I’m not a huge fan of the body positive movement. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I don’t love that there are millions of people who hate themselves when they look on the mirror (including me!), and I have several friends who refuse to be in photos or go places requiring swimsuits because others have made them feel so very unacceptable because of how they look. I don’t love that I have friends who feel like just because they are a little bigger around than some other people that they are doing something wrong or they are unworthy (I feel like this, too!). Most importantly, I really don’t like that we define our personal value by how skinny we are, we compare ourselves to totally unrealistic and photoshopped images of women who have millions of dollars to hire personal chefs and time to work out 3 hours a day with a personal trainer. Like, hello. I can’t afford a babysitter right now, much less a personal chef. I have a personal chef, actually. Her name is me.
But I also don’t love the implication that you should be allowed to sit around doing whatever you want and eat whatever you want at all times because it makes you feel good regardless of what it does to your body. I just think we’ve gone too far on the other side of the scale (no pun intended) with this stuff. The implication of the body positive movement is that you should do whatever you want to your body because it is your body and it’s all about you and what makes you feel happy because you are beautiful just the way you are. But I think a better statement would be that you should love your body because of the amazing things that it does for you, and you should respect and care for it.
Of course, from a Christian standpoint, we love our bodies because they are God’s temple. The Holy Spirit lives in there! God dwells within us when we have decided to give our lives to follow Him. Just knowing that God lives in there makes me want to respect my body for entirely different reasons.
I have been so unhappy with my body since having kids. I didn’t gain that much while I was pregnant or anything, maybe 25 pounds or so, but I already weighed 20 pounds more than I’m apparently supposed to when I got pregnant. But my bigger concern is that I’m all squishy in places that used to be firm, to be honest. Which makes me sad. And, of course, there was the situation where I went to Target and cried in the dressing room because I had to go up 5 sizes from what I felt was acceptable in order to even pull the pants the whole way up. So. Depressing. And I’ve always, always thought I had the fattest legs. I’ve just always hated them. I mean, I’m just being honest, here, because I bet some of you readers (or all of you) have something about your bodies that you have spent lots of times hating on and can relate to what I’m saying.
But I’m getting it all wrong – the whole body positive thing. The thing is, caring about my appearance is not supposed to be the motivation for taking care of myself. Like, having someone say to me when I told them the “crying-in-the-dressing-room” story, “Oh, hon, the size you wanted to be is little!” aka in my head “you aren’t little!!” shouldn’t have totally changed my entire outlook on life, but it did. I’ve always been little. I mean I’m only like 5’2″ or something. Being indirectly told I’m not little was a pretty big slap in the face. And it totally reset me. I started whole30 within days of that “incident” and the next morning after it, I got up and ran 3.5 miles. I’ve run 5 of the last 7 days because I couldn’t allow that implication to be made of me again. But that’s the wrong motivation!
If I’m going to eat whole30 all the time, it should be because those foods are the foods that we’re supposed to eat. They’re the God-made foods the way God intended us to eat them, not these whacky, man-made, totally processed and fake versions of food that we constantly scarf down because they are easier and delicious. I mean I get it, and I live it every day: it is so much easier to grab a burger in a drive-through than cook sweet potato fries again. But our whole lives aren’t supposed to be based in what’s easiest. (Although I will say that easy is definitely necessary sometimes!) And eating that non-processed, whole stuff is a way to honor God with our bodies as long as that’s our heart while we’re doing it. In other words, if I’m eating whole30 because I get skinny, or because it makes me feel superior to others who aren’t doing it, or it makes me proud that I can go 30 days eating this stuff because everybody knows how hard it is so I must be awesome, then I’m idolizing my ability to be awesome instead of praising God for providing healthy food on this earth for me to eat. Just a mind shift.
Or if marathon training is about showing off my ability to run super far, then I’m missing the point. I want to run a marathon for many reasons, some being selfish – it’s a life goal to run one before I’m thirty just to be able to say I did it! – but overall, I have found that running is treasured time spent with God. I feel like I’m running with Him. All of the difficulty and walls and pain are pushed through because He is there with me. He gives me the ability to make it through the tough stuff. This is such a beautiful way to live, and I want it to be the core reason behind my running. It’s a literal representation of an incredible metaphor: God is in this with us. I don’t want to run all the time because I’m hoping to rid myself of my thunder thighs. I want to run with Jesus.
A few thoughts paraphrased from scripture supporting this idea: in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the Lord made us and we are His, He knit us together in our mother’s womb, we praise Him because we are fearfully and wonderfully made, His works are wonderful, we know that full well, may Christ be exalted in my body, either in life or death, physical training has some value, but godliness has value in all things, do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
The number on the scale doesn’t matter. Health matters. And more importantly, spiritual health matters. But I believe that just like everything else, spiritual health influences physical health. When we love the Lord, we are called to care for our bodies for His glory, just like we are called to avoid sin for His glory and love one another for His glory and spend time in His word and prayer for His glory. Our physical health is part of our spiritual health, and that understanding can change our whole attitude toward taking care of ourselves.
Taking care of myself as an act of worship to the Creator of my body? That’s body positive.