Tag Archives: body image


I guess I’ve always assumed God didn’t care one way or another about my body. Certainly, we can only delight in each other if I’m alive, but, past that very low bar, I pictured him opinion-less on other corporal issues, assuming him to be more the heart-and-soul kind. Plus, this body – flesh, to echo the Apostle Paul – only gets me in trouble anyway, right? In a Flesh versus Spirit contest, we’re always pulling for Team Spirit.

So in January of this year when God kept whispering to me about a renaissance, I assumed we were talking “spiritual awakening.” I kept my eyes open for when he might show me something new or arrest my attention on my drive to work and dissolve me into a puddle of tears.

Didn’t happen. At least, no more than usual.

Which means I didn’t even recognize it as “spiritual” the first time I looked at my toddler’s face last winter and audibly gasped at how jaw-droppingly much she looked like me at three years old. It was almost spooky – you pull that girl’s bangs back and voilà! It’s little Amie, but with lighter hair.

Other people noticed too. I began hearing the clichéd “mini me” stuff. We ran into one of my former professors who said, “Well, didn’t your mama just spit you right out?” (My daughter, confused, said, “No.”) Luckily, though, she takes this as a compliment and even asks me regularly, “Will you put my bangs back so I can look like you?” (Tears!)

That’s when I began to understand. I don’t have to lose weight to be a better mom. My being overweight does not consign her to a life of the same. She is not me, and her life experiences will differ from mine. BUT if her appearance is constantly equated with mine and I’m constantly talking about how I don’t like the way I look, she’s going to absorb this about herself. I knew this already, but I began to grasp the urgency. When you’re three, if Mama says it, it’s true. If Mama says it enough, it becomes your bedrock belief. Whatever I uploaded to her about myself, she would compute as a message about herself.

This revelation fueling me, I made excellent health choices for a few months. I felt wonderful about how I was treating my body and what I was teaching her about hers. Then in mid-March, I was hurled into the dark canyon of postpartum depression, about six months after giving birth to my younger daughter. Postpartum depression for me is a ravenous, chilling, inky black that seeps into my brain and consumes all light. I didn’t know it had been crouching in the shadows, waiting for a vulnerable moment, nor did I know when I’d be able to wrest myself free. I felt angry and helpless and feral. And for the record: I don’t feel one ounce of shame over the way I ate during that period. There are times I believe we must simply survive, even if it means allowing the better angels of our nature to hibernate.

But, three months later, I resurfaced. I remembered watching a boyfriend run a 5k on Thanksgiving a decade earlier, noting with surprise the varied sizes and shapes of the runners. I remembered the urgency I felt to raise more body-confident girls than I had been. I remembered the maternal care I had solemnly promised to give myself when I started my weight loss journey in 2011. I remembered the merlot-colored leather pencil skirt and chic black sweater I wore at my 28th birthday dinner. I remembered the feeling of blowing a kiss to the mirror in the morning after I finished my makeup. I remembered, in short, who I was.

That’s when God’s promised renaissance sparked. In July, we moved into a house with a pool. I got in every time I wanted, in a swimsuit without a T-shirt, no matter who was around. I realized my body was swimsuit-ready and that I had to show my daughters regularly that theirs are too. In October, I started running. In November, I ran my first-ever 5k with my sister. For my birthday, I got my ears re-pierced and sayonara-ed everything in my closet that made me feel ugly. This month, I established myself with a primary care physician for the first time since my childhood. (I used walk-ins for a couple of decades since they don’t weigh you.) I’m halfway considering springing for an Infinity Curl Pro with any Christmas money I might receive because I love curly hair. I’m eating well 80% of the time, which is the least strict and most committed I’ve ever been. Weight is coming off, slowly, but speed is no longer my focus.

I’m coming around to my body; we are on speaking terms now. I’m not trying to destroy it with sugar or punishing workouts. I’m not holding it to an impossible standard and then berating it when it can’t keep up. I’m trying to get to know it, care for it, and do with it what I hope my girls will do with theirs: show it respect. This is completely foreign to me, but I’m only 33. I’ll get there. And as best as I can, I’m going to raise this firework to keep dancing in tulle-skirted princess dresses with superhero capes because that is one thing these bodies were always designed to do.



