118.

That was the number on the scale just before I realized I needed help.

118 pounds.

It’s really not that small of a number, especially when you stand at only five foot four. In fact, 118 pounds put me very solidly in the normal section of the BMI (body mass index) scale. I looked very healthy on the outside, but on the inside, I was sick. I was far from normal.

My eating habits were not normal. My exercise routine was not normal. My relationship with my body was not normal. I was alternatively binging and starving myself, working out excessively, and just generally hating myself. But no one saw any of that. They saw what I wanted them to see. I was 24, had a steady job, and was in a brand-new relationship.

My life probably looked very normal. Good, even. But it wasn’t.

I assumed that 24 was just too old to suffer from an eating disorder. I thought that eating disorders and body dysmorphia were things teenagers struggled with, problems you recovered from with the wisdom you gained in your 20s. So why hadn’t it gone away on its own? As it turns out, I was wrong to assume that age would bring instant healing, as if the moment that I turned twenty, all of my struggles would just disappear.

RELATED: My Eating Disorder Consumed Me

There’s no such thing as being too old to suffer from an eating disorder. Barring a miracle healing, many women struggle with eating disorders for life. It is a disease that comes and goes, that has periods of remission and occasional (or frequent) flare-ups. Like alcoholics and addicts, you are always in a state of recovery.

My disorder was not going to just go away on its own. Ignoring a problem will rarely solve it. Most eating disorders will be managed with the help of specialists, nutritionists, and therapists. At the very least, it will take familial support, good habits, and perseverance. Overcoming an eating disorder takes strength. It takes virtue.

And in my case, it took pregnancy. 

My baby helped me heal from my eating disorder before he was even born. Pregnancy is the kind of radical experience that changes every facet of your life. And in my case, it changed my life in ways I never would have imagined possible. It gave me the willpower and strength to overcome my eating disorder.

For the first time in my life, my eating and exercise habits weren’t just affecting me. They were affecting the sweet, little life inside me. I couldn’t punish my body without punishing my baby. I couldn’t starve myself without starving my baby. I couldn’t lose control and binge without hurting my baby. Any of those actions would harm my baby, and for the first time in my life, I really accepted that those actions were harming me too. Because if they could hurt my baby, they certainly were hurting me too.

RELATED: Defeating My Eating Disorder Through Motherhood One Day At A Time

So I found myself changing the way I ate, the way I exercised. I wanted to make good choices for my baby boy. I wanted to be healthy for him because I wanted him to be healthy. When another person depends so fully on you for his life and nourishment, you can’t help but make decisions with him in mind. He’s just impossible to forget.

So I started making good choices, and over the course of nine months, those good choices became good habits.

And while it might be easy to make one bad choice (or a series of them), it’s very difficult to break a habit after months and months of repeatedly making good choices. And you know what? By the end of my pregnancy, I didn’t want to make bad choices anymore.

What began as choices made for the sake of my child eventually became choices made for me. I wanted to be healthier because I liked the way I felt. I wasn’t at war with my body anymore. I didn’t always love it, but I didn’t hate it anymore, and that was a huge step for me. In fact, I was actually proud of my body, impressed by its ability to carry and give life to a child. If my body, the body I had hated for so long, was capable of such an incredible miracle, how could I not be amazed by it? And how could I not treat it well?

RELATED: The Body I’ve Always Wanted – Size Mom

Pregnancy completely changed the way I thought about my body. My baby boy, before he was even born, changed the way I thought about my body. Without really looking for healing, I found it. And once I found it, I clung to it.

Pregnancy revealed the truth about my body. It’s incredible, and it has held the miraculous within it.

My body has been the home of two of the greatest gifts I have ever been given—my children. My body is not just my own but has been shared and given to my children. And it never really was my own to begin with because it has always been a gift from God, given to me to treasure and protect.

So in gratitude for this body, this great gift I have been given, I choose to love it. I choose to treasure it. I choose to take care of it properly. Because at the end of my life, I want to be able to present this body back to God and proudly show Him the wonderful things I have done with it.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Shannon Whitmore

Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and freelance writing on topics such as marriage, family life, faith, and health. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.

God Has You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman hugging herself while looking to the side

Holding tight to the cold, sterile rail of the narrow, rollaway ER bed, I hovered helplessly over my oldest daughter. My anxious eyes bounced from her now steadying breaths to the varying lines and tones of the monitor overhead. Audible reminders of her life that may have just been spared. For 14 years, we’d been told anaphylaxis was possible if she ingested peanuts. But it wasn’t until this recent late autumn evening we would experience the fear and frenzy of our apparent new reality. My frantic heart hadn’t stopped racing from the very moment she struggled to catch a breath....

