Warning: this post is about body dysmorphia and orthorexia nervosa
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): this when you become fixated on an imperfection or obsess over a certain part of your body. It could be a freckle, your legs, your cheeks, your tummy, your nose, or your teeth etc. and it is the only thing you can see when you look in the mirror. This can also disguise itself with the obsession of being skinny. “These obsessive and controlling thoughts can lead you to spend exorbitant amounts of time trying to cover or conceal the flaw, to seek verbal approval of your looks, even though you are not likely to believe what people tell you, to socially withdraw, and to have thoughts of suicide” (Arnold Lieber, MD).
Orthorexia Nervosa: this is the obsession of clean eating and fixation on healthy foods. Some signs of this are feeling shame when eating “bad” food, judging others who do not eat what you eat, and feeling “in control” when you eat the foods you deem healthy. Dr. Christina Gregory adds,
- “Severe restriction of types of food consumed. This is due to excessive reductions in the number of foods deemed acceptable to your diet. Many times, individuals suffering from Orthorexia Nervosa limit their food consumption to 10 or less different types of foods.
- Avoiding foods due to food allergies that have not been medically diagnosed.
- Significant increase in the consumption of probiotics, herbal remedies, and other supplements thought to have healthy effects on the body.”
This may also include under-eating, lying about eating when you haven’t, or obsessing over ingredients.
I want to write an honest post to the girls out there reading this. I want to start off by saying, I still intend to workout, take care of myself, and challenge myself with personal goals. With that said, I want to reshape our mindsets amid getting healthy. The point of this post is to encourage you to embrace the body and face that your Creator gave you.
Have you ever been with your friends enjoying a day in the sunshine in your swimsuits with nothing but the blue ocean to enjoy? Everything is fine until you take off your beach cover ups… (If you are a girl, no matter your body type, you know what comes next.) Instant comparison, insecure comments, side eyes, humble brags, and increased heart rate. Every time I am in a bathing suit, and I am not in the shape I’d like to be in, I grab my belly and proclaim I have a food baby.
When I worked in a restaurant, my jeans would always rip between my inner thighs because I have soccer legs, and people didn’t see it because I wore an apron. There was a time in my life where I only ate smoothies and clean protein to lean out. An acquaintance of mine used to only eat celery and water (yum…)
My last apartment in college had a tanning bed, and I used to lay in it at least 3X a month and got skin cancer… so I am the first to admit that I have tried fixing something I didn’t like. I have always been pale, whereas my sister has beautiful olive skin. Boom comparison. But now I have a big keloid scar on my shoulder as a reminder to not take extreme measures to be like someone else. What even.
Why do I bring this up? Because I am a girl who struggles with both disorders listed above, and the more I research them… the more I am convinced. Perhaps you do too.
The worst of it all: at some time in our life, we have all thought “well, at least I don’t have so and so’s body or (fill in the blank)” in order to make ourselves feel better. What the CRAP type of thinking is that? Now if this is just me, you can stop reading now. But if you identify with this feeling… keep reading.
You see, whether we want to openly admit it or not, we all wish we could change something on our bodies.
- Toned legs
- Smaller tummy
- Bigger breasts
- Smaller breasts
- Tanner skin
- Smaller nose
- Cuter feet
- Less body hair
- Less freckles
- Smaller toned arms
- Bigger buttocks
- No rolls when sitting down (in what world is that possible btw)
- Less cellulite
And millions more.
Most of us girls would rather deal with all the above in private so that there is a noticeable difference in public. Taking care of these “issues” could include an increase of diuretics/laxatives, tanning beds/spray tans, breast implants, laser hair removal, or over exercising. I am not hating on all these technologies and enhancements; I am just a girl, so I know these are the things we barter with on the reg. This is not to condemn you for considering these options, but to get to the heart of why we feel compelled to take such drastic obsessive steps.
