Healing Body Image Struggles in Young Women:

by | May 22, 2021 | Body Image and Young Women

Yoga mats, dumbbells and at-home workouts

I started working out again recently after a long hiatus and lack of motivation. Senior year of college during a pandemic has not been an easy feat. Like with everything else, working out at college has looked different due to the pandemic. Gym means masks, which for me is out of the question because I come close to passing out easily without having something covering my face and restricting my oxygen. Considering it’s been icy and cold all of winter, I’m not about to go for a run outside either. So, the other week I picked up my yoga mat that’s been collecting dust in the corner of my apartment, grabbed my roommates two 3-pound dumbbells and set up shop. I pulled up a YouTube workout video and haven’t looked back. Until the other day, that is.

I’ve been doing really well with consistency and balancing days off with days on. A couple days ago, I just wasn’t feeling up to my workout though. So, I decided to listen to my body, did a really light leg workout and called it a day. Recently, I have also been feeling so much hungrier. While I know it is normal to need a little more food since I am probably burning more with my workouts, I’ve been consuming A LOT of food. Like, I mean constantly throughout the day. No matter how much I would eat, I still felt hungry again an hour later. Of course, some of this food was definitely not great for me either. College budget and time has brought my unhealthy snacks and decisions, bagels, candy, chips, ice cream. Despite this, I have been enjoying myself though. Until that night.

intrusive thoughts & Body image healing

On this particular night after my light workout that morning, I began to feel really bad about myself again, and those unhealthy thoughts came flooding back. I should do another workout today that’s harder to burn off all of the food I ate today (and frankly the days before). I have been eating way too much recently…tomorrow I need to start restricting my intake for a little while to get back on track and lose this stomach pudge. In this moment, I paused. I knew I had a choice to make. I could listen to those intrusive thoughts that kept telling me, you need to do more. You are disgusting, I can’t believe you ate all those unhealthy foods. Tomorrow, you’re going to pay for it now with much less sustenance. Or I could seek help and tell a friend. Thankfully, I chose the latter option. I whipped out my phone and texted my dear friend Sarah. As someone who has also struggled with orthorexia (restrictive/obsessive dieting and over-exercising) I knew she was the one to tell. Our conversation was short, but so powerful for me. It went like this:

               Myself: Hi!! I’ve been feeling really hungry recently, and I’ve been eating like a LOT of food (and with it sweets/candy,                    snacks, etc. not the healthiest stuff) and now I’m not really doing well…I did a light workout this morning because I wasn’t feeling it today, but now I’ve been having thoughts about needing to do another harder workout tonight to burn off everything I had today. And I also have starting thinking about restricting my food intake, so I just thought I should tell someone.

               Sarah: Amber, thank you for telling me <3

               Sarah: I am SO proud of you

               Sarah: Reminders for you today:

Eating looks different EVERY DAY – some days you will be super hungry and other days you won’t be hungry at all. Some days you’ll eat really “healthy” and some days you’ll eat “junk.”

               You are so much more than the food you eat or the way you move your body. You are beautiful. You are kind, funny, compassionate, thoughtful, driven and so much more. None of that changes depending on what you eat or how you work out.

Food and exercise are ways we get to honor and ENJOY our bodies!! And we get to do that with all kinds of foods and ways we move.

                These thoughts are part of the healing process. You have not fallen back and none of your progress has lost its power. You have overcome so much, and today is just one of those hard days. *And I would interject here to add, you are still on your journey to freedom and peace.*

We get to take care of our bodies – that means we listen to what we need. Of our body says rest, we rest. If our bodies say “I’m hungry for this,” we eat it and enjoy it. We don’t have to earn it, restrict or over indulge because we know we can have the foods we’re craving.

You got this. You are amazing. You are loved <3

the power of community

Wow. Friends, this is one of those moments I recognize God speaking to me through others. God knew I needed to hear these words and this encouragement from Sarah. Accountability is so important in the healing process. We can’t do this without God, and sometimes we can’t do it without our human friends either! If you are on your healing journey to freedom from body image struggles or eating disorders, I ask you to tell someone about your struggles. There is so much power in sharing our struggles with someone we trust and asking for help, prayer and accountability in healing. This can and should be God, but I also urge you to open up to other friends or family too. Friends like Sarah can help us take a step back on our hard days and in our hard moments when we lose sight of our goals or become discouraged by our missteps. Because folks, it’s a hard day, not a failed day. We did not fail or lose progress. Those are lies satan wants us to believe, so that we will listen to him and actually fall back into our old ways.  But you and I are stronger than that because God never leaves us. When we are weak, then He is strong for us.

freedom is a journey

So, as I sit here typing away on my laptop while eating an everything bagel with cream cheese for lunch (oh, and I didn’t do a workout for these carbs today 😉 ),  I share this story with in hopes of providing encouragement and shedding light on realistic experiences in finding freedom from body image struggles. Because even though I’ve come so far since my disordered eating in high school, I’m still on my journey to full freedom from my body image struggles. Freedom and transformation don’t just happen overnight, though wouldn’t that be nice? Satan knows how to get to us and the more we try to be free of something he’s using to separate us from God, the harder he’s going to press down and come at us. This is spiritual warfare friends. Body image problems are spiritual warfare, and we need to treat it as it is. We need to get down on our knees before the Lord and pray for His protection, for His strength and for His truth to wash over us. When we wake up each day, we need to put on the armor of God as it says in Ephesians 6: 11-13, 18:

               Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

Put on the full armor of God by immersing your minds in God’s truth and His word. Believe who you are in Christ, recognize His spirit is alive in you and His power dwells inside you to fight this evil and walk through the darkness. Oh, and get some good friends to walk along side you too.

 

Song Reflections:
  1. You Are More by Tenth Avenue North
  2. I Have This Hope by Tenth Avenue North
  3. Never Once by Shane & Shane

Amber Clemens author at Compared to WhoHi there, I’m Amber! I am a newly minted college graduate from Messiah University with my bachelor’s in Public Relations. I’m a sister, daughter, soon-to-be aunt, friend, writer, athlete, life-long learner…but most importantly, I’m a beloved daughter of God.

I’m just a 22-year-old perfectionist from a small suburb that knows what it feels like to lose hope and to struggle with love, worth, acceptance, grace, body image, comparison, the list goes on. My passion is to serve and bless others, spread kindness, and share the love and hope found in both knowing Jesus intimately and walking through life with him. My prayer is that everyone may be filled with the eternal love, joy and freedom that only comes from a relationship with Jesus, so that they may overflow with love for others and glorify God in all they do.

 

two steps forward, one step back? realistic look at finding freedom from body image struggles

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