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In 1970, the average age a girl started dieting was fourteen. By 1990, the average age dropped to eight. Eight! Currently, 51% of nine-ten year old girls said they “felt better about themselves when they were on a diet…” (Body Image Breakthrough, page 3). We have a body image crisis on our hands. I think we have for my entire lifetime and, frankly, I think we will. We are fighting a war that is bigger than business and industry. We are fighting a spiritual war where one side really wants us to hate our bodies. Our bodies are a gift from our Heavenly Father and if we can be made to hate them, think of all of the other things we can be talked into (drugs, promiscuity, gluttony…). If we don’t respect and love our bodies, we won’t feel compelled to protect them.
The side we are fighting is cunning. The side we are fighting has been doing this a loooong time. Just think of this. At the same time, we are encouraged to hate our bodies AND idolize them. What do I mean? We are bombarded with images that our body is not enough. Most of us can never attain the ideal portrayed for us. Did you know only 4% of the population “genetically possess the ideal body as portrayed in the media…”? (Body Image Breakthrough, page 2). We are set up to feel terrible about the way we look.
And yet, we are encouraged to make attaining that ideal our idol. We might exercise to excess. We might obsess about our calories. We might focus on products that make us look better. We might search for quick fixes so we can resemble this ideal image as quickly as possible. We might spend money on clothes and accessories to fit in to the current standard. We might spend more time pondering how to look better than we do how to be better people. We can’t serve two masters, so if we can be convinced to serve the body image idol, there our heart will be.
And the battle goes further.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that having flat abs is one of today’s most coveted beauty features. After all, that’s the first think to go once a woman becomes pregnant–and Satan knows it. For this reason, I believe he took special care to make sure the golden image of beauty included the one thing most women lose in childbearing.” (Body Image Breakthrough, page 22).
Ding, ding, ding! When I read those words, while standing in a book store and browsing books while Brayden volunteered at an art show next door, it was like truth leapt from the pages at me. I opened the book Body Image Breakthrough and turned right to this page and read this exact quote. I bought the book.
McKenna, at only age 5, told me she never wanted to be a mom. “Why don’t you want to be a mom?” I asked, confused. McKenna is drawn to babies. She has always loved babies and she has a natural way with them. I could not imagine why she would not want a baby of her own someday. “Because I don’t want my tummy to get fat.” That was the reply from my FIVE year old.
The battle is real.
That was a moment that I knew was important in our lives. I needed to pay real attention to this and not pass it off as one of those things kids say. I knew that I needed to gently help her come to terms with the idea of a fat tummy–that her love for children needed to win out over her love for physical fitness.
The postpartum body is not applauded in our world. Women today are congratulated on how quickly they look not pregnant. Women in movies and on television are portrayed as snapping right back to their size 0 selves immediately after delivering a baby. Remember the media frenzy surrounding Kate Middleton a few years ago when she presented her real postpartum body to the world? I love that she did that. And flat abs? There are certainly all the rage these days. A little time on Pinterest will show you that.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t take care of ourselves. We should eat well and responsibly. We should have daily exercise in our lives. We should do our best to be clean. The trick is to do it not to impress the world and people around you. It isn’t to gain the compliments of those around you. It is to take care of yourself because you care about and respect your body. It is to be able to glorify God.
Evaluate your life recognize what you might be making an idol in your life. Take care of yourself, but do it for the right reasons and in the right way. Take care of your body. Accept what your body is. Accept your body type and work with that. Love and respect the marvel that it is. It is a glorious gift. Remember that it will be a battle. This isn’t just about your self-esteem or about how much media you are exposed to. This is a real battle. Fight back.