The Christian call to address body positivity

Magazine displays and Instagram timelines constantly feed us with smiling men and women portraying idealized American bodies. Today, social media images engulf people of all ages. What he or she reads, sees and hears affects the “ideal” body image.  With media regulating who and what people see, occasionally audiences view a wide range of people; however, there is not enough coverage of positive body-image and it impacts the way so many people view themselves and their body.

The problem with social media and campaigns promoting beauty products is that they use models who have been airbrushed, touched-up, and slimmed to meet the qualifications of a front-page story. A Dove Evolution film highlighted the intense process of transformation for these models in a matter of 75 seconds, revealing “the number of people (e.g., make-up artists, hair stylists) involved to cover blemishes, even the skin tone, apply copious make-up, and highlight and style the woman’s hair – and that is mere preparation for retouching her photographed image by lengthening her neck,” according to Research Directions in Social Media and Body Image. Partly due to this unrealistic image of the models, Americans struggle with body image and self-esteem.

Almost 10 million women and one million men struggle with eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. Eating disorders, compulsive exercising, cosmetic surgery, and the use of steroids or supplements to build muscle are some examples of  negative body image side effects.

As a Christian, it’s important to meet people where they are at. The church is missing out on the opportunity to be vulnerable and listen, which is why body image struggles are important topics to discuss amongst believers. In the instance of self-image, we need to recognize that although someone may not be medically classified as obese, they still face negative emotions about their body.  Listening to their issues and not belittling them just because of their weight is an important part of the process.  The church  should allow people to be upset about their past and struggle with the parts they dislike about themselves. 

Although negative body image is an issue in our culture, each individual struggles with something different, and we need to recognize that everyone’s struggle is unique.   We should fight our insecurities because God made us in his image.  He gave us these bodies and we should do our best to treat it accordingly by improving everyone’s body image, from teens to parents.  Everyone faces their own struggle, so although there are similar struggles between people, we need to pay attention to individual voices and make sure we don’t discredit their suffering just because it’s different than our own.  We should love what God has given us because our body is His creation.