I was mortified when my ex-boyfriend grabbed my thigh and said (regarding my leg), “This could feed a family of five!” At age 24, 5 feet, 7 inches and 140 pounds and size 10 (well within a healthy range), I believed his constant belittling and insults regarding my body. I thought I was grossly overweight due to his comments. I never had any men make derogatory comments before I met him. Now, you know why he’s an ex. I had always been very slim as a child and teenager, but since becoming a woman, I had gained a few pounds and became naturally curvy. Thankfully, I didn’t become anorexic (by the grace of God) because I realized that he was the one with the issues.
Media and comments from males tend to fuel the anorexic and bulimic tendencies. Jane Fonda became anorexic after she heard her father make derogatory comments about overweight women. My ex also was addicted to pornographic magazines, which caused him to judge women by how closely they resembled the air-brushed centerfolds. If they were curvy/average/normal size, he would consider them overweight. My ex, sadly, isn’t alone. He’s one of millions of men who have bought into the lie that a woman is only visually appealing if she fits into the unrealistic media mold.
Instead of accepting women of various sizes and shapes, pornography (and other media) distorts millions of men’s perception of women as sex objects. “Pornography itself is about the objectification of women. In this context women are treated as things, receptacles and socially dissociated objects to be used and tossed aside” (Formica, 2008, para. 4). Basically, pornography and other media program people to epitomize an unrealistic image of what women “ought” to appear like and if women don’t measure up to that icon, then people reject their own bodies as well as of their loved ones.
The United States leads the way in the number of girls dissatisfied with their bodies who resort to dieting, anorexia and bulimia (Pappalia and Feldman, 2011, p. 406). This country epitomizes unrealistically thin actresses and models. When women look at their natural curves, they become depressed. That depression, unfortunately manifests itself in anorexic and bulimic disorders (or at least dissatisfaction) in such that girls/women will use diuretics, laxatives, and gagging themselves to purge themselves of food (Papalia and Feldman, 2011, p. 407) to curtail healthy weight gain.
It is so liberating to know that God’s viewpoints and standards are such that a person’s appearance means literally nothing compared to the inner person: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God is able to free the millions of people who are enslaved to the bondage of image-perfection by helping them to accept themselves and others in view of the many scriptures that place greater emphasis upon actions rather than appearances. Thankfully, there are a growing number of Christian organizations such as http://www.eatingsdisorders.com which can help women battle and overcome their addiction or aversion to food and eating disorders due to negative self-image.
Children (especially girls) need to be encouraged that they are beautifully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:7) by God just the way they are. They need to be loved by their parent(s) and feel acceptance, rather than shame and guilt for their body image. So many girls grow up with a deep sense of insecurity (self-included) because they feel they don’t measure up to their parent’s (or other media/male) standards in regards to body type. If there is a father (or stepfather) in the girl’s life, he should be a healthy role model by reassuring, comforting, and valuing his daughter for who she is and not what she looks like so that she can choose a man (when she grows up) who will likewise value her for her inner beauty the way the Lord intends.
Bible, The (NIV). (2002). Zondervan NIV Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Formica, M. J. (2008, August 22). Pornography, Emotional Availability and Female Objectification. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 2, 2012, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/enlightened-living/200808/pornography-emotional-availability-and-female-objectification
Papalia, D. E. (2011). Physical Development and Health in Adolescence. In A Child’s World: Infancy through Adolescence. (12th ed.). (p. 406). New York, New York: McGraw-Hill.
Women Struggling with Food. (2011, January 1). Eating Disorders . Retrieved March 2, 2012, from http://eatingsdisorders.com