I get so many emails from women who are struggling with their body image. Some suffer from a lifetime of people pleasing. Others are lifetime slaves to chronic dieting and self-restriction. Many suffer from the rebound effect that comes from forcing our feminine shape into extreme expressions of fitness for the sake of a competition or a public image we feel we must maintain. It breaks my heart to read these stories repeatedly. I've endured the challenging and emotional road to recovery, so I talk a lot about faith-centered fitness. I believe the topic of body image is central to understanding how faith shapes fitness. Body image problems are a mess I've walked through and the topic now serves as a key part of the message I share with others.
Redefining fitness and reforming health and body image goals are a very personal and highly comprehensive overhaul of the mind, body and spirit. Every component must be addressed from the actual metabolic and hormonal dysfunction that can often occur to the unaddressed emotional and spiritual disconnections that are crucial in rebuilding inner strength. This is foremost in realizing our true identity and self-worth.
Many of the females with whom I talk are very young girls who are in awe of the fitness "glamorati" they see in various magazines and media. These young women have no idea of the real direction they are headed. When they over-exercise and deprive themselves nutritionally they are setting themselves up for a tragically "fit" state of physical perfection. It is highly popularized by the surging numbers of physique shows ( including bikini and figure) which are essentially, extreme "body image" competitions. In saying that, I’m not judging the women and young girls who have chosen to submit themselves to the rigor of these competitions. I once promoted the industry agenda whole-heartedly. So, I can empathize and relate to the justification that every woman makes when competing.
Now before you flame me, understand my passion for fitness and being "in shape" started out, just like so many, with good, honest intentions of being healthy. AND, like so many young girls I see today, I found inspiration by following fitness models and the diet and exercise advice of so-called professionals in the industry. What I didn’t fully understand was that the commercial world of fitness was indeed an "industry" where the most pervasive message being sold to me was the idea that my health was determined by my appearance. I was convinced that the "leaner" I was, the "fitter" and healthier my body would be.
And in so much the same, many young girls who are not even familiar with the "fitness" industry, still equate being thin with being more acceptable. Prettier. Happier. BETTER.
So when the Lord began to speak to my heart about His plan for my spiritual life, He didn’t leave out His truth about my physical body. This was an area where He spoke to me strongly. For so long, I had been practicing my own plan of “self-improvement”. But- it was misled. What I really needed was a healing plan of self-acceptance.
We, as women have a great love affair with the obsession of never feeling good enough. How can we improve something we don’t accurately understand? Often, whatever you say to yourself, in your own mind is absolutely true because you believe it.
Therefore, our body image problems are a BELIEF issue, not a BODY issue.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
Wow! That Bible verse points to a powerful truth. We can literally find healing from the desperate place of short-sighted self-improvement by embracing the truth about who we really are. I’ve learned that no one lies to me more than me. When there are big and fancy marketing campaigns spending millions enforcing the same lie, well... it’s real easy to find yourself eating the fruit of those efforts without even being consciously aware.
I’m all about being real. We all want to look our best, feel attractive and feel empowered physically. To say this won’t and shouldn’t fall anywhere on our list of personal desires is to ignore the human nature God has put within us. But until our own thoughts and self-affirmations are in agreement with our Creator, we will continue to anxiously make the wrong “improvements” and stay slaves to shrinking, building and chiseling our own self-contrived masterpiece.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
It isn’t until we believe the good things that God says about us that we’ll know how he wants to “re-shape” our hearts and minds. He has a “self-improvement” program that is truly a good thing for us. I have found that by simply changing my beliefs and asking Him to reform my good intentions, He has changed my goals and my approach completely. When God is in charge of the upgrades and transformations in your life, He always creates a new improved version of you – an amazing body made in His image. A masterpiece in the best way possible.