He Called Me Fat

He Called Me Fat | Body Image & Self-Doubt

“You’ve gotten a bit fat, Marie.” 

The words came from his mouth with the same love and care as every other word he speaks to me. He called me fat. We were Skyping with each other. It had been quite a few weeks since we had time to sit down and do that. I was so excited to be able to see his sweet face again with his dark eyes and perfect smile. He kept telling me how excited he was to see me again, how beautiful I looked, and that there was just something different about me. 

“Is it my hair? I did just get it cut.” — “No babe, I don’t think.” 

“Oh, maybe my make-up is different.” — “That’s not it.” 

“Ok, I don’t know then.” 

Then it came. Like a ton of bricks. “You’ve gotten a bit fat, Marie.” 

I lived in Uganda for a year, I knew that when he called me fat he was in no way associating it with beauty, worth, value, or anything else that comes along with that word here in the States. He was just making a very (unfortunately) factual statement. I had gotten a bit fat. 

Now, on this side of the ocean we would say, “Oh yea, she has gained a little weight. But she could afford to do that!” or “She’s just a little chubby, but she’s so cute! So real!” But never would we tell someone, especially a girl that she had put on a few pounds. Never. 

I tried so hard in that moment to remember that my sweet Paul loves and cares for me and is attracted to me and would never regret his choice to be with me because I had gained a couple pounds. In actuality, he was happy that I had gained some wait, in his opinion I was too small before. But regardless, when THAT word came falling out of his mouth, I felt like I had lost his admiration forever. He knew as soon as he said it that he had done something very bad. Tears came to my eyes, I became very quiet, my personality shifted. It was terrible. A very long conversation followed. 

It was a great exercise in communication and perception for us. One of the better ones that we have had. And boy did it hurt. It hurt because I had to face some serious body image issues that I have been dealing with for such a long time. I remember being in 4th grade and I was at a pool party with some friends and we were playing Sharks & Minnows. I didn’t want to dive into the pool because I was afraid my legs wouldn’t look as skinny and pretty as the other girls’ as they flew through the air. I lied and told everyone that I was afraid to dive because I had busted my lip diving once before. I had never busted my lip. 

I look back on pictures of myself from 4th grade and feel complete sadness and regret because I let poor body image keep me from being free as a child. And I laugh to myself because I would just love to be that petite again! I mean, I don’t think my stomach has ever been as flat and my legs as lean as when I was in 4th grade. It’s crazy how our mind can manipulate our eyes. How we can look in a mirror and see a completely different person than everyone else sees. 

Unfortunately, this battle with poor self-image has staked it’s ground in my mind throughout many seasons in my life. I choose not to talk about in an attempt to not draw attention to the fact, but that Skype date with Paul opened Pandora’s box. And I am so thankful that it has been thrown wide open. Seeing myself through his eyes, feeling the freedom to talk about my insecurities, learning how he perceives beauty, and accepting his love and admiration has allowed me to move past this constant state of introspection and devaluing of myself, and towards a place of confidence and freedom. 

One thing that Paul said to me that will never leave me was this: “Marie, I need you to be confident. I need you to stop worrying about your body and whether you look like you did 5 years ago, and be thankful for the life you have now. One day we are going to have children and they are going to look to you as an example. Show them that they are beautiful exactly how God made them through loving yourself, exactly the way God made you.” 

He called me fat, then he called me to a place of realization that I am loved and cared for, and that my value and worth is not wrapped up in this fleeting exterior. And for that I am thankful. 




 

5 Things I Have Learned from Waiting


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Ssese Islands, Uganda
1. Waiting doesn’t mean sitting still. 

When you wait it usually means that you are in one of two situations. Either you are not sure what is next and you are just holding off to see what will happen, or you do know what is next and it is forcing you to remain in a certain place until it takes place. Regardless, you don’t have to be stagnant. Sure, it’s hard to plan things when the unknown future is looming and it seems so close and you are afraid to get into anything serious because you don’t know how long you can commit, but you aren’t chained to uncertainty. Sometimes the best thing to do when you are waiting on what is to come is to start something new or improve on something that you already know. These things remind you that life is not revolving around one thing and that you are a person that is made up of many different levels and experiences. 

While I have been waiting this year until Paul’s visa can be processed, I have started an Etsy shop and it has really given me a lot of sanity and a sense of accomplishment. I have a bit of control over my shop and what happens with it. It’s something that I can stay busy with and also work towards a future in. When I started the shop last November I didn’t know how long I was going to be in the States, but I still loved creating and using different talents that I have to start this small business. It has been a really great outlet while I wait. 

2. Waiting does mean finding joy. 

I know that many times during this period of waiting I have allowed myself to get into a funk and become really frustrated with my situation. It usually leads to not wanting to really spend time with anyone or just doing what is required when it comes to social interaction. I was annoyed with others who were moving on with their lives, I was frustrated with Paul for no reason, I didn’t really have any joy. Any time that is spent waiting is difficult, but it does not have to steal your joy. It can be hard to find joy, but it isn’t impossible. 

When I realized that I was allowing myself to get to this place I made a serious effort to take some time away from work, to take some time away from my Etsy shop, and to focus on things that were daily gift and blessings in my life. Paul and I started reading Scripture together, and we started praying together. I spent more time with friends even when it didn’t seem “productive”, I started some projects that were just for fun, Paul and I began planning for things for when we were together again, fun things, not visa things. It really lifted my spirits. There are still times when I feel a bit beat down, but then I go back to focusing on finding joy in the situation and remembering all the ways that I have grown during this time. 

