Body Image: Fighting the Lies of the Body Image Bandit

What do you do when the Body Image Bandit bites? For example, let’s say you’re waiting in line at Starbucks. You notice the woman waiting in line ahead of you. She is probably a Zumba queen, and could easily model jeans on a billboard. You pinch your “muffin top” and sigh. But wait. You can take steps to protect yourself from the Body Image Bandit, who is the father of lies.

Step 1: Recognize the lies.

You have a much higher calling than asking, “Do these jeans make my tooshie look fat?”

Picture a pair of binoculars. This represents your constant scanning the environment to search for lies of the Bandit.

Take a few seconds to recognize you’ve been bitten by the Body Image Bandit. He is the father of lies, and he wants to make you feel like garbage (shame). Then you’ll  feel discouraged and won’t live out your true calling. You’ll be too busy beating yourself up. Here are some examples of the lies the Body Image Bandit feeds people:

  • I’m not good enough (i.e. not “skinny” enough, tall enough, too tall, my face is ugly, my (insert arms, legs, waist, etc.) isn’t good enough.
  • I’m not loveable as I am.
  • I can’t have a rewarding life until I lose ____ pounds.
  • I won’t have a full life until I’m a size _____.

Step 2: Reject the Lies.

Picture a sign that says, “No Parking Any Time.” As soon as you notice your brain going to the Comparing Channel, picture yourself pulling out of that parking spot. Just like you do when you pull your car into a space saying “No Parking Any Time,” put your brain into another gear.

Step 3: Replace the Lies

Picture a remote control. To replace the lies, visualize changing the channel. You were on the Stinking Thinking Channel! One starring plot of the Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Channel is Comparing your body to other peoples’.

Below are some other channel choices. Practice stopping your thoughts and changing the channels so you can do it faster than a woman with PMS can say, “Gimme ice cream!” Otherwise the lies will seep into your soul and rob your joy.

1. Service: How can you use your God-given talents, gifts and story to help others?

2. Make a list of everything you are thankful for. If you think can’t find anything you’re thankful for, think again. The majority of people on earth live on less than $2 a day! You probably have clean water, food, and more than one pair of clothes. Did you see anything beautiful today? Did you drink coffee today? Put it on your list. Learn to focus on the good.

2. Truth:. Copy specific verses down so you can memorize them. I like to use the blank business cards available at office supply stores. Here’s a verse to get you started:  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8. (Notice it doesn’t say to think about clothing sizes, numbers on a scale, or what you’re gonna do when you “get skinny.”  🙂

3. Pray. Ask the Lord how to use your gifts, talents, and personality for His glory. (Have you read The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren? The book explains how to use your gifts, talents, personality and story to live out God’s calling for your life. Because you were not created for so much more than  to obsess about your appearance.

Like many activities, this takes practice! The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. If you continue to work at it, you’ll have a renewed mind.

 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

lotus with leaf

Link

My friend, Mindy, decided to post blog pictures of herself without make-up or photoshopping. It’s powerful…but you may also think, “If I looked like Mindy, I would do it too.” I know what you mean. I often look like a gekko when I wake up in the morning. Especially when I haven’t had a cup of coffee.

Enjoy this post from Momma Mindy’s Moments.  MaKiNg FuN of MoM

Perspective and Body Image

While walking down an aisle at Walgreens, my heart almost fell to the linoleum floor and shattered. I was praying for God to give me inspiration to write another blog post.

And then I saw him. The almost-skeleton of a man gingerly shuffled past me down the bread aisle with a walker. He looked about thirty years old.

Gray Deluxe Rolling Walker by Medline®

Courtesy Costco.com

His bones stretched tightly under his skin. I didn’t stare, but passed him with a slight smile. (I remembered all the stares from people when I crashed on my bicycle several years ago and didn’t want this man to suffer any more than he already is. Read the story here:  https://tooshieblog.com/my-story/) Closely behind him walked a thirty-something year old woman pushing a cart. Most likely his wife or sister. I figured he must have wanted to get out because he grew tired of staying at home, even though I could tell he was rushing full speed toward eternity.

Perspective pumped through my veins as I regretted all the times I’d pondered my physique, wishing I could erase parts and redraw them.

I am a masterpiece, and so are you.

God designed each of our bodies with his miraculous glory and wonder. The intricate complexities of the human body operate light years better than the fastest computer. We can easily get swallowed up into the abyss of comparing our bodies with photoshopped images and feel slighted. But this is because we have been brainwashed from seeing 250,000 ads before age seventeen.

Perspective: It is truly priceless.

“For we are God’s masterpieces, created   in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10).

Notice the verse doesn’t say we were created to obsess about our tooshies!  🙂

Starring The Lips

Some people are born with full, beautiful lips.

But not Rebecca.

She always had thin little lipettes until today.  They used to just sit on her face, but now they had their own reality show.

Every so often I had to force my eyes up to meet hers, as mine kept getting hung up on the big shiny blobs sitting where her lips used to reside.  They looked swollen and took up about a third of her face.  Two pink slugs trying to talk.

