Thursday, August 14, 2008

Body image & it's psychological aspects from a Christian perspective

Breaking Free
How we can love our own identities
Q & A with Dr. Linda Mintle
August 13, 2008

How can we practice self-care in moderation? "Just five more pounds" is most women's mantra. But you shouldn't try to lose weight unless you're mentally, spiritually, and physically ready to change your lifestyle. Diets don't work. A study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington showed yo-yo dieting negatively impacts the immune system. And we're all familiar with the frustration of losing and gaining weight. So it takes a mental toll, too.

Then should we fight or accept those pounds? If you need to lose a few pounds, do it sensibly. Cut back on portion sizes; walk more; drink plenty of water. And be sure to check with your physician—especially if you need to lose a larger amount of weight. But if it's simply an extra 10 or 15 pounds that won't go away, then maybe it's time just to accept them. Get off the scales and on with your life!

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Taking Control of Our Thoughts
How can we overcome the propensity toward obsessing about our appearance? The key is to be aware of our thoughts and stop those that don't align with God's.

That sounds easy, but it isn't always. How exactly can we control our rogue thoughts? We need to make a conscious, daily effort to renew our minds with the truth of God's Word. I love to read the Psalms because God speaks so personally to our distress. And I like to insert my name in Ephesians 1:4: "Long before he laid down the earth's foundations, he had Linda in mind, had settled on Linda as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love" (THE MESSAGE). If I don't stay grounded in Scripture, I can easily start to feel inadequate based on what I see in the culture around me.

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When did your insecurities finally diminish? In my early 40s, when I was worshiping God during a church service, I heard the Holy Spirit speak my name. Linda. That name means "beautiful" in Spanish, and that's how I see you—beautiful. No matter how many times others had told me I was beautiful, I had to hear it from God.

Something clicked, and I felt the burden of my negative body image leave. Then God reminded me of his words in Isaiah 43:1: "'I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine" (NKJV). That was such a freeing experience. When I realized
I was God's good idea and my design wasn't a mistake, I accepted my body.

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Covering Up Our Struggles
Are appearance issues more difficult for Christian women? Using food to cope with loss or change seems to be more acceptable than using drugs or alcohol to numb our feelings. Food is an acceptable addiction in the church.

Why don't Christians usually condemn the misuse of food? Because sharing meals is biblical. Jesus "broke bread" with his disciples, performed miracles with food, and gathered with friends to eat. Food is also one way the church community expresses care and love. When someone is ill, we take her a meal. The church fellowship time on Sunday morning often includes pastries and coffee. Many large churches have caf├ęs and food courts.

But when food takes on meaning it was never intended to have, it becomes a problem.

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working on the outside without addressing the inside doesn't work long term.

Too many of us allow the physical to distract us from the emotional, relational, and spiritual aspects of our lives. We can easily assess and correct appearance in the mirror. But we tend to avoid working on invisible emotional pain because we fear we won't be able to resolve it. So we let our outer beauty cover up inner struggles.

When we read God's Word, listen to his voice, and pray, he changes us. Altering the physical doesn't fix the internal. Only Jesus can set us free from our insecurities.

For more information on Dr. Linda,visit

Beauty by the Book

For more on weight and self-esteem, check out these resources:

  • Breaking Free from Negative Self-Image by Linda Mintle

  • Do You Think I'm Beautiful? by Angela Thomas

  • Making Peace with Your Thighs by Linda Mintle

  • You Are Not What You Weigh by Lisa Bevere

  • National Eating Disorders Association:

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