Body Image Bruhaha

Magazine covers portray skinny women as desirable. That’s not a news flash. In fact, so many studies have been done on how false expectations of beauty can lead to disturbing self-loathing in girls as young as 5, that one tends to rely on meta-research to get a grasp on the subject. In February, one of my favorite bloggers looked into the truth about what the Bible says about keeping up appearances and not letting ourselves go.

0 means "doesn't exist." What about a 00, like me?

The backlash against the marketing that created unrealistic body images in generations of women is to demonize skinny. Instead of affirming the beauty in a SZ 10, we have to wail on those who wear a 0. I’m whining, and I know it. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard “Who wants to look all small and emaciated like one of those hungry models?” or “ugh, that’s gross!”Β  I have lost track of the “I hate yous” and “eat a cheeseburgers” I’ve heard from well-meaning (I hope) friends.

” Their end is destruction, their god is their belly…But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body…” – Philippians 3:19-21.

 

Why do some feel that it’s okay to express their opinions about my underweight frame? They would never take the same liberties with someone who is overweight, at least, I wouldn’t. Why is it acceptable to chastise the lean?

At some time in my teens, twenties… now, I’ve learned to despise my spare body. I’ve actually apologized to a seamstress for my lack of curves as she fretted about how to create a shape where none existed. I stood, ashamed, before my mirror, obsessing over every angle and sharp line. Why couldn’t I look like a human and not a victim of famine?

I feel like when beauty is external, when the measure of worth is tied to size, we stop there. We assume characteristics about the person in possession of the body – the plump are indulgent and the lanky must be starving themselves… Our god is our bellies – we spend more time worshiping that god than the God of heaven, who created us. We spend time in contemplation of this false god. I have prayed that some imperfection would go unnoticed.I have deified the ellusive sz 4.

As many diet on a bed of greens to get down to a “perfect” size, I have hated my body, fearfully and wonderfully made as it was, because it didn’t conform to the look of the healthy standard. I hated it when it burgeoned in pregnancy and as it returned to “normal.” My lowly body is not my last, and when I step foot into Heaven one day, I will have the body God meant for me, not corrupted by comparison to images or ideals, but perfect, as my heavenly father’s is perfect. I will know him and be known, not as a skinny kid, twiggy teen or bony woman, but as a creation in the image of her creator.

My goal is not to be THE BODY but to be a part of the THE BODY of CHRIST. That means taking the focus off my belly and putting it on Him.

How has society shaped your body image? How do you think people worship this false god?

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26 responses to “Body Image Bruhaha

  1. We have become so vocal on the “perfect” body. There is no such thing. Some are skinny, some are fat. We are all different. That’s a good thing. Obviously, there has to be some thought regarding our health. Not too fat and not too skinny, but based on health reasons, not on having “the perfect” body.

    I don’t want to feed the god of the bellies, I want to feed the spirit and my body and give it all to Christ as a perfect sacrifice. He’ll accept it, skinny or fat.

    • I think “healthy” is a good goal and it’s my goal, but my doctor, God and I get to the be judges of healthy for me — not a chart somewhere.

      Feeding the Spirit is the radical choice, here, and one I want to make.

  2. Wow. I’m kinda speechless right now. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard this perspective but I think it is SO important that people understand this. I feel convicted because I’m sure at some point I’ve teased friends who are extremely skinny. And it’s true, we (I) feel so much more liberty to do that than to tease someone who is overweight.

    As difficult as it is for guys (in relating to women) these days, I think I do pretty well with the whole body image. I’m not under the impression that I need a woman with a “perfect” figure. My hope is that the woman I am with is comfortable in the skin that she is in. My goal is to facilitate that happening at every chance I get.

    • I think one of the weirdest things I have to combat, being a living stick person, is that everyone assumes that if you’re thin, you ARE comfortable in the skin you’re in – even though people are talking about others who look just like you as if they are less than a person – the conglomeration of all the parts they don’t have – no boobs – no butt – no substance… it’s taken a long time and effort to get past what others say that I am, or that I am not – which is why your labels post was so meaningful to me.

  3. I have gone up and down in weight quite often. I was 239, got sick of it, and went to 179 in 6 months. Felt fine. But then decided to just be careful with what I ate, and not starve myself. I hover now at 210 and run as much as possible, only eat 1 brownie at a time and have changed my focus from being skinny to being more balanced.

