“Just like you, Prudence has a body, and this body has many nice and useful parts:
A head for thinking
Eyes for seeing
Ears for hearing
A mouth to talk and eat with…”
(once upon a potty)
1 | going beyond the “good example”
growing up i never once heard my mother complain about her weight or her looks. i never saw her pick at her food or refuse to eat something because she was on a “diet”– i don’t think she has ever been on a diet — but i did see her go walking everyday and hiking often. i think my mom did a great job modeling how a mother of girls should approach body image. did that stop me and my sisters from thinking we were fat or going on diets or having body image issues? no.
as important as it is for my girls to know that i love and appreciate my strong healthy body, i also need to teach them how to respond when the world doesn’t. when their size-two friends pinch the inch of skin on their bellies and bemoan their weight. when the average actress has a waist smaller than my thigh.
of all the women that i am friends with, i’d say probably 95% of them have spoken to me about issues they’ve had with their body currently or in the past. girls are always going on diets or talking about diets, trying to be a certain weight or size. if my girls have any friends at all, and i pray that they will!, they are going to have to know how to respond to this, and they are going to have to know it young. you don’t have to look very long to find statistics and studies on fourth graders going on diets and five year olds fearing weight gain.
it is great if a mom wants to speak positively about her body to be a good influence on her daughters, but it is not enough. i did not learn dissatisfaction with my body in the home–i was crushed by the overwhelming outside propaganda, inescapable, everywhere.
i think there might be a cheesy anti-drug commercial somewhere that says this first– if you aren’t talking to your girls about their body image, someone else will.
2 | going beyond your words
having a family is a sanctifying process. it sharpens and hurts and digs up stuff other people don’t see. so i thought for a while that just avoiding saying “i’m fat” in front of zu would be enough. if i never said it, she would never know i thought it, right? yeah right. zu lives with me and watches me day in and day out–she can see exactly what i think about my body by how i act about it.
when she lifts up my shirt to tickle my belly, do i get all weird about it and hurriedly pull it back down? do i tug and smooth and flatten what i see in the mirror? do i grimace?
it does not take long for zu to pick up on what i do and to mimic it. right now when i am getting her dressed in the mornings, she looks in her mirror and dances and smiles and pats her belly, giggling. i want her doing that when she is ten years old, and twelve, and, why not even when she’s twenty-seven? maybe i should be mimicking her a little.
3 | spiritual implications
my sweet baby is 7 weeks old, and i am not in the best shape i have ever been in my life. everymorning my closet is a battle ground–putting aside the lies that the world tells me about what my appearance must be and embracing God’s truth about who i am.
i was feeling pretty sorry for myself one morning, after trying on the third too-tight shirt, when bryan asked me something that convicted me– was i letting this become a pride issue? no one expects me to be svelte only eight weeks after having a baby–why am i spending so much time fretting over my not so smooth belly? why am i fretting about what size jeans i’m wearing instead of thinking on what is noble, right and pure?
it is easier to say that i feel bad about how i look because of fearing what people will think of me, fearing that i won’t be loveable, acceptable, etc, but when i searched my heart, i knew that, for me, even that fear was at the root a problem of pride. i didn’t want people to see me and think that i didn’t look good. i want, like anyone, to be admired. what an old sin! the same one satan fell from heaven over.
so i stop feeling sorry for myself. and i put on a shirt that maybe didn’t completely disguise every unsightly bump and lump in my postbabybelly. its none of my business what other people think about me.
4 | where to go from there
though i want to teach my girls to not obsess over their weight and size and appearance, i also want to teach my girls to be healthy and to respect their bodies. it is important to take care of our bodies because our bodies are temples that house the living holy spirit. what i want to emphasize with my girls is stewardship. just like we don’t go out and spend all our money at once, we need to be good stewards of the body God gave us, to use self-control and discipline when it comes to eating and exercising.
“do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy spirit within you, whom you have from God? you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. so glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor. 6:19-20