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What NOT to say to a “skinny” person

“You’re so skinny!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that statement directed towards me in the past eight years I’d have a very flush bank account.

Unintentional weight loss was at the genesis of my health saga. I dropped thirty pounds in less than three months and unsolicited commentary from friends, family and complete strangers soon followed. In response to questioning and (oftentimes callous) comments I used to freeze up. Being accused of anorexia or some kind of eating disorder hurt me. I could barely swallow let alone talk, thanks to the lump in my throat. To cope I’d crumble internally and cry externally once the offending commentator was out of earshot.

It has taken a long time (I’m a slow learner) but God has faithfully been teaching me how to handle low weight comments and questions. I’m learning that it is better to extend forgiveness to those who know not what they do and say rather then hold a grudge or be hurt by their words. It is far better to give grace and educate instead.

By opening up in honesty about my diagnosis and health struggles I’ve discovered that most people have no idea that weight loss can be a symptom of Lyme disease. In fact, most people don’t seem to realize that low weight can be a symptom of a whole host of chronic illnesses. The fact of the matter is low weight does not necessarily mean a person is not eating or that they have an eating disorder. Low weight can be a debilitating symptom of chronic disease… Like it is for me.

In an effort to educate with love and grace I have compiled my top three comments that should not be made to someone who is visibly underweight. Although these comments are specifically directed towards low weight the principle behind them applies to all chronic illness. We should all treat each other with love and grace, in sickness or in health.

So, without further ado, the top three comments you should never make to a person who is obviously under weight. And one tip on what to say….

 

1.     Don’t say, “You look like a Holocaust victim.”

Yes, it’s true, I have been on the receiving end of this comment.

It should go without saying that this statement should never be made to anyone, ever. 11 million innocent Jews were killed in the Holocaust at the hands of evil. Telling someone they look like they have been or are in a concentration camp is not only rude it is callous and disrespectful to the immense suffering of millions.

2.     Don’t say, “I wish I were as skinny as you.”

No, actually you don’t. I can’t sit for long periods of time because my butt has no cushion. My feet have lost all the fat on them causing the bones to rub against my shoes, producing constant pain. Because of my low weight I have an extremely low blood pressure, low body temperature, infertility and hair loss.

I could go on but you get the point… Be careful what you wish for. And don’t wish to be as skinny as me.

3.     Don’t say, “You should eat more.”

If only you knew how much and how often I eat then you might change your tune. Unintentional low weight cannot be remedied by drinking more milkshakes, as a doctor once suggested. The food type and amount is not the issue. The problem is the body’s ability to metabolize, digest and use the food. For eight years my body has not been utilizing food leading to blood sugar drops, gallbladder troubles and inescapable stomach pain. If eating more could solve my problems I would have been healed long ago.

4.     Do stay quite about the obvious ailment.

Let me be clear. I do not mean that the underweight person should be treated as if they do not exist. Being treated as invisible can be hurtful, too. Simply treat the underweight person like you would a normal or overweight person. Do not treat the individual as if they were an alien with a mental problem. Treat them like a precious individual with a heart and feelings. Treated every person, regardless of weight, with the dignity and respect you would like to be treated with.

So, in other words say, “Good morning!” and not, “You’re so skinny!” Or say, “How are you this bright and sunny afternoon?” instead of, “You should eat a Big Mac.”

 

For those who have been on the receiving end of callous comments regarding a physical condition or weight I urge you to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Responding in anger only perpetuates the hurt and does not help you heal. Opportunities to enlighten and educate can be missed when we allow rude comments to build walls and burn bridges.

Instead, let us respond like Christ and turn the other cheek. Instead of lashing out, crying or storming off in anger (all of which I have done), choose to extend forgiveness and show mercy. Even if the person making the comment never asks for forgiveness – which they most likely never will – give it anyways. Extend the grace that has been given to you.

 

At every weight and in every physical condition may the encouragement from Ephesians 4:29 guide our speech and heart in every conversation: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

 

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Thirteen Pounds of Proof

Fourteen months ago I stepped on the scale and read the numerical reality of my physical condition. Sixty-seven ailing pounds.
At twenty-seven years old I was wasting away. According to body weight and BMI charts I should have been dead, comatose or at least bed ridden. My frame was so sickly and skeletal I could no longer look in the mirror. It was simply too upsetting. So, for the sake of my faith, I had to suspend my sight.

Now, after a year battling my arch nemesis, Lyme disease and its accompanying co infections, the pounds are naturally returning. Since I began this fight fourteen months ago I have gained thirteen pounds of beautiful, healthy weight. A thin layer of fat has returned to my bones and my skeletal frame is at last being covered. I can look in the mirror again. I am no longer cringing!
After eight long years my body is exiting the danger zone and entering the road to recovery. The downward spiral has been stopped dead in its tracks. The diseases that have been slowly destroying my body are being eradicated. I am being healed. I am being made new. And it’s just getting started! God isn’t finished yet.

