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My story is an extreme example of the truth that weight loss does not automatically make us love our bodies.

At 336 pounds, just out of high school, I found myself having walked through much of life in a body larger than the majority of the bodies around me. From as far back as kindergarten, peers had relentlessly spewed harsh words at me, and these insults were a constant reminder that my body was taking up too much space. I was too big. I needed to lose weight.

For years I believed that there must be something innately wrong with me because I couldn’t seem to lose the weight that the whole world was telling me to lose. Over and over again my attempts at shrinking my body left me drowning in a pool of despair as I swam through the reality that my body would never be good enough.

But a few years after high school something clicked. I reached a moment of rock-bottom desperation, and with a little guidance I began making changes in my eating and exercise habits and did the thing that so many of us want to do.

I lost the weight.

Over the course of several years, I made small changes like paying better attention to what foods I was using to nourish my body and making an effort to move my body more regularly. I dropped more than 150 pounds, and though I found myself nearly half my size, I discovered the shocking realization that I was still unhappy with the girl in the mirror.

I had made enormous changes to my physical body, but in the meantime, I had missed a gigantic piece of the wellness puzzle. I was so focused on working on my body that I failed to see my body—in all of its in-between stages—as good.

The True Transformation

When I was a size 28, I wished I was a 16.

When I was a 16, I wished I was a 14.

When I was a 14, I wished I was a 10.

When I was a 10, I wished I was a 6.

When I finally adopted unhealthy habits that brought me all the way down to that desperately-hoped-for size 6, I realized that the size of my body wasn’t the issue after all. And by that time, I wanted nothing more than to be totally free from the hamster-wheel race toward the smallest version of myself.

That’s when I realized that the transformation that needed to happen had nothing to do with the physical appearance of my body and everything to do with my mind and heart. I could lose all the weight, drop down to the smallest pants size, and fit into the recommended category on the BMI chart at the doctor’s office and I still wouldn’t be at peace with my body if I didn’t begin to shift my thinking.

There’s a Scripture verse that I love in Romans 12:2 (NLT), and it says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

That line “transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” leaps off the page at me as I realize that I spent so many years thinking that the change that was most necessary was physical, when in reality there was a transformation process that God was leading me toward all along.

When I started seeing the mindset shift that needed to happen, it became apparent to me that I would have to cling to the hand of God as I walked toward freedom. For the longest time I didn’t think God cared about my body image struggles. But when I started opening my heart up to Him about these things, He started showing me actionable steps that I could take to overcome the negative things I was feeling.

Today I’m sharing three action steps that have helped me in this incredible heart-and-mind transformation journey.

       1. Stop Comparing

We know that the comparison trap is ever-pervasive, but sometimes we fail to realize we’re falling into it even when it comes to our bodies. Whether on social media or among friends in real life, it’s easy to compare our body to someone else’s. It’s also easy to compare our right-now body to the body we lived in yesteryear (pre-baby, or in high school, or fill in the blank . . .) or the body we hope to have one day.

Galatians 5:26 (MSG) offers such incredible guidance. It says “We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”

You are an original. Stop comparing yourself to someone else and go enjoy the beautiful life you’re called to live.

       2. Fix Your Focus

If you’ve struggled with your relationship with your body for a long time, it can consume your life. You may find yourself reducing every bite of food down to a scientific equation to lose weight, or you may work out like crazy because you think you have to.

But God offers us a shift in our approach. I love the perspective in Romans 12:1-2 (MSG), which says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

Instead of falling into the culture surrounding you that constantly reinforces the wrong message that your body should completely consume your time and energy, focus on the life, calling, gifts, and abilities that God has placed right in front of you. There is so much more to you than your body. Focus on the amazing things He’s called you to, without allowing thoughts about your body to take up so much space in your mind and heart.

       3. Implement Thought Swaps

You can’t stop the negative self-thoughts from popping into your head, but you can decide what to do with them.

I love the powerful words of wisdom given in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (KJV): “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”

First, start by noticing (without judgment) the inner dialogue that’s happening in your heart; then begin to capture every thought, aligning it with the Word of God. It may help to jot down a few body-positive affirmations so that you’re equipped to swap the negative thoughts with life-giving ones.

We can make all the changes to our physical bodies that we want to, but none of those changes will offer us the complete freedom that comes when we start to see ourselves the way God sees us. It’s worth the effort, my friend.

Jennifer Taylor Wagner is a certified fitness instructor and successful blogger. She is passionate about challenging the way we think about health, wellness, and regularly writes on the topics of healthy living and body positivity. Whether it’s hosting online webinars, speaking in churches, or chatting at MOPS meetings, she is committed to helping others find hope in their journey. Jennifer lives in Virginia with her husband, Phil and their two kids. Visit her online at jennifertaylorwagner.com.

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Jennifer Wagner

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  • Shelia says:

    This. This blog post is EVERYTHING! Thank you Jennifer! These are words I so needed to hear! I struggle daily with my body image. Thank you!!!!

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