Let’s use our imaginations for a moment. Let’s imagine by some strange explosion, a toxic chemical is released into the world and because of it, no person will lose or gain one more ounce of weight for the rest of his or her life. Each of us will weigh exactly the same amount we do now – forever. Food we eat will not affect our weight or the way our bodies look, and exercise will not change our bodies either.**
Think about this scenario for a few minutes. Then, consider the following questions:
- What would you eat? Would the foods you choose be different or the same? Food would still affect the way you feel, but it would not change your body weight. Would you choose to eat in a more healthy way, focusing on what makes you feel good, or would you eat extra junk food?
- What would you wear? Would you buy some new clothes, finally knowing you could invest in high quality clothing all in the same size, or would your wardrobe stay the same?
- Would you exercise more, knowing it makes you feel good and gives you energy, or would you give it up forever, knowing it wouldn’t change the way you look?
We all have many deep-rooted thoughts and beliefs about food, exercise, and our bodies. We live in a culture that celebrates overeating and junk food, yet idolizes thinness to the point of borderline starvation.
We go to a restaurant where we are served portions of food that are 3-4 times the normal size of what a person needs and the food is modified to taste richer and more delicious than food used to taste. Driving to and from the restaurant, we see billboards that advertise barely-clothed women who are much thinner than is realistic or healthy. We might see similar pictures on the walls of the restaurant or right on the front of the menu. This makes no sense!
To live in our current society and have a healthy body image is very difficult. It requires an ongoing conscious, dedicated effort. This is a challenge, but it can be done with God’s help. Here are some steps to get started.
How to Banish Bad Body Thoughts
- Recognize bad body thoughts when they arise. Don’t fight these thoughts or feel guilty about them, but see them for what they are. Try to notice and be aware of these thoughts throughout this next week. These might be saying things to ourselves like, “I have really fat arms.” or “If only these jeans made me look thinner.” or “Once I lose 5 more pounds…”
- Spend time daily giving thanks for what our bodies CAN do for us. Notice the ways our bodies serve us, the strength and the abilities. Praise God for what He has given us!
- Consider that bad body thoughts often are not about our body at all. These thoughts come up when we are feeling too much, too big, our thoughts too loud or our dreams too big, or TOO anything. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on our fat thighs, wobbly arms, or back fat, than own up to our bigger fears. When the bad body thoughts rage in our minds, it’s time to see if we can discover what is underneath them.
**For further reading on this topic, I recommend the book,When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies by Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter. This example is adapted from their ideas.