Following is my e-conversation with Kate Wicker, author of Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body, which I reviewed in my January column.. The great local news is that Kate will be keynote speaker at the Behold Conference this March. If you live anywhere remotely near the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, and have not yet registered for this great conference, please consider doing so. In the meantime, enjoy our conversation.
Q: Tell Catholic Post Book Group blog readers a little about yourself, your family and your writing.
First off, thanks so much for sharing your space with me. To give your readers a quick rundown: I’m a cradle Catholic, a wife to an amazing man, a mom to four little ones, and a writer and speaker when my-harried-but-happy-life-allows.
I have a degree in journalism and before becoming an at-home mom, I worked on the editorial staff of a regional parenting publication. I also freelance wrote for a variety of national publications and did a lot of medical and health writing early on.
These days I’m blessed to have the opportunity to write about two of my greatest passions in life: motherhood and my Catholic faith. I’m a senior writer for Faith & Family LIVE! and health columnist for Catholic Digest, and I also occasionally contribute to other publications. I ramble on about body image, my Catholic faith, mothering, sleep (or lack thereof), and other topics over at my blog, KateWicker.com.
I’m super excited to be attending the Behold Conference in March as a keynote speaker, and I hope I’ll get to meet some of your readers.
Q. One of the things I loved best about Weightless was your desire to help your own daughters grow up with a healthy self-image. How does faith play a role in that? And how do you see that changing as your girls get older, or now that you have a son?
I could write an entire book just about raising healthy daughters. Our children live in a world where they are constantly being exposed to unrealistic media images and unhealthy messages about sexuality, what it takes to be beautiful and desirable, and being a woman. We live in a society where girls are constantly at risk of sacrificing their true selves - whether they try to find love in the arms of a boy who doesn’t really care about them, wear immodest clothing to get attention, or turn themselves into a shiny, pretty package using extreme dieting or obsessive exercising. We have to work hard to counter the confusing messages out there, and the strongest tool in our arsenal is the wisdom of the Church. We have to teach our daughters where their true dignity lies: in the simple truth that they are created in God’s image and likeness and are carrying His mark.
When I wrote Weightless, I only had daughters, but we were pleasantly surprised to welcome a baby boy into our family this past August. I’m already thinking of ways to help him see that his God-given role as protector means that he must fight for the dignity of women and protect their divine beauty and worth. Partly because of the contraceptive culture we live in, it’s very difficult for today’s young men to not be enticed by the scantily-clad images in media or to not start objectifying women instead of seeing them as vessels of God’s beauty.
Our children - both boys and girls - face a lot of pressure today, but with our guidance, prayers, and the grace of God we can help fight back against a culture that undermines their worth, muddles their true life purpose, and help them hold onto their true selves.
Q. You share a lot of your personal story in Weightless about your struggle as a teen and young woman with an eating disorder. Was it hard to write about that with the compassion that you did, or is it enough in the past to allow you perspective?
I don’t think it’s ever easy to expose our brokenness (especially if you’re a perfectionist like I am). In many ways I didn’t (and still don’t) feel qualified to write a book about making peace with your body, especially when I still occasionally struggle with my body image or when I sometimes have difficulty applying the virtue of temperance to my eating habits.
During the writing process for Weightless, I was forced to face some of the relics of my eating disordered past, but I also was gifted with the opportunity to share glimpses of hope and redemption.
Likewise, dredging up the abuse I inflicted upon my body when I was suffering from a clinical eating disorder certainly wasn’t fun, but it was worth it because I also saw how God had never left my side even at my darkest moments. In fact, it wasn't until I turned to God and the principles of my Christian faith that the real healing began.
I do believe that all of us have our own unique spiritual attacks we have to constantly be on guard against. For me, food and body image seem to be some of them, so I’ll probably always find it somewhat uncomfortable and challenging to discuss some of these topics related to how we see ourselves and our bodies and how we approach food. Yet, God often invites us to step outside of our comfort zone in order to find peace in Him and to be better able to minister to others.
Q: Your book has been out for several months. Can you share some of the feedback you’ve gotten from readers?
I’ve been blessed to have received many encouraging emails and messages from women in different stages of life. One woman wrote that even though she was called to the single life and spiritual motherhood rather than physical motherhood, she was able to glean something from my book’s chapter that focuses on how being a mother changes how we see ourselves and our bodies.
I also had a 70-year-old women confess to me that she had struggled with bulimia for more than 30 years and had never really understood the depths of her hurt until she read my book.
One mom wrote that her young daughter was already thinking she was fat because her clothes from last season no longer fit her. The mom was worried and asked for my advice. It broke my heart that a child was already so body-conscious, and I encouraged the mom to remind her child that she should see her tighter clothing as something positive - a sign that she is healthy and growing. In our thin-obsessed culture, it’s easy to see why even young children start to equate growth with gaining weight, which feels like something they should avoid. This can be especially true for girls going through puberty - a time when their bodies naturally change and often fill out. It’s important to talk about how a girl’s body will develop and how growing up means that some physical changes will begin to take root.
At the same time, even if your young daughter has started to blossom physically, protect her innocence. Just because a child looks more like a grown-up doesn’t mean she is one. Finally, I’ve told other moms to remind their children that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Despite what Hollywood might have us believe, there is no “ideal” body shape. God loves variety. One look at the diversity in nature, it’s obvious that He did not intend to create a cookie-cutter world. We need to appreciate His artistry and accept our shape and encourage our children and others to do the same.
Q. What do most hope readers will take away from Weightless?
My biggest hope is that women will walk away from reading this book believing they can live a “weightless” life unencumbered by thoughts that they are not thin enough, young enough, pretty enough, or simply good enough. I know what it’s like to be a slave to the scale, to believe you’ll never be able to free yourself from thoughts of food or from pursuing thinness. But I’m here to tell you that there is hope. You are stronger than a craving. The number on the scale is not an indictment of your character. You’re not a bad person because you ate a few too many chips. You don’t have to feel shameful because you binged or purged or did both. God is knocking on your heart. Let Him in. Food or a relentless quest for youth and beauty won’t offer you real, lasting happiness or peace. But believing in an all-loving, all-powerful God who makes all things possible just might.
Q. Are you planning to write any more books?
I’ve been approached about a second book, and I feel incredibly humbled to have this opportunity; however, I’ve decided to focus on my most important “works in progress” - my children - at least for the few more months before starting any new writing projects. I’ll definitely keep you posted though when I get around to writing another book!