The end of April, I attended Revelation Wellness Fitness Instructor Training with 150 women (and one guy). That was a lot of Estrogen in one place! Given that Rev Well is a faith-based organization, it wasn’t surprising that Bible study and sharing our stories and testimonials were part of that intense week.
During the time leading up to and during the retreat, I realized just how many people suffer from body image issues. I’m not exactly sure why it hadn’t really hit me before, as I too, for most of my life, had fears about how I looked compared to others.
But it really made me question, “Where and when do these thoughts or concerns about our looks and bodies begin?”
The more I researched, the more I learned. In fact, according to research on CNN, it shows that kids as young as 5 years old begin expressing a desire for a body that is thinner than their current or future self.
Also, our image of ourselves begins young and could stem from how we were raised and how our parents (especially our mothers) spoke to us. It could come from how we were spoken to in school and how our peers treated us.
It could be from media and advertising, looking at magazines and often, without us even knowing, admiring those that have had photos retouched, airbrushed, and changed to look perfect. It could just be from watching our favorite celebrity and wondering how they look that good.
Studies on Christianity Today have revealed that somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of women are dissatisfied with their bodies. That is absolutely mind blowing when you think about it.
In another survey in an article in Women’s Health Magazine, 96% of women said they wouldn’t use the word beautiful to describe themselves. Not only that, 78% of women said they don’t feel completely confident in their own beauty. Sad but true.
I’m not sure exactly when these thoughts started to penetrate my life, but I lived in an environment that was a lot about “image.” Maybe a lot of us do. I grew up in a household where image and material goods were of utmost importance.
My mom was, and is, a beautiful woman, but I can remember her saying things to me like, “What will the neighbors think?” after scolding me for running out the door in my brother’s sneakers or clothing. All I could think of was that I loved my brother and wanted to be like him, so what’s the problem? And this was when I was in my 20’s! (Only kidding, I was a small kid, but still…)
There were also comments like, “Take that off, it looks terrible” or “What’s wrong with you, were you playing in the dirt all day?” My mom wanted me to look like a perfect little girl and I just wasn’t having it.
Some of the statements she made may seem pretty normal for a parent. You may have even said of few of those to your daughter (or son) yourself. But I can tell you this—I only remember them because they made an impact on me.
They made me feel less than good about myself and when we comment about our children’s looks, it affects them, good or bad.
As a teenager, when I was about 16, I would cover up my body if I was going swimming with friends and one time my mother asked, “What’s wrong with you that you need to cover up and put a towel over yourself? Do you have a problem?” And it was not said nicely or out of concern.
My behavior embarrassed her and she didn’t like it.
I realized that I was obviously self-conscious of my body by this time. And just to be clear, I was not overweight, but I wasn’t as skinny as one of my friends, therefore I thought I looked bad. And my mom’s questions didn’t help at all.
Living a healthy lifestyle does matter.
When I was 19, I went on my first diet. I didn’t think I was thin enough and when my mom decided to go on a diet, I did too. Not that going on a diet or trying to lose weight is bad. In fact, there are many people that should for health reasons. Wanting to be healthy is a good thing and being at a healthy weight is important in order to live a healthy lifestyle. But going on a diet because you don’t think you are skinny enough or because you have a poor body image isn’t about health.
Is comparing ourselves to others a sin?
I really never thought about it that way until I decided I needed to write about this subject, which is truly an epidemic in our world and society.
Let’s look at what the Bible says about this topic – Galatians 1:10 says. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Our body image is a direct result of others’ ideas of what is acceptable and what is not!
What about how God sees us?
God says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. So why don’t we accept it or believe it?
Before I went on to the Rev Well training, so many people spoke out about the concern that others would be in better shape on the retreat or that they needed to lose weight. This same pattern continued while we were at the retreat.
My brain really started to think about this more when I began hearing it, and I understood how they were feeling. But, at the same time, I had overcome those thoughts and I wanted others to have the confidence, through our God, that they could overcome as well. I wanted them to know that they didn’t need to feel “less than” because our God is so much bigger and loves us no matter what we look like. He created us…in His image! And that is everyone of us, not just a few of us.
Even those with bodies that do not function normally can be thankful for the body they do have, knowing they can also bring glory and pleasure to God with their bodies. This is something everyone can do. We were each created for His glory and His pleasure (Colossians 1:16). Our physical bodies are part of His plan for us, and a healthy body image sees the physical being as a gift from a loving God.
Having the shape of your dreams is not the ticket to happiness, but learning to love the skin you’re in will bring much more joy and contentment. Don’t believe the lies of the enemy that being beautiful in this world means you will have the best life. The same goes for money; often times people think, “If I just had this much money my life would be better.”
The bottom line is this; we must begin to change our thoughts about where true joy comes from and eliminate the negative thoughts. And we can’t do that without trusting God’s Word! It also doesn’t happen overnight. Living a healthy, happy lifestyle and applying change to our lives takes time. But remember, life is a marathon not a sprint.
It has taken me a lifetime to be more confident about what I look like and care less about what others think, and that only comes by doing the work, taking action, and giving it to God.
Make the choice to see yourself as wonderfully and beautifully made today, because you are!
Christina Grenga is the Founder of Grenga Health, a Faithitarian resource for Modern Christian Women that seek Christ centered wellness for weight management, pain, constipation and lack of energy. As a Faithitarian, she helps people understand the meaning of God -> Food -> Lifestyle. Faithitarian is a word God gave to her and He defined it as a lifestyle or belief that encompasses whole food and healthy living with faith at the core. www.grengahealth.com
If you need a little more help and guidance, you’re invited to my 10 Day Kick Start Program, The Faith-Filled Detox.