    Like Tony said, it is good to hear your side of the story! Keep up the writing! Love your blog.

    • Thanks, Lazarus! I appreciate having a wealth of perspectives represented here. Balance is an often overlooked aspect of our lives – like we’re coded for extreme. I think balance is a goal I’ve yet to achieve.

  4. I’ve had quite a drastic change in my view of body image over the past year-and-a-half (and it’s very dear to my heart, in an odd way, in this season of my life). In September of 2009 I weighted 285 lbs or so. I began to suspect that my wife was having an affair and quickly convinced myself that it was all in my head. Because all of the warning signs were very real and I made the choice to forcefully ignore them, I became unable to keep food down due to anxiety and panic attacks. I lost 30 lbs alone over the month of September, and I had to have my gallbladder removed at the beginning of October due to the rapid formation of gallstones. Once I found out that my suspicions of the affair were founded in reality, things got much worse. From September 2009 through March 2010, I lost 100 lbs, and by the time I moved out in May, I was down a full 120 lbs. It was odd: I found myself happy with the weight loss (I’ve been heavy all my life), but I didn’t like how I got there. During the process of trying to keep my family together, I tried to understand how I played a role in my wife’s (continuing) affair – to the extreme of trying to take all responsibility; afterall, if it was my fault then I could do something to prevent it from happening again in the future, right? I began to believe that she had the affair because of my weight (definitely a lie from the enemy), and I developed an eating disorder that I still battle today. So how has society shaped my body image? It’s led me to believe that my body led the downfall of my marriage; society has helped lead me to believe that I must, at all cost, not return to my previous physical state or else it will happen again.

    The good news is that shortly after my kids and I moved out of the house, God led us into his arms (good thing nothing is too big for him, not even a stereotypical scientific atheist πŸ™‚ ), and He is teaching me (as well as the boys) what it means to be his child. I’m in the process of walking into my true identity, and thankfully a wonderful community of believers surrounds me. I know I will overcome my issues, but only through the power and grace of our Father.

    • Wow, that is an amazing story, Sean. I’m so happy for you that you’ve found a great community that is welcoming to you. I’m sorry that messages about infidelity are so often parallel to messages about bodies. That juxtaposition is difficult to overcome.

      You’re an inspiration and I’m so glad that you’ve stopped by and added your story to these. Blessings,
      K

  5. I didn’t realize you were teeny skinny. It’s kind if interesting that the internet allows us in some cases to build relationships with people without having the more common visual first impressions. Hmm. Never thought about that before.

    But I wouldn’t have judged you because of it. I am one of the lucky ones who have re-trained my eyes to not judge people on how they look (it took a lot of work) (I’m still working on not judging myself on how I look, for some reason it is a little harder but I’m working on it).

    Here is another idea. Since most girls honestly believe that they’re too fat, people’s rude comments toward you probably have more to do with jealousy or their own self-loathing and their personal frustrations that actually thinking you’re too skinny. They probably want to look exactly like you look. Sour grapes and all that. I’m sure you’re a babe. πŸ˜‰

    • I think many comments are made out of jealous – it must be really difficult to see anyone do easily what is hard for you… I know my friends who have trouble conceiving make offhand statements about super fertile teens, too.

      I think not judging based on looks is horribly difficult!! we use stereotypes as short-cuts to make attributions, even though, in relationships, and Christianity is supposed to be relational, we can’t get away with that.

  6. This is an excellent post, Kristin. In the past I have struggled with my body image, but now I love who I am inside and out. It’s hard for anyone, skinny or otherwise, to be made to feel that what they look like isn’t beautiful. Society is never going to be satisfied. People are either too skinny or too not skinny. Too short or too tall. No matter what size I’ve been in my life, someone had something to say about it. “Gain more weight, you look sick.” Or, “I don’t think you need another slice of pizza” (while pinching my love handles. That was fun). I know I am guilty of thinking that all skinny folks must be happy with their body image, since “skinny” is what we see on the screen and the magazines. I don’t assume that all skinny people are anorexic or sick, but I do sometimes assume that being skinny makes life so much easier. Being healthy (mentally and physically) is what matters, no matter what size jeans you wear.

    • I think you’re beautiful, Katie Mae πŸ˜€ I appreciate you more than you know for being honest, being real and being here.

