To preface this post, I don’t mean this to be triggering at all, but if it is please do not read any further! I do not want to stumble you in your recovery journey, but merely share that there are always two sides to the same coin. We aren’t mean to compare ourselves to each other. This is actually an encouragement for us to look beyond the surface, to remember that God is far more concerned with the HEART of the matter than the mere externals.
1 Kings 8:39, ‘Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)’
This post is the OTHER side of body image, the one that isn’t talked about as much, but I think it does need to be talked about, especially after talking to friends who have struggled with this. Through it, I am endeavoring to show that there are struggles on EVERY side of the body image war. People will comment on your body image, because they set their standards by what they see in the magazines, the ‘fitspo’ posts, and diet advertisements. People’s standards change with the media. All throughout the Bible, I’m amazed at the contrast between God and man. God describes man as a ‘flower of the field, here today, gone tomorrow.’ We’re changeable and easily influenced by other’s opinions.
Genesis 2:7, ‘Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.’
What if we based our opinions on God’s perfect work in creating each person? What if we based it on God’s PERFECT ability to save our bodies and our souls from corruption? What if, instead of basing our opinions on looks on the changing standards of other people, we based them on what God says about the HEART of man (not the body?) What if we stopped depending on ourselves to define what is pretty and looked at each person as a fearful, wonderful amazing creation of Almighty God?
Genesis 5:2, ‘He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.’
I think that would change so much of the body image discussion. People aren’t objects. People are bodies, souls, minds, and spirits in one person. You can’t separate a person’s body from their personality. We can’t question the way God made people.
Genesis 1:26-27, ‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’
God makes every person different, and I didn’t realize that there is just as much a struggle for those who are on the skinny side of body image until I met friends that struggled with people thinking that they had an ‘eating disorder,’ when they were really just the shape that God made them to be.
Ellen, at My Uncommon Everyday, really opened up this struggle for me in her post, ‘The Skinny Struggle.’ This post was POWERFUL, because it reminded me that God did not create us all the same. I was convicted at how tempted I still am to judge the outward appearance without really desiring to know the person, their struggles, and the journey that God is taking them through everyday.
This is a real struggle. If I’m not meant to be a certain size, I’ve realized that I can’t wish for it, because it makes me miserable. It wasn’t God’s plan for me. I’m not meant to be skinny, but some girls are naturally thin. That’s how God made them, but don’t push yourself into that mold. God made you, you. If you have a friend that’s naturally skinny, don’t envy her. God made her that way, and He is working out His own good pleasure in her life JUST as much as He is in your life. God’s way is PERFECT, and don’t let society ever tell you differently.
Psalm 18:30, ‘As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.’
With that, I am incredibly excited about sharing Ellen’s story. I hope it will be encouraging, enlightening, and a good reminder that we are ALL fearfully, wonderfully made for God’s glorious purpose. And it never looks 100% the same in any person.
The Skinny Struggle: My Uncommon Everyday
I’ve never been overweight. I actually think I’ve been at least a little underweight by BMI standards (which are certainly not perfect indicators of health) my whole adolescent life. When I was little, people would refer to me as “skinny-mini”. In fourth grade, we were running in gym class and a classmate yelled at me, “Hurry up! Move those little sticks you call legs!”
I don’t remember all this bothering me much. Honestly, my body is my body and it has its fair share of issues, but it’s mine. And, aside from a little too much caffeine (Diet Coke and I are BFFs) and a little too little sleep, I take pretty decent care of it. But then, likely as a result of some of the medications I was on, I started losing weight fast right before I entered high school. No big deal, right? Get off the meds, eat some food, gain it back.
Well, it was never that simple. I can eat a lot and my weight stays steady. At the time, I was eating a lot and still dropping pounds – and some of my self-confidence was going along with it. I used to be able to shop and have fun with it. Sure, I often wore the smallest standard sizes, but clothes fit me and I generally looked pretty good, I thought. Suddenly, everything was too big and trips to the mall that I had loved taking with my mom ended in tears because I hated my bony body.
Worse were the comments. So, so many people told me to eat a burger or some ice cream (I eat plenty of both). Strangers asked if my parents fed me. Yes, of course. They asked if I had an eating disorder. Nope, I was just thin. I still am.
Since coming to college, I have added almost-daily exercise and even more food to my life, and that’s helped me put on at least a few pounds. My arms and legs have a little more curve to them than before, so that’s a plus, but I still think just about daily that I could do with a little extra padding. Sometimes those thoughts lead me to eat to the point of discomfort; if I stuff myself, surely some of it will stick around, right?
That kind of makes me sad. As a kid, I didn’t really think that much about my body. Then, I basically saw it as, “I have one. Yay! It helps me live, so that’s pretty cool.” But now… sometimes I probably overanalyze it: “Am I too thin? Do I look like a child or am I passable adult? Will I ever gain back all the weight I lost? Am I eating the right things?” Honestly, who knows? I’m doing what feels right for me.
And what’s right for me – and I think right for everyone – is being able to find value in a you that isn’t tied to what you look like. Sure, I still want to look good. I willingly admit to possessing a certain level of vanity. But I also want to write things that people want to read, and learn things I don’t already know. I want to build relationships with interesting people and cook delicious food and find strength in yoga poses. I have a lot of goals not tied to my appearance, and those help on days when my appearance is for some reason not my favorite thing.
The same way that if someone is smiling it doesn’t mean she’s had the best day ever, the fact that someone is thin doesn’t mean she has an eating disorder. External appearance is not a reliable indicator of mental health.
Also, anyone can feel badly about her body – and it is totally valid. Just because I wear a size of jeans many people think they would love to wear doesn’t mean I wake up every day and feel like a Victoria’s Secret model. Frankly, I never wake up feeling like a Victoria’s Secret model because I don’t have that level of cleavage. Some days, I wake up and feel bloated from head to toe – just like everyone else. Some days, I feel like everything I own hangs off me and looks too big. And then most days, I feel really good.
Thank you Amanda for letting me link up this post in order to share Ellen’s story!
Have you ever struggled with this stigma?
Do you think our society is imbalanced in the way we treat both sides of body image?