This summer, my four-year-old cousin refused to show me her stomach, claiming that she was wearing a one-piece bathing suit because she was too “fat” for a two-piece.
When I heard that, I realized that there is a huge problem with the way that we all treat ourselves. By we, I mean human beings. And especially young girls and women.
My cousin, I’ll repeat, is four. How does she even know the word “fat”? While she will probably (God willing) forget this memory, it will stick with me for a long time.
I’ve heard far too many people I care about call themselves fat, put themselves down for how their bodies look, and do (at best) unnecessary and (at worst) harmful things to change the way that they look. It is so painful to see someone be self-destructive for the sake of “beauty.”
And that’s because I am probably the worst perpetrator of it. I’ve been there.
When I was in high school, I was the girl restricting my caloric intake and spending my evenings walking or running on the treadmill to burn off the small amount of calories that I actually let into my body; I was there. When I ate things that I didn’t want to eat in a vain attempt to lose weight, I was there. And most of all, when I cried in my bedroom because I weighed a hundred and fifteen pounds or so and didn’t know how to maintain it, and then again when I gained five pounds and could barely handle it, I was there.
So when I see someone else repeating those patterns or thinking that their bodies are not good enough, I’m really right beside them, hurting because I know they are hurting.
Just as Jesus is at my side, hurting because He has seen me hurt, and His love is so great that my suffering is His suffering, too. The way that it pains me when I see younger girls (and boys) getting down on themselves is how I imagine Christ looked at me during my lowest point.
As I write this, a significant (and healthy) weight gain is only one of the things standing between me and that girl I used to be. I also have had my confidence and self-worth reinforced, and, most importantly, renewed my relationship with Christ.
The good news: I am so much healthier now. The bad news: I fought with my body for a long time. I sometimes still fight with my body, seeing it not as a gift from God but as an obstacle to overcome in pursuit of pretty.
I absolutely abhor the idea that anyone else would do the same things that I did. That anyone else treats their body as anything less than a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Because that’s what it is, plain and simple.
So I’d like to take this chance to say this to my younger sisters, cousins, campers, GOYAns, and anyone who has felt badly about their bodies: “Skinny” is this weird and elusive thing that I can assure you that you will never reach. You will never be happy if you are striving to have a “perfect” body. This is not the perfection you were meant for. You are meant to appreciate the body that Christ gave you because He gave it to you and He only makes good things. You’re not meant to desecrate it or tear it apart with unkind thoughts, words, and actions; not meant to make it anything other than a vessel of grace.
Your worldview should not be shaped by the words “fat” and “skinny” and what you see on social media. Your worldview should be shaped by Jesus Christ. I would much rather you worship Christ than “skinny,” and work on your relationship with Him in order to not ruin your relationship with food and working out and the many other things that being obsessed with your weight will ruin.
Throughout this very, VERY slow process, I am learning to appreciate the body that Christ gave me simply by virtue of the fact that He gave it to me. And it contains His body and blood! I can’t fathom the idea that I have treated myself so badly when Christ lives in me.
Please, if you are struggling with body image, know you are not alone. I was there, I am there. But also know that you are loved by Christ and meant for His goodness. There is nothing truer. I will always be grateful that He has helped me realize that my body is sacred and His, and I am trying now to treat it that way. Try with me.
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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.