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My Before and After Photos!! The Transformation Is Amazing!!

If you could abolish one thing off Facebook, what would it be?

For me: before-and-after weight-loss photos. All of them.

No, I’m not being sarcastic or funny. I loathe them. I know when we’ve had this type of success, we love to shout it from the proverbial rooftops and bring everyone along. And that’s noble. I’ve felt those things before too – I lost 103 pounds between the fall of 2010 to the winter of 2012. But I never posted before-and-after pictures because they have this really dark side, especially when they’re used to sell a product or program.

Every time you post a picture of yourself looking sad and fat and then happy and thin,
Every time you use a picture of a thin person – yourself or otherwise – to ask if my own body is “swimsuit ready” and whether I want your help to get there,
Every time you implore me to use your product for the sake of my health but couch it in terms meant to appeal to my vanity,
You attack the value of my body and every other woman’s.

“NO WAY!” you might scream. “I value your body so much I want it to be as healthy as possible.” I want that, too. But health might look different for the two of us.

Consider my own “before” picture:


That was taken in the spring of 2012. I hadn’t had babies yet, wasn’t married, went to the gym for an hour or more every Monday – Saturday, and didn’t have to consider anyone else’s preferences when preparing dinner. I took extremely good care of my body by anyone’s standards – except, perhaps, my own. I was mostly slamming my body into submission, having hated it for so long. That’s probably a post for another day, but since it had produced nothing but dysfunction, ridicule, loneliness, and miscarriage, I had very little use for it. So, I did with it what anyone does when they hate something: I tried to destroy it. First with sugar and then with austerity measures.

Then, this thing happened. I gave birth to the two most beautiful girls I have ever seen, one in 2013 and one in 2016. And oh my gosh, did my relationship with my body change.

Here’s an example. I put on baby weight with both girls. I hadn’t taken off the weight from the first when I got pregnant with the second. Even after they were born, I couldn’t take my PCOS medicine while nursing, so that translated to even more weight gain. American culture, before-and-after photos, weight-loss salespeople, and most men would have me believe this made me not “swimsuit ready.” And yet, I have worn swimsuits much more frequently and confidently after having the girls because I realized 1) I had a body, and 2) I had a swimsuit. Boom! Swimsuit ready. I never, ever want them to see me not doing something I love – especially something physical – because of body shame.

Not only that, but I also realized that if my body could be broken for them, to give them life; if I could say to them, “Drink, drink,” after they were born; if the smell of my skin and the feel of my warmth could soothe their tears…my body might be worth something more than filling out a swimsuit in the first place.

It seems to me, having lost weight, had babies, and gained some of the weight back, that a woman must first love her body before trying to change it. Requiring compliance without love leans suspiciously toward prison wardenship, which is not the ideal relationship between soul and body. I speak from experience.

Besides, what good is dieting as an antidote to hatred? Just like I can’t ask my car to brush my teeth on the way to work, I can’t expect a diet to make me love my body. It can reshape it, maybe even revitalize it. But it can’t uproot shame and disgust. If all I do to combat body hatred is decrease in size, then the minute I put a few pounds back on, the shame will come roaring back. That is real life, y’all.

So I don’t do the before-and-after pictures and never will because I don’t want a single person to feel worse about what she looks like right now. I don’t want a single person to look at a picture of me and learn osmotically she must apologize for her body, cover it up at the beach, wear the grandma pants, and never show her thighs. I want anyone seeing pictures of me, especially my girls looking back on this time in our life, to feel empowered, strong. To feel like someone with agency. To feel like she can conquer, regardless of her size. Because, women, we are strong.

Here is my “after” picture:


I weigh more than in the first photo, yet far from the heaviest I’ve been. But you know what’s different? I believe in my strength, my power, my – dare I say it – athleticism. My size-XL self trained to run a 5k with my beautiful sister, and I ran it.

I am a daughter of the King.
I am a mother.
I am a runner.
I cannot be shaken.
I am a woman.

~ Amie


P.S.: This is my older daughter. After seeing me finish the 5k, she asked her dad to put the chain down all weekend so she could “cross the finish line like Mama.”

