I started this blog to write about the ways we can grow as “Proverbial” women, and I promise once I get more energy, I’ll post more articles than just link-ups. So today, I want to focus on Proverbs 31:17 “She girds herself with strength; she exerts her arms with vigor” and its relation to a topic that’s been on my heart lately: Women. And weight.
Bear with me. I know this is a sensitive subject. But I think sometimes we (and society) do not realize how seemingly innocuous comments denigrate the dignity we each have–and that even though our bodies and souls are temples of the Holy Spirit and should be cared for, we sometimes make the mistake of focusing too much on our earthly bodies.
On my What I Wore Sunday posts, I’ve gotten some nice compliments about figure-flattering outfits, and I do appreciate them. But since there are so many messages about weight, physique, body shape, etc., I still sometimes get a mental complex about body image (especially when Proverbial Mom teasingly pinches my muffin top). No matter what size dress any woman wears, what bone structure she has, what physiological processes or conditions affect her metabolic rate, she is a person made in the image of God and should be treated as such. So here’s some phrases I hope no one has to hear anymore:
“OMG! You’re so skinny!”
I wonder: why is my physique the first thing this former classmate, old acquaintance, or rarely seen relative comments on? Aren’t I more than my body? Now, they may just want to compliment me. But why is being a certain dress size something to congratulate? how are women supposed to respond to this? More often than not, we defer to humility or qualify it: “Yeah, but I probably have all that dangerous hidden fat/high cholesterol.” If you think about it, if you wouldn’t go around exclaiming about a friend’s size if they were not a size 6 or below because it’s rude to comment on someone’s weight, then the same applies to the small-boned: it’s rude to comment about someone’s weight.
“OMG! Have you lost weight?!? You look good!”
Again, person on the street thinks they’re being complimentary. But honestly, there’s a subtext there. To the recipient of this message, they could be thinking “So, you think I had weight to lose. I didn’t look good before,” and other such things that only perpetuate the damaging myth that certain physiques are more preferable, more aesthetically pleasing, more acceptable than others. And that is not how we are called to see one another.
“Oh, she can have the last (her second) piece of cake; she needs it/can afford it/won’t mean a thing.”
Since when does anyone need additional sugar, saturated fat, and more empty calories? While I can appreciate that again, the co-worker at the office party might be trying to say “you’re skinny, and can use more meat on your bones!” as a compliment. But the subtext of what she’s saying is “I have meat on my bones and don’t want anymore.” Ladies, that doesn’t make sense. Healthy is what is needed and good. Someone exercising temperance–even if she can “afford” not to–is not something to override. Also, if doctors tell you to gain more weight (for a surgery, balance after an illness, etc.), it’s not by gorging on sweets and treats…
Loud and/or frequent proclamations against eating any cake, ever.
On the flip-side, there is also sometimes nutritional sanctimony. There is appropriate giving reason for your hope and then there is annoying lecturing that only serves to dash the hopes of the co-worker indulging in her birthday treat. By now, I think enough of us are aware of what we are putting into our bodies and should be trusted that we have enough prudence to have our cake and eat it, too. Healthy is good, but you can be healthy and still indulge in treats. Obsession over type and quality of food (unless meticulously avoiding things due to allergies) is actually unhealthy.
Regular, consistent status updates of workout routines, calories burned, sizes dropped.
Yes, getting healthy is a worthy goal, and should be encouraged and supported. it’s understandable to be excited about progress with fitness. But unnecessarily calling attention to one’s diet as a cosmetic or superficial thing only reinforces the notion that one way of being is more desirable than other.
“I wish I were a size [single-digit].”
Girlfriends, please do not rue a number or feel poorly about yourselves because you don’t fit some arbitrary scale that is getting more and more disproportionate. I think there’s truth to the notion that most women, regardless of size, have had their brains warped by media and culture to always want to be something else–whether it’s to be the size double-0 or a curvy 8 (especially if the smaller sizes are never left over to be put on sale. True story). I am a particular “desired” size, but I get out of breath running two blocks for the bus. A friend of mine is healthy and one particular dress size. The bridesmaid dress company told her that on their scale, she was actually nearly three sizes larger and was therefore charged an additional fee. *Smacks forehead.* We are made in His image. If for health reasons you are concerned, speak with a doctor about health and fitness, but never wish that you are anything other than the woman God made you to be, which is not based on a size.
From a man: “I love a woman with curves”; “more cushion for the pushing” (SHUDDER); “I like big butts and I cannot lie.” OR the converse: “she’s so flexible!” “She’s…bendy…” “She does Pilates. Strengthens her core. So hot.”
I saved the worst for last. DUDE, NO! I think the absolute worst words about weights and bodies are when people relate them to sex and desirability for union. The fact that someone would emphasize such things demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about the dignity of the human person and the spirituality and purpose of the marriage act. Not only that, it is in my humble opinion that men do not get to say anything about a women’s body shape or size, unless they are a concerned husband or father and gently pointing out health issues. Yes, we can glorify God with our bodies, which were designed to communicate the truth about God, but we should use them to inappropriately glorify sex nor to use another person (excepting an unborn child) as our only motivation for treating our bodies well.
Thanks for reading through to the end, if you’ve made it this far. Below are some things to check out if you’re concerned with this issue. If I’ve misrepresented anything, or was unintentionally uncharitable, please let me know, so I may correct it.