Is better health a new years resolution for you? Although this is an important goal to have, many of us are thinking about losing weight without addressing the distorted body image that we have unknowingly agreed to. Listen to this conversation I had with Laura Lindhaul as we talk about the distorted mindsets we have adopted around body image, how the “messy middle” can bring us acceptance of our bodies, and why we need to contribute to Jesus’ path that He has set for us instead of trying to control it.
Although dealing with a distorted body image can feel isolating – you are not alone. This impacts so many women's mental health on various levels but as Laura reminds us, once we admit it, we can work through it while giving ourselves grace in the process.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
- [03:25] “The Church Doesn’t Talk Enough About Body Image”
- [09:09] Asking Ourselves, “What Mental Agreements Do I Have About My Body?”
- [13:38] Wait, Don’t We Just Need More Body Positivity?
- [15:47] The Opposite Side of The Spectrum – Body Shaming
- [18:19] Body Neutrality: “My Body is The Least Important Thing About Me”
- [23:11] What’s Your Why for a Healthier Body?
- [26:27] Are You Trying to Control the Outcome of Your Health Instead of Contributing to It?
- [29:31] Is It Time to Admit that Body Image Is a Problem?
- [35:02] Alicia’s Reflections: What Trips You Up in Your Body Image?
[03:25] “The Church Doesn’t Talk Enough About Body Image”
Laura shares that she does not believe that body image is talked about enough in the church. She feels that we are told about the temple but no one tells us how to take care of it. The church did not do a great job of equipping women in particular to view their bodies outside of modesty. She believes that the church does have good intentions, they want people to remain pure, have good marriages, and love the Lord – but between that and the things that people in the world say about our bodies, it left a lot of people unequipped in how to handle the conversations we have with ourselves.
The ultimate test of how we feel about our bodies is when we go into the fitting room and look at our bodies in the mirror. The internal dialogue often says that we are not good enough, we have to lose weight, we have too much cellulite etc. We speak these things to ourselves and we do not often go back to those thoughts and say “Is this true? Does this sound like it is coming from God?”
Laura thinks that there are three aspects to body image: internal, external, and eternal. Our internal body image is how we view ourselves. Our external body image is how others see us. Our eternal body image is how God uses our body. She believes that all three of these can often get mixed up.
[09:09] Asking Ourselves, “What Mental Agreements Do I Have About My Body?”
Laura says that the devil works in the details and he loves to keep things as vague as possible so that problems do not get solved. When we ask ourselves “What aspect of my body image have I created an agreement with that is not actually true?” then we can identify the attachments and agreements that were not ours to begin with.
Laura has clients do an exercise where they close their eyes and imagine their bodies through the years. Then she has them start to remember and recall the things that have been spoken about their bodies by themselves or others. Some women still remember things that were said in middle school that they have been carrying around all of these years. She then asks them “Is this true? Do you want to continue to listen to this voice?” and 99% of the time the answer is no. They did not realize that they were agreeing with an unworthy judgment of their body.
It is important to start identifying which aspect of your body image has been distorted and where you have unwillingly created an agreement with somebody else. Then ask yourself if you have dug into what God says about your body. Many of us have not processed God’s view of our bodies and we often create a false doctrine based on the world's view of our bodies.
Alicia shares that she has often heard that our body is an object to be perfected and an object that is never good enough. She also shares that what we agree to is what is going to direct us. We have to first become aware of these agreements because we can try to be logical and say “God loves my body as is.” However, without the awareness of the agreements, we will continue to fall into the distorted body image.
[13:38] Wait, Don’t We Just Need More Body Positivity?
Laura believes that there is a spectrum of how each of us deals with body image. First, there is the body positivity movement. This is where you give yourself positive affirmations and remind yourself how good you are. Body positivity often screams “I am accepting my body” on the external by wearing revealing clothing and posing in a bikini or workout clothing. There are great aspects to this and some women can ignore their imperfections and embrace themselves fully. Laura shares that since we are made in the image of God, we have inherent value and that should be celebrated. Many women completely ignore their insecurities and in this there is the fault of pretending we are perfect and ignoring that we live in a broken world. There is often a lack of surrender.
Laura wants to remind anyone in the body positivity movement that there is hope for surrender. You do not have to take your insecurities and brush them under the rug or pretend like you are perfect. God never asks us to show up in this way and she hopes that this will give you relief.
[15:47] The Opposite Side of The Spectrum – Body Shaming
On the opposite side of the continuum is body shaming. This often looks like wearing cover-ups, wearing sweaters when it is not cold outside, or wanting to stand in the back of the room when a picture is being taken. When we are wrapped up in this shame, we forget that our body is made in the image of God and it is inherently good. Even with sin or an aspect of laziness, there is still grace.
Shame also holds us back. So many people get caught up in telling themselves that they have “let themselves go” but she reminds us of the Bible verse that says “Therefore, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”. No matter what you have done regarding your body, there is grace and hope for the future.
[18:19] Body Neutrality: “My Body is The Least Important Thing About Me”
The messy middle is body neutrality. This says “My body is inherently valuable but it is the least important thing about me.” We have been created with so much creativity and our bodies reflect that. If you look around at nature, all of the different aspects of it are beautiful. The beaches, the mountains, the flowers, and they are all different. Then we look at our bodies and think it has to look like just one aspect of beauty.
