Read Psalm 139. First read verses 14-16 and then read the entirety of the Psalm. God has a very different relationship with your body than you do. God sees your body as a piece of his art. God is not comparing you with others like we are prone to compare ourselves. Accepting your body is merely an exercise in agreeing with God when he crafted you and said, “It is very good” (Gen 1:31). That is not conceited. To believe anything to the contrary is to argue with God.
A definition: To “accept my body” means “as I care for my body in a manner that honors God, I am content with my weight and shape regardless of the number on the scale, the effects of age, or how I look in comparison to others.”
This acceptance does not begin when you reach an ideal weight; that is an anti-gospel mindset. God does not withhold his delight in us until we become perfect. God accepts us in Christ and, in the strength his acceptance provides, we are compelled to make the changes that conform our character more into the character of Christ.
Here are five steps to accept your body (modified and adapted from Stephen Arterburn and Linda Mintle in Lose It for Life, p. 182; bold text only).
- Stop Degrading Your Body: Imagine a child bringing you a piece of their personal “art” with a big smile. You look at it and say, “That’s hideous. I feel ashamed and worthless when I look at it.” That’s a jarring thought experiment. What we wouldn’t dare do with a child, we often persistently do with ourselves. Every person belongs to God by rights of creation. Christians belong doubly to God by rights of redemption. We have no right to insult what God deems precious. In this step you simply stop exercising a right you do not have.
- Stop Putting Life on Hold: Make a list of the number of things you put in this blank, “I will [blank] when I lose ‘x’ pounds or get in shape.” Why wait? Life should not start at minus-10-pounds. Life starts now. Quit taking yourself fitness-hostage. When you put off the things you’d find meaningful and satisfying until you meet your weight goal, you’re making yourself a slave to the scale and killing the motivation necessary for lasting change.
- Think God’s Words about Yourself: Whose voice is the loudest in your head? This is the pivotal question for accepting your body. Appendix A contains a list of identity statements about who you are in Christ. It is a walk through the New Testament learning how God sees you. These are not “if only” statements, but the reality of who you are in Christ. These are all the significance, acceptance, and purpose you could ask for. You steward your body to live in these realities for as long as possible for the glory of God.
- Develop Your Own Style and Personality: Don’t be a slave to culture and trends. The shape of beauty changes with every generation and culture. Yet the people we find most attractive (not just physically) and those we most enjoy spending time with are those who are comfortable in their own skin. You don’t become attractive by reaching a number; you become attractive by enjoying the person God made you to be and showing genuine interest in the person God made others to be.
- Rest and Run in God’s Acceptance: To the person who has had an unhealthy relationship with food, the temptation is to distort these five steps as if they would produce passivity. “If I accept my body, I will neglect my health.” Contentment is not a synonym for neglect; it is an antonym for excess (in the case of food, both excessive discipline and consumption). When we rest in God’s acceptance we do not fall into the false belief that our body size equates to our value. When we run (meaning pursue God’s design for our life) we do this out of devotion for someone we admire and want to make known; not someone from whom we fear rejection and punishment.
You might ask, “When do I know that I am accepting my God-given body?” Carolyn Costin & Gwen Schubert Grabb in 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder (p. 148) provides a list of physical, psychological, and social indicators that we are at peace with our God-given body.
- Weight range is maintained without engaging in eating disordered behaviors
- Having regular menstruation every month and normal hormone levels (as age appropriate)
- Normal blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature
- Normal blood chemistry values such as electrolytes, white and red blood counts, etc.
- Normal bone density for age
- Normal levels of energy (not exhausted, shaky, or agitated all day)
- Normal, or at least some, sex drive
- Ability to concentrate and focus (reading, movies, work, school)
- Normal social life with authentic, and personal relationships (not just online)
- Decrease and/or cessation of obsessive thoughts or food cravings or urges to binge
- Ability to choose freely what to eat both when alone and with others
- Ability to eat at restaurants, at friends’ houses, at parties, and on vacation
- Absence of food rituals dictating eating patterns and behaviors
- No erratic mood swings
Use this as a check list. Mark those that are already consistently true of your journey towards a healthy relationship with food. If you have not been to the doctor since you began this study, now is a good time to go and request the kind of health checks referenced in this list. For those items you could not mark, make them a matter of prayer and ask the friends in your support network (step 5) to become a source of encouragement for continued growth in these areas.
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