The human body was built to change. We all know this. A healthy infant seems to grow almost overnight the first year; and for the rest of the human’s life, changes are inevitable. For all women, it seems, their bodies change with every birthday. Those changes are quite normal and part of the Intelligent Design process. Females are born with more fat cells in their hips, thighs, and buttocks. These fat cells are to help support the child-bearing years that usually occur between her 20s and into her upper 30s or early 40s. As a woman gains (or even maintains) weight during those years, the fat is usually distributed in those lower regions of her body. However, after 40 and beyond, hormone changes make the weight distribution shift to her upper belly—an area that some doctors call the “meno-pot.” In other words, from menopause and beyond, a woman’s shape may change from pear-shaped to apple-shaped without her permission.
Gravity is also a body-changer. We know this, too. Breasts, skin, and bellies start to pull down as the years go by. It’s during these aging years that many women develop negative feelings about their bodies—more than ever in their lives. According to statistics issued by the American Society of Plastic and Reconstruction Surgeons, body cosmetic surgery for women ages 51 to 64 has risen 47% in the past five years. The conclusion is that older women are struggling to live up to the standards set by her much younger counterparts. The call here is for women to try to let mind and body be at peace during life transitions. Besides hormonal and age changes, there are other factors that can determine a woman’s feelings about her own body.
Statistics show that one fourth of the women in America have been sexually molested as children. [i]Though nowadays there are laws and groups that are supposed to protect children from such abuse, it is still rampant primarily because most children do not tell anyone about it – ever. Sometimes there is disclosure but many years later – too late to stop the abuser before he (or she) has found other victims.
A girl who has been sexually abused will most likely have some adverse effects from it. A distorted body image will likely be one of them. The girl might hate her body and sometimes abuse it in her self-loathing. She might have low self-esteem because of the shame the abuse caused. Or a girl might start to believe that her self-worth is tied closely to her ability to please a sexual partner. Therefore, she may allow herself to go on “clearance” or “free to any taker.” Conversely, she may feel so devalued that she will take herself “off the market.” Her virtue has been exploited, but so has her self-esteem. We are now aware that girls and women are being sold into sexual slavery all over the world, so the sexual exploitation of females ranges from inappropriate touching to the marketing of girls as property.
In any case, her sense of worth is shaped and disfigured by psychological damage caused by an abuser. In various ways, a girl will try to take back control from her abuser by, perhaps, abusing herself, i.e. eating disorders, cutting, and disfigurement. I borrow from the book Becoming a Woman of Worth, where the author explains a lie she calls a “weed” of doubt and self-loathing that sends this message:
Since I am no good—I might as well be bad.
Since I am trash—I might as well act like it.
Since I will never measure up—I might as well give up now.[ii]
Although we don’t want to hear this, heredity plays a huge role in our own body types. We know this because we can see it everywhere, in ourselves and in others. Tall people usually have a tall ancestor or two in the family photo album. Curly hair, skin tone, prominent noses are obviously part of genetic makeup. High BMI (Body Mass Index) is sometimes handed down from mother to daughter, but only in about one-third of the cases, according a recent survey.[iii] It is clear that most of the hand-me-down weight issues relate to behavioral issues where lifestyle is more to blame.
So, is there anything we can do about the unsightly characteristics that make us loathe our bodies? Sure. Medical advances have made it possible to “fix” some things. However, what is the goal? Is it worth the pain and expense? And is boasting our “worth” part of the process?
STOP: •Have you become obsessed with your body—driving yourself to excessive exercise or depriving it of food for fear of gaining weight? If so, have you been diagnosed with anorexia or other body image disorders?
•Were you ever sexually molested or raped? If so, realize that this has probably skewed your view of your own image.
LIE: •My only worth is in my sex appeal.
•My body is loathsome because of my past sexual activity
•I must use my sex appeal to gain power.
TRUTH: “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NASB.[NA1]
[i] Excerpt From: James C. Dobson. “What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women.” iBooks.
[ii] Clark, Kristen Becoming Women of Worth: Stories of Hope & Faith, 2014