(This article was specifically written with teenage girls/young women in mind- as requested on Instagram, but I hope it can be helpful for everyone.)
This is often a silent battle. Struggling with body image is a reality for many people in your life, most of whom you may never know fight it. Daughters, sons, siblings, your significant other, friends- thanks in large to social media*, body image issues are on the rise.
This is understandably the product of a society which has begun to embrace the absence of self-control and denial of God- but it's not limited to people who agree with those patterns of our society.
Your fight against a toxic body image can be won. Even if it feels so, this is not a hopeless situation. You can read below a few key, life-changing concepts I have compiled from my experience as a girl and as a friend to many who struggle with body image.
Exercise with the right purpose.
Think: strong and capable... instead of skinny.
It is important to ask yourself what the why is behind your workouts. Is it to challenge your body and mind to become more strong, powerful and capable? Or... is it to punish yourself for that dessert? Is it to change your body into a trending, unrealistic body type?
There are plenty of workouts on YouTube that claim to help you get a specific celebrity's body shape or that target your supposed "defects". These promote the falsehood that everyone must conform to society's latest body standards, and that exercise should be used as a fix. Deny this toxic mindset; workout because you know it makes your body stronger and produces happy hormones (endorphins)!
Find a form of exercise that you love, and don't be afraid to switch it up!
I have been a runner for years; I ran cross country from 8th grade to junior year. However, this year I decided to start lifting and alternate it with running or biking. It has made me much more motivated to workout because of the variety, and simply because they're forms of exercise I genuinely enjoy!
Use this list to brainstorm your favorite exercises, and craft a healthy workout plan:
Running (sprints or long distance!)
Speed walking (this is an Olympic sport)
Be intentional about who you follow... on social media and in real life.
Social media is probably the biggest force behind many insecurities, particularly about the body. It gives people the power to design the image of their body (and life!) in whatever way they would like it to appear.
It's so important to only follow and hang around individuals who uplift and inspire you- as well as radiate genuineness. You know who they are- and that list likely doesn't include any of the Kardashians, D'amelios, or Alix Earle. Ask yourself whether the people you follow on social media and your friends are worsening your body image or healing it.
Food is fuel. Food is a gift.
Americans need a proper understanding of food. The food you eat is what gives you the strength to conquer each day with energy and is what builds your body.
It can be easy to look at food as an enemy; as something to be heavily restricted. Food has largely been abused by our society, both by endorsing diet culture and acceptance of binge-eating disorders.In poverty-stricken countries, food is considered a blessing and a privilege. Many Americans have access to a full pantry and fridge- yet fail to appreciate that gift, and instead look at food as a source of anxiety.
When you are struggling between choosing what to eat, or whether to eat, ask yourself:
"Does this food give me energy?"
"Am I not eating this because I'm afraid of what it will make me look like, or because I know it hurts my body?"
"Have I given my body what it needs to work hard today?"
Food was neither intended to just give you pleasure or to be an enemy, but to fuel your body and be used for community and celebration.
This mindset cannot happen overnight, but it has to start today.
With all that being said this, this is the all-encompassing route to healing your body image:
Your body is a temple of God.
"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
It is impossible to heal a struggle with negative body image without understanding who you are, and why you are. Our bodies are literally a temple of God. He gave us these beautiful bodies to glorify Him in. It is hard to appreciate your body's value or treat it well without understanding that it was crafted by the Lord- intentionally and lovingly created. What a gift!
We give glory to God by taking care of our bodies. We show Him love by learning to love our bodies in return.
*Stay posted for an upcoming article on social media!