During the first call with my new health coach, she told me to stop weighing myself. I agreed to cease this action and hid our scale next to my hair dryer and a pack of cotton balls in a bathroom cabinet. That lasted three days. The scale is now back on the black-and-white ceramic tile floor beside my bathtub, and I step on it every morning after I wake up. Some days I weigh myself multiple times. Don’t tell my health coach.

I have operated with a diet mentality for thirty years. As a serious classical ballet dancer during my teens, I paid a whole lot of attention to what I ate. One memory that stands out is when I lasted several months on a fat-free diet during junior high school. Do you remember those Snackwells sandwich cookies? They were loaded with sugar to improve their taste and make up for their lack of fat. I could eat a whole box of those things when I returned home after several hours of ballet classes and rehearsals. I would need a meal with real food, too, since the cookies were practically sugar air. It was all good, though, because they were fat-free.

Other diets I’ve tried include the cabbage soup diet, Slim-fast, Dexatrim appetite suppressants, the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers (multiple times), and basic calorie counting using an app on my phone. But the eating plan I stuck to the most was the binge-and-fast diet, also known as an eating disorder. I would restrict my quantities of food and sometimes cut out whole food groups, then I would crash and eat everything in sight. I would fast to make up for the binge and to punish myself for my lack of control. This cycle was so engrained in me that it happened on a subconscious level—I never thought much about it. It was just the way I ate—or didn’t eat—during various seasons of my life.

I’ve always wished my body was different. I’ve allocated a lot of brain power to wanting my hips to be narrower and my thighs to be slimmer. The crazy thing is during most of my adult life I was on the skinny side of average. But that was not enough for me. I wanted to be even thinner. What I saw in the mirror were huge hips and a small chest that were not in proportion. I saw thighs that needed a bigger thigh gap. I saw a body I could never accept.

I entered recovery for my eating disorder two years ago. I no longer binge and fast so in some ways I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. But I have gained 70 pounds in those two years. When the number on the scale started increasing I turned to various “healthy” diets to lose weight. Nothing has worked, though. When I count my calories perfectly and eat 1700-1800 calories each day, I do not lose the one and a half pounds each week my app tells me I should be losing. I can’t help but think I’m missing some pieces of the puzzle. I’ve read articles about how diets don’t work. Now I’m real-life proof. I’m also trying to figure out where the Law and Grace and the Gospel fit in the body image and food equation. I’ve known since I became a Christian during my junior year of college that my security is in my standing as a child of God, but I have never been able to live in light of that truth. I care too much about my appearance. And I care too much about what others think of my appearance.

I want to let go of my body shame and be normal around food, but I don’t think I can get there on my own. After a bit of research, I found Isabel Foxen Duke’s website. I read her blog and watched a few introductory videos explaining her approach: quit dieting, get in touch with your body’s hunger and fullness signals, and learn to accept and love your body as it is. She says your weight will settle where it’s supposed to be after you stop restricting food and trying to force yourself into a certain size and/or a specific number on the scale.

After several emails with Isabel’s assistant and a phone interview with Isabel, I started working with her one-on-one. I have tried to not diet for one whole week, but old habits die hard. In addition to weighing myself (diet mentality), I reloaded the calorie-counting app on my phone a couple of times so I could plug in my food portions and determine how many calories I had consumed (diet mentality). I also went for a walk a few days ago because I felt too full—I needed to burn some calories so I could feel good about myself (diet mentality). I’m sure there are other examples, as well.

While listening to one of Isabel’s recorded audio lessons, I heard the gospel preached to me. Isabel’s not a Christian, but the truth is the truth regardless of the delivery mechanism. After hearing her speak about her very counter-cultural approach, I began to believe—in a mustard seed sort of way—that my worth is not wrapped up in my appearance, a number on the scale, or my ability to lose weight and fit into my favorite pair jeans. I realize dieting and my diet mentality are detrimental to my health, my view of myself, my view of God, and my ability to pay attention to my body and its signals.

A few weeks ago I spent two hours at the beach on the way home from visiting my parents at their home in Florida. A man and woman were nearby playing with their two huge, energetic dogs. They kept throwing a tennis ball into the gulf and the dogs would take turns swimming into the water to retrieve it. The woman was far from a size four, had on a red bikini, and was completely comfortable with her body. She was full of joy and had an air of freedom that radiated from her—a freedom I haven’t known in a long time. I sat in my beach chair in the bright sun and watched them play. With my coverup on over my swimsuit, I longed for what she had.

Isabel thinks I can find freedom. She thinks I can heal and become more of who I was created to be. I’m starting to think so, too. A lot needs to change–a good step might be getting rid of my scale. What I’ve been doing for the past 30 years hasn’t been helping and it’s probably been hurting.

I believe God wants me to have freedom, as well. God’s Word says He sent His Son to set the captives free. I don’t want to be a captive to my food issues and body shame anymore. I want Him to set me free.

I’m going to be posting about this new journey toward freedom and health every three or four weeks here at Mockingbird. I hope you join me and read along as I process what it might look like to live in light of the gospel in areas connected to food and my body. These are issues many people struggle with and I pray Jesus shows us Himself, His way, and His truth. (I’m also starting a weekly newsletter devoted to this new endeavor. You can sign up for it here.)