Cotton candy colored sparkly lip gloss gave The Lips a larger-than-life look.  I noticed people shielding their eyes from the glare.  Bubble-gum pink lip liner gave The Lips a multi-dimensional reality.   Apparently she had slapped on a jar of Vaseline to finish off the look.  I could not believe that she could talk with all the gunk on her lips.

Courtesy bing.com

It was a miracle.  I half expected The Lips to get stuck together, and then I would have to call 911.  I slipped into a daydream…

“Emergency Services.  How can I help you?” Breathing heavily, I gasped for air.  “It’s my friend Rebecca,” I sputtered. “What’s the problem, ma’am?” “It’s her lips.”  There.  I managed to get it out. “Her lips?” “Yes, that’s right.  Her lips are stuck together, and …” “Did she accidentally swallow Elmer’s glue?  That happens to a lot of first graders.” “No, I think she wanted to have voluminous, movie-star lips, and had a lip job, then piled on truckloads of lip gloss, lip liner, and Vaseline to get the fullest look possible.  And now she can’t pry her lips apart.” “Okay, this is obviously a prank call, and I’m gonna have to report you.”  Click.

“Cherrie, hello, are you listening?”  Rebecca rolled her eyes at me. “For a minute it looked like you were off in your own little world.”

Oops.  I guess I was off in my own head for a few minutes, thinking about the lengths we go to transform ourselves into our culture’s standard of beauty.  I was born with full lips, but I suppose if I could buy a pair of longer legs, I would consider it. 🙂

Nowadays I have more positive feelings about my body.  Since I came down with ankylosing spondylitis and later lupus, I’ve learned to appreciate my body for its amazing ability to do what God designed to do.  Although I was an athlete and treated my body pretty well, I was shocked to develop such auto-immune disorders.  My focus is now much more about, “I’m so thankful I can walk and breathe with no pain,” than “Does my butt look big in these jeans?”I remember days when I couldn’t do those things without crying in pain, and there was a whole month that I couldn’t walk at all.  To use the restroom, I had to roll off the couch and crawl on my knees down the hall.  So nowadays I try to focus more on the good and less on the body parts I would have liked to trade in for a newer model. God encourages us to focus on the positive and avoid dwelling on the negative. Over all, I am filled with gratitude that my body has the capability of moving in such amazing ways.  I try to stay out of Negative-ville in my head.  After all, it’s a jungle in there!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.   (Philippians 4:8-9)

This is me kayaking on Lake Perryagin in Winthrop, WA.  Kayaking and chocolate are my drugs of choice!

(NOTE:  Rebecca is not her real name. )

Bulimia, Drinking,and Abuse: One Woman’s Story

When my friend Candy and I went on a hike, she told me that she had struggled with bulimia from her late teens until her early thirties.  Now in her early fifties, I invited her to share her story.

She graciously told me she would be honored to share the story if it would help other people.  Knowing that many readers have been enticed by the beast of bulimia, I assured Candy that others would gain courage and strength from her story.  And most importantly, they would begin to understand that when darkness and despair envelop them, hope still prevails.

“I totally get why another name for Satan is the Father of Lies.  Bulimia is the perfect example of this,”Candy said, as we hiked among the cedar trees and ferns.  ” After getting brainwashed by the media, you literally can’t think straight.  The lies saying you are not beautiful unless you are concentration camp thin invade every cell of your body.  And your brain gets re-programmed to think that your value comes from your packaging.”  I nodded in agreement as we stopped and listened to the sweet songs of birds.

“So the lie of bulimia, on the surface, seems like the perfect promise of satisfying your appetite while not paying the price for the calories.  A win-win situation. But actually purging only gets rid of about half the calories anyway, which many people don’t realize.  And once the cycle gets started, the bondage of bulimia casts a dark shadow over your life.  I used to think it was the magic cure, the great equalizer in the sense of calories.”  She took a deep breath as we gained elevation.

As we walked up the path, Candy told me about her background.  “My parents argued a lot.  They had a lot of fights – not physically, but my brother and I huddled together when they yelled.”  When Candy’s life felt out of control due to the yelling, she felt extremely out of control.

People often deny this and say it wasn’t a big deal because other people had it much worse.  While that may be true, it is minimizing the problem and helps to deny the depth of situation.  Living in a toxic environment is much more harmful than most people realize.”  I nodded my head in agreement.  It changes brain chemistry and causes damage to our immune systems.  And just as weighty is the fact that it teaches us yelling and screaming is ‘normal’ and that is what relationships are like.

Then she started to explain her first romantic relationship.  “It was never a good relationship,” she continued.  “I just didn’t have any good role models for relationships.”  Due to the rockiness of her parents’ relationship, her own dating relationships were rocky.  That’s what she knew.  Candy started dating Brad in her later high school years, and eventually they married and moved to Germany because he was in the Air Force.  They moved to a remote village so Candy felt isolated. She and Brad began to drink a lot each evening.  (We now know that bulimia and heavy drinking, including pre-alcoholism and alcoholism, often go together.)  He picked on her and called her fat even though she was only a size 6.  He controlled her  and often told her not to laugh or behave in certain ways.  All this negativity squelched her and made her go deeper inside herself.

