It’s a statistical fact: most of us report that we are “dissatisfied” with our bodies.
It’s an overwhelming problem in the world today.
According to an average of several studies, nearly 80% of teenage girls report fear of becoming fat. The same percentage of women are unhappy with their bodies by age 17.**Kearney‐Cooke, A., & Tieger, D. (2015). Body image disturbance and the development of eating disorders. In L. Smolak & M. D. Levine (Eds.), The Wiley Handbook of Eating Disorders (pp. 283-296). West Sussex, UK: Wiley
These statistics are not too different in men, either. Men also experience overwhelming dissatisfaction with their bodies.*
The days of my disordered eating behaviours; my enjoyment of being starving; my cravings for hunger and the mind games of “How little can I eat today” are well over.
What’s been left in their wake, though, has been some bad body image days.
It’s not that I didn’t have them before I gained a lot of weight throughout real eating disorder recovery. The agenda of the eating disorder is that you ALWAYS have them – that you always find a reason to hate your body. But I think this has been a particular agenda of the enemy; to keep dislike for my body high on my radar.
It’s been something that I certainly haven’t wanted to come into my marriage… but it has. And man, has God ever equipped Johnny to help, love, encourage, support, and speak Truth to me within it.
When I say that I know that so many people have dealt with these things – I mean that I know this statistically, and it breaks my heart. I am so mad that hatred for our bodies – the beautiful, differing, unique bodies that they are – could ever be things that the devil can convince us for a time are ugly, unworthy, too x y or z.
Even though realizing that the disorder I suffered with would NEVER give up or stop trying to tell me I was fat unless I got to zero pounds (aka it wanted to murder me), it still sometimes likes to shout, “You were better 30 or however many pounds ago” (I haven’t weighed myself in several months, but judging by the way my clothes fit it’s likely more than that much weight gain now).
No, I’m not completely healed from experiencing these thoughts, doubts, and fears. I wish I could say that I was… but I know that all the glory is going to God.
I ALSO know that lingering fear, doubt, worry, etc. always has a root. Oftentimes, the modern world tries to fix “weeds” above ground, only to frustratingly find they come back – but no root has been dug for.
If you are struggling with chronic bad body image, or an eating disorder, what is the root of your fears? You likely won’t know this answer right away – and that is where the help of spiritual counsellors comes in.
If I deal only with the surface level of the fears – ie. learn coping mechanisms, create new routines, learn how to “rewire my brain” – I will ultimately be striving out of myself to fix what is a spiritual battle. These illnesses are often not our fault or our doing – they need to be uprooted; and cut off at the root.
And the past years of my life have consisted of some frustrating, painful, excruciating moments… and there’s so much of me that is embarrassed to admit that. Embarrassed to say that the pain of weight gain has been that mentally exhausting, but it is a reality that I think needs to be talked about – because talking about it, being vulnerable, prevents relapse.
And I’m not here for relapse.
A restrictive eating disorder is the last thing I want to be dealing with, so I’m doing the spiritual work.
When Johnny and I went to the mall last weekend and he excitedly, ear-to-ear smilingly said he couldn’t wait to buy me all the clothes I wanted and needed, and trying on bigger sizes just sent me into tears in the change room, I gathered myself in the Lord, allowed Him to speak Truth over me, and saw my new size as a good thing. The possibility of children now. My husband’s reminder that I look so much more beautiful healthy.
That’s when the devil likes to say that I was healthier before, when I ran on the elliptical for hours a day and ate nothing but chicken breast and spinach, but the rational part of me – my SPIRIT, let’s be truthful and accurate with this language – KNOWS that that was not health.
What’s the truth about my body, God?
Sometimes we’re so cautious to ask God our simplest questions… or any questions. We just… don’t. For our unbelief that He’ll speak (LOL), for our fears of whether He’ll be disappointed (LOL), or for our worry about the answer (LOL).
I “LOLed” because, well… the Lord of the universe knows all of our questions before we ask them, and has the best and only true answers… don’t we want to know Truth?
God has spoken to me a lot about the truth about my body.
The most major thing is that I need to lay it down. My focus on it is idolization, and my fears are God-doubting.
Next is that I’m not called to obsessively control it. To “need” to work out every day, to eat certain things in certain amounts, or to pick it apart.
Finally, that… as a woman, I was created to have a body that could give me a period every month. I may be the heaviest I’ve been in over 8 years, but I haven’t had a regular period in over 8 years… and, I could cry… I am so close. I’ve only missed 2 in 2020. 2!
The Truth, spoken. And the reality?
If my life, my body, my spirit is actually laid down… if I’ve actually been crucified with Christ, so that He is living in and through me… these things are no longer. The devil will not stop trying to tempt me as long as I’m on this earth, but I know that, through God, the devil has already lost.
And this fact literally and truly frees me from “bad body image.”
So, my dear reader. Wherever you find yourself in this “body image” discussion, I pray you would talk to God.
Maybe you’ve never talked to Him before. That’s okay; He’s talked to you! Give it a try. He’s always there with open arms.
Maybe you’ve neglected this part of your relationship with Him (or are realizing another area that you’re afraid to talk to Him about). That’s okay; repent, and talk to Him now! Ask Him to reveal what you’re so afraid of.
Let the Truth wash over any fear. I promise: life in Christ, and not in your own, easily deceived, manipulated mind, is absolutely and remarkably vibrant. It’s your purpose.