What we do with our bodies and say about our bodies matters. Count me swimsuit ready every single day.





Here’s what my car looks like now:

Here’s my sister and me crossing the finish line:

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I Quit Forever.

I made a New Summer’s Resolution. I am quitting all diets forever, and I mean forever.

This isn’t a new idea. “It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle” has become cliché in our age of dietry. So I want to be clear: when I say I am quitting all diets forever, I don’t mean I’m adopting a certain diet as my new way of life. I am not a new Paleo convert. I literally mean I am quitting. All diets. Forever.

It occurred to me one day that I have spent a ton of time being afraid of and simultaneously drawn to a few “bad” foods; namely, cookies, sweet tea, and French fries. These are my heroin, my security blankets, and my antidepressants (that seriously don’t work). But these foods have no inherent value; they are not “bad.” They are inanimate, valueless. My method of consumption is what determines the wisdom of eating them.

Well, here’s the thing: I don’t want my daughter to end up waging the same war I have for 30½ years. I want to win it and end it, perhaps for us both at once. I’d rather my daughter know that some foods are everyday, all-you can eat foods; some foods are treats; and some foods are just for parties. I want her to see food as sustenance and occasionally a social enhancement and definitely a gift from God (as evidenced by the existence of taste buds, according to my pastor). What food is not is an emotional anesthetic or a substitute for affection. I want her to know that fruits and vegetables have superpowers, and that’s why God made them so bright and colorful. I want her to know that singing and dancing and laughing and playing all make for better journeys than Oreos do.


I don’t want her to be scared of food. I definitely don’t want her to be scared of being fat.

So I’m not quitting health. I’m actually kind of finding it, now that I’m exiting the diet funhouse with all its mirrors that distort and lie and frighten. It’s a hard place to leave, because as restrictive and hateful as diets can be, they’re also seductive. They tell you sexiness and happiness and all your dreams-come-true are in following their simple regime.

It’s a lie.

Instead, we walk together, my daughter and I. We have Bath-Time Dance Parties. We snack on grapes and avocados when we’re hungry. We point to different parts of our bodies and say, “Anna has pretty arms; Mama has pretty arms! Anna has pretty feet; Mama has pretty feet!” And we remind each other that strong is more important than gorgeous, but gorgeous is a given.

A really beautiful memoir I read earlier this year included the line, “Contentment doesn’t double by the serving.” Very true: more potato chips have never led me to more joy. But I’ve learned that you don’t have to diet to eat fewer potato chips. You can just choose an alternative ending. Sure, you’ve always eaten the whole bag. See what happens if you don’t this time. I’ve been practicing. The skill sharpens with repeated success. And it definitely keeps proving the point that more food never equals more contentment.

When I get to the end of my life, my daughter with me in my room, I sure hope she doesn’t say, “Mom, you taught me how to diet.” I hope she says, “Mom, you had soul. You knew how to fight and win. You knew how to dance.” If that’s the story I want to tell, I’d better stop the dieting, choose something greater than the cookies, and just for the love of God get started dancing like she does:


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One of my favorite things to do with Anna is to walk around the university. The campus itself is gorgeous, but there’s also the park with the creek that attracts beautiful mallards. She points out every one, as well as every dog, child, ball, or brightly colored item. She loves it when we’re the only ones on the path for a few yards and I push the stroller in a zigzag pattern. She loves it when I randomly roll the stroller back so she’s looking directly up at me. She giggles and reaches for me, and I steal a kiss.

I thought the other day, “If God and I were taking a walk, what would it be like?” I realized, almost immediately, that the only reason I can be the kind of parent I am, eliciting as many giggles and cuddles and kisses as possible, is he is that kind of parent. I’m made in his image – I’m his daughter – so we resemble each other. I laugh and snuggle and delight in my daughter because I’m like Abba. And he’s infinitely better at this parenting gig than I am. He gets even more joy from me than I do from Anna. He loves me even more than I love Anna. In fact, Zephaniah 3:17, one of my favorites, even says God dances and sings over me. Over me!

All of a sudden, I felt safe.