The middle ground reminds us that when we see our bodies, we have to know that it is good enough. We know that there are things wrong with our bodies but we cannot just brush insecurities under the rug because that does not solve them. We also cannot hide our bodies either. We can love and respect our bodies and take care of them from a place of acceptance. God accepts us as messy and there is so much beauty and grace in that permission. Once we find this acceptance then we enjoy our workouts more, we eat better, and we are not scared of the scale. The middle ground takes work to get there but it is a beautiful place to be!
Alicia shares that we are all like nature, beautiful and decaying. We cannot expect that our bodies will not change. We are going to change naturally over a lifetime and we have to come to peace with that. Many of us are looking at ourselves with new wrinkles and a slower metabolism but we have to make peace with the fact that our bodies are still a creation and reflection of God, no matter what we look like.
[23:11] What’s Your Why for a Healthier Body?
We have to identify that our value as defined by God is irrevocable and this has to be the foundation for any action that we take. If we are going to take action for our health, the number one thing we need to ask ourselves is “Why?” This “why” is the foundation for all of the actions that we take and it needs to be solid, not a temporary circumstance or solution. If we do not connect with our why then we will have a shaky foundation and when we do not meet our standards, we give up.
Every diet or exercise program needs to be created with long-term success in mind. If we are running for the scale or a dress size, it is very short-term, Laura reminds us. That’s when we realize that our foundation was made of sand and falls apart when we step on another scale or try on a dress from a different store. But if our foundation is built on what God says about us to be true, then that will give us a solid foundation with a long-term solution.
[26:27] Are You Trying to Control the Outcome of Your Health Instead of Contributing to It?
Laura shares that women often fall into control rather than contribution. We have to remember that God is in control of the outcome but we can contribute.
She believes that a lot of women fall into the control of wanting something on their timeline and in the way that they want, often asking themselves “Why isn’t my body shaping into the ‘mold’ that I want it to? Why are my legs not getting thinner? Why am I only losing weight in one place?”
We find ourselves controlling rather than contributing. God wants us to take care of our body as a temple and be good stewards. When Laura works with her clients, they talk about the rhythm and habits that will lead to a good outcome. This contribution will lead you to have more energy, stamina, muscle, and longer life.
When we operate from our solid foundation, we start to care for our temple from a health perspective instead of an image perspective , Alicia shares. We often deal with the same soundtracks in our minds that end up running the show but if we lovingly find healing with these and then align them with what God says about us, then our confidence can spill out. This is where we can make peace with our bodies, see them as a gift from God, and take care of them.
[29:31] Is It Time to Admit that Body Image Is a Problem?
Laura shares that the first step with anything is admittance. If she were to ask women “Do you wrestle with body image?” many of them would say “Not at all”. But then she sees their habits and behaviors which reveal where their heart is. Using external things like makeup, clothes, pills or stimulants, or other controlling aspects could be signs of struggling with body image. It is only when we come to a place of admittance where we can solve a problem.
If we were to go to the doctor and they said that they did not know what was wrong with us but they were going to give us a prescription, we would never take it. So to have a diagnosis we have to be able to speak about what we are struggling with.
Laura remembers the first time she admitted she was struggling with body image and she realized she was not alone. This gave her the ability to give herself grace in the process. She says that if you walk into a room and the only thing you can think about is what someone else is thinking about your body, you are gasping for acceptance and identity. This is a major red flag and saying to ourselves, “This is not what God wants me to be thinking about my body” can help us with even more grace.
The journey between controlling and contributing is very personal to all of us, Alicia shares. As she uses products to alter her appearance or buy a new beauty product she asks herself these questions:
-What is my motivation behind this?
-Is it rooted in the idea that I'm trying to control something versus contribute?
There is care that needs to happen for the temple but we need to be honest with our foundation and motivations.
[35:02] Alicia’s Reflections: What Trips You Up in Your Body Image?
Throughout this conversation, I found myself resonating with the idea of being in the middle. There is often tension between wanting to align ourselves with the truth that we are made in God’s image and the view of perfection and what our bodies “should” look like. We need to balance the reminder that our bodies are always changing and it’s beautiful with the need to take care of our temple (in a way that does not become all-consuming or threatening to our identity).
As we mature, this is important to talk about. Ask yourself “Where do I get tripped up in the area of body image?” and share it with Laura or myself if you feel comfortable. You can always reach out to me on Instagram and check out Laura’s resources as well.
If you are interested in cultivating and solidifying that foundation of who you are in Christ, make sure to join the “I Am Loved” Bible Study. It is a four-week Bible Study that helps us work through those obstacles that we have while reminding us that we are loved by God. We have all heard the phrase “Jesus loves me” but believing it and seeing it lived out in things like body image where we can say, “I am taking care of my temple because I am loved by God, not to receive His love”
Go here to get Alicia’s FREE WORKSHOP: How to Break Free from Feeling “Never Enough”
Check out Alicia’s 4-week “I Am Loved” Bible Study Course to rediscover the gift of knowing you’re loved by God.