“How She Lost the Weight: Her Secret Revealed!” That headline sucked me in. Every. Single. Time.
Unlike the best practices of a celebrity diet plan, if you battle your body image, there are practical things you can do to help. These aren’t tasks to be accomplished one time and forgotten. Rather, these are lifestyle habits that will help you experience greater freedom regularly.
Here are the ten habits of women with healthy body image:
1. She spends time with God daily.
You could have never convinced me ten years ago that my body image struggle could be helped through anything other than weight loss, the chance to go on some “makeover” show or liposuction. Yet now that I’ve begun the practice of spending time daily reading God’s word and praying, I know that neglecting my spiritual walk with Jesus compounded my issues. The woman who lives a life free from body image issues surrenders her life to God daily, praying not my will, but yours be done. She reads the truth in His word and is reminded how much she is loved by the Father and how God has great purpose for her. Through spending time with Him, she remembers that life is not a beauty contest. Freeing her from stress over who looks the prettiest.
2. She has friends.
Women in genuine relationships with other women are better able to offer grace to others and to themselves. Women who aren’t afraid to “go deep” in these relationships feel valued and loved through the mutuality of friendship. It’s only when we avoid close friendships that we spend time fixating on the outsides of other women. While the women in deep relationships are more likely to understand that we all struggle in different ways. They can take a “we’re all in this together” posture more easily.
3. She doesn’t spend too much time with mirror.
Women with healthy body image know that looking in the mirror is okay, but fixating on the mirror is not. Notice, I didn’t say they avoid mirrors. Mirrors help us find the lettuce in our teeth or the rogue hairs that are giving a morning standing ovation all over your crown. Mirrors are not bad, but obsessing over your reflection is. The best thing to do: Point your mirror up!
4. She watches what she watches.
Whenever I speak to women’s groups, I ask them this question: If your husband struggled with porn addiction, would you buy him a subscription to Maxim for Christmas? The women laugh and shout, “No!” But, when I shift the subject ever so slightly, and ask, if a woman who struggles with body image should read fashion magazines filled with beauty ads or watch television shows that parade bikini clad women, they don’t shout “No!” with quite the same enthusiasm. It’s fallacy to believe that a woman with healthy body image can watch whatever she wants and not be affected. A woman with healthy body image selects her media carefully, thus, she doesn’t spend as much time battling the “You should look more like this” lies the television, magazines, or movies scream at us.
5. She exercises.
Notice this isn’t number one on my list. There’s a single fact that has solidified in my brain after working in gyms for almost fifteen years, that is: What your actual body looks like has very little to do with your body image. Yet, for many women (myself included) exercise is an important part of staying healthy and keeping their thinking straight. To ignore the physiological impact of exercise on our body image would be foolish. But, likewise, to think that we can exercise away our body image problems is equally as ridiculous.
6. She is involved in a church.
Checking in at your local congregation on Sunday mornings isn’t enough to grow spiritually or contribute to winning your body image battle. A woman with a healthy perspective on her physical appearance gets involved in her local church. She serves, she cares for others, and she is tangibly reminded in doing so that she has great purpose. As she holds babies in the nursery, feeds the homeless, plans a short-term missions trip, or organizes the women’s Bible study she senses the fulfillment that comes from using her God given talents and is reminded that God has already equipped her, both physically and otherwise, to do what He has called her to do.
7. She is appropriately busy.
She’s not busy because she can’t say no, or has overcommitted herself and stretched thin. The brain-fried woman is often too harried to think of her body image rightly. Neither is the woman who is “busy” on social media all day or binge watching Netflix all evening. Instead, the healthy woman serves and loves others while choosing to fill her days with activities that stretch and grow her. Sometimes this service looks like raising children, other times its caring for those outside her home. Either way, she has enough margin in her life to actively love others.
8. She eats mostly healthy without obsessing over food.
I would have left food off of this list altogether, but that would have been disingenuous to what we know about our physical bodies. The truth is, eating a lot of sugary or unhealthy carbohydrate-laden foods will make us feel bad. But, at the same time, I believe a woman with healthy body image doesn’t fixate on her diet to the point where she’s afraid to have dessert or enjoy pizza night.
9. She knows how to train her thoughts.
A woman with a healthy body image is not one who never has thoughts that she doesn’t look good enough or that she should lose some weight or take other action to be prettier. Instead the woman with healthy body image has learned what to do with these thoughts. She’s learn to distinguish the enemy’s voice of condemnation from the voice of truth. Each time one of these thoughts comes to her, she’s well-versed enough to answer it back. To the lie she quickly replies, “I’m already fully accepted and loved by Jesus. My value is not tied to by appearance.”
10. She lives a life of repentance.
The biggest reason women struggle with body image is a battle with idolatry. We believe that being more beautiful will somehow bring us more fulfillment, happiness, love or joy. In other words, we believe that beauty will save us, it will give us the meaning we desperately long for. Yet the only true savior is Jesus, and the only true path to meaning, joy, and freedom is through Him. The woman with a healthy body image recognizes her sin nature, that she is prone to wander and be distracted by idols promising to save her. Instead of wallowing in this temptation though, she identifies it and repents. She takes God at his word when he says he’ll forgive us from our sins and she moves on with new freedom in Him.