Love Where It Hurts

“This is one of the hardest emails I have ever written…I am swallowing my pride and facing my fears. I am asking for help.”

Her email immediately caught my attention. Opening it, I discovered my dear friend Leslie was at the end of herself and was desperate for something, anything, to change. In one of the most courageous emails I’ve ever read, she asked seven of us to love her “where it hurts”—her body that carried over 138 extra pounds. She had asked people for prayer in the past, but never asked friends to enter into the most painful area of her life.

Leslie was done with having her weight control her life. She didn’t want to be the “fat girl” anymore. But she also recognized she could not win this battle on her own. She asked seven of us to hold her accountable and ask her very personal questions about her weight & diet once a week. No hiding for this girl. Incredible courage.

It’s easy to let people love us in the areas that are healed or healing—but letting people love us in the places that are deep and wounded is an entirely different proposition.

Leslie wrote, “ y’all are loving me in a place where I hurt.  You are telling me that I do not have to be ashamed of my weight or my struggles. I can just let you love me where it hurts . . . and I get to feel the soothing presence of that loving balm.”

Over the past few months, I have asked all sorts of questions about Leslie’s eating, exercise, emotions, and body image—in effort to help lift this enormous burden she longs to find freedom from. She has responded in grace and vulnerability, sharing with each of us about the hard weeks, the mess-ups, and the tiny little victories on the scale.

What I’ve noticed through all of our conversations and emails is she’s really not fighting a weight problem—she’s battling a shame problem.

Shame has told her she’s no good to anyone. Shame has told her she deserves to binge because no one understands what she’s been through. Shame condemns her as a glutton and a phony. Shame tells her that her husband isn’t proud of her because of her weight. Shame has told her dying would be better than living. Shame told her to hide—hide behind all the excess weight because beauty is dangerous. Shame told her she is worthless.

And for years, she believed shame.

Until she decided to ask for help, a tiny piece of shame fell. Until a few months ago, she admitted her starting weight to all of us—and another piece of shame fell away. Until a group of women told her how incredible valuable and loved she is—another piece, gone. Brick by brick, pound by pound, Leslie is learning to believe the truth about herself.

This week, I’m celebrating her latest email where she declared,

 “247.4 lbs. That means I am no longer considered MORBIDLY OBESE.  Now I am in the OBESE category. So that is exciting!!!”

Pretty incredible what can happen when we ask people to love us in the places we hurt the most. It takes courage, it takes raw vulnerability, and in some cases it may take running or therapy or treatment. But the thing I’ve noticed about shame is it’s only powerful in the darkness—but in the light, especially in the brilliant light of seven others, it is rendered powerless.

Everything exposed by the light becomes visible . . .This is why it is said, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5: 12-14

Leslie & I would love to hear how her story impacted you or if you’ve had similar struggles. She originally told me I could share her story using a different name-but after she read the post, she decided to use her real name. Pretty amazing courage, right? 


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19 Responses to “Love Where It Hurts”
  1. This is a story of incredible strength and courage. It bought tears to my eyes. One of the hardest things we can do is let people love us in our weakness. I think your points about shame Ruthie are so true, I think shame grips and holds and strangles more of us than we care to admit. And Leslie, from what I read here you are amazing. Loosing weight is hard but I think you’ve already done the hardest part in asking for help. You can be very proud of yourself and your story. I’m sure it will inspire many others!

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Thanks for your comment, Wendy! Glad the post resonated with you. How true that shame grips and holds and strangles us…

      • Leslie says:

        Wendy –

        Thank you for your encouraging words. I agree the hardest part was reaching out…but the response was overwhelming. I do pray others are inspired, and I am honored that Ruthie shared my story with her readers.

        – Leslie

  2. karen says:

    good choice Leslie!
    i lost 70 lbs 6 years ago- and have in the last 2 years gained 25 back— got stressed and stopped running and let eating get emotional again.. it can happen- but i really didnt have accountability. others love me but I didnt specifically ask them to work with me on this issue..and people are often too kind to say- hey whats the matter? you gained weight!- i think i have to give them permission and tell them i am seriously wanting their feedback, like you are doing.
    i like very much your plan – as my life coaching session last week was about creating structure, including accountability. I had another issue in the past that i had asked a friend to work with me about- and she agreed and followed through- and that was very successful.. so it works!!
    i should know now what i am to do! thank you,Leslie..