Candy started to gain some weight because she felt bored,depressed and isolated.  She often cried herself to sleep at night.  Although she was still a size 6, Brad said, “I will not tolerate an obese woman.”  He also often said, “Boy, you eat a lot.”  At some point, she started to throw up because she felt ashamed of what she had eaten.  She had a history of self-abuse, and looks at her bulimia, in some ways, as an extension of the abuse.   “All I could think about sometimes was throwing up, and threw up 3-4 times per day.”  The bulimia took over her thinking, and she was caught in a vortex of shame due to the bingeing and the purging.  A squirrel crossed our path as she continued.

Brad’s control of Candy is very common to abusive relationships. (For more information on the warning signs of dangerous relationships, click here.  http://www.notjustsymptoms.com/clientimages/45365/newsletter%202_warning%20signs%20of%20dangerous%20relationships.html

Eventually she gave birth, and while Candy nursed little Connie, Brad tried to turn the mattress over on her.  Another time he said something about going to get a gun, and that’s when she left.  She came back home, and prayed a lot about her situation.  Candy learned about abuse and bulimia and learned how to deal with her feelings.  My bulimia was as much about purging feelings as purging food. “I can understand why you feel like that,”  I said.  “After all, stuffing is for turkeys

and teddy bears – not for feelings.”

“Feelings have to be expressed in healthy ways.  If not, they stay inside us and lead to self-medication including workaholism, drug abuse, alcoholism, food addiction, or something else.”  We stopped to admire the glorious view of Mount Rainier.

It wasn’t easy, but Candy was able to crawl out of the black hole of bulimia.  She wishes she would have received professional help back then, and that she would advise anyone who struggles with bulimia to get good help.  God created us to be in community, and when we live lone ranger lives, we rob ourselves.  Candy is eternally grateful that God helped her out of Bulimiaville.  Every once in a while she still gets an urge to purge, but she doesn’t follow through on it because she figures out what is really eating at her.

Decades later, Candy is happily married to a kind man.  No, life isn’t perfect because there will always be struggles this side of heaven.  Her three kids are doing well and one will graduate from college this year.  Tears welled up in her eyes as she remembered the contrast of her old life and her new life.  Several years ago, she asked Jesus to take control of her life.  She told some people about her secret life of struggling with bulimia, and gradually she was released from its power.  Even so, Candy strongly encourages others suffering from bulimia to seek professional help. “The 12-step programs such as Overeaters Anonymous are great, too,”  she said.

I asked Candy if there is anything else she would like to say to other people who are struggling with bulimia.  She said, “Yes.  There is help!  Get professional help.  You don’t have to be this way forever.”  Well said, Candy.

Body Image: Stop the Negative Thinking (and heal your body image)

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You’re waiting in line at the grocery store, and can’t help but checking out the fannies of the gals in front of you.  You’re in the “12 items or less” line, but the guy at the front of the line seems to have 350 items.  Man, is his gut big, you think.  He really doesn’t need those chocolate covered raisins.  Oh, and look at the next girl.  She is skinny.  Probably a size 4.  But even so, she looks kind of disproportionate.  Oh, I wonder what the people behind me are thinking about my tooshie?

You can’t help it.  Since you live in a culture in which you were exposed to 250,000 ads by the time you were seventeen, you have been brainwashed.  This sick tsunami of messages that scream, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything,” has brainwashed you and caused you to be hypercritical of your own body as well as other peoples’ bodies.

All of this negativity and comparison puts you back into the sick merry-go-round of dieting, bingeing, purging (for some) and over-exercising (for some).  What would it look like to stop the sick cycle and get off the merry-go-round forever?  The first step is to stop the poisonous habit of comparing your body to other peoples’ bodies.

But how can you do this?  It has become such an ingrained habit, it is almost as natural as breathing.  The first step is to recognize that it is doing a great deal of harm.  Women who put up pictures of thin celebrities and/or models often binge after looking at them because they feel like a failure in comparison.  The same thing happens when you compare yourself with anyone else’s body.

The next step is to picture a big red stop sign, and to picture screaming, “STOP!” whenever you catch yourself comparing your body to someone else’s.  Keep doing this over and over again.  You may even want to think of something else, such as a peaceful place like a beach.  Or else you might say a prayer to ask God to help you with your body image, or even recite a verse.

Although this won’t be easy, you will begin to notice a change from this “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” pattern.  You will notice that your eyes avert from looking so intently and judging your own and other peoples’ bodies.  Instead of feeling depressed and like your body is not good enough, you will begin to feel the truth:  You are a masterpiece – a unique and beautiful person, and you will begin to celebrate your uniqueness and see your true underlying beauty.