Two hundred years ago, back in the days when childbearing hips were in, I would be called a babe. If I lived in a different culture, like Tonga, I’d be known as a hottie. But I am a citizen of the red, white and blue: where slim is always in.
In many areas of my life, there’s a quiet sense that I don’t measure up, but in this area, there’s just too much to measure. It doesn’t help that Grandma and her friends are the only ones who dote on my body or that the only things that fit from those petite clothing stores in the mall are hair clips. Like acne and annoying boys, I thought the issues of size, weight and body image would just go away with the passage into adulthood. I was wrong.
This article is part of a fall wellness series RELEVANT is producing in partnership with Unite Health Share Ministries.
At 28 years old, the collegiate episodes of anorexia, bulimia and compulsive exercise are long behind me, but the mirror is still in front of me. And every time I look into its sometimes cruel fluorescent depths, I am reminded that my body doesn’t look like any of my Hollywood contemporaries. To block this haunting thought, I quietly remind myself, You’ll kill to have this body in 10 years. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Can you relate? Weight gain is a battle that most women and some men fight all of their lives.
At the onset of college, we were warned of the “freshman 15 (F-15)”—those 15 pounds that seemed to come out of nowhere and attach themselves to every first-year college student who discovered that splitting a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at midnight really was the best way to make new friends. Despite the warning, almost every freshman woman I knew (myself included) fell prey to the F-15; those who managed to escape usually gained the excess mass during their sophomore year.
Like a line of ants on autopilot, we began marching our rotund selves into the college gym, trading our friendship with Ben & Jerry for StairMaster and LifeCycle. Armed with Walkmans, new pairs of Nikes and the abundance of free time reserved only for college students and retirees, we fought the F-15. There were some casualties, but most of us won.
After graduation, there was a new surprise attack from the secretary spread (SS)—those unwanted pounds that come with sitting behind a desk eight or more hours or a day. The SS was much more difficult to fight than the F-15. The F-15 hit during the freshman year of college and was generally limited to 15 pounds. The secretary spread can happen to anyone, anytime, and it often inflicts a lot more damage.
For those who manage to dodge the SS, there’s another enemy around the corner: chubby hubby (CH)—better known as marriage weight. You’ve seen cute couples fall victim to the I-love-you-therefore-I-feed-you cycle, and within as little as six months of “I do,” neither bride nor groom can fit into their wedding clothes.
Then, there’s baby weight (BW)—those pounds that justifiably accompany pregnancy, but then wear out their welcome after birth. And don’t forget the slowing metabolism (SM) that Mom complained about. She was right; it eventually affects us all.
None of these would be as significant if our culture didn’t place such high price tag on physical appearance. But it does. As a result, 99 percent of the population is trying to look like the one percent, and it isn’t working too well. A Kate Moss-like figure may be the goal, but Oprah Winfrey’s public battle is the reality.
If you’ve struggled with issues related to your weight, the battle isn’t likely to subside anytime soon. An ex-alcoholic may be able to avoid bars and say no to parties, but the kitchen is a part of your house, and food is one of life’s mandates, along with water, air and shelter. So it’s essential to get a healthy grip on how we view ourselves.
The Bible refers to our bodies as “temples,” and so they should be honored, respected and cared for as such. But a temple is not something to worship, but rather a place to worship. When we begin worshiping the temple by placing too much emphasis on its construction and development, then we lose sight of its purpose.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we must recognize the responsibility to respect the temple and develop healthy perspectives on food, exercise and rest, even if Hollywood does not.
How healthy is your perspective on your body? Here’s a quick litmus test:
Do you want to avoid going out into public when your weight jumps up?
Does the number on the scale dial up anxiety?
Is the refrigerator an anesthetic for emotional pain?
If so, you probably have some unhealthy attitudes that need to change. Accept the fact that no matter what size, weight or shape you are, God sees you the same. He sees you as His child. His creation. Beautiful. Created in His image. No, you may not look like the world wants you to look. You look better. You look like what He wants you to look like: Himself.
It’s great to be healthy. Vitamin supplements, organic foods, exercise and sunscreen should all become part of your life (if they aren’t already), but not at the cost of your relationship with God. Not at the cost of spending two hours in the gym and zero hours with Him. Not at the cost of allowing your emotions and self-worth to yo-yo with your weight, forgetting the Bible has a much higher, more stable appraisal of you.
Rather than riding the pendulum of emotional extremes, take time to discover what is realistic for you. For some, that means exercising more; for others, less. For some, it means eating more; for others, less. If you’re concerned about every calorie and fat gram you consume, you probably need to relax. If you don’t care at all, then maybe it’s time to give a hoot.
More than anyone else, you know your body, and you’re the only one who can determine what foods, exercise programs and amounts of rest will allow you to function in optimal health. Begin making the choices that will lead you there.