Dear friend, are you facing a devastating reality? Is it so shocking and troubling you can hardly bring yourself to look at it? Have you been avoiding the sight of it?
Hold fast to the Lord! He is mighty to save. He is faithful and able to carry you over every hill and through every valley. As long as there is breath in your lungs and a beat in your heart, there is hope. God is not finished yet. He is the healer who redeems and restores.

 

Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble but to take heart because He has overcome the world. Being stripped down to sixty-seven pounds has caused my body trouble but has lifted my Spirit. I would not trade this ravaging experience because through it I have been witness to the incredible sustaining and healing power of God.

Now I know by sight what by faith I always knew to be true. The Lord our God makes all things new. I have thirteen pounds of proof.

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Dandelions: A Beautiful Weed

For the past week I have been wrestling with dandelions and struggling to find the right analogy that describes what I see in them. I’ve tried to flee the very first analogy I saw in their weedy, lawn invading behavior but it has relentlessly chased me down. I am weary from running and can no longer escape the dandelion analogy that is staring me in the face…

Dandelions are to the lawn what chronic illness is to the body: a beautiful weed.

In every dandelion I see another invasion of sickness and disease. The yellow flowered weeds pop up without warning. As they grow they are a nuisance to well-manicured lawns. Dandelions are like disease at every stage of their life cycle. They bloom and then go on float into the air where they replant. Untamed, the pesky weeds go on to grow indefinitely, overtaking entire lawns.

Picturing an entire field covered in dandelions is a pretty image but not the lawn I had hoped for my life. I had always hoped for a manicured lawn with green grass cut on a diagonal. And to be perfectly honest I didn’t imagine myself as the one doing the mowing. In the dreams, I imagined a husband would be handling the lawn care. I had visions of planting flowerbeds with roses and watching children catching fireflies in the yard.

Those were the hopes and dreams I had for the lawn of my life, but now those hopes and dreams are covered in weeds. My life has been invaded by dandelions of disease. I’m covered from head to toe in symptoms and ailments that grow wild and free. I don’t have a bed of roses or even a single well-kept pot of flowers. All I have are bunches of dandelions. All I have is the brokenness of disease. All I have are weeds.

My yard full of dandelions had me defeated until I remembered a fondness I had of dandelions when I was a child. As a young girl I used to roam the yard picking them to make into bouquets. I would then go on to present them to my Mother. When my humble weed offering was given as a gift of love my Mother accepted them with joy and placed them in a special vase. She set the beautiful weeds on the windowsill right by the kitchen sink, right where my Mother could see them best.

In my Mother’s house the dandelions I picked were received like the finest of flowers. 

 

When picked with joy and gifted in love, my dandelions of chronic disease are accepted and cherished by my Heavenly Father. In God’s house my humble offering is received like the finest of flowers.  

My Lord does not see a weed in my symptoms and suffering. He sees a beautiful flower worthy of a vase and a place on the windowsill, right where He can see them best. All He asks is that I keep gathering my dandelions and presenting them before His throne with the faith and love of a child. All He asks is that I love Him and rejoice as I offer Him every one of my beautiful weeds.

 

In the dandelion I see a beautiful weed. I see the finest of flowers. What do you see?

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Hoarding: Buried Alive in Hope

The amount of clothing I own is nothing short of astonishing. The number of plastic containers in my possession containing said clothing is ludicrous.

The hoarding problem busting at the seams of my closet has been slowly developing for the past eight years. It all started with my first unintentional, dramatic weight loss. Within three months I was down thirty pounds and my pants would no longer stay up. I updated my wardrobe with smaller clothing and packed away the larger sizes trusting that they would be worn again when weight returned.

As the years have ticked by more weight has been lost and more clothing has been acquired. With each drop of pounds, bags of new clothes have appeared and more empty boxes have been filled. Now I have half a dozen containers full of clothes in pristine condition that are simply too big for me to wear yet I can’t bring myself to part with them because I still believe that one day I will have the weight I need to wear them.

Although I have lost weight I have not lost hope that God will heal me yet. My confidence in His restorative power is why I have been hoarding my old clothes for all of these years. Belief in restoration is why I haven’t parted with the sizes I can’t wear.

In my closet full of oversized clothing is a testimony to the big, confident hope I have that God restoring me completely – body, mind and soul. In my closet I am still holding onto the trust and believe that God is at work healing me. Even now the Great Physician is making me whole.

Dear friend, of this I am sure, God is the Almighty rebuilder and restorer who performs His most miraculous healing on the inside, in the broken and ailing human heart. With each internal restoration the Spirit of Christ reassures me that the Healer is most certainly at work and He isn’t finished yet.

 

“Your hands made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.

May those who fear You see me and be glad,
Because I wait for Your word.”

