A Journey With Body Image

Picture this: it’s ten years ago; the summer in between 5th and 6th grade. You’re in a dressing room with your mom at the little girls’ clothing store, Justice, and you’re quietly sobbing so the girls in the next dressing room over don’t hear you. Your mom is holding you and rocking you trying to calm your cries and comfort your insecurities. You’re 11 years old and you hated the way you looked in your little girl’s tankini. Your stomach barely poked out of the bottom of it but you already knew you didn’t look exactly like the other girls your age. They were thinner and more athletic and you didn’t know what you needed to do or what you needed to pray in order to look like them. At 11 years old, you are already obsessed with the number you see when you step on the scale. Never mind the fact that you had already started your period, hit your growth spurt early, and were already nearly 5’ 3’’. You weighed 20 pounds more than your friends who were still in the 4 foot range and that’s all you could think about. Looking back now you would give anything to be the weight you were then because it was completely normal and healthy for somebody your height. What you didn’t realize then, however, is what an impact this negative self-image would have on the next ten years of your life and how this weight/food- obsessed mindset would follow you into your twenties.

I don’t actually have to picture this scenario, I can just remember it. That tearful day, like many others, in the Justice dressing room knowing that other girls at the swim birthday party would be in two piece swimsuits and looking much cuter than I do in a swimsuit. Here’s what I didn’t know then, though: I was not alone and I’m still not. It’s maybe was not that exact scenario, but I’m sure reading this triggered a memory or two of your own not too different from mine. As young adults, what do we make of how young we begin to pick apart the bodies God knitted together for us in our mother’s womb? What do our mothers make of it? I remember the heartbreak I felt on days like that in dressing rooms but I can only imagine what my mom was feeling as she held her baby girl not knowing how to make her daughter see herself as she sees her, or better yet, how the Lord sees her.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Ten years later, as I write this, I still feel that very same insecurity and heartbreak from time to time. I struggle with my weight every single day and it fluctuates often. I eat well and work out often until other parts of my life become overwhelming and I pay less attention to physical health and more so to mental or emotional health. I struggle everyday with food anxiety. I count calories and still feel guilty after I consume them. It has been a struggle for the last decade of my life and probably will be for the next decade, however, I am never alone in my heartache. The Lord reassures me that, while my physical health is important and I should watch my weight, healthy does not always equal skinny. Healthy looks different on everyone and has many different facets (mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, etc.). The question I do need to ask myself is this: does my weight at the moment impede on my ability to glorify the Lord in every single thing that I do and say?

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

If the answer is yes and I am too insecure to use the talents and abilities the Lord has gifted me to serve him with, then something needs to change. However, if the answer is no, then I just need to take every day as its own new challenge to honor the body the Lord has given me so that it may best serve him.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Because what I have learned is that, regardless of how much it weighs, my body can do amazing things. My hands can serve those who have less, my lips can preach the gospel and uplift others, my feet can carry me through mission fields, my legs can perform labor for those who need help, my ears can listen to those in tough seasons, my shoulder can be cried on, my back can give piggy back rides to children across God’s world, my eyes can see God’s creation and look upon it in wonder, my heart can be broken for what breaks the Lord’s, my womb may one day carry a child, and my mind and soul can be set on and yearn for things eternal.

“Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-5)

These things are true of our bodies regardless of what they look like. The Lord will use your body to glorify Him if you let Him and that’s what it’s all about. These are the truths we should instill in young girls’ brains, not that the number on a scale determines how cute they can look in a bathing suit. The Lord of all creation longs for the hearts of those little girls. Our Father’s heart breaks when His masterpieces don’t like the way he spent 9 months designing them in their mother’s womb.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

When he looks upon us, He rejoices in what He sees when we are serving Him and He wants us to rejoice in the mirror as well.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.” (Psalm 139: 13-18)

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