Exhausted one night I plopped down on the couch. With no husband in sight it was my turn to engage in that familiar sport of channel surfing. As I searched for something worthwhile to watch, I was astounded at the number of shows about weight and body image. There was The Biggest Loser, waif-like Mary Kate Olsen discussing her eating disorder treatment, Kate Moss looking scary-skinny, and body builders giving new meaning to the phrase “super size it”.
From fat to thin, thin to fat, the polarized media messages felt like cultural whiplash: Big is beautiful. Nip it, tuck it. You can’t be too thin, too buffed, or too beautiful. My head was spinning!
Clearly, weight obsession and physical fitness are national pastimes. Every day we witness the popularity of makeover and plastic surgery television programs and the billions of dollars spent on diet and exercise products. The sculpted work-out body is everywhere. It is plastered on billboards, splashed on the pages of magazines, and paraded across movie screens. Real or not real, it all impacts our body image.
Body image distortion began in the Garden. In Genesis 3, we read an explanation of how we moved from originally accepting our created bodies to embracing feelings of shame and inadequacy. The origins of our distorted body image developed when a man and woman decided to share a treat. Wouldn’t you know that food had to be involved in this!
God created Adam and Eve in His own image. They were flawless, and unaffected by sin. And the Lord gave them His seal of approval by calling them—and the rest of His creation—“good.” Picture it: perfect bodies roaming the garden—naked and unashamed! Body acceptance was at an all-time high.
When Eve saw that the fruit on the forbidden tree was “good for food,” she was enticed. Never mind that God said to avoid it; she saw a personal benefit here. When we are deceived, we make certain choices solely because we believe there is personal gain involved. Attaining the perfect body usually includes this temptation. We’re convinced that there is real benefit to all the obsessing we do and all the improvements we make. We are drawn in by the potential for personal reward.
Adam and Eve’s view of their nakedness changed based on their decisions to act independently from God. Eve believed the lie and sinned. Adam ignored God’s voice of authority and sinned. Sin resulted in fear and hiding and a condemnation of their natural state. Adam and Eve’s newfound knowledge of good and evil brought them anxiety in their naked identity. On their own, they tried to cover their nakedness and not feel shame. But they failed, and self-hatred began.
The good news is that God sees us in our natural state and doesn’t shame us. It’s when we attempt to separate ourselves from Him–to live life on our own terms and according to the images of this world that we start to feel shame and dislike our bodies.
When we try to deal with distorted images of ourselves apart from God, we won’t be successful. God must intervene, and that’s just what happened. God discarded the fig leaves of the first couple and made tunics of animal skin to clothe them. This is important, not because it was a fashion shift, but because of the significance of God clothing them instead of them clothing themselves.
Ladies, it’s time to hand over the fig leaves and let God sew us garments that protect us from the deceiving voices in our heads. We have a spiritual heritage that brings truth to our body, soul, and spirit. It’s our choice to stand alone, naked and ashamed, or with God’s help to make peace with our thighs or any other body part that bothers us.