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How I Lost 102 Pounds, Part II

My one-year-old investigates the world with a pair of sparkling, joyful eyes. She pulls spices off the rack, books off the shelf, and hair off the dog. But her favorite thing in life is her belly. She often lifts her shirt so she can see it, always pushing her palms into it and grinning, as if saying, “I can’t believe this is mine!” She scrambles away from me while I try to dress her, reveling in the feel of her own skin. She loves her body. And she also loves food. Her first (made-up) word was “baba,” with which she referenced all food – bottles, baby food, the food on our plates. Not long after she started using “baba,” she also designed a way to tell us she wanted more: she pointed at “it” and clapped.

This must be the way God designed it for all of us – to love our bodies and the food we fill them with. Our bodies jump, twirl, sprint, chase, hug, and explore. What’s not to love? And why would food be any different? In Genesis 1, God lavishly offers Adam and Eve “every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for food” (v. 29, NLT). Surely he meant for us to relish it. Everything God has created is good (1 Timothy 4:4), which includes food and our bodies. My job was simply to reorient myself from body-hate and food-anxiety to pure love and compassion.

  • I came to terms with slow progress. As I gradually implemented changes in my lifestyle, I truly owned who I was becoming. I was compassionate with myself and never demanded more than I could conceivably do. For example, it was hard to cut ties with soda. I know some people can drink it and still lose weight, but those people are not me. For two or three weeks, avoiding soda was my only goal. But eventually it became second nature and allowed me to move on to building another victory. The slower the progress, the less likely you are to give up all your hard work for a momentary buzz.
  • I celebrated all success. Celebration empowers: it draws attention to your triumphs and gives you an answer for the mean uglies that sneer, “Overweight is who you are, honey. Give it a rest.” So, I winked and smiled at myself in the mirror on days I liked what I saw. I celebrated with a little kitchen-dance each time my hand passed the Pringles and in favor of the strawberries. When you stop mistreating yourself, you discover that celebration is your birthright and victory is your destiny.
  • I asked myself “Is that true?” My counselor’s favorite question as we processed my relationship with food was, “Is that true?” I told him, for example, that I simply couldn’t stop myself from overeating. I knew it because I’d tried and failed so often. I also told him that no matter what I did, it would be impossible for me to lose weight, due to genetics and PCOS. But whenever I made such statements, he would ask, “Is that true?” I was often forced to say, “No, I guess not.” The Bible tells us to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and I quickly learned most of my thoughts needed to become POWs.
  • I didn’t wait for the strength to make the right decision. If I had, I never would’ve put a single new habit into action. Instead, I tentatively, haltingly, started making changes. I didn’t know if I could go to a restaurant and make a healthy choice. The first several times, I didn’t: I was waiting on some supernatural erasure of my desire to binge, I suppose. It never came. What I found, however, is that when I made the right choice, the strength to keep doing it followed. When I started fighting, I always received the grace to keep fighting.
  • I discovered my weaknesses and attacked them. I always thought I was overweight because I really liked the taste of food. And I do, but so does everyone else. Instead, I was overweight primarily because I love convenience and comfort. It was easy to drive through at a fast food restaurant. It was easy to get lunch out. It was comforting to buy warm food “because it’s so cold today” or junk food “because I had a bad day” or ice cream “because today was awesome” or an appetizer and dessert “because it’s the weekend.” Nothing is inherently wrong with that, but you can’t lose weight if you make “exceptions” every day. I went with my own flow of convenience and comfort by preparing in advance: I always had the ingredients for healthy pizza on hand, I experimented with protein shakes until I had some concoctions that supported my weight loss efforts and were also sinfully delicious, and I made lots of portable snacks to grab when leaving the house.
  • I stopped sacrificing joy on the altar of happiness. The problem with donuts is that they make you happy. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t eat them. But that happiness lasts exactly as long as the donut is in your hand and sometimes even less. Joy – the knowledge that you’re closer to Jesus as a result of your struggle, the ability to make healthy decisions, the feeling of slipping into a sleek outfit – doesn’t go away. And you never regret the actions you took to cultivate it (unlike the donut). Joy does not result from deprivation. Joy does not result from shame and self-loathing. But it will bloom when you treat yourself compassionately, with the same love and awe you have for any little sweethearts you may have in your life. Joy comes from knowing you are cared for, so you must care for yourself.

