Body Image and Fat Talk

“I’m tired of the way women talk so much about food, diet and fitness issues,” Cindy said.  She sipped her chai tea Starbucks latte as she played with the wrapper from the straw.

“I know, ” I said. “Sometimes I wonder if women could go a whole week without talking about 

                diets,

                                    workout plans,

calories,

fat grams, and

sizes.”

She glanced out the window at the pink snow from the cherry tree. 

“Why don’t women just get on with their lives instead of obsessing about their bodies? I really don’t get it.” 

We had just hiked one of the St. Edward’s Park trails down to Lake Washington.  The Seattle sun smiled on us and people laughed and told stories as dogs, kids, and trail runners met and then passed us. 

“I think the windfall of media poisons our thinking, causing us to compare ourselves to photoshopped and airbrushed images.  And since we see over 250,000 ads by the age of seventeen, we’re drowning in a tsunami of lies.”  I ignored the beep my phone made to signal I’d received a text message.  “It leads to a lot of comparing and coveting; wishing we had bodies that are not actually real.”

“That’s true,”  Cindy said.  She reached into her backpack to find her phone.  “This whole business of coveting can drive us to despair.  When we compare and covet something someone else has – like an image in a magazine that has been photoshopped- we buy into the lies of the Body Image Bandit. I heard a clip of Cindy Crawford saying, ‘I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.’ She was talking about how the pictures of her in magazines don’t resemble her because of all the photoshopping.” 

“Wow.  That’s unbelievable,”  I said.  I noticed two kayaks paddling down on the waterfront.  “Hey, want to go kayaking on Saturday?” 

“Sure.  Sounds fun.  Let’s see if we can go on the Hood Canal to check out the seals you’ve been telling me about.”  She got up and put her cup in the recycle bin.  “I’m going to write a challenge to my Facebook friends to go a week in their real lives without talking about diets, sizes, workouts, and foods.  I bet they’ll have better weeks because they won’t get into negative thinking patterns.”

“That sounds interesting,” I said.  “Can’t wait to hear how it goes.  See you Saturday.” 

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

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

Body Image and Fat Talk

“I’m tired of the way women talk so much about food, diet and fitness issues,” Cindy said.  She sipped her chai tea Starbucks latte as she played with the wrapper from the straw.

“I know, ” I said. “Sometimes I wonder if women could go a whole week without talking about 

                diets,

                                    workout plans,

calories,

fat grams, and

sizes.”

She glanced out the window at the pink snow from the cherry tree. 

“Why don’t women just get on with their lives instead of obsessing about their bodies? I really don’t get it.” 

We had just hiked one of the St. Edward’s Park trails down to Lake Washington.  The Seattle sun smiled on us and people laughed and told stories as dogs, kids, and trail runners met and then passed us. 

“I think the windfall of media poisons our thinking, causing us to compare ourselves to photoshopped and airbrushed images.  And since we see over 250,000 ads by the age of seventeen, we’re drowning in a tsunami of lies.”  I ignored the beep my phone made to signal I’d received a text message.  “It leads to a lot of comparing and coveting; wishing we had bodies that are not actually real.”

“That’s true,”  Cindy said.  She reached into her backpack to find her phone.  “This whole business of coveting can drive us to despair.  When we compare and covet something someone else has – like an image in a magazine that has been photoshopped- we buy into the lies of the Body Image Bandit. I heard a clip of Cindy Crawford saying, ‘I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.’ She was talking about how the pictures of her in magazines don’t resemble her because of all the photoshopping.” 

“Wow.  That’s unbelievable,”  I said.  I noticed two kayaks paddling down on the waterfront.  “Hey, want to go kayaking on Saturday?” 

“Sure.  Sounds fun.  Let’s see if we can go on the Hood Canal to check out the seals you’ve been telling me about.”  She got up and put her cup in the recycle bin.  “I’m going to write a challenge to my Facebook friends to go a week in their real lives without talking about diets, sizes, workouts, and foods.  I bet they’ll have better weeks because they won’t get into negative thinking patterns.”

“That sounds interesting,” I said.  “Can’t wait to hear how it goes.  See you Saturday.” 

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

Body Image, Self-Talk, and the Diet On/Off Switch

Have you noticed that women often sprinkle conversations with comments such as:

  • “I really need to lose weight!”
  • “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”
  • “I can’t buy cute clothes until I’m (drum roll, please)skinny!”

Comments such as these only help perpetuate what I call the Ferocious Foursome, which include:  dieting, bingeing, over exercising, and purging.

