The real scale of happiness

Today’s contributor found that seeking a more spiritual sense of her identity freed her from an unhealthy focus on her diet and weight.

As a young teen, I did not think much about body image until my friend gifted me a diet book. Then I followed its advice, including notating everything I ate, as though it were sacred. However, this approach set me off on a roller coaster ride of happy and sad days, dictated by the bathroom scale.

This “scale of happiness” dogged my days for many years. One day, I realized I wished to be free of having my sense of happiness and self-worth dictated by my weight or food consumption. At this time, I was becoming a sincere student of Christian Science, so I turned to the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, for inspiration to help improve the way I was thinking about food and my self-image.

One story in the Bible particularly resonated with me: that of Daniel, who was held captive by a Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar (see Daniel, chap. 1). The king wanted to specially feed and educate a few chosen captives so they might be fitted to serve him in his court.

Daniel, however, did not want to follow the decreed diet of wine and meat, perhaps thinking that the food had been consecrated to Babylonian gods. He asked for a very simple and somewhat sparse diet for himself and his companions, and this was granted provided they could prove, after ten days, that they looked as healthy as those who had been eating the king’s fare. According to the Bible story, at the end of the allotted time Daniel and his companions appeared “fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

This story sparked a thought: Why didn’t the food seem to dictate the physical appearance of Daniel and his friends? I realized that Daniel was very close to God. He also acknowledged God as the source of wisdom and might (see Daniel 2:20). This inspired me to see that, like Daniel, my true identity and sense of self-worth came from a spiritual source: God. I began to see that it had nothing to do with what I ate or what I saw in the mirror. I saw that I needed a new conception of my being. Echoing an idea I had appreciated in Mrs. Eddy’s “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” I realized I too could say, “I will gain a balance on the side of good, my true being” (p. 104).

I understood this true being to be the reflection of God, because the Bible’s first book, Genesis, says that God made man (each of us, male and female) in His “image” and “likeness.” The Bible also says that God is Spirit, and so the teachings of Christian Science conclude that each of us, as God’s image, is truly spiritual. Understanding this has a healing impact on our experiences.

As I considered these ideas, the impact of this understanding was enabling me to see that I was not subject to material forces and fads, and this lifted a great weight off my thought. I found that I no longer needed to stand on the scale each morning, as I had discovered that the real “scale of happiness” has nothing to do with a matter-based emotion. It comes from realizing the truth of our being as God’s deeply loved offspring and expressing spiritual qualities such as goodness and joy in our activities.

I began to lose the weighty thought that my worth had anything to do with how I looked physically. It wasn’t that I stopped caring about how I looked. Rather, the idea of the spiritual completeness, beauty, and joy of God’s creation, and my freedom to express such qualities, gained more weight in my thinking. As this mental shift took place, I found I was expressing more of those qualities in my life, and a sense of balance in my weight and food consumption came naturally. I became less focused on what I ate and one day realized another outcome had naturally resulted: I’d been opting for more appropriately sized portions.

Understanding more of our true nature as God’s beloved child, cared for in every way, lifts the burdensome sense that we are limited mortals subject to variables. Then we see and feel more of God’s love and goodness in our lives.

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