God created us body and soul. This is something that was ingrained in me as a young, homeschooled child who studied the Baltimore Catechism. The essence of the human being is both in the body and in the soul. Even though this was something I “knew”, it has just become something I understood.You see, for almost my entire life, my body served as a stumbling block to my relationship with myself, others, and most importantly, God.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes: “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
I never saw my body as a gift from God, or a temple of the Holy Spirit. I saw it as annoying and stupid and wrong.
I’ve been overweight for as long as I can remember. I’ve had family members make snarky comments about dieting since I was 10, and the librarian at my library used to call me her “cute little chubby girl.”
All of these people who made comments had good intentions, but it became clear to me very quickly that my body wasn’t normal, that it needed fixing, that it wasn’t good.
Then came high school. And I’m sure you know that highschoolers can be merciless. My school had desks in tight rows I could barely fit through. Each time I would try to get to my seat, giggles and whispers surrounded me. I remember hearing words like “fat,” “whale,” “ugly.” It got to the point that I begged my teachers to let me sit in the front row or at the end of a row so I wouldn’t have to deal with the cruel comments.
I felt ugly, and that my body was useless. I swam competitvely, and I remember being so embarrassed of my body that I would stay in my swim suit until I got home while the other girls all changed in the locker room.
It had nothing to do with modesty, and everything to do with how I had come to see my body.
When I was 12, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder. I was put on medications to help manage these illnesses, but there were still times when they became so overwhelming, and I turned to outward ways of coping, including cutting. My body image became more and more warped as I began to have scars and abused it in this way.
Through the grace of God, and with the help of medication and therapy, I eventually stopped cutting, but I was still internally wounded for the way I had hurt myself. My body still felt like a burden.
I remember when I first started college, I was terrified that it would be like high school all over again. I was afraid I would be all alone because I was overweight, and people wouldn’t want to be seen with me. However, God didn’t forsake me. He put people in my life who looked beyond my appearance and insecurities, who loved me despite my extra weight.
Last September, I went on a pilgrimage to Philadelphia to attend Pope Francis’ papal mass during his visit to the United States. During an interest meeting, it was revealed that we would end up walking 10-15 miles throughout the day. I remember looking at my friend in complete horror, telling her that I had to drop the trip because I didn’t think I would be able to handle that much. My friend promised that I could, and told me she’d remain with me the entire day, even if we were miles behind the rest of the group.
And I did it. I walked over ten miles and lived. On the bus ride back to campus, I marveled at what my body was capable, despite all it’s ‘quirks’. It had carried me through through 22 years of life, countless miles, heartbreaks, and illnesses, and my heart still beat. I couldn’t walk the next day because of the pain I was in, but it was the first time I earnestly thanked God for my body.
I began to appreciate my body for what it was – a gift. I began to consciously try to treat myself kindly by exercisng and eating healthy, drinking more water, and trying to stay away from any self-criticism or cruelty.
By this July, I was able to make a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. Over the course of my trip, I walked almost eighty miles, doing over ten miles each on two consecutive days. My body did that. God gifted me with a body that was able to do that.
My feelings towards my body aren’t always all sunshiney. I still am very insecure about my weight, and have random insecurities, like wishing my nose and gap between my teeth were smaller, or that my lips were a little bigger. But the truth is that each of these things are a gift from God. These things I’m insecure about allow me to laugh,to cry, to smile, to speak and to walk with my God.
My body isn’t perfect. But it’s mine. And I’m grateful for a body that will carry me where God calls me.
Katie Freddino graduated From Mount St. Mary’s University in May with a major in English and a minor in Theology. She will be working with the Disney College Program in merchandising (basically a Disney princess)… Katie loves long walks on the beach and all varieties of margaritas. She believes tea and a good book can solve almost any problem and heart to hearts are her jam. Katie wants to change the world by writing. Her blog can be found at: cloudywithachanceofcatholic.blogspot.com