Psalm 119:73-74

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Let’s Run

“Turn left and head south on Milfair Road”
The navigational system stated its directions clearly but I wasn’t listening. I took an immediate right and headed east instead. I searched for a way to make my wrong into a right but there were no connecting streets and I couldn’t turn around. I was stuck taking the long route.
“Turn right in six miles,” the re-calibrated navigational voice said. The ETA added ten minutes and the total travel distance increased too but I before I had a moment to consider the lost time a vision of hope appeared through the glass of the car’s windshield.   Running on the right side of the road I didn’t’ intend to be taking I happened upon my runner friend chugging along.
My “runner friend” is an elderly gentleman who conducts his exercise on busy streets in town. His gait is stiff and every step labored yet he continues to move ahead. Rain, sleet and snow cannot deter him. He refuses to give up. He keeps running, defeating obstacles both inside and out. In all circumstances, my friend is determined to lace up his sneakers and run.

The wrong turn I made behind the wheel of my car added thirteen minutes and three miles to the total trip but infinitely more hope was added to my spiritual tank.
The vision of the runner pushing through his difficulty and pain inspired me claim the final victory in all circumstances.
And that’s just what I did.
Fueled by Christ’s overcoming Spirit and eternal hope, I claimed the victory over disease and defeat, laced up my sneakers and ran.

Turns out taking the long way was the perfect way for God to get me running again.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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The Final Chapter

For eight years I have been praying, asking God to write the final chapter of my sickness saga. Earnestly, I have asked God to give me His words to pen miraculous, inspiring closing lines to this Lyme story. Kindly, I have requested that He tie up this crazy journey with a beautiful restoration bow to bring Him glory.
Despite praying, begging and pleading with God to write those precious words, that isn’t where He has taken my life’s story. The ink He pours into my pen continues to be that of pain. Every time He opens a new page it reveals another scene of suffering.
I must be honest, while waiting for healing I’ve become weary. When my tired hand have become too heavy I’ve struggled to pick up my pen and questioned if God has a happy ending planned for me at all. As I’ve been witness to the healing testimonies of others I’ve even asked God, “When will I get my own healing story to share?”
And the sweet, gentle Spirit of my Heavenly Father keeps responding, “Dear Daughter, I’ve already written your story. Don’t you see it? The healing is in your heart.”

“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Acts 3:16

For eight years God has faithfully been penning His healing story in my heart. As often as I surrender my life before His cross and my hand before His blank page, He breathes words of restoration into my empty pen and pours out a story of His glory to tell.
By the blood of God’s Son, Heaven’s perfect Lamb, my heart has been healed. The miraculous, life-changing, transformative power of Jesus Christ has healed me and now I am new.
That is always the very best healing story.

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Just Stay Still

“Just stay still.”

This should have been easy instruction to follow if it hadn’t been for the assaulting banging and pounding of the MRI machine. The technician’s voice was gentle and reassuring but I knew the noisy reality that was soon to come. Being still only sounded simple until the machine turned on.
After tucking me in under a blanket and fitting my ears with gigantic headphones, the technician pushed the patient table into the scanner’s tube as I mentally prepared myself to “just stay still.” I tried to move myself into a comfortable but it was an impossible task. The machine left little room for repositioning and the technician left little time. Before I knew it I could hear his voice speaking in the headphones. “Ready?” he asked. I confirmed that I was as ready as I’d ever be. “Just stay still,” he said.
I held my breath as the machine began thumping. The sound was low and steady at first, as if a drum were beating off in the distance, but within moments the thumping turned to banging. First the racket seemed to be coming from the left, then the right. Then the whole machine shook violently before it stopped.
This cycle repeated as hundreds of snapshots were taken of my abdomen and pelvis. With each scan the banging and pounding was startling and remaining motionless was a challenge. I desperately wanted to stay still, knowing that the results of the scan dependend on it, but my body’s natural reaction was to flinch at every assaulting sound.
The test was only halfway completed and my ears were already ringing. Staying still was exhuasting and I was getting weary when all of a sudden I heard a faint click in my headphones followed by a familiar voice.
“Doing alright?” the technician asked. His voice was sweet and serene, a welcomed interruption from the constant banging. “Just stay still,” he reminded me one more time.
A moment later the scans resumed. They were as loud and disruptive as ever but something was different about the sound. Inside, I had peace. The assaulting banging no longer troubled me. For the next thirty minutes the pounding continued and I didn’t even flinch. It were as if God’s voice were all around me saying, “Just stay still.”
Consumed with God’s presence, every disconcerting sound of the magnetic scanner faded away. God’s hand was keeping me steady and being still became effortless and easy. In every pounding I could feel His steadying power. Even while under the seige of the machine, I experienced rest. With His Holy Spirit, every sound echoced harmonies of His serenity and peace.

Forty-five minutes later the test ended and I exited the examination room free from the assaulting sounds of the machine but in my ear I can still hear a gentle voice speaking peace into my heart. From the voice of my beloved Savior I’m still hearing Him say, “Just stay still.”