Of course, even if you learn to love your body and the process, weight loss is not easy. It is sacrifice, it is frustration, and sometimes it is unsuccessful. But here is the beautiful part: in the battle, you find Great Love. As hard as it was to drop 102 pounds – in all that white-knuckling, teeth-gritting, cookie-avoiding journey – I ended up finding joy, loads of it, pouring over the edges of my soul. I was no longer a slave to substance abuse as I learned how to approach the substance itself. Jesus fought for me, and alongside me, and I became free.

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How I Lost 102 Pounds, and How I’m About to Do It Again. (Except with only 55 pounds this time.)

You could call it a “resolution” perhaps, but this is more like finishing a quest I started a few years ago. It’s like this: in 2009 I weighed 268 pounds. The day I saw that number on the scale, I was wearing a hot pink T-shirt and black stretch pants, which had become my uniform since I felt ugly in all clothes. I lived in a state of constant shame that wasn’t working, but when “268” flashed up in red numbers, it was time for immediate change. My friend K called that day, and I admitted to her I had a problem with substance abuse. That phone call launched a personal campaign that led me to drop 102 pounds in the next two years. Not everything worked, but I kept fighting until I found many channels to success. Here are some of them, which I’m learning to repeat so I can get off all that baby weight I gained in 2013.

  • First, I made a commitment to myself: “I will not stop seeking help until I get all the help I need.” Not everyone needs addiction counseling, but after years of dieting and failing, equating my size with my worth, and binge eating, I certainly did. I had religiously followed Atkins, Zone Perfect, Weight Watchers, and others; the solution was obviously not in the food I was eating. However, when I made a fiercely maternal commitment to my wellbeing, my mindset changed. Failure simply wouldn’t happen again.
  • I stopped blaming. The thing is, I really do have a medical problem that adversely affects my weight. Having the infernal PCOS means my hormones are constantly imbalanced, and my body doesn’t properly use insulin. But PCOS does not sentence me to a life of obesity and depression; I was sentencing myself to such a life. So I stopped saying, “If I didn’t have PCOS, I could lose weight” and “It runs in my family” and “I have a slow metabolism.” I finally owned my part in the matter and got down to business.
  • I exercised however I wanted to. I realize a certain pattern of weightlifting and cardio is optimal for weight loss, but I don’t enjoy that. So I swam on days I felt like swimming, I rocked the stationary bike when it called to me, I walked outside and took deep breaths before deadlines, I popped in fitness DVDs I liked, and I went to yoga on Wednesdays. I did whatever was enjoyable, and guess what? It worked beautifully.
  • I composed a list of five things I would do any time I felt a nonphysical urge to eat. I learned that most of the time my urge to eat was emotional, but I just couldn’t seem to talk myself out of it. Therefore, I approached myself with enough compassion to discover five ways to deal with my nonphysical “hunger.” If I still wanted to eat after completing all five, I went for it. (That happened exactly twice.) Heavy emotions like loneliness and fear were suddenly met with prayer, phone calls to friends, journaling, a Friends episode, and/or 15 minutes of walking. Most of the time, I never got further on my list than phoning a friend before returning to homeostasis or even peace.
  • I didn’t eat salad. Here is an understatement: I hate salad. When people say they’re “in the mood for a good salad,” it makes as much sense to me as being “in the mood for a good dentist visit.” Salad is terrible. Balsamic vinaigrette does not deserve its hype. Strawberries, pomegranate, and other jazzy fruits do not belong with greens and oily dressings. And don’t get me started on how salad is not a meal. So…I didn’t eat it. Much like with exercise, I ate what I enjoyed – salmon, apples, walnuts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and other good stuff. There’s too much delicious food out there to waste time with salad, so I didn’t.
  • I took beauty breaks. In 2009 I lived in an apartment with a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To keep my stress at bay – and I had a lot of it, dealing with graduate school, miscarriages, an impossible marriage, sexual dysfunction, and isolation from my friends and family – I regularly stepped outside and breathed in the evergreen breeze. Beauty restores; stress destroys. So I gorged on beauty and let it drive out the stress.
  • I envisioned a new life and acted as if I already had it. I had always wanted to be the girl who feels confident in her own skin – the girl who wears red dresses, drinks water instead of soda, and shops at Victoria’s Secret. So I didn’t wait to lose 102 pounds; I bought a red dress and even some items from Victoria’s Secret. I cut out the soda. It didn’t take two whole years to become the person I dreamed of being. I think it took a month. I decided I’d waited long enough, and I was worth the change.

