Why is it, that when asked about our bodies, the first comment is usually negative? I hate ____. I wish I could have ____. If only ____ changed, then I would be satisfied. As I registered dietitian, I meet with clients one-on-one to help them with their health and fitness goals. We work on changing food intake and behaviors, implementing lasting changes. I often ask my clients, “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your current body image?” It’s unusual to get a response above a 5.
Simply turn on your computer, television, phone, or tablet and you’ll note the messages that quickly promote body dissatisfaction. Advertisements for diets, weight loss drugs and supplements, and diet food products. Friends discussing the latest and greatest diets on social media. Actors and actresses with desirable body types. We are always told what NOT to eat and championed if we are able to avoid those foods.
God has a different perspective of our body image.
What’s even more distressful is the comparing that happens between friends, family, and community. We size up our own bodies by those around us. “I wish I had her thighs.” “How come I can’t be thinner like her?”
We allow our value to be determined by what we look like.
God has a different perspective of our body image. He makes it clear in Genesis 1:27 that we are created in His image. And throughout the days of creation, “God saw that it was good.” We are His precious creation, made in His image, and His work (your unique design) is GOOD!
I love how David says it in Psalm 139, “…you knit me together in my mother’s womb,” “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,” “your eyes saw my unformed body.” Your body is NOT an accident but was uniquely designed by the creator of ALL good things!
Your body is NOT an accident but was uniquely designed by the creator of ALL good things.
So, we start a healthy body image from a place of appreciation for the work of our Father, instead of bashing our bodies and nit-picking the things we don’t like. But, we must not move too far in the direction of our bodies becoming our idol or source of pride. Proverbs 16:18 tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” And the apostle Paul in Galations says, “May I never boast except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Unfortunately, in the pursuit of that “perfect” body, our bodies easily become an idol. Timothy Keller, author of Gospel In Life, tells us, “Idolatry becomes a problem of the heart, a metaphor for human lust, craving, yearning, and greedy demand.”
Ask yourself , then, “How much time do I spend thinking about my body?” “Do I believe I will be complete, have value, once I’ve achieved a certain look?” Will your life only have worth if your body looks a certain way?
It’s not wrong or sinful to pursue a healthy body. But it’s important to respect and honor our bodies without harsh criticism or idolizing our results.
It’s important to respect and honor our bodies without harsh criticism or idolizing our results.
To respect our bodies, we have to stop dieting, stop evaluating our worth by if we did or didn’t eat a cookie, start moving, and start caring for our bodies’ needs. Too often I hear conversations between people bragging about what foods they avoid. “I NEVER eat processed foods.” “I would NEVER eat fast food.” And somehow, it is embraced as a sign of good character.
I was once eating at an Italian restaurant and the waiter found out I was a dietitian. That night, I really wanted spaghetti and meatballs (I take great pleasure in a really good meatball!). The waiter questioned my meal decision and was nearly trying to argue me out of the decision, “Are you SURE that’s what you want?” “I thought you said you were a dietitian.” As if I was abandoning my values as an RD by ordering a meatball. Maybe if I ordered a salad he would’ve felt more at ease.
Is there anything inherently wrong about ordering pasta? No. Is there anything wrong about ordering a salad? No. I love the way Jenni Schaefer puts it in her book, Life Without ED, “Dieting is based on the misconception that food has a moral value. You probably have heard someone say something like, ‘I’ve been good all day. Now I’m going to be bad and eat a slice of pumpkin pie.’ But eating pie is not a ‘bad’ thing to do. Food does not have a moral value. Food is just food.” Here are some ways to pursue a healthy relationship with food:
No More Guilt
Stop feeling guilty about eating a food you’ve perceived as “bad.” Instead, work on a health body with the word “balance” in mind. Focus on consuming whole grains, a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and dairy items. Yes, back to your basic food groups. Get MOST of your fats from healthy oils (such as canola, olive, and peanut), avocado, nuts and seeds, but there is room for smaller amounts of butter and bacon, too!
Balance Your Meals
Let’s say you’re attending a steak dinner and are looking forward to a nicely prepared filet. Choose a vegetarian lunch to balance out the meat intake. Or what about consuming a pancake breakfast? Since it is mostly grain-based, a salad may be a great lunch option to balance out the amount of grains you consume.
Stop restricting your calories to a minimum, as well. We simply begin to obsess about food, become moody, irritable, and less effective for the work of God if we aren’t getting enough energy in. Recall how Jesus is tempted in the desert eating nothing for 40 days. Satan knew he’d be more vulnerable for temptation without the energy and nutrition that food provides. While we may not fast for 40 days, we may be starving ourselves enough to become vulnerable to the work of the great deceiver.
Therefore, use food to take care of your body. Focus on foods TO eat, and not what to avoid. Remember that God made food, that God knit you together beautifully, and BOTH are good!
Remember Your True Identity
Remember, “You have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you…….who loved you and gave himself for you.” (Galatians 2:20) God sees you as perfection by the covering of His son. Not as a waist size, not as a number on the scale. And He gifts us with His power, the power that raised Christ from the dead! He enables us to win every battle (spiritual, mental, physical) over our bodies.
He enables us to win every battle (spiritual, mental, physical) over our bodies.
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Image Credit: Take Back Your Health conference, Creative Commons