We all know if we get the boob job, laser hair removal, Botox, or spray tan, we will just fixate on something else to change on ourselves. If that weren’t true, we would have all stopped after braces. Let’s all LOL that we thought straight teeth would make us feel prettier.
“Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes [desires]”. Proverbs 27:20
Plan of Attack:
Most doctors, based on the research I’ve completed, advise counseling or medication for these disorders. I am a little non-conventional and think we can combat these disorders with something a bit more heavenly. Anytime you try to rid yourself of a bad habit or bad thought, you must replace it with a good thought or habit. So, I think the best defense we have is to replace our low self-esteem with life giving truth. Not only do our mindsets need changing, but we must recognize that our bodies are going to change from mortal to immortal.
“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:43-44
This verse proves that we are an unfinished work and that it’s only natural to crave perfection or completion. I think when we look in the mirror, we try to find what we are lacking because it is natural in our sin to do so. I think when we look at other girls, we spot what we think is “perfect” on them and grow jealous of their perfection. You see, I think we are all on the brink of perfection. Our perspective only allows for us to see everyone else’s seemingly “perfect” lives, complexion, body, face, or hair. But what we don’t see is the pieces of perfection scattered inside of our broken lives, that will one day be completed when the last trumpet sounds. I guess one way of putting it, we all have potential, but we are not complete. Just like an acorn when planted has the potential to grow into an oak tree. Our bodies have been sown natural, but will be raised in power and glory, raised to perfection. We are still under soil, craving light and water. We know what we could be, but this world won’t allow it. We were made for a different world, a perfect one.
But how does that help us now? Therapy seems easier than this line of thinking, am I right?
We must start seeing this world as a fleeting world, the kind where people get breast implant-illness, anorexia, thoughts of suicide, and skin cancer from sun damage. The kind of world where we think other people don’t struggle, so we make irrational comments that bring immense amount of self-doubt and comparison.
We must fix our thoughts DAILY on pursuing the kingdom and its work. Here’s a quick exercise. Next time you are in a swimsuit or bra and underwear, look at yourself, flaws and all, and ask yourself how this body can affect the kingdom today. Instead of scrutinizing yourself for not having a thigh gap and for having noticeable stretch marks, how about asking God how you can be stretched to make other people’s lives feel closer to the kingdom at hand?
Maybe you need a more practical exercise. Put a sheet over your mirrors. Delete your Instagram. Eat a piece of chocolate. Throw your laxatives away. Fix your gaze. The main issue with these disorders, is we neglect the fact that they all stem from the self. We view our lives through selfish ambition, impractical expectations, and self-loathing thoughts. The girl next to you with the “better” body is not to blame for this. It’s the thoughts about yourself and the enemy’s assault on your beauty that hinders you from being free and self confident.
God knew we would need to be delivered from sin and death, but He also knew we needed liberation from our natural and fleeting bodies. It is repeated all throughout Scripture, that the former things will be made new again. It is part of our redemption story. Your desire to look perfect is only natural, but the enemy has distorted the image of perfection. The fruit he tempts you with might not be a fruit at all, but maybe he taunts you with an idea of false perfection. The kind you get from starving yourself, instead of the kind that makes you more in the image of Christ.
If you are a believer, you will receive a new body. A perfect one. The one you have been craving here on earth; the one you thought your friend had only to find out you had it all along just incomplete. The body you were meant to have. Stop bullying yourself, you have plenty of people in your circle who will do that for you. Instead, armor up, speak life, and accept the fact that your body won’t be perfect until the last trumpet sounds.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—
in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-58
*as always, I am not a licensed professional, nor do I pretend to know the ins and outs of your struggles, only my own. I am just self-medicating and giving you access to my deep thoughts.
1 Corinthians 15
Lieber, A., MD. (2018, November 18). What It’s Like to Suffer Daily With Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from https://www.psycom.net/eating-disorders/body-dysmorphic-disorder
Gregory, C., PhD. (2018, November 25). Orthorexia Nervosa: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from https://www.psycom.net/eating-disorders/orthorexia/