      You’re also right – we’re never going to be good enough for a world that creates a hierarchy. Even Cary Grant, when a journalist said, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant,” said, “So do I.”

  7. My Aunt (who is one of my closest friends) is a size 00. So, she has shared with me some of the same things you shared here. In that sense, I have always been “sensitive” to those who are super skinny, because they can be self-conscious too.

    The older I get, the more I recognize that the size and shape of our bodies is largely determined by our genes. Yes, we need to eat healthy and take care of our bodies. But, I’ll NEVER be a size 0 just like I’ll never have blue eyes.

    • There are some things that are hereditary – I know that I can’t change some things – so it’s all a matter of how I relate to them.

      I want to be myself and have that be enough. Thanks for sharing, Keri!

  8. I used to have a friend from work several years ago who was very thing, and most people would consider her to be anorexic. She wasn’t. She struggled with gaining weight and even went to the doctor to get some kind of medication that was supposed to help her gain. Even with that, she still had a hard time. She would eat junk food all the time, and still not gain. No matter what she did, she couldn’t gain. She said people used to make rude comments to her (probably similar to the ones you mentioned), and that made her feel bad. I haven’t seen her in years (she moved away), so I have no idea if things changed for her or not.

  9. PS…I’m on the other end of the spectrum from you, needing to lose weight (and succeeding, then gaining, losing, gaining…). I have suffered pretty much since I was a teenager, with body image. Even now, at 42, I struggle with it – seeing myself as ugly, disgusting, etc. Even when I lost weight (back in my 20s) and was thinner, I still saw myself as being big, being ugly, etc. This is something I really, really struggle with…

    • Thanks, Tabby, for your comment. I wonder why we treat one another this way – and at the same time, are embarrassed when our children point out people’s physical aspects. I’m writing a post about that, for later. They learn it at home!

      Weight/body image is the one aspect of our lives where we probably have walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, and STILL judge – and I think that’s pretty terrible. I’ve done it too, and I’m sorry for it.

  10. Mine, not so much, but my wife yes. After she had Ethan she gained quite a bit of weight. She has worked hard for the last two years and lost over 100lbs. It’s been crazy, but the way people treat her now makes me sick. To be honest its one of the few times I get angry.

    • pregnancy is a tough time anyway — you get dueling messages about what’s healthy and what other people experienced. I gained a ton of weight while pregnant with my youngest, and I kept hearing ‘suggestions’ that maybe that was unhealthy and I wouldn’t be able to lose it. But with my eldest, it was all about how I needed to gain more. You can’t win with pregnancy and you can’t win after, you’re either losing too much or not enough. People’s suggestions are rarely satisfied.

  11. I am overweight, but fairly healthy. I am trying not to focus on the weight, but it is hard when I see myself in the mirror everyday. I’m not obsessed, but I can see how many people can be.

  12. body image definitely muddies up what God intended for our bodies. On my post about food from the weekend, one of my skinny friends shared something similar to you. He mentioned that when he tried to intentionally put on weight, he’d feel really sick.

    anyway, thanks for posting and being honest about this!

    • Mo – I know that this is an issue for you, as well, because you take your health seriously. I think I missed the post in question, but am going over to read now.

  13. One night I was asked to set up the sound system in a room at our church building for a group of women meeting for overeaters anonymous or weightwatchers or something like that. One woman walked in who was thin, and the others just howled, “What are YOU doing here!!” Man, I felt badly for her, and I don’t think she ever talked to anyone about how hurtful it was.

    I love your comment above: “healthy is a good goal and it’s my goal, but my doctor, God and I get to the be judges of healthy for me β€” not a chart somewhere.”

    I teach both men and women to forget “self” or “Body” image or what others project. As servants of God, we should have a body that FUNCTIONS for His service. Arms that are strong enough to carry one another’s burdens … backs that can bend over and pick up little ones … and waistlines, blood vessels, and all our bodies … trim and healthy enough to serve God for as long as He would have us, and not cut our service to Him cut short by our own gluttony or laziness.

    Conforming to the image of the world – is NOT conforming to the image of our Lord, whether fat, thin, covered in makeup or fancy hair.

    • I so appreciate your stopping by and posting that story – everyone starts somewhere, too. That may have been someone who struggled with their weight walking into that room – someone that still struggled inside a thin body.

      it IS a projection of others – we are all seeking acceptance and assurance and affirmation, and we’re seeking it from people, not from God.

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