3. Waiting doesn’t mean you have been forgotten. 

This one is hard. I will never forget the day that Paul went for an interview to have our visa expedited and was denied. We had really put a lot of hope in that interview because we saw that the visa we were waiting on wasn’t going to be finished in time for him to come before the wedding we were planning. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was hard because it just tacked on another unknown period of waiting. When Paul called and told me the news I just remember telling him that I felt like we had been forgotten. Like God didn’t care about us and he was just letting go out on our own and suffer. 

After the words came out of my mouth I was really embarrassed. I felt ashamed for thinking that about my God. I felt like I had just jumped back 7 years in my Christian life and forgotten everything that I had learned over the years of Bible college, a counseling degree, discipleship groups….but it was real. I really felt that way and I think it was the first time in all the years of me being a Christian that I had ever really voiced any true feelings of hurt when it came to not understanding God. 

After Paul and I talked about it and processed and I was reminded of how God does love us, and that love doesn’t have to look like we think it should, I was able to process this feeling a little more. Waiting doesn’t mean that you are forgotten. We weren’t forgotten. I have not been forgotten. This hasn’t been my idea of a good time, but this is the first time in all my life that I have had absolutely no control in a situation, and let me tell you, it has been a season of growth. As much as I have tried to fight it, and warred with God for control, He has continued to remind me that I am not the one who is sovereign and I am not the one who is going to make anything happen. I am not forgotten, I am just being taught who is really in control. 

4. Waiting doesn’t necessarily make you stronger, but it doesn’t kill you either.  

I don’t know if I would say that this time has made me a stronger person. I think if anything it has helped me become a more sensitive person. I have been forced to identify with my emotions on a totally different level and I have learned that it is not a bad thing to feel. I have cried more than ever before, I have become angry more than ever before, I have experienced worry more than ever before, disappointment, comfort, companionship, dependency, I have really tapped into some sides of myself that I thought simply weren’t there. I don’t think that I would say I’m a stronger person, but I am not a defeated person. I like that I have been able to become more comfortable with emotions and embrace how complex and diverse people are. 

5. Waiting isn’t forever. 

It can’t be forever. There is an end to the waiting. We can’t be sure when that is, but there will be an end. Find hope in that. Find joy in that. Embrace the right now, and build excitement for what is to come. Don’t look back on this time of waiting regret your actions or your lack of actions. I think that we shouldn’t let any time go wasted. Carpe Diem, people! 

My Cell Phone Boyfriend


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Yellow Striped Hello Embroidery Hoop Art

This Hello hoop can be purchased in the Thistle & Thread Design Etsy shop.

“Hello Marie” 

These are the words I get to hear when I put the phone to my ear and spend another day on the phone with my sweet Paul. I have never really loved talking on the phone so much. I wasn’t that girl in high school that spent every night on the phone with her friends. I mean, I had just spent the entire day at school with them. What more was there to say? Paul and I always joke that when we are finally in the same country again that we will throw our phones in a box and leave them there. So don’t be alarmed with you hear from me a little less when he and I are together in a few months….I’m just enjoying having a real life Paul instead of a cell phone Paul. 

This cell-phone-relationship had taught me so much about what it means to connect and communicate with someone. There are times when it would be so nice to just sit and read together, or watch a show, or something simple that doesn’t involve talking. But if we try to do anything like that then the distance screams loud as if to make it’s presence even larger than it already is. So, we choose to talk. Even when we are tired and over it, we choose to talk. Sometimes those conversations consist of something substantial, and sometimes they are just full of blabbering and meaningless talk. But we don’t really mind, we are connecting. We are building. 

I have learned so much about Paul in the last 295 days since I boarded that plane in Uganda and said a very uncertain goodbye. I would love to say that I lifted off that tarmac in Entebbe, Uganda knowing that I would see Paul again and our life would keep growing and moving together, but that wasn’t the case. I was scared, he was scared, there was a lot of stress surrounding us, and many things that were out of our control. But, these last 295 days of talking when we felt like it and talking when we didn’t have strengthened us in ways I didn’t think were possible. 

When I first met Paul I knew him as this quiet guy who was a little withdrawn, I think I might have even called him rude. (We still laugh about that) He kept to himself and wasn’t really known as a chatterbox. He had his few friends, but his personality would never be described as bubbly. But when we were assigned to work a conference together and one day at a registration table led to a six hour conversation which led to a romance I would have never expected, I saw that this quiet guy was not the person I had originally labeled him as.   

I discovered that Paul wasn’t rude, and he wasn’t necessarily quiet. He was just reserved, preserving his words for times that he thought were appropriate. What I discovered was a loyal guy who cherished relationships with people and cherished his time to grow those relationships. Words to him were not just things used to fill space, they were intentional, and sometimes few and far between. 

When my best friend came to visit me and was able to meet Paul she pointed out something very insightful about him. We went to visit him at his university and a group of us were hanging out and ended up sitting around talking. After we left and I grilled Emily about what she thought of Paul she said that it was interesting because he didn’t talk much, but when he did everyone stopped to listen. And that observation let me see a little further into his heart and his intentions. It let me see the way that he approached relationships and the value of conversation.

This time of talking has taught me so much about words. So many times when I am talking  to people I start this nervous chatter because I don’t want there to be an awkward silence. It usually leads to over-sharing or just droning on and on about things that people aren’t interested in and boring them to death. Please forgive me if you have ever been a victim of this offense. Words are and should be meaningful. They can be used and they can be overused. I try to be slower to speak these days and I try to find comfort in silence. I have been guilty of not processing and thinking, and I want to take more time to do that. I want to spend more time meditating on ideas and fleshing out dreams and processing events. Sometimes we can fly through life and never stop to understand it. Don’t be guilty of this. Pause and seek to understand, silence is not always a bad thing, and it is only as awkward as you make it. 

Until we can sit together and experience closeness without talking, I will continue to delight in my daily hearing of “Hello Marie”.