All right, ladies. It’s that time of year again. Time for the dreaded shopping for bathing suits. I don’t think I’ve ever met another woman who just LOVES to go shopping for a new bathing suit.
Nothing points out all of my flaws and insecurities about my body image more than squeezing into a teeny, tiny bathing suit that covers 3.7% of my skin. And just in case I didn’t catch every single imperfect spot, the changing room provides 15 different mirrors. All. The. Angles!
It is quite possibly my least favorite thing to do! EVER!!
I used to spend a couple of weeks with some new fitness regiment to tone up for summer. I would really watch what I ate, make sure I was drinking enough water, and spend some time in exercise, strategically targeting my “trouble spots.” I never thought twice about being more intentional so I “looked good” come summertime. Because if you look good, you feel good. Am I right?
But something happened to change those days…
Then, those girls started growing up.
Two summers ago, my oldest daughter and I were on our way out of town to visit a friend. While we were on the road we realized that we had forgotten to pack her bathing suit. Since we knew we would be swimming that trip, we stopped at the mall on the way out of town for her to pick out a new suit.
I quickly realized that shopping for my new bathing suit every summer was now my SECOND least favorite thing to do. The first of which is now to shop for my daughter’s new bathing suit.
She hated everything she tried on! It was the wrong color or the wrong pattern. Should she buy a one-piece or a tankini? She didn’t like the way the top looked or the way the bottom fit.
Torture, y’all! Pure torture.
I was trying really hard to bite my tongue, bring her countless new suits to try on, and reassure her after every suit that I liked that one too!
She was just not having it!
And then she did something that literally shattered my heart into a million and one pieces. She grabbed the little bit of extra skin around her perfect little belly and stared at her reflection in the mirror with complete and utter disgust.
She didn’t even say one word. She didn’t have to. Her eyes said it all. She was disgusted with herself! No suit looked good on her because, in her eyes, her body was not perfect.
The real kicker? She was 7 at the time. SEVEN! As in she still believed in the Tooth Fairy, and played Barbie dolls, and loved Play Doh. Seven!!!
I was heart-broken for my little girl that day. The whole exchange took about five seconds. But in those five seconds, I saw how much our culture idolizes our bodies. So much so that my seven year old, my healthy, very normal, active, beautiful, perfectly created seven year old, hated her body.
That five second exchange taught me a profound lesson. One I’ve thought about over and over ever since.
When I was working out hard-core every spring to have this perfect body on the beach, was I teaching her that she’s only perfect if she is super skinny? Was she learning that prettiness equals perfect thighs, no extra flab, and rock-hard abs?
Wait. Did I believe those things?
As I’ve revisited that day again and again in my mind, I’m angered at the way our culture has warped the minds of girls as young as 7. On every commercial, billboard, magazine cover, and TV show, we are bombarded with images of women who are tiny and airbrushed and perfect. And then we think that is normal! So we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves!
We work our butts off (literally!) in order to shed weight, tone up muscles, and strive to have a slimmer figure. I am guilty of the same. But in the process, I can’t help but think if I contributed to my baby girl’s complex.
Was I modeling for her an unhealthy balance of health versus vanity? Was I placing too much emphasis on diet and not enough on nutrition?
I’ve made a pact this year. I am NOT dieting for the summer.
Will I exercise? Sure! Will I be intentional about my water intake and resting enough? Absolutely! Will I fuel my body with foods that will give me energy? Yes!
Will I count calories? Nope. Will I take before and after measurements? Nope. Will I obsess about my pant size, weigh myself every morning, and refuse an ice cream treat with my girls? No, no, and no. (Can I tell you how freeing this is, by the way?)
Yes, we should take care of our bodies. No, we shouldn’t be gluttonous and say yes to ice cream every single day. Nor should we be so lax in our health that we sit in front of the TV every night, mindlessly munching on our treat of choice.
But our attention on our eating habits should be about our health instead of our waist-line.
This summer, my girls will have a mother who models health over dieting. They will learn that health and nutrition are about taking care of the body God has given us, whatever size or shape it may be. It is NOT about looking perfect in a bathing suit.
They will learn that we should exercise and drink plenty of water and fuel our bodies with healthy foods. Not because we want our bodies to LOOK a certain way. But because we want our bodies to FEEL a certain way.
Our bodies are a temple for the Lord. We should treat them with respect and honor as we use them to bring glory to God.
Lastly, they will learn that our body image should glorify God. Instead of idolizing our bodies the way the world does, we should recognize that everyone has flaws. Everyone has insecurities about their bodies. But God teaches us to focus on a different kind of beauty.
Today’s culture teaches our girls that beauty is tied to an unrealistic (and unhealthy!) body image. When in truth, beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit, kindness and humility. THOSE are the things I want my girls striving for!