The hardest part of recovery was feeling my body change - my favorite jeans no longer fit, crop tops revealed a tummy I felt insecure about, and my body felt heavier overall. It felt like after holding onto my food rules and perfectionistic mindset for almost a decade, I was relinquishing all my “hard work” and allowing my body to evolve into something I had always feared.
At one point during my sophomore year of college, I was 25 pounds heavier than I was a freshman. I had reached a point of absolute mental exhaustion with my eating disorder, and giving up my restrictive mindset was a final act of surrender. Only then, finally, did I uncover the truth: the belief that my eating disorder gave me control was a lie; it controlled me, grotesquely distorting my view of my body and urging me to see all its problems, rather than its incredible abilities and innate worth.
Our society has embraced diet culture to the point it feels silly giving diet culture a label - it is deeply engrained within our attitudes towards thinness versus weight gain, our obsessions with working out and eating clean, and our false belief that we aren’t lovable until we lose weight first. Diet culture is reflected in the before versus after photos and the casual comments we see on Instagram: “skinny legend”; “legs for days”; “you lost weight? you look good”; and more. But it is also expressed through our own self-talk. When we look in the mirror, it feels second nature to name our flaws, nitpicking the tens of things we swear must be changed before reaching contentment.
But what if looked our bodies differently? What if, instead of looking at them through our own eyes, we viewed and celebrated ourselves through God’s?
Friends, I encourage us to wrestle with this idea - that the way God created us is not only beautiful and unique, but good. Our bodies are not trophies for the world to covet or judge; neither are they measurements of our discipline and success. Our bodies are instruments that allow us to love, serve, experience, give. They are vessels that allow us to sing, dance, act, create. God intricately designed each body part with intention, and He gave us our specific body shape and size. The way I look will never be the exact same as my best friend or roommate, even if we ate or exercised the same.
Beyond that truth, I encourage us to take it a step further by changing our perspective towards the “imperfections” of our bodies:
Your stretch marks aren’t signs that you have failed at being self-controlled - they are beautiful tiger stripes, proof that you are growing and living to the fullest.
Your touching thighs aren’t signs that you need to need to lay off the carbs - they are best friends, and they like to be with each other.
Your tummy isn’t a sign that you are undisciplined and unattractive - it protects you, gives you warmth, and stores the delicious food we can take delight in.
This call to take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on God doesn’t mean to invalidate, minimize, or neglect the realities of our struggles - rather, it is an invitation to no longer view our bodies as ugly, shameful, or inadequate, but as beautifully and purposefully made. It means to view ourselves through God’s perspective, to see His goodness in every limb and body part, to cherish the way our hair shines, our legs move, and our arms feel. Allow yourself to replace the world’s changing beauty standards and lies with God’s everlasting truth.
The world promotes diets so we continually obsess over our bodies. God says "[you are] fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalms 139:14).
The world judges us based on our physical appearance. God says, “People look at outward appearance, but [I] look at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The world tells women we must be sexy and enviable to be desired by men. God says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
Living with the internal and external pressures to constantly be focused on our bodies is difficult, and I hear you. I myself lived so long with those loud voices dominating my headspace and polluting my childhood confidence with deep shame and insecurity. When outside criticism seeks to tear us down or doubt our worth, lean on God and fill your mind with His truth. He believes in us, and beckons with love, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for [I] will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
Own it today: your body is beautiful, and it is good.
Jessie Cheng studies marketing and film at Boston College. Her marketing experience has allowed Cheng to work directly with musical talent, thereby strengthening her dedication to creating a culture of empathy through creative storytelling. As a Chinese American woman, Cheng hopes to advance a new, diverse narrative on mental health and in penning her debut novel, Unglamored, has sparked a conversation about eating disorders within Asian communities and the entertainment industry.
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