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Just Another Vice: Body Image

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“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”2 Timothy 3:1-5

Lovers of self, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure—these three things stand out to me when I think about body image being a vice. 

You see friend, we are so used to hearing about gluttony and recklessness when it comes to dealing with our body, weight and eating habits, but it’s not very often that we think about the other side of things—obsession with ourselves. 

There are many of us right now who are obsessed with being strong, obsessed with spending all the time we can at the gym, obsessed with our tiny new bodies after losing weight, obsessed with all the organic things, etc. I used to be this girl. In high school, I lost nearly 45 pounds and I felt good—I mean really good. I was finally able to fit into tiny jeans, look cute in short dresses, had muscle definition and even got whistled at. I’m not going to lie—this was a really great feeling. But you know what? It was unhealthy. I was obsessed with my new body and obsessed with keeping it that way. I wouldn’t ever eat unhealthy and would judge my friends for doing so. I became conceited about my new body and let it determine my internal worth. I was so obsessed, but I didn’t realize it because “taking care of yourself” was supposed to be a great thing. What I learned, however, was that in my attempts to take care of myself, I was actually obsessing over myself—and you may be doing this too. Before you chuck a case of protein powder at me, let’s unpack this for a minute. 

What does God call us to when it comes to our body image? Obedience. That’s all. It doesn’t tell us in scripture to make sure we are bulking up so we can look good in our super tight workout clothes. It doesn’t tell us to shun Oreo’s for eternity. No. God wants us to obey Him with what we spend our time on and what we consume. I’m not saying completely stop going to the gym or forget eating healthy! What I am saying is that there is something wrong when all we are doing is focusing on ourselves. 

It feels good to focus on ourselves. There’s no mistake that “lovers of self, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure” is what is being warned to us about the last days. This is important to be cautionary about because focusing on ourselves can so easily turn into self-worship if we are not careful. It takes no effort to think so much about ourselves because that’s what the enemy wants for us. When we are consumed with how we look or even consumed with reaching all of our goals, we are worshipping ourselves. Here’s why: anything that fills our mind more than Christ is what we are worshipping. Even if it’s a good thing like being healthy, it is wrong to be consumed by it. 

So what do we do now? If being obsessed with our bodies isn’t godly, how should we go about still honoring God with our bodies? 

Here’s what I believe God wants us to do:

  1. Not emotional-eat. This means that, instead of running to food to make us feel better, we run to Him. Every time we pick up a piece of comfort food, we ask ourselves, “Is there a reason why I’m reaching for this right now?”. 
  2. Try to eat more things from the earth. Veggies, fruits, beans, meats, grains—all of these things, God gave to us to eat. We trust that He knew what He was doing when He put them here on the earth for us. We don’t need to be obsessed with only eating these things, but we should try to eat more of these things. 
  3. Show self-control. Self-control sometimes is about completely rejecting something, but in other cases it can be used as more of a stopping point. If you want Oreo’s in a non-emotional circumstance, have Oreo’s. Just make sure to cut it off at a point because gluttony is sin. Over-indulging is not what God wants for us. 
  4. Accept gifts of food with thankfulness. If someone bakes you cupcakes to show their love for you, please eat a cupcake. We offend people and show ungratefulness when we decline the food they’ve made us. I did this for years and now, looking back, I hate how rude I was. 1 Timothy 4:2-4 says “…through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” Be thankful and receive it, even if it feels like a cheat meal. 
  5. Don’t be lazy. There is a difference between laziness and rest. Rest is from God—laziness is not. It’s okay to lay down and watch a movie or two. Its okay to go for a slow walk as well. There is balance. You don’t have to run miles to honor God with your body. Just move—then make sure to rest. 

I pray that this becomes clear to you, whether you battle with body obsession or over-indulgence. When we make it our goal to obey Christ with our bodies, our focus is taken off of how much we weigh or what we look like and instead is placed into how trustworthy and good God is. I believe that when we honor Him with our bodies, He will adjust our weight accordingly. I’ve made it my own goal more recently to never be consumed with my weight, but rather be consumed with honoring God and letting Him take care of my weight—even if it takes more time. I don’t want to be obsessed with myself ever again, and it starts here. 

Friend, I’m cheering you on as you readjust your thinking about your body and make the shift to obedience to Christ! Know you are not alone, but also know you are victorious! You will overcome this battle and you will win the war! Get into your Word and ask God to help you stay strong in pleasing Him rather than pleasing yourself! You can do this!

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