Let’s begin with three startling statistics:
- Roughly 20 million women and girls in the U.S. experience an eating disorder.
- The rate of children under 12 being admitted to a hospital for eating disorders rose 119 percent in less than a decade.
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with nearly 1 person dying every hour as a direct result of an eating disorder.*
These numbers—these lives—reflect a deeply spiritual issue in our culture: Americans hate our bodies.
How about you? When you look at yourself in a swimsuit, does the tone of your internal commentary ring more like the voice of your kind Father who delights in you, or more like the voice of your accusing enemy who despises you?
Women have been self-conscious about our looks since Bible times. Throughout Song of Songs, Solomon heaps verbal affirmation on his beloved despite her laments about a too-dark complexion. The struggle to feel beautiful is as old as the curse, but the gospel changes everything… including the tape that plays as we check the mirror. If you’re among the masses of women warring with negative body image, I pray that today’s post would serve as balm for your soul and a launchpad toward healing.
Last week, I wrote about a recent situation God has used to start overhauling some of my own toxic thinking about physical self care. (If you missed it, you can read about it here.)
As I mentioned, the teachings targeted everything we’d like to “fix” about our bodies, imagining what we might eventually look/feel/dress/eat like when we arrive at our healthy goals. It was at this point in the class that I was prompted to forge a different path, muting the voice of a critical environment obsessed with appearance.
Choosing another way allowed the Spirit room to move, space to speak into years’ worth of body-centric emotional debris swirling around my mind. Instead of visually journaling about how gross I currently feel in my skin, I spent time creating a rhythm of concepts to rehearse right now that will help prepare me for when a little girl tunes in to every self-directed comment—both encouraging and biting—that I utter. I have a long, long way to go, but I’m pleased with the day of small beginnings.
I want my daughter to think like this, so I will practice these truths:
- Jesus loves the way I look, but He loves my heart more.
- I can be my body’s loudest cheerleader or meanest bully.
- Losing weight is not my life’s purpose.
- My body is still worthy.
- It’s okay for me to take up *this much* space.
- I’ll love my body because the world only has one me.
- Beauty is not a size. Healthy is not a size. Strong is not a size.
- My body is meant to change—it will always be in process.
- I’m getting stronger every day.
- My body exists to house my soul, not to replace it.
- I’m not called to conform to the images on Instagram but to the image of the Son.
- Why compare my body to yours when we can celebrate them together?
- The scale does not define me, and my value isn’t measured in pounds.
- Look what my body is capable of!
- Taking care of my body isn’t the same as obsessively manipulating it.
- Jesus took away my shame—including body shame. I’m really, truly, completely free!
- Body bashing (criticizing, ignoring, blaming, insulting, wishing away) is not walking in line with the gospel.
- God put me in my body for a reason.
- Losing weight doesn’t cure body hatred.
Oh, friend, I would highly recommend coming up with your own gospel arsenal in this area (because what sings life to me might sound harsh or flat to you). It will take some hard work; you are, after all, retraining your brain in a culture that thrives on doubt, shame, and negativity. Whatever your lyrics sound like, they should bring your heart back around to the cross in such a practical way that you love getting your body—in all its uniquely dazzling glory—to the beach.