 

Almost all dieters lose weight, but research shows that over time, the majority gain it all back – plus more!  This is because dieting is not a committed way of life, and because dieters feel deprived due to all-or-nothing thinking.  They get into the thinking pattern that they are either 1) dieting or 2) not dieting.  These deprivation feelings often lead to binges.  I’m so sick of this diet, I’m gonna forget the whole thing.  So instead of learning to enjoy treats in moderation, they flip off their “diet switch” and eat everything except the TV.

This plummets them down the elevator shaft, into the abyss of shame and self-contempt.  So they begin verbally assaulting their bodies with their friends.  The cycle of abusive language continues with the types of comments discussed earlier,” My thighs are bigger around than the Space Needle.”  They feel disgusted with themselves and go back on a diet, starting the cycle of captivity again.

How can we break the chains of captivity to dieting and bingeing? Here are three important ways:

  • Get rid of your diet on/off switch:

  • Think more in terms of trying to aim for the middle, allowing yourself some treats periodically in moderation. Mix them into an overall sound lifestyle of eating and you won’t feel deprived

  • Stop making negative comments about your body (or anyone else’s, for that matter) because it only makes the problem worse.

These techniques will help you enjoy more peace in your life as you focus your attention to the positive instead of the negative and celebrate the person God created you to be.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29

Body Image: How to Develop a Healthy Body Image

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By now, if you have been following this blog for long, you understand that issues with food, weight, and body image are much more about your heart and your story than food and weight.  Let me say it again:  It is NOT about food!  It is about your heart and your story.  Until you work on these underlying issues, you will not fight the Body Image Bandit and win.  Geneen Roth, writer and body image specialist, recently addressed this on Oprah.  One of the women interviewed had been 100 pounds overweight.  But in working through her story, she realized the weight gain coincided with the divorce of her parents.  She had been dieting on and off for years, but until she addressed that pain in her heart and her story, she could not keep the weight off.  This did not surprise me at all because issues with food and body image are much more of a symptom than people realize.  If you treat the symptom only, it is like covering up an infected wound with a bandage.

What would it look like for you to finally work on the roots of your issues instead of treating your symptoms only?  And how can you re-learn a healthy relationship with food?  Since we have seen over 250,000 ads by the age of seventeen, and we are constantly bombarded with ads about delectable foods as well, our relationships with food are entangled in a web of confusion.  On the one hand, the images re-program our brains to think, “To be thin is beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.”  Of course we know deep down that our worth is in our hearts, but the media drowns us in toxic messages so we get confused.  At the same time, the media floods us with juicy, delectable images and messages about foods that are dripping with taste.  And of course most of these foods are high in fat and sugar.  So our relationship with food plummets to a deeper level of confusion.

We want to have it all, which is why so many fall into the arms of eating disorders.  Eating disorders – particularly bulimia – make us believe that we can have it all and get away with it.  But of course we know now from research that people actually die of bulimia.  It is another example of the enemy disguising himself as an angel of light.  Or perhaps we choose anorexia and it eats away at our hearts and our lives.  Whenever we deny ourselves, we develop an insatiable hunger which results in the sick cycle of dieting and bingeing (and for some, purging or over-exercising).  (For more information, check out my blog postings on The Sick Cycle of Dieting, Bingeing, Purging, and Over-exercising.)  So dieting and denial is a landmine that will completely distort our relationships with food until we feel completely hopeless and powerless.

About two months ago, I started to pray wholeheartedly for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I know dieting is a monster because it only leads to feeling deprived, which creates a binge mentality.  This is why research shows that almost everyone who diets loses weight, but later gains it all back- plus more!  But I also know that purging is not the answer and is in fact extremely dangerous.  Thankfully, by the grace of God I have never been chained to the beast of bulimia (see my blog posting, Confessions of a Purging Flunky).  I have also received a lot of counseling and the Lord has helped me to work through my own issues – yet at the same time I know that this side of Heaven, I will always have issues.

And so I finally put my relationship with food on my prayer list.  Several times a week, I prayed for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I think he has.  Please understand that I am not talking about cutting out everything, because that is what leads to a feeling of depravation.  Then all heck breaks loose and you eat everything that is not nailed down.  (You’ve been there, done, that, and got the tee shirt, haven’t you?)  So I have been eating better as far as more fiber and less fat, etc.  BUT I do not deprive myself!  I still have mochas, ice cream, etc. about once a day.  I have not concentrated on eating or not eating any certain way – I have simply prayed for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I have lost about ten pounds, which is significant since I’m under 5’3”.  More importantly, I feel released from the world’s messages about food and body image, for the most part.  I will keep praying and keep you posted.

And so I would like to ask you to take the 40-Day Challenge:  Pray every day, asking God to give you a healthy relationship with food.  He is faithful and he will answer you and take off the chains of despair about food and body image.  That is the only way to fight the body image bandit and win.  Ask God to set you free…And please keep us posted!