously, envy, guys, life, marriage, fitness. I watched the movie “A Cinderella Story” today. It left me feeling depressed — no matter how hard I tried to push the thoughts out of my head. I’ll never fall in love in high school with a gorgeous guy and no one will ever pick me out of a crowd. It sort of hit me. When I look in the mirror, I see a semi-pretty girl… who’s fat. I work out and I eat healthy and I notice the pounds going down [I've lost 20!] but I’m not looking skinnier. I feel so discouraged. I’m crying right now, however pathetic that might be. I’m so sick of working out and obsessing over calories. I am.
Oh God, help me.
I just decided I’m not going to count calories anymore as of tomorrow. I must keep exercising though. Summer is miserable. I want to go back to school. I need to start seeing people more.
I just re-read my entry. Wow, I needed to get that all out. I will stay positive and by the way… Jamie, you are NOT FAT!
Oh dear little Jamie,
Full of enthusiasm about your future, excited for your high school adventure in the fall… there’s much I wish you knew. Your pursuit of the perfect body, the perfect report card, the perfect social life — you are constantly seeking the approval of others. They have nothing for you. It’s an empty chase. In your addiction, the “highs” are high but the lows rip you apart.
There is no rest from your pursuit of perfection.
& you were not made to be compared.
On vacation, you passed the time calculating calories and running every day. You made neat columns in your journal and stood in front of the mirror analyzing yourself — those legs, arms, fingers, eyes, nose and thighs. All placed on one of two sides, “parts of my body I love” and “parts of my body I hate.”
I hate to see a head full of Sunday-school answers but a heart missing the love of God.
You say to yourself, “No one will ever pick me out of a crowd” but do you believe Jesus did? He died for you, a girl he loved in the crowd of billions. His divine love urges us to look outside of “self” — earthly, fleshly, miserable self.
“Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death” but when His Spirit controls our minds, it leads to life and peace. [Romans 8]
You have been raised to a new life with Christ, Jamie, so set your sights on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honour. Think about the things of Heaven, not the things of Earth. [Colossians 3:2]
He came so we could have life.