Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast! I’m your host, Shelley Hitz and today’s guest is Sarah Bragg.
Sarah has waged a battle that I know many of you can relate to, a battle with her body image. She battled an eating and exercise obsession for more than a decade before learning how to be content with who God made her to be. She wrote a book called Body. Beauty. Boys. The Truth About Girls and How We See Ourselves. She will share her story in today’s episode.
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SHELLEY. Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast! I’m your host, Shelley Hitz and today’s guest is Sarah Bragg. Welcome Sarah.
SARAH. Hi, thanks for having me. I’m so excited.
SHELLEY. I’m just going to share a little bit about you as we get started, and then we’ll dive in. Sarah has waged a battle that I know many of you can relate to, a battle with her body image. The reason I know a lot of you struggle with this is because I’ve spoken all over the country to many women’s and teen girl’s groups and at events. It’s a topic I’ve shared and over, and over, and over, and over I’ve seen it be such a huge issue, so I’m glad she’s going to be talking about it today. She battled an eating and exercise obsession for over a decade before learning to be content with who God made her to be. She wrote a book called Body, Beauty, Boys, the Truth about Girls and How We See Ourselves, and she will share her story in today’s episode. Sarah, just starting off what did the broken crayons in your life look like?
SARAH. I was coloring with my girls the other day, I have two girls who are 1st and 3rd graders, so we sat in the room and were coloring. I was thinking about this interview because my girls always break the crayons. they always break them, and they still color with them. this is so true that broken crayons still color. As I thought about it I was looking at the pack of crayons and I was thinking, “OK, for me and my past, what was in that little box of Crayola crayons for me? What was in that box?” I think for most of my adolescence that crayon was a crayon of insecurity. I just really let that define me, shade me, and color in all that I was. It really was just this kind of crayon of not being enough.
I remember the very first time that I ever realized I wasn’t enough. I was in 4th grade, and my oldest daughter is about to be in 4th grade so it’s very strange looking back on my life and remembering that little 4th grade girl and remembering in her brain what happened, and then thinking in context of my own daughter. I went to this pool party, it was a birthday party, and I was new in town. I got invited and I went to this party, just being the new girl in town is hard enough, and you know girls, we can all be so mean. I remember being in the pool but being separated, there was kind of the group of girls and they were kind of exclusive in who they were. I was just kind of off on my own on the other side of the pool playing with the float. It was one of those rings that go around your waist with an animal head on it. I was just messing with this float and then all the sudden it popped.
SHELLEY. Oh no.
SARAH. This one girl turned around, she was kind of, we all know them, the ringleader of the group, and she just said, “Sarah is so fat she popped the float.”
SHELLEY. Oh no!
SARAH. Yes, so it was this moment. Until then I never thought I was imperfect, not that I thought I was some perfect being, but I just didn’t notice it. I wasn’t walking around looking in the mirror, I wasn’t looking at my body and comparing to other people, I was just a kid and kids are kids. I wasn’t thinking about it. In that moment I had this sudden realization that I had an imperfect body. So from that point forward I didn’t want to be laughed at again, I didn’t want to be shunned again, or left out. So from that point forward I knew something had to be done in order to be accepted, to be valued, to be beloved. For me that really shaped and colored the thinking about myself. It shaped my identity and it shaped my worth from that point forward.
SHELLEY. Yeah, I remember one of my friends, her daughter when she was 4 years old, I think, she started to say in the bathtub, “my thighs are fat mommy.” She [the mother] was like, “where did you hear that?” There was another friend of hers that was talking in that way and influencing her at 4 years old. We can have those moments that are defining moments. What would you say was your lowest point in that whole area of body image and as you had an eating and exercise obsession? Where would you say was your lowest point?
SARAH. I feel like I can look back and see a lot of different low points, choices I made that weren’t wise, whether it was relationship choices or just choices about myself that weren’t wise, because of that struggle. I think probably one of the lowest was in college, I remember, this was like Senior year of college. So at this point you think, this happened when I was in 4th grade is what started this trajectory of life. Here I am at 20 years old, Senior in college, and it’s supposed to be the greatest time of my life yet I just found myself so chained to my image. I would wake up in the morning and rather than think about what classes I had or what friends I would hang out with, I was just thinking and consumed with what I was going to eat and how much I could exercise to burn off what I did eat. So, I think one of the lowest points, I remember sitting in Denny’s—I don’t know if you have Denny’s, they’re everywhere right?
SARAH. So I was studying in this Denny’s with some friends and we all got dessert, like a piece of pie. I remember I actually found myself in the bathroom forcing myself to throw up in a Denny’s. You’re thinking, oh all of this, me as an adult now, I’m like, “uh, I don’t even want to use the bathroom in a public place.” That was just such a low point of going, “I can’t even enjoy just a simple dessert with friends while we’re studying,” I was so consumed that I would go to this dirty bathroom, you know? So that was a pretty low point, I think, for me.
SHELLEY. Yeah. I know your story has so much to it, but what would you say was the turning point for you in all of this?
