How Jenna Kutcher broke the internet
A fresh perspective on body image
By now, you've all seen this photo blowing up the internet:
To be honest, I hard studied it when I first saw it, too! I won't even pretend to have some holy excuse as to why I was fascinated with this post and the intense popularity it received.
I was fascinated because my mind has been so conditioned by society to think that a dude who looks like a fitness model would not be attracted to a woman who is curvy.
I'M SO WRONG!!!
Society is so wrong.
Culture keeps feeding us this giant load of ((whatever the Christiany word for crap is)).
So thank you, Jenna Kutcher for round-house kicking us all with the pic. You've made me question my initial reservation and come face-to-face with cultural weeds that are still embedded in my head.
Over the last week, I haven't just thought about this pic. I've prayed about it. I've prayed over my own reactions and some of the ugly, nasty reactions of internet trolls. And the question that keeps popping in my head is:
Where did we go so wrong?
I'd like to take you on a journey with me of examining a godly perspective on body image. But before I do, I'd like to tell you my personal issues with body image.
Growing up, my parents didn't have a good relationship with food. Frankly, our home was a negative, crazy one, and they took out their struggles on food -- each in their own way. One of my parents compulsively ate sugar: cakes, candies, cookies. (The holy trinity of sweets, right?) As a result, she ended up with adult-onset diabetes and the onslaught of meds that came with managing her condition. Her weight fluctuated a lot, but over time she managed to stabilize her emotional relationship with food and eventually get off the meds. (PTL for miracles!!)
My other parent had a pretty negative relationship with food. When life was spiraling out of control, he became very obsessive with losing weight and staying very thin. It was his way of controlling just a portion of his life while everything else was uncontrollable.
In my adult years, I've found myself with both unhealthy mindsetswarringagainst each other.
In my early twenties, I binge ate and binge drank. My fave foods were Oreo's and vodka. I took out all of my emotions on those two "foods". I ate real meals sometimes...maybe once a day, maybe not. But I ate sweets and drank alcohol every single day, for hours into the night. I was working out, and I had a young metabolism, so on the outside, it looked like I was fine. Only my roommate knew my binging habits.
Fast forward to...
A few years ago, I was working out 8 hours per week. Intense, sweaty, tough workouts. I was obsessed with my body, and all I wanted to talk about was working out, meal prepping, and BROTEIN! Duh. I was physically as healthy as I'd ever been. Strongest. Leanest. And you know why? Because I hated the person I was. When I looked in the mirror, I saw someone unworthy of love because of past sins. I thought if I at least had a sexy body, it would distract from the wretched heart I had.
When I say I was obsessed with my body before, I mean it! Not in the sense of: "I'm obsessed with Taylor Swift and pizza and the beach". I mean: "I'm declining friend dates to workout. I'm missing birthday parties to avoid the temptation of bad foods. I'm not listening in conversations because I'm analyzing my performance in my last workout. I'm neglecting my prayer life to wake up early to workout."
It was so unhealthy, and my mind was so fixated on that one thing: a perfect body. At one point, I actually thought about becoming a Personal Trainer...which, I now realize would have made me so unhappy!
You see, any obsession can become a drug. You're thinking about it all the time. You just want another hit to make you feel better. You pull away from people so you can spend more time with that thing.
In the last couple of years, I've evolved into a much healthier mindset. I workout 3 hours per week, and I eat healthy 70% of the time. (I'd like that to be 80%, but it's fine!) The main change has been a drastic decrease in the amount of time I think about my body.
Yes, my body is important, but it isn't a top priority. It isn't the thing I should spend the majority of my thought-life on.
I have this funny scenario that keeps rolling around in my mind. Surely there's a GIF that captures this idea, but until then...
What if when we get to Heaven, God recapps our human thought-life to us? He says, "Here's how you used your brain capacity on earth:
2,783 hours thinking about your family
15,028 hours thinking about your career
105 hours thinking about charitable causes
97,958 hours thinking about your looks(makeup, hair, body fat, thigh gap, unwanted facial hair, etc. etc.)
Isn't it humorous to ponder?
If you're like me and you're really fed up with the obsession over body image, I'd like to offer fresh, godly perspective on the cultural obsession over physical bodies.
3 Thoughts on Body Image:
1. You are not a body, you are a soul.
(This is a paraphrase of a quote by the writer George MacDonald. His original quote is, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.")
