When I weighed 430 pounds I was in constant need of a hug and yet I rarely gave them. I did give them to family. I know this because my daughter, Jenny, mentioned this in the final note in my book Sweet Grace.

“I do remember feeling at home because hugging you felt like a big, warm pillow. And I do mean that as a compliment.”

Teresa Parker giving Devin Muller a hug at Sweet Grace Study Session.

Teresa Parker giving Devin Muller a hug at Sweet Grace Study Session.

Still, when you look at my before picture, it looked like I never got them or gave them.

I was reticent about giving hugs. It wasn’t just my physical presence. It was also my emotional boundaries. I was all right giving nonchalant hugs to family and a few close friends.

Part of allowing myself to be extremely overweight was to protect myself emotionally.

If I am big physically and someone does not hug me or get close to me, I can blame it on my size and think they’re just rejecting my body. My body is just a container. The real me is who I am on the inside. So, they aren’t rejecting the real me.

This is really flawed thinking. My body is a like a cardboard box that contains my soul and spirit. However, it is more than just a container. I am a tri-part being—body, soul and spirit. God saved all of me, not just one part.

He tells us our bodies are living sacrifices.1 That means our bodies must be as dedicated to Him as our soul and spirit. He also says our body is the temple of His Holy Spirit.2

These are profound statements and give me pause to realize the body is important to God. Most sins listed are actually sins against the body—sins of lust, consumption, speech, what I look at or what I grab hold of that isn’t mine.

Sins are mainly what I do … with my body. One day my body will no longer be here, but right now I live in it. It’s how I relate to my world and people. It needs to be as saved as my soul and spirit.

My body is me, no matter how large. When someone hugs my body, they are hugging me. It’s the only way my soul and spirit can feel a hug.

My flawed thinking was a rouge of sorts to give myself an emotional distance so I wouldn’t be hurt by rejection related to how large I was.

I know what it feels like to be the one overlooked, even though it was hard to miss me. Today I gravitate towards those who look lonely and afraid, no matter their size.

Years ago, I took hugging lessons in a seminar. I usually gave side hugs. Those are safe and uninvolved. Full, front-on, hold-on-for-dear-life hugs are those you remember, those that make a difference.

At a time when I had been very hurt by a church, we came to our current church to heal. The first Sunday I went forward for prayer and a beautiful woman met me.

I started to tell her what I was feeling instead she grabbed me and hung on. I don’t think she listened to a word I said, but she heard my heart-cry.

She would not let me go. When I tried to back away, she held on tighter. She didn’t say anything. She just hugged me. It must have lasted for five minutes. She held on until I relaxed and got comfortable in the hug.

It was definitely what I needed. It started a healing in my wounded soul and allowed me to open the door for others to get close.

I had lived in fear of allowing people close. Many feelings fed that fear: rejection, low-self-esteem, imperfection, not wanting to be seen, not wanting to be put on the spot, having to tell all.

When I finally allowed myself to shed the extreme weight, it felt a bit like standing naked before the world. And yet, no one laughed.

As I began to feel comfortable in my new skin, I started getting closer to people. The first was my husband. We have always been close, but now I enjoy being close.

When I asked him what was different about me since losing weight, he said, “I can get closer to you both physically and emotionally.”

There are days when that emotional closeness is so mind-blowing I can’t imagine ever having lived without it. Yes, it opens me up for hurt, but oh the beauty of the closeness it brings!

So, what are you waiting for? Come over here and give me a hug!

1 Romans 12:1-2

2 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Teresa Shields Parker is a wife, mother, business owner, life group leader, speaker and author of Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor and Sweet Grace Study Guide: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Overcome Sugar Addiction. Get a free chapter of her memoir on her blog at Teresa Shields Parker.com. Connect with her there or on her Facebook page.