From the Inside Out: Changing Body Image To Fit Our True Identity

Susan Narjala   |   March 7, 2018 

Every morning, I step on the weighing scale in my bathroom. Usually, I’m disappointed: the scale is supremely stubborn. It refuses to budge. On other days, I feel a sense of achievement: I’m 500 gms lighter and my self-confidence soars. I want to belt out some Mariah Cary, “And then a hero comes along, with the strength to carry on …” (An ode to my weighing scale).

Ever since high school, I’ve wanted to “be thin.” When I flip through my old journals, circa 1995, I see myself in the pages of 10th grade ramblings about boys, trips to the only mall that existed in Chennai back then …and, the ubiquitous, “I really need to lose some weight.”

When I look back at my pictures from high school, though, I see a bespectacled, cute teenager, sometimes sporting horrendous haircuts, but never really overweight.

Fast forward to today and I still struggle with body image. I go on and off diets with the frequency of flickering disco lights. My colleagues see me crunching through lettuce leaves like a disgruntled rabbit. On the other hand, I give Charlie (from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ fame) a run for his money, dedicating substantial real estate in my kitchen cupboards to candy.

As I approach the big 4-0, I know I’d better get my act together.

I ask myself: What’s my goal?

My response: To lose weight.

I continue to dialogue with myself. (Yup, I didn’t say I wasn’t nuts).

Can you be more specific?

Okay, I want to lose 5 kilos.

Why?

Because I want to be thin and wear nice clothes and not be conscious about my flaws.

Is there some fear or insecurity embedded in that goal?

Well, I’d rather not face up to it: But maybe I think people are judging me based on how I look. I feel like I don’t measure up.

Ah okay. Does your goal glorify God?

Nope.

Go on. Dig deeper. Why not?

Because it’s all about the world and me. What the world expects of me. How the world sees me.

How can you re-define that goal?

By bringing God into the picture. By making it about Him and me, rather than the world and me.

And that was my aha moment.

I’m here on earth to glorify God. I need to define each of my goals in the light of that overarching purpose.

So, my new, re-defined goal is as follows: I want to be full of energy and passion and positivity for the things that God has called me to.

Scripture reiterates that truth: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

Is there fear, insecurity or insecurity in that goal?

Nope. I’m called his “masterpiece.” And I’m a masterpiece that does more than sit placidly in a museum. I have a purpose. It’s a goal that frees me. It’s a goal that takes the pressure off of me.

So, I ask myself: What’s the game plan? How do I do this?

And I hear God speak: You don’t. You and I do this together.

Firstly, I know I need healing (as ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ as that concept might seem). I need healing from the labels that have been carelessly slapped on me, the comments that have pricked me, the many, many failed attempts at being “thin.”  And I know the safest place for wholeness and healing is Jesus.

I come to Him and I share the seemingly insignificant. I tell him the scars and wounds of daily living. He understands.

And then He says: Do you know how I see you?

How, God?

I see you as beautiful and redeemed and perfect and enough. I see you as cherished and fit for my kingdom. I see you as my child. Now see yourself through my eyes.

And that’s where I need to dwell. Seeing myself as God sees me.

No one meets a goal by beating themselves up. Or by feeding themselves the negativity the world has to offer. That may work for the short term. But then the pressure mounts. You become nauseous with exhaustion and ready to throw in the towel.

But inviting God into the picture changes that. It may seem awkward, at first. God and fitness are supposed to be mutually exclusive, right?

Maybe not.

Scripture tells us that He created us and knit us together. No one knows the our physical bodies better than our Creator.  It says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we need to honour God with our bodies.

I go to Him again and ask: How do I do this?

He says to invite Him to my meals – even to my snack time!

He says to enjoy the good food He’s given me. To not cast certain foods as villains but neither to overindulge. But to give thanks and savour the good and nutritious things He has blessed us with.

The sour-sweetness of a ruby red apple. The smoky crunch of almonds. The lusciousness of a ripe mango. Heck, even the smoothness of that piece of dark chocolate.

I need to allow real food to nourish me and fuel me so I can be who God created me to be.

I invite God into my weaknesses. You know, those times when I wolf down three bars of Kit Kat because I’m drained and irritated and feeling like nothing is going right. That’s when the world says: Three bars of chocolate will make you feel better.

But God says, come to Me first. Invite Me into those weak spots because in your weakness My strength is made perfect.

And, yes, there’ll be times I slip up. Those are times when I won’t beat myself up because my ultimate goal is not being skinny… It is glorifying God in the role He has for me, with the passion and energy He has for me.

I don’t speak negatively about my body – however habitual it may be.

I make new habits and new routines – and I invite God into every aspect of my goal and its unfolding.

I don’t count calories, I count my worth.

I don’t cut out carbs. I cut out criticism and negativity.

And I see myself as God sees me.

I see myself with the potential to live more freely and more fully.

And, through it all, I realise that true change happens from the inside out.

 

 

Photo by Eszter Biró on Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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11 comments on “From the Inside Out: Changing Body Image To Fit Our True Identity”

  1. So beautifully written Susan.Very apt at this point of my life too.Made me feel so much better through the words spoken right from your heart.It reached mine.

    1. Thanks so much, Anjana! I felt a little extra vulnerable posting this article. But I think it's worth it if it touched your heart 🙂

  2. Wow Suzan! Amen and Amen! Wow! Where have you been all my life? The bible reading plan (Finding rest.....)led me all the way here! Grateful...

    1. Haha! I know. Hopefully, we write a better story for the future, especially for our girls. And, yes, miss whining about the food we shouldn't eat but eat anyway! Take care!

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