by Elyssa Salinas
I’ve always hated running: the sweating, the backaches, the lungs-on-fire feeling. Every quarter in high school, we had to run the mile and I always dreaded it. All the cross-country kids would be done so quickly while the rest of us trudged around the track until the end of the period.
So if I hate running so much, what would make me start again as an adult?
Throughout my life, I have been an advocate for body positivity. I remember even in middle school straddling the line between frustrated tween who hated her body and confident plus-size queen who was happy with her curves. I have tried to love myself for who I am and for who God made me to be. I have tried to live into the belief that we are beautiful creations of God, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:14). Belief in God who loves abundantly means to me that God made us each with that love.
And this year I decided to love my body in a new way. I decided to change the body I love.
My relationship with my body is not what I set out to change; I decided to change my relationships with food, fitness and my future. “Running without My Glasses” was the challenge I set for myself.
Relationships with food and fitness
My relationship with food has always been an emotional one. Anytime I was really happy or really sad, that would be a time for food. Both celebration and mourning called for something from the fridge or takeout menu. Food has been my emotional crutch, and this year I decided to deal with my feelings in a different way.
Fitness has never been a big part of my life. I would mock the women running in the park, but secretly wish I could keep up with them. I would gaze into gym windows wanting to join, but the thought of going in was too uncomfortable. Before I met my fiancé, I feared surprise ice-skating or hiking dates because my date would see how out of shape I was. I wanted fitness to be part of my life, but I was afraid to try.
This year I made the choice to change my relationships with food and fitness because of my future. In the past, I would start a new eating plan or fitness program without telling anyone and then quietly let it fizzle out. Fear of failure is why I kept these false starts secret, and so this past February I went public. I vowed to put up a social media post every day to show the world.
I signed up for a month-long challenge that would take me from running novice to actual runner. I spent a month snapping and posting pictures of my yummy food, my glowing face and the way my clothes fit differently as my muscles toned up. My relationship with food was getting better: When I wanted a reward or a comfort, I went for a walk or listened to music.
Yes, there were setbacks throughout the month: illness, work schedules and my own temptation to backsliding. What really motivated me was the thought of posting that daily update to my friends and family. I had unknowingly created a community around my goal, and that community actually helped me be accountable. As time went on, my fear dissipated thanks to the incredible support that I received.
Throughout this challenge, I found myself thinking about Isaiah’s words, “We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). I never stopped being the clay in God’s hand and I never stopped loving my body, but I did change my relationships with food and fitness, for my future.
I am the work of God’s hand no matter what my body looks like, and so are you. We are God’s beloved children and stunning examples of God’s love, and there is nothing that will ever change that. We can change our habits, our hairstyles, our nail color, but never the assurance that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We are each the beautiful and unique work of God’s hand, and nothing can change that.
1. How do you love your body?
2. How can you support the women around you in their challenges with body image?
3. What does it mean that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”?
Loving Creator, We are all the works of your hand, but we do not always remember that. Help us embrace our own bodies as you embrace each of us, with abundant love. Let us also support one another in our challenges and triumphs regarding our health. Be with us as we look in the mirror and remember that we are looking at an image of you. Amen.
Elyssa Salinas works as the Program Assistant for ELCA Hunger Education. This Fall she will be starting her doctorate work at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Sexual Ethics. In her spare time, she writes poetry, reads avidly and plays with her two adorable kittens. Read more from her blog.