Society's issues with body image has confused me my whole life. I spent most of my middle school, high school and college years thinking that if someone was skinny "enough", they would be a size 2 or even a size 0. Then, due mostly to stress, I lost a rediculous amount of weight, I got to 75 lbs underweight, and realized that even at that weight, I could bearly fit into a size 6. The truth was my size 12 body WAS the perfect size for someone who had been 5'11" since the age of 11 and who had more curves than a windy mountainside road in West Virginia. And now that I've had two monstrous babies, a size 14 would probably be just fine.
I'm thinking about this as I sit here in Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor waterpark/hotel, watching my kids play and all the people walk by.
It's February in Ohio. We're in the middle of the coldest and snowiest winter we've had in several years. No one here is tan. I'm sure at least 90% of the people here are carrying extra winter weight, especially since we've had days recently where people had trouble getting out to go to work, much less to go to the gym. And no one sane comes to this place to look hot and sexy. Out of the hundreds of people here today, I've only seen two or three string bikinis and, praise God(!), no men in Speedos (they should be reserved for Olympic swimmers and big, hairy European men, who neither speak English nor know better).
With that said, there are a lot of differently shaped and sized bodies walking around with various levels of being covered up and no one seems too worried about what their bodies look like. I'm sure some people have a little anxiety. For instance, being a large busted woman, for every step I take, my chest bounces two or three extra times. If I think about it too much, it's embarrassing, but that's just the body I have and I'm not going to let it bother me enough to keep me from playing with my kiddos.
In fact, when I stop thinking about what I consider to be imperfections with my body and instead open my eyes and look around me, all the shapes and sizes are kind of beautiful. God made some women to carry weight on top, others on bottom. Some men have lots of muscle bulk, others very little. You see well-worn bodies with cellulite and stretch marks and others young and smooth. What you realize quickly is that no one really looks "bad". Everyone just looks normal.
It highlights to me how self-absorbed we can be when we freak out about how we look. And there is little logic in it. Exercising and dieting to be healthier is okay, in fact I've been working out to build my physical endurance back up after a string of illnesses. But worshipping our body as an idol and offering it sacrifices of food and exercise are not okay.
So what is driving this obsessive cultural need to hate our bodies and constantly diet and work out and obsess about inches, not for health reasons, but simply for appearances? This being a family resort, most of the adults here are married and by judging the number of kids running around, there's lots of people who are having lots of sex, so sex appeal to your spouse isn't much of an issue. The whole time I've been writing this, I haven't seen a single person really check out anyone else and I certainly haven't seen anyone look someone over and grimace, or even nod approvingly. And life experience has taught me that anyone I actually want to be around judges people far more on their personality than on their looks. And to the person who says, "I just like being a certain way," I ask you to dig deeper to find out why you prefer that and also ask yourself if you can be content and love yourself with not being skinnier, more muscular, etc.
My suspicion is the driving force behind our body hate is Satan. Our bodies are beautiful creations from God. God knows if you are going to gain weight or lose it, if you are going to be muscular or skinny or if you will be athletic or be able to do manual labor or if you will sit at a desk with little physical activity. Gaining and losing weight doesn't affect how God loves us. But Satan tries to tell us that our love and identity are found in our sexual attractiveness, the status of wearing the latest clothes, in being seen as youthful and enviable to others. We hate our bodies because we believe the lie that we must earn our worth and value from others instead of receive it condition free from God. We believe that it's our body that causes us to not feel loved instead of our distance from The Lord.
So next time you are tempted to hate on your body, remember who created that body and who He says you are. Suddenly the inches of fat and the six pack abs aren't nearly as important.