  3. Maggie says:

    my first year of college i lost the 5 pounds I had gained for whatever reason in high school and kept it off and kept fit, but when I got into a major bicylce accident august of 2011 I basically tore up my knee and still suffer pain from it. In losing my physical activity I gained 40 pounds, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been ever. So I got a gym membership and I would go and work on cardio and weight training and even though the weight didn’t seem to come off, I was feeling healthier.

    Now with moving, even though I have access to a gym and able to work out, school has been horrible in keeping me down. Always working, always trying not to pig out but still have enough produce in my diet (just ask my housemates they say I eat the healthiest at the house), but being surrounded by thin beautiful fit girls ALL the time around here (I live in coastal California where EVERYONE is fit) and even running next to them on the treadmill, or changing into a swimsuit to use their lap pool I feel horrible.

    I’m just now figuring out a work out schedule for when I’m up here, but the poor circulation in my foot has also been an issue that I’m learning to deal with. I just feel that no matter what I try to do to take care of my body, it’s always trying to work against me in some way.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Maggie, so sorry about the difficulty you’ve had with your weight and health. Has anyone else ever felt like their body was “working against them”? That no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t win?

    • Leslie says:

      Maggie –

      I get it. Part of my story that Ruthie did not share is that 3 weeks after I reached out to my 7 and started eating better and exercising I ended up in the hospital. I was diagnosed with a serious, chronic illness which has greatly impacted my ability to exercise and lose weight. Going through all of this was really hard, but it helped me put my focus more squarely on building authentic community and NOT giving power to the scale. Your transformation may take longer than you want … but I know we both can do it!!!

      – Leslie

  4. Renee says:

    Way to go, Leslie! Weight is such a big issue for so many women, I totally feel you and want you to know you’re not alone! You are amazing for sticking with this and for bringing others into your journey. Now, if only the rest of us would be so bold in the areas of our lives where we need to grow. We need your courage to open up and humble ourselves to each other about the ways in which we struggle. How much stronger and healthier would we be if we took a cue from you!

    Thank goodness for God’s unconditional and unfailing love, no matter in which areas we struggle!

  5. Felicia says:

    What an amazing post and kudos to you Leslie!

    Having battled with my weight for many years, I can totally understand how you feel and I applaud your decision to not only decide to make a difference but to have such courage to trust your friends to help you be accountable. My mother plays this role for me and as much I used to resent it, I now cherish her for caring for me enough to make me care about my own body, as she has struggled with a similar issue all of her life. Please continue to keep us updated on your progress as it would serve as a great testament to so many women who are trying to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

    Once again congratulations !

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Thanks for commenting, Felicia! Hope you are well.

      • Felicia says:

        :) I am well, thank you Ruthie. And I just read about the book deal, CONGRATULATIONS to you and Michael. May God bless you both with His wisdom and words in this entire process, from authorship to publication to readership. With God all things are possible. Looking forward to seeing it in a store near me ;)

    • Leslie says:

      Felicia –

      Thank you for your words. The weight loss has been so great, but more importantly is the way I am changing from the inside out. My 7 are priceless to me!!! God is good!

      I’ve lost 46.5 lbs so far. Maybe Ruthie will write another story when I lose 100 lbs!!! :)

      – Leslie

      • Felicia says:

        God is good indeed, amen! Isn’t it so amazing that an issue that is seemingly ‘physical’ is indicative of something so emotional? And that God has a way of helping us solve both by helping us to start tackling just one?

        46.5 LBS! That’s something worth smiling about! :D What a feat! Congratulations hun.

  6. Ana Sofia says:

    I too, struggle with shame. I am working on not believing the lie that being beautiful is somehow “bad.” I need Jesus to help me with my weight as well, but most importantly with shame because I cannot help myself.
    -Ana Sofia

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