As you might imagine, none of these are based on the advice of a doctor. In fact, they aren’t based on the advice of anyone, and that made the difference. Viewing myself as someone unique, as the world’s leading expert on me (as my man would say), I worked hard to develop a plan that worked for me. My therapist and I talked through each of the actions I set in motion, evaluating the outcomes. I also saw a nutritionist and my gynecologist during the process to ensure I didn’t harm myself in any way and that I was effectively managing my PCOS. But because the answers were coming from me, because I was working on my own behalf, I felt empowered, as if the solutions had been within my reach the whole time. It was just a matter of sifting through what I already knew of myself to create answers.

If any of your 2015 resolutions involve weight loss, I wish you all the joy and endurance you need for the journey. Call someone when you need support. Go on a drive, now that the price of gas doesn’t require you to sell your firstborn. Give a hug. Get maternal about your own health. You can do it. You already have all you need to win. Go be brave.


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My Booty.

My name is Amie, and I’m all about that bass.

It’s probably genetic. When a bass line comes on in my Aunt D’s car, she “neck-dances.” It’s always been one of my favorite things about her. My sister performed ballet en pointe for years and killed it. Even my 10-month-old kicks and grins when certain songs come on. Rhythm is a life force in my family. So when Shannon, my jazz dance teacher with faux red hair and a cigarette-frayed voice, responded with laughter to a routine I choreographed, it cut me. She asked how much longer I’d continue, given that I “didn’t have the body of a dancer.” I suppose I don’t, but I didn’t think that’s what jazz dance lessons were about. Especially for a twelve-year-old.

Shame is a thief, and that day it stole my moves. I quit dance at the end of the semester, horrified at the thought of taking my not-dancer body back to the mirrored wall that ridiculed me for an hour every Tuesday. I quietly retreated to piano lessons and choir accompaniment, where I could hide behind a baby grand while someone else was visible out front. But you can’t keep this girl from dancing, somewhere. I broke a toe while dancing in my room one Saturday afternoon, high-kicking right into my bookcase. (My best friend didn’t believe I’d actually broken my toe and came over to see. She promptly fell over laughing and even took a picture of my bandaged purple toe.) One of my dad’s colleagues saw me dancing in my car once and described it to my dad in such a way as to prompt him to later ask me laughingly if I had been high. I even danced in the minivan on the way back from New York three days ago while my family slept. Although, to be fair, that might have been as much a failing of my lucidity after sixteen hours in a vehicle with three young children as much as the booming bass of my music.

Regardless, here is a truth about my booty. It is a two-hand grab, and it likes to get down. It doesn’t twerk or grind, and it isn’t a real-life version of Elaine Benes. But joy in me has always spilled out physically, and lobotomizing that aspect of myself never worked. Probably because it was put there by God, made in his image (see Zephaniah 3:17, for example). So as part of my radical, shame-be-damned, self-acceptance journey, I danced at my mother-in-law’s wedding last Saturday, the first time in public since Shannon’s comment seventeen years ago. I threw off body shame and hit the dance floor with my daughters, sisters-in-law, and husband. When given the option between shame or true self, I finally chose myself.

I’ve learned since having daughters that body shame is passed down. If my daughter is told she looks just like me but then hears me complain about my awful thighs, what does she learn? She looks at her just-like-me thighs and labels them “awful.” And if she’s anything like most of us women, body shame will not only keep her from dancing, but also destroy her self-confidence. So on Sunday night I grooved out onto the dance floor. My daughters need to see me dancing. They need to know there’s an alternative to shame. They need to see everyday courage. They need to know it’s not about how you look but who you are. I’m all about that bass, and I hope they will be too.

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