“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”
Ps. 139:14 (NASB)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;”
Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)
I would like to address some comments to the question of self-image and body weight because I have noticed that as my friends and I grow up, we concern ourselves increasingly frequently with how our bodies look. This would be fine if we could think of ourselves as we truly are – beautiful creations of a loving God. But many of my friends lately have begun complaining more about their bodies, pointing out that they have fat around their stomachs, or their pants size has increased, and they all eat less and less. Not the guys; guy seem to have been spared this agony. My female college friends, though: they offer to pay for my meals because they eat once a day, so they have extras to share. When I eat with them, I feel like I’m the one gorging myself while they pick at their minute portions and exclaim over how agonizingly full they are when three bites of food have entered their mouths. Lots of people have also bought into the miracle of the Atkin’s diet: eat protein and fat, don’t exercise, and lose weight! It’s a miracle of American thinking, where we don’t do any work but still get great results all the same… but who’s to say Americans are right about that?
First, women aren’t meant to be models. Models aren’t meant to be models, in fact. A healthy woman has some fat on her body: that’s just how we were meant to be. Women don’t get “buff” like men, with heavily-defined muscles. I know from experience that not eating hurts your body, because for a good two and a half years, but really longer than that, I was anorexic. It wasn’t a conscious thing for quite some time; I just bought into the belief that Cross Country girls should eat half a banana and a rice cake before racing. Freshman year in high school I was 5’2″ and 85 lbs (give or take) and one of my classmates approached me to compliment me on being so thin. Then I started believing that not eating was healthy, that when I ate a good meal I transgressed, and that if I did “cave” and eat a full meal I had to punish myself for such a failure by eating even less than before. Then I started punishing myself other ways, running harder than a growing teen’s body should run; worse, I began cutting myself with knives on my hands. I reveled in the pain, the well of blood, because it showed I was strong enough to overcome my puny, weak human instincts. Perfection of body and mind might be attainable if I had enough self-control, and the slicing served both to reinforce my extreme power over self and as a punishment-incentive upon failing. Commonly held beliefs began to take over my reason so that the epitome of “good” was “thin” or “running daily” and “bad” was “eating” or “not running.” I see people sliding, not as far as I went, but beginning to buy into the ease of not eating as a way of controlling your weight. That is a seductive beginning, and it concerns me to see my friends losing interest in food but obsessing over it all the same.
Second, If you’re concerned about being healthy, there’s a difficult solution, but one that’s far superior to not eating. Not eating is only positive insofar as it takes no work and a moderate amount of self-control. The difficult solution is this: eat, eat well and as healthily as possible, get 30 – 60 minutes of exercise every day, and you will be healthy (if you want, I’m looking for a walking-buddy to go on 30 – 45 minute long walks with me every day). Your body won’t be perfectly slim or svelte; that depends on your genetics. Some women are smaller than others, and that’s just plain the way life goes: forcing your body into unnatural shapes won’t make you a healthier person, or even a more beautiful one. Starving people don’t look good, they look hungry and unnatural. Guys don’t want women to be scrawny and bony; many of them don’t care one way or the other, and most will say they want a woman to look healthy and happy rather than thin. You can’t be either if you don’t eat.
Aside from the motivation of being attractive, treating your body harshly is no way to show your respect for the amazing creation that God has made. He designed everybody with a certain plan in mind, and that includes your body shape: who are we to disagree with God’s design? Treating your body poorly, even by complaining about it, says that you don’t respect the way God made you. Before complaining about your horrible fat, spend six months exercising regularly and truly working to believe that you are a beloved creation of a benevolent Father. The exercise alone will make you feel better about yourself; I know that just the fact I can do 40 push-ups makes me feel better because I know that indicates I’m caring properly for this fleshly body.
Take it from one who’s run the gammut: I’m learning that properly caring for your body may not produce what the world says is beautiful, but it’s what God wants you to be and that’s the most wonderful thing you can ever become. So try eating a balanced meal, going for a walk, and stop pinching those “rolls” of fat around your stomach. They’ll go away if you take care of yourself, and if they don’t, that’s how you’re meant to look. Being healthy should be paramount, not being skinny.
To finish, a couple of off-topic C.S. Lewis quotes (both from the Problem of Pain):
“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering…and you will find that you have excluded life itself.”
“The evil of pain depends on degree.”
– KF –
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