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Stop Hating Your Imperfect Body

By Linda S. Mintle, Ph.D.

Why is it that so many of us hate our bodies? The mirror is our enemy and we avoid it on “fat” days. We’d like better legs, fuller busts, more hair or straighter teeth. We don’t feel good about ourselves because our self-esteem is somehow related to our body image. And when we don’t feel good about ourselves, it’s hard to develop meaningful relationships with others.

Magazines keep us knowledgeable about the latest dieting fads, and then tempt us with exotic cuisine that even the strongest can’t resist. Plastic surgeons suggest we take action against those specific body parts we don’t like. Models keep getting thinner despite our ever-growing concern about eating disorders. Women still go on dates and salivate over the steak he’s eating while trying to enjoy the lite salad ordered. Research actually shows that men find women who eat small meals on dates more attractive and more feminine. It’s crazy!

When you talk to men and women, more than half of both genders would choose a different body. And they don’t want to wait until they get to heaven to have it! People are willing to try anything–medications, hypnosis, fad diets, liquid diets, surgery—whatever it takes to even approximate our fashion model look.

What happened to the importance of inner beauty? We know that Christ looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. So why are we all so enslaved to the way we look?

One thought is that the narcissistic preoccupation people have with looking beautiful prevents them from dealing with more difficult aspects of the self. It’s easier, for example, to redo a hairstyle five times than resolve conflict with a mother. We can spend time shopping for shoes but find it difficult to spend time reading with our children. The art of make-up can be mastered far before we master stress.

Sometimes hating the body results from being teased as a child or from having a parent who criticized your appearance growing up. Several of my eating disorder patients recall painful emotional experiences from being overweight. Social rejection is not easy when it’s based on appearance.

I was surprised recently by how many adult women in my Bible study still held on to painful memories of childhood teasing related to appearance. One woman, who has a beautiful upturned nose, hated 5th grade because her classmates regularly made fun of her nose. Another can recall the pain of being overweight and teased as if it was yesterday. She still sees herself as that overweight child who wants to hide from the world.

We only have one body to work with while on Earth. We can hate it and obsess on it, or use that time to developing other parts of our selves. Body obsession is a distraction from the more important aspects of the self. Outer beauty is only a façade that often hides the deeper character issues of a person. Instead of spending time painstakingly applying make-up, use that time to become more intimate with God. He loves you unconditionally and doesn’t care what you look like on the outside. He wants your time to be devoted to things that bring eternal significance, not waste time hating a body that never measures.

© Linda S. Mintle. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Dr. Linda Mintle not only specializes in the treatment of food, weight and body image, but is also well-trained in marital and family relationships. Her training includes two post graduate externships in marriage and family therapy—one at the Family Therapy Practice Center in Georgetown with internationally known therapist, Marianne Walters; and the other at Eastern Virginia Family Therapy Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Learn more at Dr. Linda Helps.