When negative body image issues begin to spiral out of control, remembering these seven steps will help you to love your body again.
As I sat watching the latest episode of Say Yes to the Dress, my heart broke for the young bride-to-be. After recently losing 70 pounds, the beautiful and excited young woman was eager to show off her new figure, but after trying on a handful of gowns, her excitement and joy quickly turned to disgust when the mirror didn’t reflect the stick-straight model look from the glossy pages she'd ripped from popular bridal magazines to show the saleslady.
Even though the gowns flattered her beautiful curves, she only saw herself as plump and no reassurances and kind compliments from her entourage or the sales women could convince her otherwise.Seeing her tears flow after trying on a parade of wedding dresses, I knew she’d be leaving the bridal shop that day without a gown.
I instantly understood this woman’s struggle. My now 21-year-old daughter, Elise, battled anorexia throughout high school. The pain of those years is etched into my heart. With guidance from the best counselors and a dietician, we were finally able to help her heal and be released from this enslaving disease. She occasionally has minor setbacks but has come to realize that God’s plan transcends being consumed by every calorie or pound.
Though we were blessed in being able to get Elise the help she needed, others aren’t so lucky. Nearly 24 million people suffer from some type of eating disorder and those numbers continue to rise, especially among adolescents, thanks to the unachievable standards they find in magazines, movies and on their TV screens. Body image is something most everyone will struggle with at some point in their life but after witnessing its effects firsthand, I’ve realized following these seven simple steps can go a long way to combating self-doubt when it comes to your appearance and helping you build a better body image:
1. Free Yourself
During her struggle, Elise felt as if she were confined to a small box, terrified of overstepping the boundaries set by a scale and calorie-counting. But according to Psalm 16:6, God’s boundaries for each of us fall in "pleasant places." Delighting in God’s word and realizing God made you to be free, not confined by a goal weight or an amount of calories, will help to release the bonds of depression and self-doubt that accompany negative body image issues.
2. Treat Your Body with Purpose
Your body is made to fulfill a purpose, not just to be looked at. Your body is the temple of God, a holy, blessed place that God has called to do specific tasks in certain places. But you can’t operate at full capacity and do what you were created to do if you’re starving. Love yourself regardless of your flaws, just like God loves you.
3. Healthy Equals Happy
Ask yourself how you’re treating others. When you don’t eat enough it changes your personality. If you’re hungry or consumed with calorie counting, it’s hard to be kind or caring towards those around you. Being someone with a beautiful, kind spirit will not only enrich your life but also the lives of everyone you encounter.
4. Think “Healthy,” Not “Thin”
Change your thinking from “I want to be thin” to “I want to be healthy and beautiful.” Understand how to properly care for yourself. Learn the right way to nourish and exercise your body without going overboard.
5. Go on a Digital Diet
Step away from social media for a while in order to put things in perspective. If you only see the perfect side in others’ lives, of course you’ll feel bad about yourself.
6. Seek Support and Be Supportive
Stop comparing yourself to others. Healthy people don’t tear each other or themselves down with comparisons, they build one another up. Surround yourself with positive people who support you and strive to be a supportive person.
7. Look Inward
Cultivate inner beauty as much or more than outer beauty. Pray, study God’s word, serve others, and focus on the blessings you’ve been given. Give yourself daily positive affirmations that have nothing to do with how you look, but instead, celebrate who you are as a person and all of the ways you bring light and happiness to those around you.
Using these steps as a guide can empower you to take the focus away from your body and say yes to the abundant life God created you to experience and if you think you may have an eating disorder, please, seek help. There are plenty of resources available so that you don’t have to suffer with this alone.
Carol Roper is an architect and writer who freelances from her home in South Carolina. Her articles have appeared in Guideposts Magazine, American Daily Herald and ChristianDevotions.us. She and her husband, John, live on a farm with their two children where they enjoy hosting friends and family around bonfires and watching sunsets from their front porch. Visit her at www.carolroper.org. where she encourages women to build strong, godly homes one story at a time.