Weight loss is always a hot topic for Americans, and certainly for women. Get any group of females together and eventually, the conversation will find its way to eating, exercising, and different dieting techniques. This is true even in Christian circles: in fact, a recent study showed that Christians in America may actually be fatter than their non-Christian friends. Maybe it's just too many potluck fellowships on Sundays after church. Some folks chalk it up to Christianity being prevalent in the fried-chicken, mashed-potatoes-and-gravy, banana-pudding-eating South. Who knows.
Body issues and general self-consciousness can rule people's lives. We live in a culture that esteems slim and trim figures almost as much as we love our soft serve. Not quite, though; therein lies the problem.
Anyway, I spend alot of time thinking about my weight. I think about it when I drink a slim-fast shake, and I think about it when I eat an ice cream sandwich. I think about it when I exercise, and I think about it when I veg on the couch and watch TV. I think about it too much. I think.
So what is an appropriate perspective on body image? Should it matter to me what astronomical figure glares back at me from the bathroom scale each morning? Well, of course the answer is yes and no.
I can't say I've figured out what I should be thinking about my body, but I believe I've laid some groundwork.
So my answer to the question above is no because:
- My self-worth does not come from what pant size I currently wear (don't ask), because my identity is in Christ, not in my own self-discipline. My hypothetical works of eating healthy meals and logging 20 miles on the treadmill each week can never ultimately satisfy my need to feel good about myself, because there is nothing in me to feel good about. That's why I need Jesus.
- I was an itty bitty thing when we got married 16 years ago, yet I looked at honeymoon pictures and bemoaned my wide hips. I don't know that I ever was completely happy with how I looked, and I know now that I can't expect all of my life problems to resolve themselves once I reach my "goal weight." My happiness cannot find its ultimate fulfillment in my appearance. It won't work.
And my answer is yes because:
- I overeat. My god has been my stomach(Phil. 3:18-19) and I have believed myself incapable of resisting the temptation to eat more than is healthy, contrary to what the Bible says.
- One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control. As I walk in step with the Holy Spirit, relying on Him to sustain and help me, I have the power within me to control my habits and desires.
- I Corinthians 6:19-20 says "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." My body is a gift from God; I want to honor Him by how I eat and how I move and how I spend my time in it.
I have never been able to sustain a weight-loss effort more than a few weeks. I am pitifully weak when it comes to food. I almost don't believe that I can get in shape now; I feel as if I will be saddled with this extra weight for the rest of my life. I give up easily. And honestly, I don't bring it before God that often because I am ashamed that it is such a big problem in my life. I should know better than that, being a pastor's wife and all, but there it is.
As for how much of body image anxiety should make up my thought life, I would say zero percent. But it is there, nagging me all the time, distracting me from more profitable thoughts. So my answer to this is the same answer to pretty much any idol that needs de-throning: prayer and meditation on key passages of Scripture. I have to remind myself often that God is for me, and that he has set me free from the guilt and power of sin. My focus will largely be on portions of the Bible that affirm these truths. And on staying out of the ice cream sandwiches.