Keep Reading

My Husband Having a Stroke at 30 Wasn’t in Our Plans

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife, selfie, color photo

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) This verse in the book of Jeremiah has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, it’s felt relevant across many life events. Its simple, yet powerful reminder has been a place of solace, perhaps even a way to maintain equilibrium when I’ve felt my world spinning a bit out of control. In this season of starting fresh and new year intentions, I find great comfort in knowing...

Keep Reading

She Left Him on Valentine’s Day

In: Faith, Marriage
Husband kissing wife on cheek, color photo

“Can you believe that?” Those were the dreaded knife-cutting whispers I heard from across the table. I sunk deeper into my chair. My hopes fell as everyone would forever remember that I had left my fiancée on Valentine’s Day. Maybe one day it would just dissipate like the dream wedding I had planned or the canceled plane tickets for the Hawaiian honeymoon. Some bridesmaids and guests had already booked plane tickets. It was my own nightmare that kept replaying in my head over and over again. I had messed up. Big time. To be honest, if it made any difference,...

Keep Reading

God was In the Room for Our Daughter’s Open Heart Surgery

In: Faith, Motherhood
Child's hand with IV

I’ve had a strong faith for as long as I can remember, but I always felt bad that I never had a “testimony.” I had never gone through something that made me sit back and say, “Wow, God is real, He is here.” I have always felt it to my core, but no moment had ever stopped me dead in my tracks to where there was no denying that it was God. And then, that moment happened to me on December 5. After five months of fervently praying for a miracle for our daughter, the day came for her heart...

Keep Reading

A Benediction for the Worn Out Mother

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman leaning against kitchen counter, black-and-white photo

Blessed are you, Father, for bestowing upon me the honor of motherhood. For allowing me to experience the deep joy of bringing forth life—a joy I often take for granted and instead choose to begrudge. My children’s cries and demands have worn me down. I do not recognize myself. I selfishly long for the old me. My thoughts are an intangible mess of never-ending tasks, self-criticism, and comparison to those around me. RELATED: God Sees You, Weary Mama But Your word says you are near to the broken-hearted and downtrodden. You do not forget the cause of the tired and the...

Keep Reading

God Doesn’t Forget You When You’re Lost and Unsure

In: Faith, Living
Woman looking into camera, color photo

I’ve been wandering around feeling lost for over a year. Wondering where I’m going, what I’m supposed to be doing. Nothing seems to make sense. I felt purposeless. I felt stuck. I questioned everything: my faith, my marriage, my career—if it could be questioned, I doubted it. And I was completely clueless how to fix the funk. For over a year, I’ve been in the wilderness. I’ve wanted to find my way, but every path seemed like another dead end. The wilderness. I’ve been residing there. Not feeling fed. Not feeling heard. Not feeling seen. Struggling to find a purpose....

Keep Reading

And Then, the Darkness Lifts

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother with baby smiling

Today when I woke, it had lifted, like sunshine peeking after rain. And as my toddler clicked on the lamp beside my bed to see her mama, I saw me too. I got out of bed and I walked down the hall. And the coffee pot sat there waiting for me, as always, like my husband at the kitchen table with his books. He smiled at me, and I think he could tell as I took my medicine, took down a mug, and poured my coffee. I opened the secretary desk and pulled out the chair and my Bible, like...

Keep Reading

Joy in This Stillness

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding sleeping toddler, color photo

I woke up suddenly in a sweat while it was still dark. Except for the humming of the oxygen machine, the house was silent. For a moment, I thought I might have time to enjoy a cup of coffee before my son woke up. However, a glance at my daughter’s crib told me that feeding my caffeine addiction would have to wait. My daughter has a terminal brain disorder called Lissencephaly, a side effect of which is uncontrolled epilepsy. Many mornings, a subconscious recognition that she is having episodes of repeated seizures rouses me from my sleep. Throwing on a...

Keep Reading

Sometimes All We Can Do Is Say How Hard Motherhood Is

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom with baby in foreground

I have been sitting in the peace and quiet of the office to do some long overdue Bible study for all of five minutes when the baby wakes up. With a heavy sigh that is becoming all too common, I go to the bedroom to pick up my fussy, probably getting sick, 8-month-old daughter who has been asleep for approximately 15 minutes. I bring her to the office and put her on the floor with some new books and toys. Sitting back down in front of my own new book of Bible maps and charts, I begin reading once again....

Keep Reading

Sometimes I Want to Skip This Part

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife sitting on swing, color photo

Kelly Clarkson’s new album Chemistry is about the arch of her relationship with her husband and their divorce. The first song on the album is called “skip this part.” It begins with her asking if she can skip the heartbreak. She begs to jump over the deep pain that came with her divorce. The song is haunting and beautiful and says things like, “my heart can’t forget the ache before the mend.” She is honest and vulnerable, admitting she is not sure if she has the strength to get through the pain. She just wants it all to be over, for...

Keep Reading