As a society, we put so much weight on a person's weight. But God is solely-focused on your soul. (I <3 puns.) Where are you spending eternity? Are you living in Heaven on earth with the Holy Spirit directing your mind? Or is your mind a prison cell for your tortured soul, where you're mentally pinching your fat all the time?
2. Body image should be seen through the lens of health, not the mirror.
If we're going to have a healthy mindset on body image, we've got to quit depending on our eyes to judge our bodies. Your body wasn't created to be a stagnant piece of art. It was created to house you while you LIVE LIFE! Personally, I don't want my body to be a thing that's "hot" so that I or anyone else can gawk at and feel jealousy, anger, insecurity...even pride. I want my body to last for the next 90 years so I can do cartwheels in the front yard with my great grand-children one day.
We need to reset our body goals from being mirror-focused (how I look) to health-focused (how I physically am). And we need to give ourselves grace in reaching those goals. Here's a new perspective for us all:
How often do we thank our bodies for moving and feeling good? How often do you thank your elbow and shoulder for working properly so you can lift your coffee mug to your face? It's only after something is lost that we miss it. So today, thank your body for all the things it can DO, and you will ward off the focus from the way your body LOOKS. Begin to appreciate your body for its healthiness.
3. Societal obsession with physical bodies directly opposes biblical marriage.
When you look at this photo to the right, do you see a man who is suffering through a marriage to someone less than he?
Because you'd be terribly flawed in thinking that. Love isn't two bodies coming together, as I believed in my younger years. I looked for love between the sheets, and it was never to be found. Love isn't two bodies uniting; love is two souls uniting.
Biblical marriage occurs when two people commit to the Lord their entire lives to unity. In direct opposition to this idea stands our cultural norms: casual sex, lust, porn, advertisements that are practically pornographic, hookup apps, and body obsession. Because of all the aforementioned sins, we are being trained to think that marriage is, "In health, but not in sickness. For richer, but not for poorer. In my happiness, but not in unhappiness. As long as we're equally hot, but not if you gain weight quicker than I do."
If you forget everything else I just said...well, such is life. But I hope you'll remember what I'm about to say next. While contemplating this IG post, I realized how Jenna Kutcher blew up the internet with her simple photo of a walk on the beach with her husband. We are fixated on this post because:
Deep down, at the end of the day, we all want to know we're worthy of love.
Turns out our body obsession isn't about bodies at all. It's about worthiness.
Today's culture says you're worthy of love IF...
You're skinny enough. You're thick enough. You're slim thick. (It's the new thing...look it up.)
You're not too pale, but not too dark.
Your teeth look like white chicklets and you're very smiley.
You have thigh gap.
You have long legs, but you're at least 3 inches shorter than your S.O.
Your boobs are big,but not stripper big.
Your eyebrows are perfectly tailored -- basically you spend an hour per day on your brows...
We, as women, need to think heavily on what is truly our worth. Ask yourself: "What makes me worthy of love?" And once we understand that, we should start boycotting the societal messaging from these narrow-minded, wrong ads that are so prevalent today. We need to demand that clothing companies, ad agencies, and everyone else start valuing women for their souls, not their bodies. How? Well, I'm on a new mission to quit buying clothes from stores that use only one body type in their ads. Sorry Victoria's Secret, but I suddenly realize your "secret" is diminishing women down to their bodies, and only certain bodies are worthy.
Advertising Industry: I'm calling you out. You are a liar. I am worthy, and it has nothing to do with my body.
Thinking back to my personal story of body image, I think of that super-fit, lean version of myself looking in the mirror and hating what she sees -- not physically, but who I was back then. It still makes me tear up thinking about the disgust I had for myself. I ache for anyone who is dealing with that, because I know that no matter what anyone tells you about how beautiful and lovely you are, your opinion won't change. I ache that women are looking in the mirror and not loving their physical bodies or their souls.
God has turned my mindset on its head, and I am coming into the place where I can look in the mirror and say:
Priska, you are worthy of love. Not because you're inherently good enough. Not because you're currently as fit as your husband. You are worthy because God called you worthy, and that will never, ever change. Your worth will not fade with time, wrinkles, body fat, cellulite, or when your body type doesn't match societal trends. You are worthy, because God called you worthy.
I challenge you today, to take the words above, look in the mirror -- directly into your own eyes -- and repeat it. Insert your name in every sentence. Begin valuing yourself for your soul, and with your priorities in line, begin thanking your body for all the things it can do.
(Jenna Kutcher's photo is being used with her permission.)