It’s the first week of March, and stores have switched from flannels to swimsuits. (Did you hear that? Three out of every four American women just let out a collective groan.) Yep, ladies, it’s time for the crunches, the squats, the manic scale dance, and the rumbling tummies. In short, it’s beach body prep season.
I recently completed a short online class about leveraging creativity for self care. As I looked through the course description, its three-part schedule really excited me: “Soul Work,” “Body Love,” and “Peaceful State of Mind” (or spiritual health, physical health, and mental health). Over the span of three weeks, we emphasized cultivating these different aspects of a flourishing life, mainly through assembling inspiration boards and journaling.
Weeks one and three went well, but week two threw me for a loop. Body love, right? Meaning, ‘Here’s how we can focus on nurturing a life-giving mindset for these jars of clay’? Nope.
Not surprisingly for this culture, the whole week was about how to morph our bodies, not how to love having them. I was hoping for some new mental tracks that could provide positive change at the heart level, rooting out years’ worth of emotional body image pollution; I got mood boards for “How I Will Dress When I Drop Fifty Pounds” and “How To Trick Myself Into Eating Healthier.” Body love, indeed. I pretty much learned how to love someone else’s body—a slimmer, more toned, more tanned one in (of course) the perfect bikini.
Guys. The more I thought about the situation, the more frustrated I became. What can I say? I’m definitely a One on the Enneagram.
What message does it send when an entire aspect of self care is focused on self-targeted dissatisfaction (if not outright self loathing)? To put some Christian skin on it, how can I thankfully inhabit this body God has gifted to me and do anything meaningful for the kingdom if I’m busy glaring at my thighs or rear or arms or complexion in the mirror?
On a more personal level, how can I teach my daughter, whom has been diagnosed with a disease inhibiting healthy weight gain, that she is beautiful and glorious and strong regardless of what the scale says if I’m not living that same truth? I don’t want my miracle of a girl to spend her entire life watching curvy bodies with envious eyes, wishing her tiny frame away.
But, as they say, more is caught than taught.
This soon-to-be mama needs some radical retooling for such a dramatic perspective shift, and apparently it won’t come from a self care retreat for creatives. I should have known—the deepest transformation can only be a movement of the Spirit. Taking the gospel to these mental ruts I’ve inherited is something even the best online class can’t do for me; only the One who created me can enter into this re-creating work.
In the end, beach bodies are simply any bodies on the beach, and the Maker smiles at our physical diversity—He is, after all, the designer of it—as we revel in His world. So let’s go pick out a new swimsuit that fits (right now) and flatters and flaunts our exuberant souls. And then let’s join our God in replacing those destructive patterns of death and duty with the happy lyrics of truth and beauty. Sandals optional.
NOTE: This is part one of a two-part series. Next up will be how the Lord used this situation to begin reshaping my thought life when it comes to body image.