SARAH. Even before I graduated college it was that senior year when I really started to just get tired, you know? I knew that something had to change, I knew deep down that this wasn’t the way that God wanted me to live. I knew that this wasn’t the abundant life that He promised, that it could not be. The thought of going, “gosh I could be 40 and still waking up thinking this way, that just can’t be right.” I began to take steps toward changing my thinking. I remember being on my college dorm room and just saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t want to do this anymore.” So, I just started kind of wrestling with what would that look like, to be different? What would that look like to think differently?
I had a mentor at the time and she kind of just walked me through everything in life. She was a young, married woman, young mom, and all those things that you want to say, “how do I do this? I’m just going to watch you do these things.” I remember that first year out of college just sitting there with her and talking about my obsession, talking about how I was struggling. She just finally looked at me and said, “for the sake of your future children, you need to stop.” There was just something about, I had never considered anyone outside of myself. When you struggle with that it’s a very selfish struggle, you’re not thinking about what you can do for the Kingdom, you’re not thinking about someone else, you’re thinking about yourself. So there was something about considering my future children that just really resonated with me. I didn’t want them to feel the same way that I felt. I wanted them to be free to be who God created them to be. I knew that if I wanted them to be free then I had to figure out how to be free. So I had to start figuring out how to model that. That really was the turning point for me.
SHELLEY. Yeah, I could see how that would be motivating. Now, there are people listening that are probably at all different places in their lives, some of them may be struggling with something like that right now, or they know someone that is struggling with this type of issue, body image, whether it’s an eating disorder, or like you said an exercise obsession, and just being obsessed with this. What kind of advice or encouragement would you give our listeners today?
SARAH. I think, my piece of advice is the same piece of advice that I give myself everyday. It’s one of those things that, yes I feel like I found freedom, I’m no longer obsessed, but I still struggle, it’s still one of those thorns in my flesh that turn me to the Lord. It’s one of those things that I don’t feel like I’ll be fully free, I’m free, but you know what I mean? When you’re in Heaven and you have that glorified body, you no longer have your human nature in you. It’s to learn this way, to change your thinking takes practice. I would say that to learn to see yourself the way that God sees you. That’s what my encouragement would be. Not go, “I’m looking for a quick fix, I’m looking for an overnight result,” but to go, “I’m going to learn to see myself the way that God sees me.” That takes time and that takes practice. Philippians 4:11 says,
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. [NASB]
I had to learn how to be content to be me. He made me exactly the way that I am on purpose for a purpose. He made no mistake, so the fact that I’m 5’2”, my hips are this way, or my nose, or whatever it is that we tend to look at and go, “UGH!” He made it on purpose. He made us fearfully and wonderfully unique. So, another verse that I really started clinging to, we practice these verses, we practice Psalm 139, we practice Colossians 3:12 that talks about how you are chosen, holy, and beloved.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; [NASB]
Those are all identity statements that we have to just retrain our mind and just kind of relearn and replace the lies that we tend to believe with this new truth. I had to practice that, because of Jesus I am accepted, I am made holy, and I am dearly loved. That is the same for all of us. So I would encourage everyone to just practice being content to be you, and sometimes that practice looks like being thankful, just writing down three things today that I’m thankful for about my body. I was doing a little, short workout this morning, like ten minutes long, and I was like, “OK God, thank you for giving me strong legs, thank you for giving me a body that can move.” Whereas I would like to look in the mirror and go, “ugh, it’s swimsuit season, I don’t even want to go there.” I’m going to change the way that I think about myself, and that comes through practicing gratitude, practicing putting truth in our hearts, and practicing today walking as if I am someone who is loved, made holy, and accepted.
I just think, what would your life be like if you decided to live like you were loved, today? Live like you were accepted? Live like you were holy? What difference would it make in your own life and the life of others?
SHELLEY. So good. I think identity is so key, no matter what we’re struggling with. I was actually praying about it and I asked God for 2017 what my theme or word of the year would be and He gave me that word, identity. I’ve known this for years and years, I’ve been a Christian for almost 25 years, but it’s like, it’s something we always have to come back to, because it’s such a core issue. So I’m so glad that you talked about that.
Where can listeners find more about you or your book if they want to know more, or connect with you further?
SARAH. They can find me over at SurvivingSarah.com, and you can actually purchase my book through the website. I have a podcast that comes out weekly on Tuesdays called Surviving Sarah, it’s a show that’s created just to inspire, encourage, and entertain women to just kind of survive in the very life that they have.
SHELLEY. I love that. Definitely check out her podcast. I remember my cousin Amy was interviewed on your podcast recently and I found your podcast. I was like, “oh that’s so amazing!”
SARAH. What a small world.
SHELLEY. I know! So definitely check out her podcast, go to her website. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Again, it’s just another example of how God can turn our messes into masterpieces. Now he’s using you in so many way to help others to be able to break free in Jesus’ power, and in the truth of His word. How amazing. Thank you so much for all you do, and thank you for sharing your story today.
SARAH. Thank you so much Shelley.
SHELLEY. I just thank each one of you for joining us again today. If you or someone you know has a powerful story to share I would love to have you on the podcast. Simply apply on my website at ShelleyHitz.com/Story and I would love to connect with you. Thank you again for
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