Let’s Be Honest – Self-Image and Body Type

“What if in 2013 we decided to fast not from food but from body-talk? Sure—hit the gym, eat the Paleo diet, run six miles a day, wear Spanx from neck to knee. Just stop talking about it. Stop telling your friend she looks skinny—instead tell her you love her sweet spirit. Choose compliments that spur her to pursue that which lasts instead of that which certainly does not. If someone comments on your own shape, say thanks and change the subject. Banish body-talk to the same list of off-limits topics as salaries, name-dropping, and colonoscopies. Apply the discipline you use to work out to controlling your tongue. Do this for your sisters, and by the grace of God, we could begin a legacy of womanhood that celebrates character over carb-avoidance, godliness over glamour. – From “New Year, New Self-Control” by Jen Wilkin
A few of my friends posted a link to this blog in January (or late December), and I just recently read it again. This message is perfect for the months heading into summer. I feel like this is the time when people are on their bikini diets, hoping to shed a few pounds before they’re forced to step foot on the beach in a “comfortable,” skimpy bathing suit. I don’t think many bathing suits could be called more than skimpy.

It’s just so easy to let conversation casually fall into the realm of body-image and dieting. I admittedly love to talk on the subject, especially if it’s guised under the pseudonym “exercise.” I can talk about exercising all day and how much I enjoy running, but it’s really body-image and how I view myself that I’m probably thinking of.

This is why it’s one of my goals in this season not to mention my body or anyone else’s for a while. I’m sure I’ll fail, but I really would like to make this a way of living. If I focus on the more important things, like personality, interests, family, friends, what we’re learning about work, ourselves, etc, then I can encourage a friend much more than if I mention her body.

I remember back when I actively struggled with my body-image (I still do, but I don’t usually take unhealthy action against body fat anymore, thankfully), if someone commented on how good I looked, it reinforced the idea that I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t giving my body exactly what it needed to function well, but I was getting compliments on how great I looked, so I should obviously keep on with the self-deprivation. I’m sure the people who told me I looked great had no clue what they were encouraging, but it was true for me nonetheless.

I never want to be responsible for encouraging anyone else in that way. Our words and make and break other people. And a topic like body-image and dieting, especially for women, is a drug.

On the flip side, I think if someone is struggling with body-image issues, they feel more comfortable talking about it with a friend who doesn’t always comment on their body but instead focuses on hobbies, interests, and life. That’s the kind of friend I would prefer to be.