A few years back I was sitting on the couch with my then-boyfriend watching Modern Family and he began to tickle me. I shrieked and burst into a fit of laughter, before grabbing his arms and defiantly shouting, “Nooo! Don’t tickle my tummy – I’m too fluffy right now!” He fell back onto the couch, laughing even harder. “FLUFFY?!”
This term I’ve coined has become quite the adjective for anyone around me when they’re feeling a little thicker than usual. “Sorry I don’t think today’s a good day for the pool- I’m feeling a little fluffy.” “I ate way too much pizza last night, I’m definitely fluffier today.”
It’s almost always a joke when I use it. I’ll say it at the gym when my weightlifting belt is a little tighter than usual, or when less my veins aren’t visible during a workout. But that’s where the problem lies. When you are an athlete or you work in the fitness industry, you notice every little detail of yourself. You count every macro, every calorie, every set, and every rep. Every minute of your workout matters. Everyone around you sees the work you are putting in but all you see are the results you’re not getting or that you wish would come faster. When you’re an athlete or you work in the fitness industry and you’ve suffered an eating disorder, every detail matters.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really come to see and appreciate the parallels between my fitness journey and my faith. The two almost go exactly hand in hand in my life. Some seasons I’m on a spiritual high and I manage to be disciplined in the Word, in prayer, in fellowship, and in constant touch with God. Often those same seasons, I’m getting up early to run before work, I’m on top of my meal prep, and everyday I look forward to the hours of grueling training awaiting me in the gym. But other times- other times I struggle to read the Bible for more than 10 minutes, I have short and generic prayers, and I make God small enough to fit in my pocket. Usually it’s not long until I find myself under constant stress and pressure. I get frustrated with my lifts and just can’t find the motivation to wake up at 0600 to run. Negative thoughts and emotions swell up inside of me and next thing you know I’ve skipped my morning quiet time, I’ve chaffed off the gym, and I’m suddenly being tempted by the box of Oreos stashed at the back of the pantry. A few rows of Oreos, some french toast, some mint chip ice cream, and a few tablespoons full of peanut butter later, I am full of regret. And shame. And I’m fluffy. My abs – nonexistent, my lean legs – unrecognizable, my face- round and bloated. I’m fluffy and I’m hopeless.
How can the girl who has got it all together do this? How can the girl who runs around the gym in spandex in a sports bra do this? How can the good Christian girl who has her whole life together do this? No amount of races and competitions won, no job title or career, no handsome Irish boyfriend, no reputation can hide this. The truth. That sometimes the people we think have it the most together, are just as broken as everyone else. I’m a lot of things. I’ve accomplished alot in 22 years. I wear a lot of hats. But I’m human. I’m fallible. And I fail sometimes. I fall sometimes. I mess up, I make stupid decisions, I make the wrong turn. I binge and I purge and I can be an absolute wreck. But here’s the thing. I’m forgiven. I’m helped up. I’m saved. I’ve got a God who is bigger than any fear, any doubt, any mistake. I’ve got a God who thinks I’m beautiful even when I’m fluffy. A God who takes my hand and helps me stand when I’ve fallen one too many times. A God who sees my shame and takes my face into His hands and says, “No more.” A God who sees all of my scars, all of my sins, all of my regret, and He says “You are a daughter of the King.” A God who takes me weakness and gives me His strength.
The past 5 months I’ve been living the absolute life. After up and moving my life 8000 miles away, God blessed me in abundance. By the end of my stay in Bahrain, I had it all. I had a job I loved, the best friends I could ask for, an amazing gym full of people I love, a man that I adored, a killer body that I worked really hard for, a championship weightlifting career, and every week was filled with fun and adventure. I was confident and successful and happy. I didn’t think life could get much better. But something very sad happened over those 5 months. The God who had been the center of my life, who had gotten all of my love when I arrived in Bahrain, became smaller and smaller each time a new area of my life got bigger. Training became more important than reading, time with friends became more important than church, intimacy with my boyfriend became more important than intimacy with the Lord… slowly but surely I began to build my own kingdom rather than focusing on building His.
As my time in Bahrain started drawing to an end, fear and anxiety began to take hold of me. Stress and emotion engulfed me. I lost myself. My relationship with the man I grew to love began to crumble before my eyes. The friendships I had built that I thought would last a lifetime began to become transparent. It became too difficult to go to the gym knowing I would have to say goodbye. My knee injury became so bad that I couldn’t run. Everything around me began to fall apart. My heart was breaking. My life there was ending and my world was crashing.
Rather than coming home and feeling fit and strong after winning the weightlifting championships the weekend before, I felt miserable. I was fluffy. I had binge ate and drank all week prior to boarding the plane back home. It was the only way I had to cope with the pain and stress. When I got home everyone was eagerly awaiting my return, but all I could think was, I was fluffy. I didn’t want to see my friends or go to the gym or go to social gatherings. I was the girl who had it all and I let it go. I lost it. And I lost myself with it. Everyday I’d say I’d start over, get back on track, but all that would do is lead to disappointment. I needed to be real. I was weak. And I needed someone who was strong. I needed the one who gives me strength. The one who gives me love. I turned my eyes and my heart away from the world, away from the man I’d left behind, away from the athletic career I’d began, and fixed them on Jesus. It was time to take God out of my pocket and put him back where He belongs – on the axis of my life. I’m not pursuing a big world with a small God – I’m pursuing a huge God who makes the world seem small.
So guess what? I might be a little fluffy right now, but no one’s going to remember that. When I grab coffee with a friend, we’ll remember the conversation not my lack of abs. When I go camping with my mom, we’ll remember laughing hysterically on the beach and soaking up the sun. When I go to my dad’s baseball game, we’ll remember the score of the game and the memories made. When I get to heaven’s gate one day, God will ask me to recall all that I have done… not all the times that I was fluffy.
It’s taken two weeks to get my life back on track and to regain some perspective but honestly, I am grateful. I am grateful for the struggle these past two weeks just the same as I am grateful for the amazing journey of the past five months. Everything we experience in life is either a blessing or a lesson, and often times they’re both. I’ve reconnected with my friends and family, I’ve refocused my life on God, and I have learned and grown so so much. Yeah it’s going to take a few weeks to get my body back in to the shape it was in, but it was worth it to get my mind and heart back into the shape they need to be in. My mom said it best, no one will remember these days of me being fluffy, they’ll remember getting Jessy back.