7 Habits For Athletes Struggling With Body Image
Action steps toward seeing yourself through God’s eyes
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Have you ever gone to the gym on January 2nd? It is crowded and full of gym-goers who are motivated to shed holiday weight or follow through with resolutions they set the day before.
According to Time Magazine, the top New Year’s resolutions are: lose weight, get fit, and eat healthier. These resolutions are good goals when they are driven by a pursuit of health and not motivated by unrealistic expectations related to beauty and body image.
As someone who has made unnecessary New Year’s resolutions in the past related to weight loss, fitness, and body image, I would like to give some examples of potential New Year’s resolutions that you can make today to start prioritizing and nurturing a healthy and biblical view of your body image in 2018.
IDENTIFY THE LIES YOU ARE BELIEVING ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BODY
Many athletes who struggle with body image are believing the lies that culture, social media, magazines, the ESPN Body Issue, and Hollywood feed us on a regular basis. As athletes, we often believe lies like:
“If I weighed less, maybe I would perform better…”
“If I were less muscular, maybe guys/girls would find me more attractive…”
“If I were skinnier, maybe I would have less injuries…”
“If I were in better shape, maybe coach would make me a starter…”
I have heard and believed these “If… maybe…” statements in the past. They are often difficult to discern because there is a shred of truth to each of them. That is why these lies are so dangerous. Satan is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). The first time Satan appears in the Bible, he used a lie to manipulate Eve. Satan easily convinced her that God was not enough. He manipulated the truth, she took his bait, and as a result our relationship with God was broken.
What tool is Satan using in your life to feed you lies about your body image? Identify it and remove or limit it from your daily consumption.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
RESTRICT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE
Social media paints a false reality of the world and body image is no exception. Every time you open up Instagram you are seeing only the filtered, staged, photoshopped version of others. When images like these pop up on a newsfeed it is easy to fall into the game of comparison. The problem with this is you are comparing your reality with a false reality. Your body will never meet the standard that we develop on social media.
By removing or restricting your social media usage you are decreasing your intake of the false filtered realities and consequently creating more space for you to realign your expectations of beauty and body image with reality.
IMMERSE YOURSELF WITH TRUTH
Removing the intake of lies related to body image is not enough. You need to counteract these lies with Biblical truth.
Spend time in His Word daily. Try underlining what is true of you in Christ as you read your Bible. Write these truths on a post-it note and stick it where you will see it regularly. My bathroom mirror is plastered with post-it notes to reinforce how I view myself with how He views me.
In college I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone. Not only did I remove social media from my fingertips, I replaced it. Everytime I went to my phone to check Facebook, it wasn’t there, so I opened the Bible app instead. Downloading scripture, podcasts, daily devotionals and other resources reinforced Biblical truths about my identity in Christ and helped me defeat and replace the lies I was formerly being fed about my body image.
What tool is Satan using in your life to feed you lies about your body image?
“For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Not only did Jesus live a perfect, sinless life, he faced every temptation and struggle you do. Memorizing scripture was a key tool used by Jesus to resist the lies and temptations of the Devil. If this method worked for Jesus, it can work for you as well.
STEP AWAY FROM THE SCALE
Stepping on the scale can become dangerous for someone who struggles with body image. The instant gratification gained when you see the numbers go down can be addicting. Conversely, seeing the numbers rise can prompt body-shaming, which if left unaddressed can lead to more unhealthy behaviors.
I also encourage you to remove your scale from your home. Having one in the bathroom, a room that you enter multiple times a day, is an unnecessary temptation.
I know there are circumstances where monitoring your weight is necessary. If you need to monitor your weight, try scheduling it–maybe the 1st of each month or every Friday after practice. This will help you resist the temptation to step on the scale everytime you enter the locker room.
You may think I am taking an extreme stance on this issue. Please heed this warning: Unhealthy dieting patterns, body shaming, and eating disorders start somewhere; maybe you are already flirting with this line. Obsession with a scale and the numbers it presents to you can be a slippery slope to greater body image issues.
CLEAN OUT YOUR CLOSET
This might seem like an odd resolution, but hear me out. When I went off to college my wardrobe went with me. My freshman year I started lifting for the first time and gained muscle I have never had before, I grew three inches, and I gained ten pounds. Suddenly many of my favorite clothes no longer fit me the way they used to. I was unwilling to part with these clothes because I had the delusion that someday I will be skinny enough to fit back into my lucky leotard, or my favorite jeans.
Do you have clothes in your closet that you are hoping will fit “someday”? If you do, they will continue to be a constant reminder that you are not the size or shape you wish you were. Be real with yourself and clean out your closet.
If you are struggling with body image, I encourage you to share your struggle with a trusted mentor or friend. Having someone in your corner to remind you of Biblical truth, encourage you in your struggle, and hold you accountable to the resolutions you set is necessary. It is scary to share the deepest struggles that exist in your heart, but you do not need to bear this burden alone.
As an athlete your body is an incredible piece of machinery. Despite how you feel about your powerful, strong, beautiful body, you are fully loved by God. He created you with a tremendous purpose–to glorify Him. How you view and treat the body He has given you will have a great impact on your walk with Him.